Here Is The Reason Why You Need To Test Paint Colors Before Painting

The other day, I did a paint consult for a very nice couple who had just bought a home in Westchester County. It was what inspired the last post about ways to use the color black and some great black colors for you to try out.


The home, a 1930’s Tudor style has these fabulous leaded glass windows with iron muntins. Some of the windows have a horizontal mullion and then another row of glass above that. The current color is a darkish green, but both the clients and I are not fond of the color. Since there’s so much trim around the windows, I thought it would be cool to paint the frames black. They are sophisticated people and have an eclectic modern traditional taste. They really liked the idea.

The above window was manipulated to look black.

At the consult, I looked very carefully through my fan decks. The room is not especially bright. It’s not because of a lack of windows. It’s because the property has a lot of very large shade trees! The light in the room tends to run cool.

The color I thought looked great is Benjamin Moore Night Horizon-2134-10– a warm black.


In the cool light of the room, it read as black— or so, I thought.

The next day, back in the office, I was double-checking the black we chose. In all fairness, the color like most of the blacks is at the bottom of the fan deck and it’s difficult to hold it flat against the wall.

It looked terrific in their home.

It looked completely different in my home.

I started getting that nervous uneasy feeling. Gawd! What if it looks really brown or even purple? Although everything looks purple in my place for some reason!

So, I started researching different blacks and I found practically nothing about this Night Horizon. The only thing I found was that it was listed as a BROWN. Yes, a verrrry dark black-brown.

Immediately, I wrote the clients that I had second thoughts about the color since I’ve never used it before. I felt 100% confident about everything else, but not the black. So, I suggested that they try out two other colors. I’d rather that they think I’m an idiot before they go and have their trim painted purple. Ya know?

These are the two Benjamin Moore paint colors.

MOPBOARD BLACK – CW-680 a very interesting black, that seems to vacillate between warm and cool. It is part of the Williamsburg collection.


via Apartment Therapy

photo: Emily Johnston

ONYX – 2133-10 – a color that I’m hearing about all over the place as the holy grail of black paint colors. Below is a pretty banister painted Benjamin Moore’s Onyx

royally screwed onyx benjamin mooreRurally Screwed

The guy at the paint store recommended plain old black. (predictable – ala Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse)

Mrs. Blandings Chooses Paint ColorsMrs. Blandings – (Myrna Loy) tries to explain to her contractor the colors she’d like to have in her dream home.

Okay fine. I think that plain black looks a bit too much like tar but it was worth a try.

I told the clients to make a separate sample which they did and they also put the samples on the door.

I made a trip over to the house to inspect and advise. Here’s the door with three samples painted on it.


Here’s Why You Need To Test Paint Colors

Guess which one is the color that Laurel selected? Yep. The one in the middle or maybe I should say, MUDDLE, for MUD!

Oh, how embarrassing! But the point is, I’m no different from anyone else. And even though I can usually see what I need to see in the small sample, I can’t always. The little sample is only a suggestion of what the color will be. The undertones play a part and how that particular color relates to light. I find that the more gray a color has, the more difficult it is to figure out.

It’s also very important to look at the color in all the areas it will be and at different times of the day and night too. This will give you the best idea of how the color will turn out in the end.

So, which one did we pick? We picked the top one–Onyx. It wasn’t marked, so no prejudice there. It’s a soft black, neither warm nor cold. The bottom is the mopboard black. It would’ve been fine but the onyx is better.

For a comprehensive guide on the method I recommend to select paint colors, please fill out the form at the top of the page. I promise I won’t bombard you with emails. It’s usually twice a week and occasionally three times.



8 Responses

  1. Here is my delemia. Well, that I can;t actually spell delemia is one too, but on to the real problem. So, my home has stained wood trim around EVERY door jam, window and baseboard throughout my home and we chose a beautiful Ancient Cypress flooring that matches it very nicely, but the door in my living room was an ugly 80’s flat, brown door and I wanted a new door, and not brown, so we bought a white paneled door from HD. well, putting stained brown trim around a white door I thought would look terrible, so we had them put a white trim. So, now all the trim in the house is brown, but the trim around this new door. At present all the walls in the house are white, but we are going to try to paint them so there is some color to the rooms. My question is, do I need to replace all my stained trim in this house to match the white trim around my door, or do I somehow try to choose a wall color that I can somehow incorporate into the white door trim. Im at a loss as to what to do.

  2. Hi Laurel – Lovely post! Onyx was the right choice. We LOVE it. We still have not figured out our furniture but all of your recommendations were spot on – including painting the ceiling and switching to the Onyx. We’ll have to send photos! Thank you!! Marybeth

  3. It’s easy to test paint colors ahead of time but not so easy to test colors for venetian blinds.

    Last week, I discovered the maple colored blinds I’d ordered for a bedroom in my house were far too dominant and distracting for the medium blue and white mostly traditional room. I can’t spend hundreds of dollars to undo my mistake, but fortunately I learned I can paint the blinds.

    It will take time but it can be done. Each slat will be removed from the blind and painted with one coat of BIN primer followed by two coats of Benjamin Moore glossy white paint with primer.

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Oh, how I can relate! The first year I moved into my apartment, I painted practically everything I bought! I’m sure that the blinds will be stunning and far better than the factory finish in any case!

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