Say there’s a little scrape on your wall, and you think “oh, no biggie, I’ll just touch it up with a little paint.”
So you do. And then a few hours later you look over, and instead of seeing flawless perfection, you see a big paint swipe that stands out compared to the rest of the wall.
“Maybe it’s just not dry yet,” you tell yourself.
Three weeks later, the paint touch-up job still doesn’t match, and you have no idea what went wrong.
Paint color is slightly dependent on the water content of the paint, and gradually changes over time depending on sunlight and dirt exposure. Because of this, paint touch-up jobs rarely match the initial paint job perfectly.
But there are some things you can do to make paint touch-ups match just a little bit better!
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Why Your Paint Touch-Up Job Doesn’t Match
Paint Water Content and Dry Time
The exact color and sheen of paint varies slightly depending on the water content and resulting dry time of the paint.
Paint that has been sitting for a long time has experienced evaporation and has a lower water content. Because of this, the paint then has faster drying and wicking times than fresh paint.
This results in touch-up jobs often appearing darker than the surrounding paint.
Paint Wear and Tear
Over time, sunlight and dirt gradually change the shade of the paint.
It isn’t noticeable for those of us seeing the paint every day, but when fresh paint is slapped on top, it’s obvious that the colors are no longer the same.
Paint Batch Differences
If you picked up a fresh sample of paint to do your touch-up, there’s a chance it has a slightly different mix than the original paint on your walls.
While in the past few decades, technology has advanced enough to make paint mixes pretty standard, sometimes they’re still not perfect, and a small sample may just be a tiny bit off from the paint already on your wall.
There are three primary ways to apply paint: brushing, spraying, and rolling. Unfortunately, the texture of the resulting paint is a little bit different with each method.
Because of this, if you rolled on the paint initially but are touching it up with a paint brush, that will contribute to the difference in appearance between the two paints.
4 Steps to Better Paint Touch-Up Jobs
Before we start, I want to add a bit of a disclaimer – it is really, really difficult to get a perfect touch-up job. This method will help get a closer match, and make the difference seem less noticeable, but don’t expect perfection.
Step 1: Clean the Wall
A quick wipe-down will reduce paint match issues due to dirt build-up and grime. Plus, it helps the paint adhere. Win-win!
Step 2: Add a Drop of Water
Chances are, if your paint has been sitting for awhile, some of the water has evaporated, which contributes to the different shades of paint on the wall.
Isolate a small amount of the paint, then add a single drop of water. You don’t need much, and you want to be careful not to thin out the paint too much.
Also Worth Noting: If you’re considering buying a new paint sample to do the touch up work instead of leftover paint from the initial job, I wouldn’t bother. The difference in the batches is probably similar to the difference from evaporation and time, so if you’ve got the paint already, you might as well use it.
Step 3: Test the Paint
Brush a small amount of paint onto the wall, and let dry, covering the remaining liquid paint in the meantime.
How well does the new paint blend? If it’s too dark, add another drop of water. Too light? Add a little more paint.
I like testing directly on the wall, since it gives me a better idea of how the paint matches, but you could also test on a piece of paper and hold it up to the wall instead.
Step 4: Paint
Once you’ve got the right color, paint the wall using the same technique that was originally used (brushing, rolling, etc.)
If you’re rolling a small area and don’t want to use a big roller, note that most home improvement stores sell mini-rollers as well!
I’ve also found that larger areas don’t stand out as much as small streaks do, so often times I’ll paint a large rectangle around the area I’m touching up.