How hard is it to pick a colour?


If I pick a horse in the Grand National it’s the one with the funniest name. It’s hard not to use the same method for picking paint colours.

Paint companies secretly employ teams of captive poets to come up with those names, which explains why poetry as an art form has become very rare.

Automatic blending machines are making paint names more boring, but they make the choice virtually limitless. It used to be easy: do you want white, or would you prefer magnolia?

But – picking colours is a dangerous business. The quality of light hitting the wall, the texture of the wall, the surrounding colours, the paint finish (matt, soft sheen, etc.) – all affect the way we see the result. And that’s not to mention the colour of the undercoat.

Remember the internet dress picture:

It’s white and gold to me, but apparently it’s black and blue to about half the population.

How about the dogs?

(the two dogs are, I’m told, exactly the same).

Or how about this picture, with a phantom green dot? (You have to fix your eyes on the cross)

“Very interesting, but what are the practical implications of all this?”, you rightly ask.

Well, it might be tempting to paint  your living room blue and black when you asked for white and gold – and hope you won’t notice. Or to charge extra for the non-existent green paint.

But there’s a point here.

Blending machines, even phone or tablet apps, will happily analyse colours from a photo or a piece of cloth, find a paint mix to match, and suggest complementary or contrasting shades. That doesn’t mean they will look how you want them on your wall.

The most reliable way of choosing a final shade is with a few tester pots – with the area undercoated first.

And remember: Why is it that when someone tells you there’s more than a billion stars in the universe, you believe them. But if they tell you there is wet paint somewhere, you have to touch it to make sure? (Thanks to Peter Kay for that observation).

As always, whatever the colour, our mission in life is to do London’s best job of putting it on your walls. Call me on 0208 946 5045 to arrange a quotation.

Best wishes

Geoff Parvin
Artist in residence