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Here comes trouble: Paint matching apps for the iPhone

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It’s supposed to solve the dilemma of winding up with all those cans of paint in colors that are too bold, too dingy, or not quite right. Both Benjamin Moore's Ben Color Capture and Sherwin-Williams' ColorSnap applications for the iPhone work the same way: Take a picture with your iPhone, zoom in on an area of color that you want to match in paint. Click “match” and the application gives you a range of paint options just like a real paint strip from their catalogue (either Moore or Sherwin). On the plus side, it shows the color’s nearest neighbors, in both lighter and darker shades.

 

However, you’re still in for hours of hard work. After you buy a quart of paint (or a gallon if the color is unavailable in quart sizes) you have to try it in the room. It’s best to test the color in several areas of the room - one area in bright light and one in the shade. Look at it at night and in the daytime as well. Chances are that the color isn’t what you expected. Paint chips are very tricky, regardless of whether you selected the color in the store or with this app. So, now it’s back to the paint store with the other color options generated by the iPhone app.

It does seem to solve one problem: Color samples in the paint stores are usually affected by store lighting and always look different when they’re on a wall in your home. On the other hand, the lighting issue on the iPhone is also problematic. Too little light, and your color image ends up dull, faded, or too dark; too much, and your colors end up washed out or too pale.

Will these apps save you hours and hours of agony? Not really. They have a long way to go before they can take a very clear color-accurate picture of whatever it is that inspires you - and adjust for all the variables between a photograph and a can of paint.

It will make it easier in one way: Beginning a task is usually the biggest challenge.

See Color Matters for the Home for the best information on picking the best colors.

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