Does Paint Get Darker as it Dries?

by Charlie
Does Paint Get Darker as it Dries

If you’re in the process of choosing the perfect new paint color for your home (or for other DIY projects), you need to understand exactly how the paint is going to behave. There’s no point in spending hours picking the right shade, only to find that it looks different once it has been applied to the wall.

You also don’t want to be panicking that your paint is too light as you apply it – because this might lead to you swapping for a darker shade, even if you don’t need to. Painting a room can be a big project, so you want to minimize stress and work for yourself wherever it’s possible to do so.

Does paint get darker as it dries? Paint often does seem to get darker as it dries, although this isn’t true of every paint ever. Some paints stay the same, and some even get lighter. However, it’s pretty common for paint to look lighter when you first apply it, and to darken as the water evaporates and it sets. High-quality paint should always match the swatch color once dry.

Why Does Paint Get Darker as it Dries?

If your paint seems to be darkening as it’s drying, don’t panic. It should still match the swatch color when it has completely finished drying. Often, when you first apply paint, it looks lighter because it has moisture particles in it and it’s reflecting more light. As the moisture evaporates, it will become less reflective, and will appear darker.

There are a couple of other things that can influence how the paint looks as it dries, however, and it’s important to be aware of these.

The most significant is the color of the surface the paint is being applied to. If you are applying black paint to a white wall, the whiteness will lighten the first coat of black paint. It may look black when wet, but it might lighten to blackish-gray as it dries.

Similarly, if you’re applying white paint to a black wall, the black will start to show through as the paint gets drier. A lot of people look at the first wet coat of paint and assume it will be sufficient, and then come back to the dried coat and feel surprised by how different it looks.

You should always add two coats of paint to a wall, even if the first coat looks good. This will ensure that the second coat matches the swatch color, and that you get the paint hue that you originally chose. If your current color is very different from the color of the surface you’re painting on, you may need more than two layers.

Having at least two layers of paint minimizes patchiness and streakiness, because the undercoat will match the topcoat. Don’t stop painting after a single layer, unless the color you’re painting over matches your current color (and even then, two coats will look better).

Why Does Your Paint Look Darker Than Expected?

Your paint should exactly match the swatch color that you selected when choosing your paint. If it doesn’t, there’s a fault in the paint. However, it’s easy for paint not to look quite how you expected, for a whole range of reasons. The most important is the context; if other walls are dark, your paint will look lighter, and vice versa.

When you’re selecting your paint color, you should think about the context you will see it in. Are the other walls black or dark? Is the floor? Have you got a white ceiling?

We see colors compared with other surrounding colors, so how a paint hue appears will depend on what other hues you have in your home.

This is something you should think about when considering paint swatches, and not just in the context of your other walls. Think about any big pieces of furniture, your floor, rugs, curtains, etc.

It’s also a good idea to think about how much light the room gets, because the paint will appear lighter if there’s a lot of light in the room than if the room is dark. You should choose your paint colors according to all of these factors.

Does the Second Coat Make Your Paint Darker?

The second coat doesn’t necessarily make the paint darker, but it will generally make it bolder and deeper. When you put the first coat of paint on, there will often be minuscule gaps in the paint, allowing the undercoat to show through. When you put the second coat on, you fill these, and the color deepens as a result.

This is partly why the second coat is so important, because it ensures you are getting the color you chose, not a mix of that color and the previous color. As mentioned above, if your previous paint color was very different, you may need more than two coats to completely hide it.

Does the Finish Make a Difference?

The paint’s finish will also alter how it appears to some extent. Gloss finishes are shiny, which may make them appear lighter, because they will reflect more light. Matte finishes often seem a little darker, because they don’t have this shine.

Satin and silk finishes generally fall somewhere between the two; they won’t shine, but they aren’t dull either. They should match the swatch perfectly once you’ve got two coats applied.

Make sure you think about the finish of the paint when you’re selecting your color, and be aware that a gloss finish might appear lighter than a silk or matte one, especially in a room with a lot of light for the gloss to reflect. However, without the light shining on it, it should still match the swatch, unless the paint was improperly mixed.

Final Thoughts

Some paints do darken as they dry, but they should not become darker than the swatch that they came with. Wet paint often looks lighter because the moisture in it is reflective. As the moisture evaporates, the paint appears darker. Apply two coats of paint to ensure you are getting the full effect of the color you have chosen.

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