Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

Paint relief
An end to the agony of colour-choosing
By MAG RUFFMAN, Special to QMI Agency

Scan anything that inspires you - a cushion, a favourite sweater or even a particularly beautifully hued cat - and this device will suggest corresponding paint colours.

Some of us are born decorators. We love experimenting with paint shades. We have a natural eye for colour.

I’m not in that group.

Then there are others who don’t fuss about decorating but who always have a put-together-looking house with no glaring colour abominations.

I’m not in that group either.

Finally, there are those of us for whom choosing a colour palette is a hideously unnatural act. It can take us years, even decades, to successfully choose paint for all of the rooms in a house.

That’s my group. We’ve never found our happy place on the colour wheel.

Experts insist: “Simply choose a cushion or swatch of fabric to define your colour scheme.”

Come ON. That’s not SIMPLE. You still have to isolate and identify the precise wavelengths of those shades from 60 billion known paint chips.

And if you’re off by a hue or two (or 20), you get post-nuclear-green kitchen cupboards or a dining room with distinctly poop-coloured walls. I have proof.

There was some relief when paint stores began installing $16,000 spectro-photometers, which are able to detect a wavelength from a chip or piece of cloth and derive the correct formula to create the matching shade of paint.

Unfortunately, spectro-photometers have a hard time with multi-coloured patterns and nappy fabric, cushions or carpet. So you’re back to sorting through paint chips, trying to decide between “Florid Aspersion” and “Phlegmatic Grouse.”

Scan by me

That’s why I was excited to get my hands on the Dulux Inspirations colorimeter, a new handheld electronic tool that easily sorts and reads colours in textured fabrics, carpet and upholstery – even in heavily patterned samples like wallpaper.

And it’s blazingly fast. In less than three seconds the device scans your sample and generates seven or eight colour choices, including dramatic, harmonizing, complementary or neutral effects. ICI Paints’ international colour designers know what works, so you don’t have to guess.

The reason the colorimeter can measure wavelengths so successfully, even in heavily textured samples, is that the device has nine LED lights that illuminate the sample from different angles, thus eliminating the shadows that confuse traditional spectro-photometers.

I scanned more than 20 samples, flabbergasted at the ease of using the device. I designed colour schemes based on a burgundy dragon plant, birch bark, samples of exotic hardwoods from my workshop, a favorite sweater, my skin tone and the cat’s fur (I’m not the first either – her fur registered “Grey Tabby” on the colorimeter).

You can record voice tags with each scan as you browse for inspirational fabrics in stores (e.g. “Victorian velvet cushion at HomeSense on March 11”), so it’s easier to sort through your database of scanned materials.

If you drop in to your nearest ICI paint store (there are about 230 across Canada), you can see for yourself how it works. Scan as many samples as you want for free.

Or you can buy a colorimeter to use wherever you go. It retails for $499; it recharges via USB cable; and the included syncing software can be installed on both Macs and PCs.

Brad Elkins, senior brand manager for Dulux and Glidden, told me that real estate agents are huge enthusiasts of the device because they often have to advise clients on repainting a home before putting it on the market. The device shortens the decision-making process by days and lets the client choose neutrals that will complement and harmonize with existing carpet, floors and trim.

Painting is the cheapest and most effective way to refresh a home, and now the hardest part – choosing the colour – is a snap.

Mag Ruffman appears weekdays on Real Life on CTS. Visit her online at

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