Designer Paint Colors Without the Price Tag

Take paint and fabric samples when you shop for flea market furnishings

Oxford- / E+ / Getty Images

Designer paint colors do not need to be designer-expensive.

The hacking of designer colors is a contentious topic. One side says that designer paint is expensive for a reason: it is better, and you must always pay more money for better things.

The other side says that you can borrow any color because colors are colors.

Outside of the commercial world of trademarked colors (UPS' brown, Target's red, etc.), no one owns a color and cannot tell you, a residential homeowner, that you cannot paint your walls a certain color.

In short, a color is a color is a color:

How Paint Colors Work

This is not a perfect process by any means.

  • Colors on-screen vs. real-life colors: This color approximation process is similar to the caveat that the paint companies issue about their palettes: colors on the screen may appear differently from the colors on the chips or paint on the wall. As Ralph Lauren Paint says, "On-screen swatches are photo representations and do not reflect color with 100 percent accuracy." When you see a color on-screen and want to get in its general range, this method will help.
  • Paint colors vs. the paint itself: Copying a designer paint color does not mean copying the paint itself. Lift a can of Benjamin Moore Aura in one hand and a can of your local dollar store's finest in your other hand, and you will immediately feel the difference. Premium house paint is heavy and full-bodied because it has more solids. Simply put, you are getting more solids and longer-lasting coverage with better paint. But that does not mean you need to spend $80 a gallon for good paint.

As an example, Glidden is a great value paint, better in many ways than Home Depot's house brand Behr.

  • 01 of 07

    Find Your Color

    Ralph Lauren paint thoroughbred palette
    Ralph Lauren

    Locate the paint palette you like on the paint company's website. The colors will be called chips, swatches, or palettes, such as the pictured Ralph Lauren Paint Thoroughbred palette.

    The second-best option is to pull a color from a picture of a sample room. Lighting will affect these colors, so that's why it's better to go for a swatch/palette instead.

    Continue to 2 of 7 below.
  • 02 of 07

    Right-Click on Image

    Ralph Lauren paint palette
    Ralph Lauren

    Right-click on the color you desire.

    In most cases, a box will pop up, giving you the option to Copy Image.

    • Scenario #1: copy image does not work: Some sites—due to Flash or .pdf limitations—will not allow you to Copy image. Instead, manually select that color through a built-in Windows feature called Snipping Tool. Snipping Tool is like a mini screen capture. You can capture anything you want, no matter how small. Select only the color you want to capture, being careful not to include other colors.
    • Scenario #2: copy image works: In most cases, "Copy Image" will work. The Sherwin-Williams Purely Refined palette is just one example of many that give you this option.
    Continue to 3 of 7 below.
  • 03 of 07

    Open Your Paint Software

    Color wheel
    Lee Wallender

    Now, open your paint software. There are plenty of free paint/graphics programs available. One free application is called Paint.NET.

    Drop your copied color into the paint software.

    Continue to 4 of 7 below.
  • 04 of 07

    Pick the Color

    How to copy designer paint
    Lee Wallender

    Most programs have a color-picker feature. Paint.NET's feature is called Color Picker. Touch the eye-dropper icon on any color on the computer screen, and the Color Picker will identify the color for you.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Read RGB Number

    Copy designer paint
    Lee Wallender

    For this designer paint color, the RGB number is 135-58-56.

    If you desire, tint and shade can be added to lighten or darken the colors (tint is white, shade is black).

    Continue to 6 of 7 below.
  • 06 of 07

    Match RGB With a Different Paint

    Enter RGB Numbers

    Go to a free online RGB-matching program such as EasyRGB.

    These programs match colors from one paint company to another company.

    Enter the RGB numbers. On the drop-down box, choose any paint company you like. Since you are starting with expensive paint, it makes sense to match to a cheap paint—in this case, True Value.

    Click "Start."

    Continue to 7 of 7 below.
  • 07 of 07

    See the Matching Color

    Designer paint matched to cheaper paint

    The RGB matcher delivers several of the closest matches.

    Since databases of RGB matcher might not always be up-to-date, you have a number to choose from.

    Use The Spruce's Paint Calculator to determine how much paint you need.