Are Paint Samples Real Paint?

Paint samples are a great way to confirm that you've chosen the right colors for your project. But are paint samples real paint? Let's take look to see if what you are getting is what you expect.

Most of the time, the small paint samples (8 ounces) are real paint from the manufacturer. The paint is typically made from the same base ingredients as their larger cans of paint. However, paint swatches and peel-and-stick paint samples have pigments that replicate the paint colors but are not actual paint.

When getting a paint sample, you can be left disappointed if you don't get the desired outcome. In this article, we will take a closer look at paint samples to help you make sure you get the color you expected. In addition, we will answer other frequently asked questions about paint, so read on!

Are Sample Paints The Same Paint As Larger Cans?

Painting can get expensive quickly, and if you get a color that isn't quite what you expected, that's even worse. That's why it's important to test a small amount of paint first in the form of a sample.

There are different types of paint samples that you can get from the stores. For example, there are color swatches, peel-and-stick, and small 8-ounce cans of paint. The 8-ounce cans of paint are the closest thing to what is sold in larger cans, so that is often your best bet when testing colors.


Color swatches and peel-and-stick samples are not actual paint. They are made up of pigments that replicate the paint colors. However, they are not the same thing as real paint.

So if you want to make sure you get the exact color you're looking for, make sure to purchase a small can of paint instead of just relying on swatches or peel-and-stick samples.

Paint also comes in a variety of finishes. For example, you can get paint in a matte finish, eggshell finish, satin finish, semi-gloss finish, or high-gloss finish. It's important to note that different finishes will look different on your wall, and even the same color may appear differently in a matte or glossy finish.

So, if you put a paint swatch up to a wall and love the color, it's important to also get a sample of paint in the finish you plan on using for your project. That way, you can confirm that you will be happy with how the finished product looks.

If you like a certain color, you are better off getting 8-ounce samples of different finishes. This way, you can test them out and see which one works best for your project. This is your safest bet since you can see the dried paint and how it looks with your decor.

Woman testing different paint shades over the wall

Can I Paint A Whole Wall With A Paint Sample?

More than likely, a paint sample isn't going to cover a whole wall. Most 8-ounce samples come in small containers, and depending on the coverage of the paint, you can usually get around 16 square feet of coverage with one sample.

If the wall you are painting is smaller, then you may be able to get one coat of paint with the sample. The problem is you typically need multiple coats of paint to get an even coat that looks nice. So if you're painting a larger wall, it's best to purchase a full can of paint.

This is not to say you have to buy a whole gallon of paint. Instead, you can buy a pint or quart, which will give you enough paint to do your project and also allow you to get the exact color that you want.

Now, a container of sample paint is great for touch-up jobs. For example, if you're just trying to paint over a few scratches or scuffs on the wall, then you should be able to get it done with one can.

Can Stores Match Paint Samples?

Paint cans ready to be used

Most paint stores will be able to match a paint sample that you bring in; however, it's not always exact. The color may be slightly off due to the pigments used in the sample or the type of paint used in the full can.

It's also important to make sure that your sample is from a reputable store. For example, if you purchased your sample at a home improvement store, they should be able to match it fairly closely. If you purchased your sample at a hardware store or discount store, the color may not match exactly.

In addition, some stores offer services that will provide an exact match of any color you need. They scan a sample and create a custom blend of paint that is a perfect match. This is a great option if you are having trouble finding an exact color match or need to use a custom blend.

Even in this case, the final result may not be exactly what you were hoping for. If you can, get the paint from where the sample originally came from, that is your best bet. Otherwise, you may have to experiment with different shades and finishes until you get the desired result.

How Much Does A Paint Sample Cost?

The cost of a paint sample will vary depending on a few factors. First, the brand of paint you are using will make a difference. Some brands cost more than others due to the quality of their paint.

In addition, different stores may have different prices for samples. If you purchase your sample from a specialty store, it will likely cost more than purchasing one from a general retailer or home improvement store.

Finally, the finish of the paint can make a difference. Glossy and satin finishes typically cost more than flat or matte finishes.

Overall, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5-15 for an 8-ounce sample of paint depending on the type and brand of paint you are using. Of course, this is much cheaper than buying a full can of paint.

If you are still trying to figure out what color to go with, then color swatches are a good choice. These paint cards are usually free at most stores and will give you an idea of the color in various lights.

From there, you can then get an 8-ounce sample of the paint to see how it looks on your wall and decide if you like it.

What Finish Is A Paint Sample?

Unless specifically requested, paint samples typically come in a satin or eggshell finish. This is why it's important to inspect the sample before you buy it. This is because a paint's sheen will look different in various types of light and on different surfaces.

If you are looking for a specific finish, then make sure to ask the store if they can provide that. Most stores offer samples in satin, semi-gloss, and glossy finishes.

At the end of the day, the paint store wants you to buy a gallon or more of the paint, and they understand that it can be hard to make a choice without seeing an example.

Therefore, they are usually willing to provide samples in different finishes so you can make an informed decision before buying your full can of paint.

Paint cans ready to be used

How Big Of A Paint Sample Do You Need To Get A Paint Match?

More often than not, you will need at least a 1-inch square sample of the paint in order to get a color match. This is due to the fact that there are so many different shades and finishes available, and even small variations can make a big difference.

Anything smaller than this will be hard for the spectrophotometer to read accurately, and it may not be able to get an exact match.

Another trick is to use a paint app. Many stores now offer virtual paint apps that allow you to scan a painted wall or sample and match it to a paint color. This is an easy way to get an exact color without having to bring in a physical sample.

Read more: How To Get A Paint Sample So You Can Match It

Final Thoughts

Colorful paint color samples on display

Overall, a paint sample is a great way to test an area before committing to a full can of paint. This is especially true if you are having trouble finding the exact color or finish you want.

However, it's important to remember that even with a sample, there may be slight variations in the finished product due to factors such as lighting, texture, and brand of paint.

Made it to the end? Here are other articles you might find helpful:

Does Sherwin Williams Do Samples?

Can Sherwin Williams Change Paint Color Once Mixed?

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