How to Match Old Paint

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You love the paint on your living room wall, and you'd like to touch it up - but what color is it, exactly? And what kind of paint? Here's how to find out.

Things You'll Need

  • Brushes
  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Rags
  • Utility Knives
  • Determine what color you have. Cut out a 4-by-4-inch piece of painted drywall from an inconspicuous corner of the room. Take this sample to the paint store to be matched.

  • Determine what kind of paint you have by rubbing a small section of the surface with a clean rag saturated with denatured alcohol. If paint rubs off as a gooey substance, it's a water-based paint. If paint remains unchanged, you have an oil-based paint.

  • Verify the paint type by dabbing a small amount of water-based paint onto the surface. If paint beads or separates, it's an oil-based paint. If nothing changes, it's a water-based paint.

Tips & Warnings

  • Patch the corner before painting the room.
  • If you choose to apply a water-based paint over an oil-based paint, you must apply an oil- or alcohol-based primer before applying finish coat.
  • Typically, it's possible to apply an oil-based paint over a preexisting water-based paint.
  • Be absolutely certain of the type of preexisting paint before you apply a new coat; water-based paint will not adhere to preexisting oil-based paints.

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