How to Match Old Paint

How to Match Old Paint. 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

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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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