The Low Down on Paint Draw Downs – When to Ask Your Painter for a Draw Down

 In Tips from the Trades

When I do colour consultations, I always specify that the painter should provide draw downs before painting.

Simply put, a draw down is a large sample of paint from the actual can of paint being used for the job.

Draw downs are supplied by paint stores to provide accurate colour and sheen level of paints. They are made on white and black plastic cards. A small amount of paint is placed on the card and the paint is spread over the card using a metal draw down bar. Because there is no rolling or brushing of the paint, the draw down is very smooth and consistent and has no brush strokes or roller marks. Architects, developers and many designers will often request draw downs for each colour being used for a project.

But drawdowns can also be very useful for homeowner.

It drives me batty that a finger print of colour on the top of a paint lid is how most painters check the colour of paint in a can. There is no way that is enough paint to accurately judge if a colour is right. You need to see a larger surface. I also don’t like the idea of the painter putting a sample on the wall. Unless the wall behind it is white, there are two coats of the colour and the lighting is good, you will have a hard time determining if the colour is what you selected.

A draw down will allow you to see if the colour is accurate. They are big enough that you can lay a paint chip on the draw down and have it surrounded by the sample colour. If you are getting colour matches done from one brand of paint to another, this is essential to make sure your match is accurate. I request a draw down for every colour match we do.

The other use of a draw downs is to check sheen levels. Paints don’t all have the same sheen levels, even within the same brand and same sheen type. In other words not all eggshells are the same. Since the quart sized can of paint that most manufacturers sell for samples are generally an eggshell finish and most often a lower grade interior paint, getting a draw down of the actual paint being used will help you determine if the sheen level on the paint is what you are looking for.

What draw downs can not do is measure coverage of a paint colour. Some paint manufacturers claim that a draw down with two coats of paint provides an accurate assessment of a paint’s hide. This would only be true if painters applied paint to walls with draw down bars instead of brushes and rollers. You can’t tell if a paint will cover in two coats on a wall just because it covers the black strip in two coats on a draw down card.

The other thing draw downs don’t do is replace proper colour sampling when choosing colours. To choose the right colours for your home you need to be using 11 X 14 size painted samples and full sized poster boards to really see the colour and to have enough of a reference to compare colours. Also, draw downs are generally done from gallon sized paint cans so using draw downs to create samples would get very expensive.

To sum up:

  • Request draw downs from your painter whenever you are getting a colour match done.
  • Use draw downs to ensure the sheen level of the paint your painter is using is what you want.
  • Draw downs are not for colour sampling or choosing colours. For this you need to buy sample pots and use poster board – or better yet, use a professional colour consultant.
Heidi Nyline
Wonder woman at Warline Painting, an exceptional painting company. Loves colour, food, wine, dark rum, beaches, dogs and family. Not in that order.
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