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Matching paint color to color on computer monitor

edited January 2013 in Studio & Supplies
Brothers and Sisters of Carderdom:

I sit before you today not as an erudite scholar of artistic history, nor a learned practitioner of all the ism's under our cool and warm skies, but as a simple woman, unassuming and pragmatic, forceful when required, yet sensitive and compromising.

But seriously folks, I came up with this tool that some may find helpful. My challenge was that I wasn't satisfied with any photo I printed with the intent of using it for a painting. I liked the photo on my monitor. But trying to match the color was difficult because of the light emanating from the monitor. If I put a dab of paint on paper or even just using my brush, I ran the risk of smearing paint on my monitor and the paint was too dark, backlit by the light from the monitor.

So here is what I did:

I took a big piece of opaque card stock, specifically what I used was a sheet of canvas paper. It's important that you use something thin, so there is no shadow. I cut a 2 inch by 2 inch square out of the middle. I taped an 8x10 piece of clear cellophane over the square. Now, I can put a dab of paint on the square, hold it up to my monitor and check the color with no back light. I am calling it, "Sue's Peekie See."

I just started using it but so far so good. It seems to work pretty well. In the photos, I had to tape Sue's Peekie See to the monitor to photograph it, but when using it, just hold it up of course.



  • I think you may have something here. Very good idea Sue.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited January 2013

    Nice thinking, But apart from black I think you will find the lighter colors cannot be matched easily to paint values because of the contrast ratio of computer monitors. Of course you could adjust this by using a grey toned cellophane.

    The problem here is matching / comparing an emissive value against a reflective value.
    Room lights will affect the perception of both.

    I had some success by altering the brightness and contrast of the monitor to try to bring it down to typical paint values. Reasonably successful but too much of a fiddle when you just want to get on and paint.

    More recently I just use a color print and refer to the monitor view to half step some values.

  • Thank you, Denis. Sounds like good info from experience. And thank you, gfish.
  • I really think you should save painting from a monitor until you really get good at seeing color. I have painted a couple from my moniter that turned out really good but I learned to see color from life first. Right now I am using my moniter to get close up views of what I am painting along with the photo. I just finished a black vase that from the photo you could see no reflections at all, with my monitor I could see all kinds of flowers reflecting in the black.
  • @lizoneal The ability to really zoom in on the subject is important to me. On a similar note, I paint (and draw) while wearing strong magnification. By this I mean the kind of magnification that you see a surgeon wear during surgery. I can't imagine trying to work without it, personally.
  • Yes, I love using the monitor to get close ups and see more detail in the darks. I am at the age I can't see a dang thing up close but being able to zoom in is awesome!
  • This is one topic that I was wondering about! I am using an iPad for viewing photos of my subject, but all the issues mentioned here, especially on the reflective versus emissive values in ambient lighting, certainly still apply.
  • interesting Sue. thanks
  • i like "Sue's Peekie See " !
  • I use the eyedropper in photo shop , extract the color from the spot copy and past the square on a new file.
  • Maugie

    OK. So what are the next steps. How do you translate the the color patches to paint values?

  • well I use the patches like the paint on the color checker. I just try and mix it up
  • i wish I could take all the patches to a home depot store and have each on analyzed on their computer thingy. But then I would wind up with an enormous amount of paint. Acrylic at that!
  • ha ha I tried it with a few modifications. Here is a quick and dirty photoshopped lemon
  • Hi Sue,
    Thanks fot this! I like to use my iphone because the colour is so magnificent (even if it is a bit small!) but have had the problem you describe, cant wait to try this out.
  • cmyk = Printers language for (C)yan, (M)agenta, (Y)ellow, blac(K) these four colours when made into dots and layed over top of each other in various percentage's, will give you all the colours you can imagine to make full colour picture. In the printing industry it is a common standard to use cmyk four colour printing. Another is the PMS system but ill save that for another day lol.
  • I agree Kingston cmyk as you say is best used as a general guide to colour. In saying that I have a friend who prints gallery quality, art reproduction prints, in europe from masters to considered current in demand painters. He uses a combination of cmyk and the pantone system - PMS (in bump or special single colours - some reproductions are printed in 4 cmyk colours and another 6 pantone colours giving a 10 colour production. I have known him to put these limited edition extreme quality prints through the printing press twice bringing up to 20 colours in a single image.
  • Having done quite a bit of digital art I would say to make sure that you calibrate your monitors to ensure the color you are seeing is the color that is actually there. It is very easy to love the color you are getting only to find out that the gamma on your monitor is off and it is actually 5x darker in real life than what you are seeing.
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