Does Paint Dry Darker Or Lighter Than Its Applied Color?

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More and more people have been reaching out to ask if paint dries darker or lighter than its original color when applied to the surface. Although these people seem to come from a range of backgrounds with their painting being based around arts, crafts, and home decorating, we have decided to publish this article to go over the various factors that can effect the final color of your paint once dry.

We hope that this will be able to help ensure that our readers have a better understanding of what to expect from their paints no matter the type of paint that they use. This will allow you to better plan your arts, crafts, and home decorating to be able to better predict the final, dry color of your paints so you can plan the rest of the required colors accordingly.

We have noticed a number of paint drying hacks online that try to suggest that if you add certain substances to different types of paint that it will keep the color true to its applied color during the drying process. In our opinion, this is total non-sense and should be avoided as it can often end up causing your more problems than it actually solves with the color of your paint totally changing if you do add some of these substances during application.

Does Paint Dry Darker Or Lighter?

The majority of commonly used paints do tend to dry darker than their original color when applied to the painted surface with this being true for oil paints, acrylic paints, and latex paints. Depending on the exact color, some of these can actually end up drying considerably darker than they were when originally applied to the surface.

Glossy paints also tend to look darker once dry due to the the sheen of the light being reflected from the paint but this is more of an optical illusion due to the reflection rather than the actual color going darker once dry. Some matte paints can stay very close to their swatch with a small number actually looking lighter than their swatch once dry further confusing matters.

The actual temperature when the paint is applied will also come into play with the ideal temperature range of 40-60 degrees usually being ideal. Painting in temperatures below or above this range will have an effect on the color of the paint once dry unless you are using an oil-based paint. This is why many water-based paints will often look a different color to their touch-up coat due to changes in the temperature when applied.

Does Paint Change Color Over Time?

There are a number of factors that can cause the color of your paint to dry over time with this often being more of just a case of being darker or lighter. For example, some paint mediums can cause the paint to yellow with time even if the actual paint did darker or lighten during the initial drying process. Depending on the paint medium used, this is usually unavoidable, especially for the faster drying paint mediums.

Another common cause of your paint changing color is UV light and although many artists are aware of this effect, some of our readers who are looking to paint for home decoration purposes may not be aware of this effect. Even if your paint has already dried to its final color with a darker tint that its original swash color, the UV light can take its toll on your paint and cause it to fade over time giving it the appearance of lightening overtime.

Depending on the type of painting that you are doing, you can sometimes totally avoid this by using a sealant that offers protection against UV light. Some types of paint now have UV protection built into them as standard right out of the tube or tin with some of the newer ones actually performing surprisingly well.

Does Paint Change Color As It Dries?

The majority of paint colors will change color as the paint dries with the majority of paint types darkening as they dry. If you are using a water-based paint then this darkening can be minimal but if you are using an oil-based paint, the oxidisation process of the paint as it dries can cause your paint color to darken substantially. Due to the pigments used in the paint to create the color, this can often be an obvious change too with iron based pigments usually being the worse offenders.

As the water in a water-based paint evaporates, the mass of the paint decreases resulting in the pigment concentration condensing and a slight darkening of the actual color of the paint. Water-based paints only tend to slightly darken with the vast majority of colors, no matter the pigments used in the paint tending to stay pretty close to their swash sample.

If you are using your paint for arts and crafts and have used a primer prior to applying your paint then this can also come into play. Although the majority of good primers should not cause any changes to your paint color during the drying process, there are some household items commonly used as a paint primer that can also cause the paint to darker. Simply sticking to something like gesso for acrylic paints should prevent this though and not result in any color changes due to the primer used.

Do More Coats Of Paint Make It Darker?

Although it is not an exact science, the general rule is that more coats of paint on the same surface will result in the paint looking darker. This is both due to the additional layers of pigment being added on top of each other making it more visible as well as the pigment condensing in on itself as the water evaporated or oil oxidises out of the paint.

Some specific types and colors of paint will specifically recommend against using more than two coats of paint on the same surface due to this effect compounding exponentially and potentially resulting in a drastically different shade of the color. As this is usually down to the specific paint formula and pigment chart used by each brand, it is not specific to the color either so always check the label of your paint for specific advice.

We often see people presume that this will not be true for lighter colors due to the ligher shade of the paint but the fact does still remain true. The more coats you apply of a lighter paint, the darker it will get but due to the light color of the paint it will not be as obvious as the darker colors.

How Long Does It Take For Paint To Dry To Its True Color?

Although paint will darker or lighten during the drying process, the actual amount of time required for the paint to fully dry and set to its true color depends on a number of different variables. The majority of paint products will offer some type of drying time estimation on the label of the product but these are often incorrect due to a number of factors in your local area.

For example, water-based paints will tend to dry at a faster pace in a warmer area as the water will evaporate out of the paints at a much faster pace. This allows you to see the true color of the paint once dry be it lighter or darker much quicker than in some colder areas allowing you to do a quick, small test run to see if you are actually happy with the final color of the paint in some cases.

That said though, due to oil-based paints drying via an oxidisation process rather than water evaporating out of them, the heat in your local area plays little to no effect with air flow in the room tending to be the largest factor. Improving the are flow in the room you are painting by opening windows or by using a small fan can drastically reduce the drying time of some oil paints and allow you to see the final color to see if your paint is lighter or darker when dry.


That brings our article going over if paint will dry darker or lighter to a close and although we were not able to offer an exact answer, we hope that we have helped our readers better understand the factors that come into play for deciding if your paint will dry darker or lighter. This should help our readers better plan how their artwork or home decoration will turn out and plan the rest of their activities around it without having such a large surprise once their paint ends up changing color.