New Life Painting, Inc.
New Life Painting, Inc.

Touching Up House Paint: What You Need To Know

Your beautifully painted wall has been tainted – what was once a flawless surface now has a nick, scrape, scuff or blemish. As small as it is, the only thing you notice when you look at the wall is that imperfection staring back at you. You need to do something about it, but you want the quickest and easiest solution available.

Is It Possible To Touch Up The Paint, Just By Painting Over The Blemish?

Unfortunately, in most cases the answer is no. There are a few circumstances where it can be done with good results, but in most instances the touched up spot will not blend in, but rather result in a slightly different color that looks even worse than the original blemish. So why is it so difficult to touch up paint? In what cases does a touch up work, and what do you do if it won’t work? This article discusses the problem with practical solutions to follow at home.

Why Touching Up Paint Is Difficult

The paint on your wall is 100% composed of dried solids – pigment plus binder (latex). However, the paint in the can contains only about 20-30 percent solids, with the rest being water (which makes it easier to apply). When you paint the wall you must let it dry, and in that drying process the water is removed through both evaporation and wicking.

In touch-up paint jobs, evaporation does not affect the final look, but wicking certainly does. Wicking refers to moisture being absorbed into the surface. The main problem is that wicking will not occur at the same rate on a touch-up job versus the wicking rate of the original top coat. It is virtually impossible to reproduce the exact wicking rate, and this is why a touch-up job will often appear as a slightly different color than the original paint.

Another factor at play is fading, which happens regularly to the paint on your walls over time. Because of fading, even if you had the exact paint color and the exact wicking rate, you could not match the exact color of your wall.

Touch Up Possibilities

Although rare, in some cases you can perform a satisfactory touch up paint job. This includes:

  • Flat paint that has been recently painted. Flat finish is more forgiving, but you should attempt this touch up only if the painting was done recently. For one, this limits the amount of fading that has occurred on the walls, but in addition, stored paint loses moisture over time and therefore contributes to a different wicking rate. If this situation applies to you, make sure to use the exact same can of paint and apply a minimal amount of paint with a small foam roller or similar painting tool. The touch up paint should be contained to the smallest possible area, and you should feather the edges to make the new and old paints merge better.

  • Small blemishes in inconspicuous locations. Another situation where you may be able to touch up your paint is if it’s a small imperfection in an otherwise unnoticeable area – perhaps a section of the wall that is blocked by furniture. In a case like this, you want to use the smallest amount of paint possible, applying the tiniest bit of paint directly to the blemish using a toothpick or a fine brush.

What to Do If You Can’t Touch Up?

In most cases you won’t be able to successfully touch up your paint, but you can minimize your work with the following procedure: repaint the wall from “break to break” which means to repaint the entire section of that wall (for example, from corner to corner, molding to baseboard). The natural breaks (molding, corners, etc.) will hide any slight color differences and since you only have to paint one wall (not the entire room) then you’ve minimized your work.

Seeing Tainted Walls as Opportunities

One final thought is to turn the negative into a positive. Those nicks, blemishes and flaws are an opportunity to repaint the entire room and experiment with a different paint color. Painting is the most inexpensive home improvement project, and it can completely transform the look of your home.

Do you need help with touching up interior or exterior house paint? Give us a call at (805) 937-9836 to learn more about our Painter for a Day service.