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How to Touch Up

How to Touch Up
How to Touch Up

Have you ever tried to touch up a surface only to find that the touch up spot now looks worse than the original scratch? It’s a common dilemma since so many surfaces have some sort of coated finish. Whether it’s your car, the hardwood floor, your coffee table, the walls of your home or the front door, virtually anything that has a coating can be touched up if the right methods are used.

Many people think that if you can simply match the color of the damaged area that a seamless touch up is inevitable, but not so. In fact there are several factors to consider when trying to blend in a touch up.
You have to realize that the finer the finish, the more difficult it will be to touch up. For example, it will be more difficult to touch up the coffee table than it will be to touch up the front door or the walls inside your home. You see, not only will you have to match color, the finish and sheen will also have to be matched. The methods and tools required for each sort of touch up can be vastly different.
Before starting, you need to clean all surfaces free of dust, grease, hair, and stains. Kitchens sometimes have grease spots on the walls; bathrooms sometimes have water stains, and trim usually have dust or dirt. Next, make any repairs to drywall, wood, etc. as needed and prime with the appropriate coating. Once the surfaces are repaired and clean, you’re ready to touch up.
First, you’ll need to match colors, which is not always as easy as it may seem. Most paint stores now have a color “eye”, which electronically matches a sample color to the closest color that particular store offers. Unfortunately, most of the time this will get you close, but unless you know the exact formula, the brand and sheen, the paint still will not match exactly. Another technique for color matching is to use a color sample deck which has thousands of colors, all with colorful names.
Take a business card and cut out a square shape in the middle. Leaf through the color deck to find a couple of rough matches and then use the white side of the business card as a window. Hold up the sample to be matched and the color deck sample side by side and view the samples through the hole in the card. You’ll be surprised how much this can help. Now take the samples and view them in the same manner, but in a variety of lights. Try direct sun, shade, indirect sun, and indoor lighting too.
Now that you have the color matched as closely as possible, you’ll need to try and match the sheen of the area to be touched up. Sheens vary from dead flat, to high gloss with a number of sheens in between. Flat paints are most often used on walls and ceilings, where you don’t want a sheen to highlight possible imperfections. Eggshell finish is also used on walls and ceilings, which delivers the hiding properties of flat along with some scrubability. Semigloss paints are most frequently used on trim or even on walls where moisture and clean up are a main concern. Gloss paints are generally used on trim and doors. You will need to determine which best matches the existing surface.
It is also very helpful to determine the original application method for the surface since that is the technique that will match most closely. For instance, if the doors in your house were originally sprayed with paint, it will be most beneficial to spray the damaged area in order to match. If you try to touch up the door with a brush, you most likely will see brush strokes which will show up in the surrounding finely sprayed finish. If the walls in your home were originally sprayed, it will difficult to touch up with a roller or brush. Since the walls of your home are a larger surface than say, the front door, it is generally harder to touch up.
Most people will need wall touch up at some time or another and it is best to save any left over paint for future touch up, but if you don’t have any here are a few tips for you to try. First, match the color and sheen as closely as possible. Next, evaluate how rough the stipple pattern is on the wall. Stipple is the texture pattern left by a roller nap. Short maps leave less stipple than heavy naps. Next, thin the paint down, not more than 15%. Next, use a 9 inch roller with a short nap and touch up the areas as needed, but before moving on, feather out the area as best you can. Feathering is a technique wherein you lessen pressure on the roller and therefore paint coverage in areas surrounding the actual touch up areas. This fading effect can help hide the touch up spots. It is better to use a 9 inch roller than a brush since the brush marks can usually be seen. If thinning the paint and feathering don’t work well enough, you may have to paint entire walls, stopping at appropriate cut off points.
Consider writing colors, sheens, and product information down, or tape it to the inside of the switchplate in each room. Keep leftover paint safe from freezing, and keep the labels in good shape.
If this is all too much for you to do yourself, consider using a painting company (or rental company) that will keep your information on hand for you. Some companies offer touch up programs, which can keep your property in top shape while keeping costs to a minimum.

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  • Expertise - we have the experience and versatility to take on the most demanding painting and residential construction projects.
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