Does Paint Dry Darker or Lighter? (Find Out Now!)

A common question asked by DIYers is if paint will have a lighter or darker shade when dry. Here is the answer to that.

Paints dry darker. Acrylic and latex paints especially tend to have a darker shade when dry. However, the paint doesn’t darken as much as most people think.

Paint when still wet or fresh is filled with solvents that produce a reflective sheen making the paint coating appear bright.

As the paint coating dries, the solvent in the paint particles begins to evaporate. This evaporation causes the paint coating to be less reflective than it was while wet. That creates the perception that paints change color when dry.

In reality, the paint doesn’t change color or become dark. The coating just becomes less reflective due to the absence of solvents. This makes the paint coating appear darker or deeper which is why it is believed that paints dry darker.

Does a Second Coat of Paint Make a Difference?

Does a Second Coat of Paint Make a Difference?

In terms of color variation, a second coat of paint will not change the color of the paint or give a different color shade than expected. The misconception that a second coat makes the paint color darker is due to the appearance of the paint when wet.

When the second coating is wet, the paint appears darker due to the presence of solvents and liquids in the paint coating. But when the second coat dries, the color shade will be the same as the first coating. The second coat of paint will only help to improve the coverage and durability of the paint coating.

It’s a popular belief that the second coat of paint makes the paint darker. This is false. A second coat only appears darker before the paint dries. This is because the solvent in the paint has not been fully evaporated. Oil paints especially appear darker with successive coats. This is because oil paints are oil-based. The paint coating has natural and synthetic oils in it.

The oils in the paint make it appear darker after a second coat is applied. When the oil is evaporated, the paint pigments will take their original color shade. You only think the second coat is darker because the oils create an illusion that makes it look so. The same goes for latex and acrylic paints.

The second coat of paint will simply help you cover more areas. It will also help the paint to be more durable and washable. This means you can clean or wipe the paint without smearing it. This is why two coats of paint are recommended when painting.

Does Paint Get Lighter or Darker When it Dries?

Does Paint Get Lighter or Darker When it Dries?

Paints don’t get lighter or darker when dry. The paint coating only appears darker due to the paint’s curing process. As the paint cures or hardens, the solvent in the paint particles evaporates to remove the reflective appearance of the paint making it appear darker than it was when applied.

Also, paint can appear lighter or darker when dry due to the type of surface material and environment it was used in. The paint can also appear lighter or darker when dry if it was sealed.

As explained earlier, paints when wet generally appear lighter. This is because of active solvents present in the paint coating. These solvents make light or UV rays bounce off the wet paint making it reflective and brighter or lighter.

However, as the paint cures and the solvents are evaporated, the paint coating becomes less reflective and duller. This gives the illusion that the paint has changed color or become darker.

Also, paints can appear lighter or darker based on the material and environment used. If you paint over a wall with existing paint, then the paint will appear darker when it dries. Especially, if the finish painted over had a lighter color shade. Also, if you paint in a room where there is a lot of light, then the paint will appear brighter when dry.

Another thing that can make your paint appear lighter or darker when dry is if you use a sealant. Sealants like wax are known to make the paint appear deeper. Other sealants like polyurethane make paints appear lighter because polyurethane being a clear plastic will allow light travel through. This will make the paint appear clearer or lighter.

Tip: Paints can also appear darker over time if not properly cleaned and maintained. This is due to accumulated dust and oils on the paint coating.

Do More Coats of Paint Make it Darker?

Usually, more coats of paint wouldn’t make the paint coating darker. However, certain paints shouldn’t be applied in more than the recommended amount of coatings.

Oil-based paints generally don’t need more than 3 coats. More than 3 coats of oil-based paint tend to produce a deeper or darker color shade than expected. For instance, more than 3 coats of oil-based polyurethane will make the finish turn yellow after some time.

However, more coats of acrylic or latex paint wouldn’t do any harm. Usually, the more coats applied make these paints more durable and colorful. This is because, unlike oil-based paints, latex and acrylic paints are water-based.

These paints also have a higher level of paint pigments since they are commonly used for artwork and decor. The presence of water and more paint pigments just makes the paint better with more coatings.

The belief that more coats of paint make it darker is birthed from DIYers and painters that finish paint with several coats of a sealant. If you decide to seal an undercoat with several coats of a sealant, the finish can appear darker than expected. Here is why –

Sealants are designed to protect a finish. This means that sealants are designed with chemicals and additives that make each coating a thick layer of the sealant. So the more coats you add, the thicker the finish gets.

With more than the recommended coats, the finish will get too thick that the paint underneath will appear darker. In extreme cases like oil-based polyurethane, the paint underneath will appear yellowish.

So as an expert tip, don’t apply more than 3 coats of oil-based paints and sealants. Let’s check out other tips to avoid getting darker or lighter than expected paint.

Tips For Avoiding Darker or Lighter Than Expected Paint

Here are a few tips to help you get the color of paint expected:

Don’t Use More or Less Than The Recommended Amount of Coatings.

Paint containers usually have manufacturer’s instructions inscribed on them. Always check for the number of coats required and don’t apply more or less than the recommended coats.

Always Sand and Prime Before Painting Porous Materials

Porous materials like fresh wood should be sanded and primed before painting. Priming especially is important to seal material. Porous materials like fresh wood usually suck paint. Without priming first, you’ll need more coats of the paint to cover the required area and this can cause the paint to turn deeper or lighter.

Let Existing Coatings Dry Before Re-coats

All paints will require more than one coat to get the best finish. Before you apply a second or third coat, ensure the existing coating has fully dried. If the coating is still wet, the solvent inside will become trapped. This will cause the entire finish to appear cloudy.

Paint in The Required Temperature and Environment

Always apply paint under the required conditions. You can also find instructions guiding this on the paint container. Usually, paint should be applied at room temperature or above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The relative humidity should also be between 40-50% to prevent a dark tacky shade.

Pick a Sealant That Fits Your Expectations

As explained earlier, the sealant used determines the look of the finish. Wax produces a deeper or darker finish while polyurethane produces a brighter finish. Some sealants will give your finish additional color like clear acrylic spray.

Final Words

Overall, paints don’t get darker or lighter when dry. The paint only appears different when dry because paints when wet don’t display the color you purchased. It only displays a wet version of it.

But if the paint indeed got lighter or darker when dry, it’s probably due to an existing coat that wasn’t stripped off before painting or the paint was sealed after.

So there you have it. If you liked this post, ensure to check out others like it on this website for more painting tips. Have a nice day.

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