Paint Sample Options

When you go into a paint shop to choose your paint, you might see a wall or a fan deck containing a plethora of color strips with different shades or tints of the same color. There are names and numbers on the bottom of every square. When you flip to the back of the strip, you see a number per square. The sheer amount of information and choices can be confusing and you may have trouble choosing a desired color for your walls. 

Not to worry – Here is a breakdown and analysis of different kinds of samples so that you will be confident in your paint choices! 


Chips are square cardstock samples of an individual color. Each chip typically has the name of the paint color on the bottom right along with a series of numbers and letters. On the back of the chip is a number signifying the light reflective value. Chips can be useful if you already have a specific hue and tint in mind and want to see what it looks like in your home. 


Strips are rectangular cardstock with multiple chips arranged together.  They appear more frequently than chips in paint shops. Each chip on a strip has a different shades or tints of the same hue, therefore a strip provides you with more options than a chip or a swatch. 

All colors on a paint color strip are variations of the same hue. In some paint strips, the bottom square of a paint color strip is the purest, most intense form of the pigment, with little white to dilute it. As you climb higher, the pigment becomes more diluted until it becomes almost white at the top of the strip. The LRV number also typically becomes higher from bottom to top. Other paint strips may have the pigment in the middle or on the top and add more black to darken it towards the bottom. The LRV will become lower as the color becomes darker. 

Fan Decks 

Fan decks are several paint color strips held together by a plastic ring or rivet. They offer the most options, with various hues and tints/shades of every hue. Some fan decks follow the color of a rainbow (ROYGBIV), and offer brown and achromatic colors at the end of the deck, whereas other fan decks offer only brown or achromatic colors or different shades of a particular hue or the colors in a particular product line (e.g., “Williamsburg”). 


Swatches are individual color squares that are larger than chips. They allow you to tape them on the wall and help you determine if the color works in a room without having to buy sample paint. 


Samples are small cans of paint which a paint company sells to help the customer finalize their choice of color. A decorator may paint squares of different shades of the same hue or different hues of the same shade on a wall to determine which color works best on the wall. If you are judging multiple colors, be forewarned that these cans can add up in costs (although they are worth every penny if they help you make a final decision).  

We recommend that you paint poster boards with your samples, then look at them on different walls and at different times of the day to see how light affects the colors. 


Keep in mind that the lighting in the paint shop may be different from the lighting in the room you wish to paint. For example, fluorescent light has the tendency to bolden and brighten hue. What looks good under fluorescent light may not look good under natural sunlight or incandescent light. Also, it may not coordinate with your black desk or cherry floors. 

It is best to keep an open mind and take several paint color strips home to judge how they blend with the lighting, flooring, and furniture of the room. Professional paint shops often have no problem with this and encourage sample options for you to make the right choice.  

We use paint color strips and fan decks from Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore to aid you in making your choices. We also have an in-house color consultant on our team to help you decide what color to paint any area in your home. Call Ville Painters at (717) 396-1176 for a consultation session with our artist to determine what color fits your needs!