Colour Services

Apr 11th, 2009 | | Colour Services | 2 Comments

Colour Surveys

Patrick Baty measured the paint colours at Wilton House and was able to match the earlier colours

Colour Match of a stippled surface in Wilton House

As many will know, Papers and Paints have been colour-matching objects brought to the shop for most of our sixty years. Typically these take the form of flakes of paint and pieces of wallpaper or fabric. However, what happens if you cannot bring the colour to be matched to us?

Since the early 1990s we have offered a unique colour service – we can come to your own premises and measure the wall, curtains or whatever it is that you want matched with a portable spectrophotometer.

The ability to measure paint colours means that they can be accurately matched.  This is something that Papers and Paints specialise in

It may be that an area of localised damage needs to be painted to match the colour on the surrounding wall. Perhaps the room is too large, and time and money insufficient to permit a complete repaint. The paint could be from a discontinued or unknown source. Cost-effective in-painting is made possible by measuring the paint, and producing a new tin that matches the original under all lighting conditions.

Measuring Paint Colours in a London Club

Equally, it may be more than one colour that you want matched. You might be responsible for the maintenance of a building where the records are out of date and have no idea which of the old tins that you have been left relate to the colours on the walls. We can deal with the problem by carrying out a colour survey.

Lancaster House

Even the best run establishments lose track of what colours have been used, but either see no reason to change the existing scheme of decoration, or want to rationalise it. Umpteen variations of off-white were identified at Lancaster House, for example, and it was decided that this was causing too much confusion for the maintenance programme. After an hour-long survey, each colour was identified, and a proposal made for the gradual reintroduction of a single colour.

Spencer House

On-site colour surveys have been carried out for various reasons elsewhere. At Spencer House, and No 1 Greek Street, the colours produced as part of recent restoration projects were measured in order to facilitate redecoration. In both instances, the paint had originally been mixed up in buckets under the supervision of consultants. Needless to say, as a result, touching-in had proved difficult as nothing seemed to match. Colour measurement allows for the identification and formulation of a paint colour, minimising delays and costs.

Syon House – Great Hall

In an attempt to give greater articulation to the architecture, John Fowler had introduced a number of colours in the Entrance Hall at Syon House. Twenty five years later possible options for redecoration were being considered. One school of thought felt that there was no reason to change the Fowler scheme. Once again, a survey identified these colours and a seamless redecoration, using the same colours, could have been carried out if required.

Martin Measures the Wall in the Orangery at Kensington Palace

Occasionally, there is no wish to carry out redecoration, and a survey is requested as part of a condition report. This sort of work was undertaken at Newhailes, in East Lothian, for example. Although there was no intention to overpaint large areas of surviving eighteenth and nineteenth century paint, it was thought important to record how the rooms looked.


We do a lot of work in clubland, in institutions where the fine line between minimum change and good maintenance tends to be observed. In one club, members had grown used to the nicotine-stained ceiling of the Cocktail Bar. The Secretary, however, wanted to tidy up the room without upsetting any sensibilities. Colour measurements were taken, and paint produced to match the average colour reading of the stained ceiling.

Measuring the Nicotine-Sained Ceiling in a London Club

We have carried out colour surveys in a number of the best known clubs in St James’s. A schedule is produced and when paint is required for maintenance it can be ordered in the knowledge that it will match the existing colours. The following image shows a typical page from one of these schedules:

A Page from a Typical Colour Schedule

In the famous Painted Hall of the former Royal Naval College, at Greenwich we were asked to provide a better colour than the existing one for the dado / lower wall. Our approach was to take a series of measurements from the James Thornhill painted walls and to aggregate the colours into types i.e. dark, medium, light, brown, green. Paints were then produced to match each of the “types” and colour trials made. The result is a colour that best approximates the mass tone of the walls above. The photograph below shows the Painted Hall before the work and the completed work can be seen in this 360° panorama.

Royal Naval College, Greenwich – Painted Hall

Spectrophotometry can also be used for camouflage purposes, and colour matches made to many natural finishes. By taking several measurements of a Portland stone façade, for example, the average colour can be found and produced in the form of a masonry paint for the render of a new extension, or for the gate piers of Apsley House, as seen here for example.

Apsley House – Measuring Gate Pier

Some years ago Patrick was commissioned to carry out a series of measurements of a representative selection of the stone facades in the City of Bath. These have been added to an already enormous collection of readings that we store for future use.

Measuring Colours

In the field of architectural colour, once again, Papers and Paints has led the way.

Here are some images from recent colour-measuring projects:

colour measuring in 575 Wandsworth Road
Measuring colour in 575 Wandsworth Road

Colour measurement in St James Clerkenwell
Colour measurement in St James’s, Clerkenwell

Colour measurement in Home House
Colour measurement in Home House

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Comments (2)

The Virtual Victorian » 25. Jan, 2010

What an amazing service, Patrick.

Crafthole » 25. Jan, 2010

This is an excellent post, by a leader (if not the leader) in his field, which describes the role that correct colour matching has to play in the maintenance and restoration of Historic Properties and even the management of Historic Streetscapes. Reading this I finally get a full idea of the research, thinking and love of the subject brought to his field by Patrick.

I would also like to say just how jealous I am of all the fantastic places that he has had the opportunity to visit and helped to maintain in their correct period context.

I look forward to hearing more…..