Large paint manufacturers and paint suppliers market their own standard stain and colour range to architects, designers, builders and DIY consumers & applicators. The colours that are shown on their colour cards, fan decks, colour chips and in store displays and folders are as close as can be produced within limitations of the photographic and printing process. Each colour is formulated for a specific surface and will be tinted according to a unique formula.
The underlying timber substrate especially when using a stain will always be affected by the colour of the underlying timber, as well as the variant of the grain in the timber when applying a transparent or semi-transparent colour.
It is important to know that colours and stains will vary with gloss levels. There is a perceived variation between matt (flat), satin (low sheen), semi-gloss and gloss levels on surfaces. Generally speaking, the glossier the colour or stain the darker the colour will appear. This is due to how the light reflects on the surface. As sunlight is directed on matt (flatter) colours you will notice the surface will appear lighter as opposed to higher gloss levels on the same surface.
Major paint companies often have stains and colours that have identical names e.g. Black Japan and Merbau. This does not mean that the stains and colours will be the same when applied. As mentioned above, tint formulas are all unique and each brands colours will likely appear different. This is due to the different ingredients such as pigments & binders that are used in the manufacturing process of the colour and stain.
The colour cards, fan decks, colour chips and in store displays that are used to select a colour can dramatically fade or change over a period of time if not stored properly, especially if exposed to UV sunlight and hot temperatures.
Once you have chosen a colour it is always worthwhile to get a sample pot and test the paint or stain colour on your substrate to ensure you are happy with the final result. This is especially important with a stain as the underlying timber will affect the colour. Some things to note when applying a colour or stain:
As colour trends continue to change seasonally, you may find paint manufacturers will reuse past colours from catalogues in the new seasons range. This does not mean the colour will still be the same. Make sure you check the strength, colour number and year of publication of your colour card as paint manufacturers may have changed their formula. This is especially important if you want to spot match for a small project. This small check may save you money, valuable time and ensure you get the right colour.