I’ve featured quite a few paint chip projects here on Craft Gossip. Some creative ideas have been to make coasters or wall art, create monograms and colorful garlands, or even fun note pads, and that’s just to name a few. There are hundreds more out there in blogland, including my own paint chip clock. It seems as of late though, there’s a bit of an uproar over whether or not it’s ethical to take paint chips for crafting instead of for their intended purpose. So does that mean there are a bunch of sneaky crafters out there looking over their shoulders as they grab stacks and stacks of paint chips to make projects from? Or is it a completely innocent act where no ill will is intended?
This question has come up several times across the blogosphere. I personally think that it’s an acceptable practice, kept within moderation. What that means is I think it’s okay to grab a few here and there, but going in and cleaning out Home Depot is not cool. Another thing I don’t think is acceptable (again, my own opinion) is to take paint chips to make projects in quantity that you will benefit monetarily from. So selling the finished pieces made from paint chips is a no-no in my book. By making a profit from these, I believe there’s some ethics in question, but if you are making projects for your home or as a gift, I can’t imagine that you are emptying the paint chip racks faster than the Home Depot guy can fill them.
There are plenty of differing opinions out there. Some say it’s totally wrong, others say it’s fine in moderation, and others don’t seem to think quantity matters at all.
But is it really important what we think? What about the paint manufacturers? After all, it’s stacks of their paint chips that we are consuming, so what do they think about the whole controversy?
Certainly you’ve seen the colorful paint chip commercials from Sherwin Williams. There are several, like this one here and then there’s the bee one here. While there are no indications that they are suggesting you use paint chips in your craft projects, they certainly do offer some creative inspiration in these spots, wouldn’t you agree?
I’ve actually been meaning to address this concern for quite some time. I’ve even received comments here on Craft Gossip on paint chip projects where people object to their use as an art/craft supply. So I set out to contact the paint manufacturers and get the answers, once and for all. After doing a a little research on this topic, I found that Andrea from Hand MAKE My Day wrote a post on this very topic after her Paint Chip Address Cards sparked a controversial commentary from her readers. She actually contacted the folks at BEHR who responded in a positive manner and agreed that using paint chips in crafts is acceptable, provided that the projects were not being sold for profit. You can see Andrea’s opinion post here –> Using Paint Chips for craft projects? Is it ethical? ( Paint Chip Gate ).
I contacted several paint manufacturers to get their opinions. I reached out to Behr, Glidden, Sherwin Williams, and Martha Stewart. Here are their responses…
Eric Stasiowski, Director of Communications at Akzo Nobel Paints LLC, AKA Glidden, says “Paint chips are an important element of the overall color and paint selection process. They can be expensive to produce, yet a critical tool, especially for nationally distributed brands like Glidden. You and your readers may be interested to know that a special printing process is utilized to produce them in order to ensure a perfect color match when mixed with paint. So, although we respect the creativity and talents of those who use color chips for purposes other than painting, it can compromise our programs at retail. Of course, if they inspire those who use them to paint a room, then it’s all worth it!”
A public relations representative for Sherwin Williams provided this response from the company: “One thing for crafters to consider is to talk with paint retail outlets directly as stores may have out-of-date paint chips that they’d be happy to provide. Another option might be for crafters to ask a retailer if they will order and sell them bulk quantities of paint chips. In short, if crafters explain the project and their need for paint chips, and work directly with the staff of a store that sells paint, they may find a solution to get the supplies they need.”
The folks at BEHR provided the following response: “We’ve been tickled pink to see all the creative ways BEHR fans use leftover paint chips! From our mobile application to our new blog all about color, we offer innovative and interactive tools that help consumers build confidence in their color choices. Certainly the in-store experience at The Home Depot is essential to that. Our comprehensive color palette lets customers find a way to bring beautiful color into their home – once they’ve tackled a painting project, we encourage do-it-yourselfers to use and recycle paint chips in interesting ways. Mostly, we hope the paint chips inspire our customers – whether in a 8 oz. sample or gallon size, we love seeing how colors come to life on the wall!”
So there you have it. Clear as mud. Right? The responses range from direct to subtle and leads me to believe that there are just as many differing opinions in the manufacturing realm as there are among us DIYers. To illustrate that point, I reached out to the crafting and DIY community as well.
Carissa from Carissa’s Creativity Space : “I think there are definitely better ways to do it than others. If you check in with the store owner or manager, you can ask if they have extras or what they do with discontinued colors / end of season stock so that you can come rescue it. Or if you had a legitimate paint project you needed chips for and then repurpose them… even better! I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a paint store to take chips solely for a craft project unless I had permission or a legitimate second use for them (like, you know, painting).”
Jennifer from Always in Wonder : “I paint a lot, and am always running into Home Depot to get paint or look at paint chips for colors. I usually bring home the paint cards and samples every time I go in. Sometimes I save my sample cards, sometimes I toss them. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable grabbing a stack of the paint cards to specifically do a project with them though. That might feel like taking advantage.”
Alexa of the blog The Swell Life : “I personally don’t see anything wrong with it if you take a few for a small project, but if you are doing a large canvas or wall installation and stealing samples, that’s another thing. I can’t imagine that people taking them for ‘testing’ with their wall keep them after they finish their project, they probably get thrown away. And honestly, I wouldn’t feel as guilty taking them from Lowes or Home Depot as I would a local franchise. It would be much more of an expense for a little guy to purchase and re-order.”
Shannon from Madigan Made : “I’ve only made one small project from a couple of paint chip samples I had. But I’ve mimicked the look of paint chips on other projects by just using different shades of scrapbook paper. Using paper seems like a decent solution if you want to do a large project but are hesitant to take a bunch of samples from the paint store.”
Donna from Funky Junk Interiors : “Taking them for the sole reason of creating with them I’d regard as theft unless one specifically asks and offers advertising on where they got the chips from. I mean, why would a paint store offer such a thing otherwise? Reusing the ones you’d just throw out is a whole other matter but does entice others to create with them as well… and here we go again. Is it wise? This applies to pallets and paint stir sticks too! One needs to ask at all costs! For anything unless you find a stash of something at a thrift or the curb. And that’s still iffy because others don’t know that’s where you got your stuff from. Definitely a grey area here.”
Alexa raised an interesting topic as well. Who bears the cost of those paint chips? The manufacturer or the retail outlet? Turns out both. Some manufacturers sell the paint samples to the retail outlets, it really just depends on each store and paint company. Other manufacturers provide the paint sample cards to the retail outlet for free to help promote their color choices. Store employees know they were free and may not see any harm in allowing you to take as much as you please. That sounds to me like it’s up to YOU to be the ethical one.
I did glean some good tid bits from all of this, let’s see if you caught them too:
1) Sherwin Williams suggested that you ask the retail outlet if they have any paint chips for discontinued colors. Ask what they do with them. Do they toss them or recycle them? You can ask them to put your name and phone number on a sticky note where employees will see it with a note to call you when they pull out the discontinued colors.
2) Sherwin Williams also suggested that if you want large quantities to see if the retailer will order some in bulk for you. This would solve the ethics question, especially when selling your paint chip creations.
3) Granted, even if you ask, some employees won’t care and will just allow you to take what you want. So I guess it’s up to the manufacturers to decide how they want to educate the retailers in these situations, and up to you to do what you think is right.
So what’s the solution? Well, I don’t know if I have a solution, but I can provide a suggestion. Andrea from Hand MAKE My Day mentioned this in her post and I think it’s brilliant and a fair return. If you plan to make a paint chip project and blog about, be kind to that manufacturer and give them a shout out in your post. The paint manufacturer will receive free advertising and exposure in exchange for that handful of free paint chips you grabbed (not for their intended purpose). If you grabbed BEHR chips, then take a picture and show your readers which colors your chose, and say thanks. Thanks to BEHR, or Sherwin Williams, or Glidden. Say thanks for providing you with beautiful colors with which to be creative and express your crafty talent. What goes around, comes around. So share the love and as always, give credit where credit is due… even when it comes to paint chips.