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Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in Cardmaking 101, Stars and Stamps, Tutorial | 37 comments

Tutorial: Paint Swatch Cards

Let me tell you guys a true story. A few weekends ago, my husband finished the lawn and announced that he needed to run out for some gardening things. Imagine his surprise, when I jumped up from my scrap table and grabbed my purse to go along! “You want to go with me? To the Big Hardware Store?” He was a little bit shocked. I tried to tell him that it was only fair, since I’ve dragged him through the Huge Hobby Store more than once. He was puzzled, but took me along.  When we got to the Big Hardware Store, husband went off to look at sprinkler heads, power tools, lumber and other man-things that he likes to look at.  I told him that I would meet him in the gardening department, and headed off to my own favorite place.

Not going to lie… one of the aisles that I love the best at the Big Hardware Store is where they mix and sell the paint. Sometimes I just like to look at all of the pretty paint swatch colors, all arranged by hue and tone and marvel at their organization! I have often thought that it would be a pretty fun job, putting those paint swatches out on display like that.  That Big Hardware Store employee must really enjoy that part of their day.


Again, I won’t lie.  I’ve spent time down the paint aisle  a time or two before. Not very often, because honestly – when I take  a hand full of paint swatches under the false pretenses that I am going to paint my living room a pretty shade of plum, it makes me feel very, very guilty. Sometimes I look around and try to make sure that no one is watching when I take some swatches. I know that they are free, but it feels a little bit wrong. I broke out in a cold sweat once, while pilfering a few pretty shades of pink. Some lady snuck up on me and squealed and asked me if I was expecting a girl??  The guilt has usually kept me from taking more than a few swatches at a time. To ease my conscience,  I have tried  to keep in mind that  if no one took those beautiful, colorful swatches off of the display, the paint-swatch-replacing employee would be out of a job. Now that would be terrible. I certainly can’t let that happen!

So, yes, I used my pretty swatches to make cards. Here are a few that I made recently.  I like to make use of those colorful little rectangles by trimming away the paint names or using punches to create cute, colorful gradient shapes. Fun, right? I like how they can be used to make a card with an ombre look, without having to find all of the scraps of paper that coordinate that way.


These cards were both inspired by one of the latest sketches, #182. I thought that it would also be fun, to save them for our Birthday Month! Happy Birthday, OWH!


Now then, the end of my story does have a nice happy twist. The “date” trip to the hardware store was really enjoyable for me and my hubby. It did show him that I can wander a store and feign interest, just like he does sometimes for me.  I even learned to appreciate the home lighting aisle, and the really fancy faucets can be kind of fun, too. It was nice just to spend a little time together. On the way out, he even bought me a hot dog from a tent outside of the store.

On this last particular trip to the Big Hardware Store my conscience finally got the best of me and I came clean with the paint-swatch employee. I finally saw her at the display, replacing some swatches. Her face had this expression of calm happiness, much like I imagine mine would be, when sorting my colorful cardstock!  “Excuse me,” I asked her, “Can I ask you what you do with old swatches? Do you throw them away?” She quirked an eyebrow at me at first, but then showed me a huge bin underneath counter where they mix the paint cans. She was happy to let me grab a hand full of old swatches and take as many as I wanted, without the guilt! Curiosity must have gotten the better of her, because she asked me what I intended to do with them. When I told her about OWH and using the swatches to make cards for the troops, she lit up and said, “Oh! Wow, that is so great!” She handed me more stacks of swatches and even helped me to pick out some lovely shades of green and red for Christmas. Next weekend, she’ll be coming over to help me make cards.

If you decide to give the “paint swatch” technique a try, please share with us here!


  1. What a great story! And I love your cards. Unfortunately, herein Israel you have to look at a bound version of the paint swatches that stays in the store.

    • Amy, maybe you could ask if you could have the book when the new colors come out? I know people that use to get wallpaper books that way.

  2. What a fun story! I, too, once took paint swatches until I found out the big box stores actually pay for the swatches! Next time I am in the store, I plan to ask if they have a paint chip trash stash!! Your cards are very lovely!

  3. There have been many times I’ve picked up paint swatches. All I do is ask the staff for any ‘leftovers’ and they hand me many handfulls

  4. This is FAB!!! I think I’ll be heading out to my local store in the next couple of days to ask about leftovers. Not that I need more stuff but I’m helping the environment and all…

  5. Goodness!!!!! I thought I was the only one who did this at the hardware stores, LOL!! I love this swatches, the color families are in perfect order, from light to dark and you can never go wrong when you punch them out to arrange them like in this fabulous cards. What I didn’t know is to ask someone at the paint department if the store has some “leftovers” of all the colors so, thank you Jo, for that tip.

  6. I have taken a couple swatches of colors I truly loved. I also feel guilty taking them since I have no plans to paint any rooms. What a great idea to ask for any leftovers.

    And what a great story. You went to the hardware store with your husband and enjoyed the time with him, came back with leftover swatches with no guilt, and made a new friend to make OWH cards together.

  7. I had to laugh when I read this, I swear I could have written this post, except that my husband knows he better not ever go to the big box hardware store without asking me, next to HobLob, it’s my favorite place to shop.

  8. Love this idea of asking for leftovers or oldies so then I will not feel guilty either. Thank you for the inspiration.

  9. Great story, and great ending with the employee coming over to make cards! I love your card ideas and it has inspired me to go to the hardware store and do some shopping for future painting plans.

  10. Fantastic Cards & Story!
    Love how you got to share with the employee

  11. Wow. This would be a great way to use up odds and ends of paper that doesn’t seem to go with anything anymore.

  12. Oh…I can’t tell you how many times I have passed by that aisle and had to stuff my hands in my pockets to keep from pilfering swatches. I never even THOUGHT to ask about leftovers!! I see a trip to the “Big Hardware” store in the near future!!

  13. This story sure had a happy ending! Lots of new “paper” and a new card making friend. I have been wanting to get some swatches to do the gradient cards…I am sure going to check out my local hardware store for some out dated ones!

  14. Love your ‘true story’. As a fellow quilt ridden swatch taker…I can relate. Next time I’ll hope to find an employee and ask about the out of date swatches!!! Also, love your cards!!!

  15. Beautiful cards and a great story! I haven’t used paint chips in ages so thanks for the reminder.

  16. Great idea! I hope to try that soon.

  17. So glad I am not the only one who feels guilty taking the paint swatches. I especially took quite a few when I first got stamping and didn’t have so many cool paper choices. In fact, one year for Christmas, I asked my family to rob for me as part of my gift. LOL They work great for card making but I have not used them in years. Might have to check out the paint aisle again soon.

  18. What a terrific story…and what a great tip on making ombre successfully…and you made a new friend. Awesome.

  19. I’ve tried making cards with the paint swatches, but never liked how they turned out. I really like yours – thanks for showing us. And I love the idea of asking for old ones as I felt guilty about taking them. Too much like theft! And you’ve introduced someone new to stamping and OWH – bonus! 🙂

  20. I just love a story with a happy (surprise) ending! And no card makers went to jail! lol

  21. I wanted to take swatches but thought it wouldn’t be nice. I’ll aks for leftovers. I can imagine lots of beautiful cards using them.

  22. If they have leftovers I will join in but just taking them for crafting. Nope! If everyone takes them to craft I’m guessing they will stop putting them out there.

  23. My local smaller-chain hardware store (begins with “A” and has three letters) told me I could have all the swatches I wanted! I took one of every color. (That should last me awhile.) I made sure that I did not take the last one of any particular color, but they had oodles. They said they did not pay for them. They also said they never throw them out. I guess it depends on the store and the manufacturer of the paint. But my philosophy in life is…”It never hurts to ask! All they can do is say, ‘No.’ It’s better than getting caught!”

  24. I always feel guilty taking the swatches too, I look over the colors and take a few of the same color family. I think next time, I’ll ask if they have any leftovers. I can add them to my collection of wallpaper samples I have(but I asked for them!!!)

  25. Very cool story, i am going to ask my store what they do with the out dated swatches! the guilt is terrible.

  26. And now I will be making a trip to the local HD hardware store for paint swatches as well…. great idea! Sounds like a fun date also! =)
    Thanks for sharing.

  27. I love it that you were honest with the store employee and that by being truthful, you were blessed big time with the outdated paint swatches ~ I’m proud of you!!

  28. This is such a clever idea – getting out-of-date paint swatches from the hardware store! I admit to having snuck a few of the displayed swatches once in a while, but I never used them to full advantage because I wasn’t smart enough to cut shapes from the gradients – I just stuck the whole trimmed swatch on a card, which didn’t look great, as you can imagine. Thanks so much for the great tip.

  29. I didn’t think they saved them. But now I’ll ask. Thanks for that funny story.

  30. I have used paint samples for my cards for years. I don’t do it often as I feel guilty each time I take some. But now I know to ask for thier old samples 🙂

  31. So nice to hear about your “date” to the store. I, too, feel guilty for taking the swatches, but now feel better. I will now be able to ask for their old ones guilt free. I loved your cards.

  32. I steal them too – who doesn’t? But I never take more then a few at a time – I feel guilty , too…
    I certainly will link up a card here – I tend to use them every once in a while and it looks like there is plenty of time for this!

  33. Nancy, Thanks so much for a fabulous idea!

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