Afraid of Color Selection?

Bird imageIt is common for people to ask their painter about color selection. Many painters dodge the question because it can be a morass of lost time and money. Their attitude is, “look, you tell me what color to paint and I will paint it.” When I was new to the trade, a customer left color selection up to me; I was painting the entry to an old high-rise apartment building that had a lot of relief work in the plaster – acanthus leaf etc. I decided to use two shades of blue and gold because I thought those colors looked great together. The detail was elaborate and it took two days for three of us to finish the job. As we were removing our drop clothes on the last day, an elderly woman stepped out of the elevator and looked at our job. “Bilious,” she exclaimed. I didn’t know what bilious meant so I looked it up. It means “of or pertaining to bile.”

Sometimes, a customer depends on you to tell them what they like; you become the interior decorator (wizard) that can come up with just the right color for them. When this happens, I glance around the room; the colors this person likes are usually there already, even though the room is stark white: in a sofa, a picture, a nick-knack, a figurine.  When decorative punch is requested, examine the room for these clues and suggest colors based on what you see. Another trick for refining colors is to retreat to the wallpaper department of your local paint store. Expert colorists have adjusted the combinations of colors and shades in books of wallpaper. Based on the pallet your customer has selected, have the paint store match the colors in the papers that have those colors. When in doubt, go conservative. Use a creamy off-white or soft beige on the walls and a fresh white on the trim and doors. A pale gray or taupe also work with fresh white.


Big Mistake!

BigMistake Football image

Most people around the world associate the word “football” with a sport involving a round ball, a sport we call soccer. We associate football with an entirely different sport and will likely never change. Words or phrases can have associations which greatly affect their meaning. There is a lesson here. If you are going to bring a new product to market, be careful what you name it. We decided to call Dizzolve a “brush cleaner” because that is exactly what it does: big mistake! Let me explain.

In the painting industry, “brush cleaner” has always been associated with a powder or solution used to save a brush that has dried paint on it. Dizzolve will remove dried paint from a brush but it also removes wet, solvent based paint including shellac, lacquer, urethane and even wet two-part epoxy. Dizzolve is a daily brush wash for every kind of cleaning. Solvent free brush cleaning is here! Getting painters to understand this has been an uphill struggle.

In an attempt to associate Dizzolve with daily cleaning, we began calling it a “paint thinner replacement for cleaning brushes.” That got our message over to those who still use oil base paint, but they are a diminishing in number due to the prevalence of water based paint. Painters think, “Oh, I don’t need Dizzolve because I don’t use oil base paint anymore.”  Again, word association limits understanding. Perhaps we should call it “Dizzolve Brush Cleaner to Remove Oil Base Paint, Wet or Dry, Including All Other Paints Wet or Dry, and Dried Latex Paint, Even The Healed Up Part Of Your Brush That Happens Almost Every Day; Of Course You Have to Have Water to Take the Wet Latex Out.” I guess we need a bigger label.

Visit our website to learn more about Dizzolve Brush Cleaner.




Choosing an effective accent color for your home can be a fairly simple process. Please notice, I said, “effective accent color;” there is no such thing as a right or wrong color. If you like a color, use it (regardless of what your neighbor says). However, you might want to consider how well it complements your other colors. Here is a simple method that has worked for me. Create a color wheel by dividing a circle into six pie-shaped sections. Write the word “green” in one section and then, going continuously in one direction around the circle, create a “color wheel” by filling in the other pie pieces: blue, purple,
red, orange, and yellow. Now, you can choose an accent color by selecting a color from the opposite side of the color wheel from your main color. For instance, if your room is predominantly blue, (blue walls, blue sofa and carpet) an orange throw-pillow will add “life” (or “accent”) to your décor. Likewise, purple is a good accent for a yellow room and red will accent a green room. This method will also work for selecting a third color for the outside of you house. If your house is green with white trim and you want an accent color for the sash, red will work well.

Here are some other considerations. First, we rarely use colors in their pure form; instead, we use red-ish or orange-ish colors. These are shades, tints or tones of a color and they can have much to do with the success of your design. You might find that a color is too bright and you want to “tone it down” or select a “tint” of it. To tint a color, we add white to it; toning is done by adding a neutral, such as brown.

Furthermore, a color may be combined with another color as in “blue-green.” In  electing your accent color, you should look closely to see what the main underlying color is; then, using your color wheel, select your accent color with its appropriate shade, tint or tone.

Finally, remember that none of this is written in stone. For instance, a soft (tinted) yellow house with fresh white trim will look terrific with tinted green (“celery”) sash. Yellow and green exist next to each other, not opposite on the color wheel.

However, using a “complimentary color” from the opposite side of the color wheel as an accent is said to add tension or excitement to a design. Also, designs that consist of tints or tones of one color can create a “mood.” Whatever you like – bright, soft, toned, tinted, exciting or moody – stick with it. You are the one who has to live with it. Take helpful comments with a grain of salt.


When the solids settle on the bottom, you can separate the good Dizzolve and add more and keep using the same batch. Dizzolve doesn’t evaporate; it lives in an open container in your shop….

We were all raised on time-honored sayings like “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Therefore, when choosing between two quarts of peanut butter, we might choose the less expensive one. We assume that the two peanut butters are the same and therefore the one with a lower price is a better value. We may or may not be right. For instance, if one of the jars is labeled with the word “organic” it has the increased value of being better for your health, and its higher price is justified by the increased cost of growing peanuts without the aid of pesticides. Poor health can result in medical expenses down the road, not to mention a poor quality of life. The difference here is qualitative.

Another difference in products is quantitative. For instance, one gallon of paint may cost a few dollars more but cover twice the square feet of another gallon. Assuming equal quality, the better value is the more expensive gallon. A quart of Dizzolve Brush Cleaner costs almost three times a quart of paint thinner, a common brush cleaner; but Dizzolve will clean ten times as many paint brushes as paint thinner because it is reusable. It can be as thick as potato soup with paint pigments and it still works!

Also, when the solids settle on the bottom, you can separate the good Dizzolve and add more and keep using the same batch. Dizzolve doesn’t evaporate; it lives in an open container in your shop, always ready, always handy. Furthermore, consider the qualitative difference: it prevents the “crispy brush,” yielding a soft, supple, like-new brush every time. And Dizzolve is healthy; it emits no fumes, is brain-safe and skin-safe. When I think of people who still use old, solvent based thinners I am reminded of another time-honored saying: “a fool and his money are soon parted.”


I once was called on the carpet for painting an addition to a hotel the wrong color. I had been responsible for matching the color of the existing building to paint the addition, and the two structures abutted one another. Where they met, there was a slight but discernable difference but only when viewed from a distance. In a sense, I was too close to the trees to see the forest. I argued that my color match was accurate and set about to prove it. I painted a large swath of color from the addition onto the existing building. When the paint dried the match was perfect on both structures: tah duh!

My self-assuredness earned me a ride in the owner’s upscale SUV to a location several hundred yards from the hotel. He was in the front seat with the building contractor, and I was in the back seat. I felt like a little kid in trouble. When we reached our new viewpoint the difference in color was apparent. The owner spoke up, “Now please don’t try to tell me that those two colors are the same.” I stared for a moment and then spotted the source of the problem. The two adjoining sections of building were over a porch roof. The older section of porch roof was tiled in dark blue tile; the newer section was covered in plywood awaiting tile. The problem was reflected light. I explained that the blue tile was reflecting light up onto the siding and that the problem would end as soon as blue tile was applied to the new porch roof. The owner responded, “I’ve been in the construction business for a long time and there is one thing I don’t appreciate and that is when someone tries to feed me a line of b___ s___.” Apparently, he wasn’t accepting my explanation.

I was ordered to stop work while he brought in color experts to solve the problem. My job was stopped for three weeks and the problem was finally resolved when the plywood was overlaid with blue tile.


“It turns out that milk is hazardous to fish and the hazmat team was pumping out the storm drain to keep the milk from reaching the river.”

We can never learn enough about hazardous materials. When a milk truck overturned on a street near my home, I was surprised to see the hazmat team respond, complete with white ty-vek suits. It turns out that milk is hazardous to fish and the hazmat team was pumping out the storm drain to keep the milk from reaching the river. Perhaps it was the white protective suits that made the response seem a bit overdone; but the suits were no doubt mandated by statute. As a painting contractor, I had to learn a good deal about statutes. Washing out a latex paint brush in the garden is forbidden in my state, but washing it in a sink is OK because the sewage treatment plant can handle the contaminant. Washing a building with a pressure washer requires the capture and proper disposal of the dirty water. Violating a statute can result in a fine of many thousands of dollars so it behooves contractors to train their employees well.

Training a new employee, however, takes time, and one can only hope that common sense will prevail when correct protocol has not yet been taught; but sometimes hopes are dashed. I once got a call from a local gas station that there was a massive paint spill involving one of my trucks and my new apprentice. I immediately called all my workers to report to the gas station and bring pressure washers and sand bags. The scene at the gas station was mind-boggling: bright blue latex enamel covered a very large part of the driveway. My young apprentice sheepishly explained what had happened. Having spilled a gallon of paint in the back of the truck, he became concerned about the damage to the truck.

He used the hose he found at the station to clean out the truck and intended to wash the paint down the storm drain. Fortunately, the paint dried on the hot asphalt before he could do so. We set to work with sand bags, pressure washers and sump pumps. Though dry, the paint hadn’t cured and, three hours later, the mess was gone and properly disposed of.

It was easy to convict my employee of a lack of common sense. On the other hand, if I had dropped a gallon of milk in the gutter, I wouldn’t have thought twice about letting it enter the storm drain. It appears that common sense is a result of education.



I once set a house on fire.

It was a Victorian ranch house that needed a lot of paint stripped off before it could be painted. I was new to the genre of older home repainting, having begun my career in Kent Woodlands in Marin County where the homes were newer and most were stained instead of painted.

But I knew enough that the old, cracked paint on the farm house had to come off, so I began burning it off with a torch. This time-honored method presented obvious problems, so I kept a garden hose with nozzle and a five-gallon bucket of water nearby just in case. Late one morning, Phyllis, the lady of the house, returned from shopping and, when I offered to help her carry in her groceries, she invited me to stay for coffee.

After several minutes of pleasant conversation, she asked, “Is that fog going by out there or is that smoke?” I bolted from my seat and ran to the front of the house. Flames were shooting out of a basketball sized hole on the front porch. I doused the fire but it was in the wall going up to the attic. I knew I was on my own because the volunteer fire department was many miles away. I used a pick ax from the garden shed to open up the siding and then reached into the stud wall and sprayed upward with water The water hit the burning embers in the wall sending an explosion of steam down to scald my hand. I knew I had no choice but to continue spraying inside the wall. About the time I  concluded the fire was out, Phyllis asked, “would you like a valium?” The fire department showed up forty-five minutes later. The fire had not reached the attic but to our surprise it had filled the living room with smoke — while we drank coffee!!

My insurance covered the loss and I painted the inside as well as the outside of the house. I abandoned the torch and developed my own method of chemical paint stripping which ultimately led to a career of older home repainting. The job went on for months and I became a friend of the family. When her daughter, Cathy, turned sixteen, Phyllis drove me into town to drive back her birthday present, a brand new Camaro.



Word of mouth is the best kind of advertising but these ladies were even more speechless than Bob…

Good decorum is an important part of any business; but it is especially important when your business involves working around a home. Homeowners often judge you by the way you look, not by the quality of your work. I used to emphasize this in the apprenticeship program I taught for the Painting and Decorating Contractors. Good impressions are important: be on time, be organized, be neat and clean, be courteous, look professional! Violating this axiom can make you look bad, but failing outright in the presence of your client can embarrass you to tears.

Take the example of my friend Bob, an excellent painter. While painting a bedroom, he left a five-gallon bucket of paint near the base of his step ladder. He descended the ladder and stepped into the bucket of paint. There he was, standing in a carpeted room with one foot in a bucket of paint. He had only one option: exit the house by limping down the hall and through the living room, lifting the bucket by the bale, foot inside. Unfortunately, the lady of the house was hosting a tea party in the living room. He limped into the living room, red-faced and speechless; what could he say?  He told me what came out: “Excuse me, I …. Sorry to interrupt, I … pardon me …  if I can just squeeze by you there … so sorry.” Word of mouth is the best kind of advertising but these ladies were even more speechless than Bob and certainly didn’t ask the home owner for a referral to her painter. We can conclude it was because he didn’t look professional.



I agree with Robert Frost for whom “the road less traveled by … made all the difference.”

The roads we travel can become a rut and seizing the opportunity to get away, to leave our path can have life changing and life affirming results. For my 60 th birthday, my wife took me took me to Italy. The art, the wine, the cracked plaster arches and faded-paint patina of Tuscany changed my life; I realized it was time to retire from paint contracting and pursue art and wood working. For the next seven years I built a 19-foot sail boat, built a house and painted pictures.

I believe that smaller trips can have can have similar life-changing affects particularly when they are on roads less travelled. Today, my wife and I left our house on a whim and drove to a small fishing village on the coast called Bodega Bay. There, we reunited with the surging, green Pacific and the brisk northwest wind. Later, we shared a glass of chardonnay, clam chowder and fish tacos in a small wharf-side restaurant. The road that carried us there passes through rolling hills, and verdant pastures with farmhouses and barns. It is a road we seldom travel though it practically starts in our back yard. That’s life. That’s the rut. I believe today’s trip on this road less travelled changed me, opened new horizons, however small. I await all “the difference.”

First Arm Experience

Stories abound among tradesmen about accidents involving flammable solvents.

There is the painter who was spraying lacquer on some kitchen cabinets and forgot to disconnect all sources of ignition. Or the homeowner who was advised to clean up over-sprayed paint on his hardwood floor with lacquer thinner without checking for a pilot light or potential sparking electrical outlet. Both lost their lives in the explosions.

We have all heard stories about people who didn’t properly handle oily rags. That’s how we lost an antique store in our town; it burned down. All of these accidents might have been avoided if those involved had read and followed the precautions printed on the labels of the solvents. But maybe not.

What about momentary lapse of memory, or some interrupting distraction, or just plain fatigue. I can speak from first hand experience, or, more accurately, first arm experience. My right arm has scars from burns suffered when my protective suit failed (while we were stripping paint) and leaked a common paint remover. I once returned to my shop to find smoke pouring out of the eves. One of my workers had folded a drop clothe at day’s end that contained paint chips laden with another common paint remover. Unfortunately, he neglected to inform the person who ferried the drop clothes back to my shop. I located the smoldering drop clothe and dragged it outside.

There is nothing exotic or out of the ordinary about these two kinds of paint remover, or the flammable lacquer mentioned above. All of them are available at your local paint store, and, even when handled by professionals, they can be disastrous.

Take extreme care, read the cautions on the label, and follow the instructions! Better yet, don’t use them at all.