09 June 2009

Interior design tools for the iPhone, first up Sherwin-Williams

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece about an up-and-coming iPhone application called Ben from Benjamin Moore. Well, Ben is here and I've been using it since yesterday. Prior to Ben's arrival, Sherwin-Williams came up with a color-selecting app of their own called ColorSnap.

I've been playing with ColorSnap for about a week and here's my two cents about Sherwin-Williams' first dive into the iPhone pool. I'll review Ben tomorrow.

When you launch ColorSnap, it loads pretty quickly and flashes through a short series of photographs matched with a Sherwin-Williams color. The home screen arrives shortly thereafter and it's ready for action.

There are two buttons on the home page, Camera and Library. Library will take you to the photos you've already loaded onto your phone and Camera launches the iPhone's camera. I can't imagine how that could be made any simpler.

So say you have an aerial view of a Bahamian beach loaded onto your phone and you want to come up with a color scheme based on the photo. ColorSnap opens a copy of your archived photo. Once it's been imported, you can zoom and crop the image how you'd like. The you point to (literally) whatever color you'd like to have matched. It takes a second or two, but ColorSnap will pull the closest Sherwin-Williams color it can find and match it to your photo. In the photo above, the cursor was placed somewhere over the water and ColorSnap matched it with SW6516, Down Pour. If you agree with the match, then ColorSnap will assemble a three-color palette based on the first color it matched. The three-color palette is automatic and you can't control the secondary or tertiary colors in the palette. Hmmm.

If you click on any of the colors in the sample palette, ColorSnap jumps to a screen with the RGB formulas for the three colors in the palette. Considering RGB is the color system used for video and web color, I don't understand why RGB since we're talking about paint. I don't care about Red, Green and Blue light when I'm thinking about paint. When it comes to paint I want to see a pigment formula. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

With all of that said, once you get to a three-color palette you like, you can save it to a collection.

Once saved, you can come back to your collection whenever you'd like.

The final function ColorSnap is Find Store. Find Store uses the iPhone's GPS to locate the closest Sherwin-Williams location to wherever you are. This function works perfectly and that's more than I can say for the rest of the app unfortunately.

In ColorSnap's defense, the Capture function is limited by the fact that it's relying on a camera in a phone. The app does a better job with the Library function. As a test, I took a photo of an actual Sherwin-Williams color swatch and tried to get ColorSnap to identify it. The app failed miserably. Again, that is as much the fault of the camera as it is the app. However, if it can't recognize one of its own colors, how would it do if I were trying to coordinate a room color with a carpet or a tile? This is an app that doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.

I get the feeling from using ColorSnap that design professionals are not the target audience for this app. I mean, I don't need a color specifying tool that automatically assigns three-color palettes. I doubt I'll be whipping this app out when I'm in a quandary about how to paint a room. Although it will make my nieces and nephews ooh and ahh.

Even so, it's a pretty interesting first attempt. Sherwin-Williams was the first paint company to get a specifying tool into the app store. This application is the first step down a long road that's going to change everything we know about everything. But that's just the early adopter in me speaking. If they decide to develop it into something meaningful, this is a good first step. For now though, ColorSnap is interesting for what it represents more than for what it can do. You can download ColorSnap on Sherwin-Williams' website or you can find it in the App Store on iTunes.


  1. Even though it doesn't work as well as you'd like it to, it still sounds like a cool concept :-)

    What would REALLY impress me is an app that'll choose the perfect colour that you have in your head and then paint your room for you!! ;-)


  2. That's coming I'm sure. Sometimes I feel like my iPhone can read my mind already so it's just a matter of time until it starts acting on the thoughts it picks up from me.

  3. Hopefully SW reads your blogs and will listen to your review. They're probably aware already of some of the limitations and decided to release with glitches rather than wait for the perfect app. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

    All the same, I agree -- it's a great concept and, for the arm-chair designer or new homeowner / apartment dweller, might be a great resource.

  4. It's not so much that ColorSnap has glitches or doesn't work, it's just that it doesn't do very much. It's a great idea that wasn't developed to its full potential. I noticed a couple of hits from Sherwin-Williams' IP addresses in my traffic report yesterday, so somebody up there saw this.

    My review of Benjamin Moore's version of the same software is a love letter essentially. Benjamin Moore's app does everything I wish Sherwin-Williams' did because I prefer SW to BM when it comes to specifying paint. I doubt that B. Moore's app is going to change my brand loyalties single handedly, but it does make me see B. Moore in a whole new light.

  5. And I've got just the opposite reaction to yours. I like this app better than Benjamin Moore's, but I don't use Sherwin Williams paints.

    It also suffers from having to deal with the iPhone camera, which doesn't exactly give good color rendition that I've experienced so far.

  6. We have conflicting conflicts because I use Sherwin-Williams all the time, more than Benjamin Moore even. I know, that's designer heresy, but I like their neutrals and near neutrals better than B. Moore's.

    So far as these apps go, they are OK for general color matching, but I would never use them as a substitute for a real color specification kit. I'd be lost without my 81/2" x 11" paint chips. Lost!


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