Samples are available from suppliers to enable you to truly know what you are buying. It is essential to have seen the actual product if you do not know exactly what you are buying.
All is not what it seems
Different people see colour in different ways. Our eyes have learnt to colour balance what we see and compensate where required, adding and subtracting surrounding light, shadow and colour to give a true representation of what they see. The eyes are just the lenses, and it is the brain which actually 'sees' the colour. Since all our brains are different, we will all see colours slightly differently too.
The trouble is that when we see photographs, the camera has removed some of this ability. We can't see the surrounding objects or understand the lighting conditions, all of which help us interpret the colours of the image. Without this essential information, it is impossible to understand the true colours we are seeing.
Nothing could demonstrate this better than one of the big debates of 2015 – just what colour was the dress? It caused massive differences of opinion, with each side unable to understand the other people's verdict. So what colour was the dress? Was it blue and black or was it white and gold?
What colour was the dress? Blue and black or white and gold? You will only see one of the combinations, with the other seeming like a ridiculous answer. The second image of the same dress might help you see the real colours.(Swiked⁄Tumblr)
The problem was that the camera had stripped out essential information which the brain requires to interpret the colours with any accuracy. This is why the answers given are poles apart. The dress was actually blue and black, but some people's brains had estimated the missing information incorrectly causing them to see it wildly differently.
This is why it is essential to see real samples of wallpapers and not just rely on the on-screen images you see. Although online images are a good representation, they will never replace seeing the real thing. They will always seem different, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, depending on each person's brain. The camera might strip out an essential piece on information which your own brain requires to interpret a colour accurately.
Computer screen vs real life
There is no colour continuity from one computer screen to another. If you were to put two screen together and look at the sample online sample, they would both be different (sometimes wildly so). This can be down to something as simple as the settings on each monitor. We can all tweak the brightness, colour and contrast of a display leading to two identical monitors showing totally different colours.
This is why you can't look at a sample online and assume that you are seeing what the actual product will look like. Online images are there as in indication only and can never be used as an exact match.
There are also finishes and textures which you can't get a true idea about unless you see a real sample. Flocks and beads don't come over on screen and might be very different to what you are expecting when you see them in real life. Flocks soak up light resulting in a dead flat colour. Beads are the opposite, reflecting light to give shimmering sparkle.
Modern wall coverings use metallics to great effect. However, it really isn't possible to show what these are like in a flat image on a computer screen. To understand how light will bounce off the paper in your own room, you need to see a real sample.
Little Greene's Bonaparte wallpaper shows how metallics can change in colour according to the light shone on them. This is why you need to see a sample to understand how light will play on the product.
Size and quality of samples
Samples come from manufacturers and are supplied to us in all sorts of different sizes. Some manufacturers supply large A3 samples, some only supply tiny A6 samples. We have no control over the size of samples, or what appears on them. For example, if you request a sample of a wallpaper which features a bird motif, there is no guarantee that the sample you receive will contain the bird itself. The sample is there to give you an idea of the print finish, colours, etc – it's not supposed to represent a large sample of the final product. If you have a specific enquiry or request, please contact us directly to discuss your requirements.
To help you decide if a wallpaper is right for you, use some blu-tac to stick it to the wall. Leave it up for a while so you can view it under different lighting conditions (for example first thing in the morning versus under artificial light at night).
If you are unsure of a design, try leaving the sample up for a few days and see how it feels over time. It might be that the pattern is the right one for you, but you actually want a slightly different colour when you see how it behaves in different lights.