This Post is a part of the Design School Series.
I'm going to start off with a personal experience with paint undertones. Kevin and I were super excited to move into our first home together, but the entire thing was this builder beige color that was all the rage in the early 2000s. We moved into our home in 2008 when gray paint was really becoming popular, so we went to the local paint store and purchased 3 colors of gray paint.
We did swatches, we looked at them in different lighting and we thought they would be perfect... well....
We hated it, seriously hated it, everything in the house was a beige yellowy color and the blue made that even more obvious (more on that later.)
See the problem with gray is, it becomes whatever color the undertone is. If it has green undertone your house will look green unless it's very subtle. In our case, it had blue undertones and my house looked nautical... which is fantastic if done correctly but it was really not what we were going for.
We ended up repainting our entire house Coventry Grey by Benjamin Moore which is a neutral mid gray tone. It was beautiful and everything we imagined.
I've learned my lesson about undertones and I will not forget it.
Believe it or not nearly all paint has a yellow, Red, Blue or Green Tint to it. It can be very subtle and although the overall color may read white to the eye, the undertone plays off different colors in your space. It doesn't need to be as dramatic as painting your entire home grey and having it look blue, it can be as simple as painting your room and having your gorgeous floors stand out.
which leads me to the next part.
I'm sorry we need to get into a little bit of color theory here.
I'm going to breakdown the basics of color theory, I'm by no means an expert but I can hold my own. Let's start with the terminology:
- Primary Color: One of the colors red, yellow, or blue which can be mixed together to make other colors. You can't make these three colors by mixing any other color together.
- Secondary Color: Color formed by mixing two primary colors in equal or equivalent quantities
- Tertiary Color: Color produced by mixing two secondary colors
- Complementary: Take a peek at the diagram above, you'll see complementary colors are found on the opposite end of the color wheel. (not to be mistaken with the word COMPLIMENTARY)
- Analogous: Colors found on the same 1/3rd of the color wheel. (2 colors to the right and left of a color)
- Monochromatic: One color made up of different shades and tints.
- Shade: A hue produced by the addition of black.
- Tint: A hue produced by the addition of white.
Now that we got all the lingo out of the way I'll explain why this is important in the world of choosing paint.
When you want a specific color to stand out. Maybe a beautiful piece of art or gorgeous rug use a COMPLEMENTARY color. Now you might be thinking, well I don't want to paint my walls yellow Jess, and that's perfectly ok. You can add yellow with undertones. a beautiful cream with a slight yellow undertone will be sure to make your Blue rug pop.
Down Playing a Color:
When you want to downplay something in your home go with an ANALOGOUS color. Choose one of the 2 colors to the right or the left of the color you are trying to downplay. Now you may be thinking, "Jess, I don't want to paint my house bright red". Don't worry, this is where undertones come in. A beautiful taupe with red undertones is sure to tone down those honey oak cabinets that came with the house.
Go to your favorite paint store and grab all the sample cards you like.
This next part is the hardest part. Put the samples on a white background and compare the darkest colors. Try to determine what the undertone is, you may have to take a few looks but once you figure out one the others are much easier.
Pro tip: You can ask at the paint store, they will know the undertone if you aren't sure.
Small, Easy to Re-paint Space
If I'm painting one wall or somewhere fairly easy to repaint I chose a color at this step. I narrow it down to 3 and then let my husband chose the one he likes best. Mom, sister, coworker any of these would work. Remember they are choosing between 3 you already like! Pro-Tip: if they chose one and you feel disappointed you now know you actually like the other one best. Simple as that, you needed help to be more decisive.
Large or Intricate Space
If you are painting a large or intricate space try to get it down to 3 choices. Then go get some sample cans! You'll want to choose a few different walls to test your samples on. Look for light and shaded areas because that can make a huge difference on how the paint looks on the walls.
I've created this handy dandy graphic so you can pin it and have it forever. Pretty basic concept, the glossier your sheen gets the easier to wash down. The tradeoff is that it highlights any imperfections. My personal favorite is Flat because I find it gives the space a cool look. (every time i write cool, I feel so un-cool). With paint formulas these days it's actually surprisingly easy to wash down.
My Favorite Interior Painting Colors:
Now that you have the theory behind picking paints down, here are my favorite paint colors!
FAVORITE WHITES PAINTS
FAVORITE BLUES PAINTS
FAVORITE GRAY / GREIGE PAINTS