Never get it wrong again…
You spend months knee deep in paint chips, obsessing about finding the perfect shade of paint for your living room. You finally make a decision and with childlike excitement you begin painting. We’ve all been there. The paint goes on the wall and . . . what? “Where did the blue, green, or purple come from? That is not what the paint chip looked like!” At last count, you had 43 swatches painted on your wall and you STILL didn’t get it right. Does this nightmare sound familiar?
The struggle is real…
You’re tired of spending every weekend making several trips to the paint store to purchase more samples. Your living room wall is beginning to resemble a spotted leopard and your head is starting to spin like that chick in the Exorcist movie!
Enter . . . the dreaded, annoying undertone. The undertone of a color is often not seen at first glance and takes a bit of effort to uncover. What you initially see is the color’s mass tone, but the undertone sneaks onto the scene like an uninvited house guest that is making themselves a little too comfortable!
How much and what type of light a room gets can have a big effect on the undertones that come out of a color. Whether the light comes from a lamp or a window, what at first glance, may appear to be a ‘true color’ can suddenly look like the “red-headed stepchild.” (Don’t get me wrong, I love myself a “ginger” just not on my wall!)
Truth is, selecting a paint color is freakin’ hard…
For this post, I am going to refer to the color gray, which is front and center as the go-to neutral and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. It also, just so happens to be the color I get asked about most.
While some color trends are best left in the past (need I remind you of Avocado or Old-World Gold) Today’s neutrals are calming, livable and classic. I’ll focus on gray from here on out, but the tips for detecting undertones work for any color. Capisce?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard of, “greige.” It blurs the line between gray and beige without really committing to either one. Hmmm . . . a perfect choice for those of us with commitment issues. It is extremely versatile and works with just about anything.
Here’s the thing…
Grays are tricky. They can have a warm (brown, yellow) or cool (blue, green, purple) undertone. Keep this in mind when making a selection. Do you have a lot of rich woods, reds and browns? You’ll probably want a warm gray. If white, blue and green are more your thing, a cooler gray is for you. The million-dollar question is, how do you find that undertone before you’ve invested money and more importantly your blood, sweat, and tears onto your walls? I’ve learned some tricks over the years and I’m going to share them with you. My secrets are your secrets. So, let’s talk paint!
Back to the million-dollar question…
- When selecting a paint color always look at the darkest shade on the paint strip or let-down strip. This is where the undertone is easiest to detect. If you see some blue, green, brown etc. in that color, chances are it will show up in your chosen color.
- Another trick is to NEVER look at colors in isolation. Gray, is gray, is gray, right? Well, if you have ever stepped foot in a paint store you know how wrong that is. Put numerous paint chips from the same color family next to each other. The undertones will become much more obvious when you see several next to each other.
- A picture is worth a thousand words or at least a gallon of paint! For those of you that have a tough time seeing undertones, no matter how much you squint, tilt your head to the right or ‘do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around ‘ snap a picture with your phone. Sometimes the undertone is easier to see in a picture.
- Lastly, I always, always tell my clients to head to the store and pick up some poster board. Purchase a paint sample and give the board 2 coats, leaving a 1”-2” border on 3 sides. Place the board on your wall, with the side that is painted to the edge, up against the trim. Move it around as the sun exposure changes. Live with it for a few days. Pay close attention to any annoying undertones you may see. The white border creates a separation between your old wall color and the new one you are testing out. This helps ensure the old color (which has a tendency to be a bit of a bully) doesn’t influence the new one!
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will change your space more than a new paint color. It is the perfect place to start if updating your home is on your agenda. I love Sherwin Williams Paints! Here are a few of my favorites grays that I have consistently seen work. In other words, they are known winners and you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Repose Gray #7015
Lovely and soft. A spec of a brown undertone may show its head, but not enough to make this color a member of the greige team!
Agreeable Gray #7029
A pale, warm gray with subtle taupe undertones. Perfect if you have lots of warm wood tones in your home. A real winner!
Big Chill #7648
One of my favorites! Slightly cool, but not at all cold. You may see a bit of blue in some lights, but you really need to look for it.
After more hours than I’d like to admit researching paint colors and my own experience, I’ve put together some awesome cheat-sheets for you. One describing, how to become an undertone detective and another that is my Top 10 List of gray and greige colors, complete with descriptions and undertones explained. Sign up above for the complete list. Happy painting!