How To Mix Your Wall Paint To Create The Perfect Color

You’ve spent hours sorting through paint sample cards to pick the color that seems just right, only to get home, slap some of it on your wall and decide it’s too light or dark. Instead of getting rid of the rest of your paint and starting over, you can make a tweak and nail the shade you were looking for.

House Painting Tutorials tells you how to mix paint until it matches the picture inside your head.

To properly mix your paint, you’ll need white paint in the same sheen as the paint you’re starting with, craft colorants and a color chart.

When lightening paint, add a few cups of white to your paint to start off, then add more as needed until you approach the shade you’re looking for. If you want to darken your paint, add gray or black craft colorant.

You can also intensify your color by adding more of its base, or dull it by diluting it with a complementary color you pull from the chart.

How to Mix Custom Paint Colors [House Painting Tutorials]


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  1. Dallas_shopper says:

    Gawd. *eyeroll*

    • scoosdad says:

      Well these could be useful tips for some situations.

      I have some new vinyl replacement windows that have a colored tint to the frame on the inside. I’ve been trying for months to get some paint created that exactly matches the frame. The issue is that I can’t exactly bring the window into the store, and even if I took out one sash on a warm day, it would be too big to fit into the analysis machine they have. So I bring home color swatches, bring them back, have custom paint mixed, go home, try it out, too dark, too light, not enough brown, etc. Lather rinse repeat.

      I’m getting sick of doing it and I’m about to throw in the towel. I may try the tips in the original story next and then I can get instant feedback on how I’m doing.

  2. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    I’m pretty sure that if you go with a quality paint supplier, that if the color you end up with doesn’t match the color swatch, you can get a free replacement. Before buying paint, see what kind of guarantees they have regarding such things.

    This won’t solve problems like picking the wrong color in the first place, but most companies that stand by their products will do right by their people.

    Oh wait, nevermind, this isn’t the 1950’s anymore, is it? :(

    • Darrone says:

      Most people have an issue between the swatch in a bright store, and the paint they’ve put up over a different color in a not-showroom-bright room. Places like HD don’t let you return mixed paint for that, and label and dab the top to make sure you can’t claim it didn’t match the swatch.

    • Rachacha says:

      The real problem is when you go from a small swatch to a large room. That dark tan might look really nice in the swatch, but when you paint a 3 foot square section, it is way too dark or too yellow. We rent through this when recently redecorating our bedroom. We ultimately purchased about 8 of those small sample jars from HD for $2 until we found the color we were looking for.

  3. SporadicBlah says:

    I tweak paint color all the time. Its not difficult at all. Paint in the store never looks the same when you put it on your own wall. Usually due to lighting colors and the colors reflecting through windows from the outside. For example if you have a very green lawn outside of a bright window the light coming in will add a green tint to the room. Also florescent lights can give off a green glow. Incandescents can give a yellow glow. And now you can buy those reading lights that have a blue glow. All of these affect the appearance of paint.

    • SporadicBlah says:

      One of the trees I painted in our baby’s room.

    • webweazel says:

      The other wrench in the computation is the SHEEN of the paint, from flat to gloss. This will change the color/lighting in the room significantly, because of light reflections bouncing around the room.

      Flat paint sucks all the lighting right out of a room and makes it darker, although it will hide almost all defects in the walls. Satin, which is in the middle of sheens, will reflect light well, making the room brighter, while still disguising most flaws in the wall surface. Gloss will make the room even brighter, but will show all flaws in glaring detail.

      I personally loathe flat paint. Whenever I paint a room, I use satin on both the trim and the walls. Even on the ceiling. It makes quite a difference. It seems to “crisp up” all the colors, and makes them look very clean and sharp in contrast. Lighting reflects very well around the room and stays pretty even throughout. In one room which was large and very dark, I painted the (textured) ceiling with semi-gloss instead of satin. Made a huge difference in brightening up the room.

      • SporadicBlah says:

        The only time I have used flat paint was to paint a darkroom Tricorn Black. I paint murals on the side for extra folding money and I only use semi-gloss. Marks clean off easy and it’s a good balance of sheen. Your right though. Reflectability does play a part in color appearance.

    • SmokeyBacon says:

      That is interesting about the lawn thing – our problem is we have a room where everything goes more pink/purple – no idea why. Even in sunlight (and it is a second floor room so no lawn reflection) stuff always is more pink/purple then you would expect (even with a small swatch). We thought we painted it a neutral gray and nope, ended up purple-gray. At least we know now and so we try to stay away from colors that are on the edge of a purple if we don’t want it to be purple.

      • SporadicBlah says:

        If your light is pink/purple and you painted your wall a muted orange you would more then likely get a terracotta color that would be really cool. If you went with a very light pastel yellow you might get either a light orange to light green when the light hit it. I’d paint a square on the wall where the light hit and play around with it. Would be fun!

  4. CubeRat says:

    Well, this would have been helpful when I painted the guest room a “light” yellow. I painted when it was cloudy and it looked great. The problem arose the next day with the sun. This is a south facing room, with very large picture windows. The true color was, “oh my God, that’s bright” yellow.

    My solution was more expensive. My niece moved in with me and decided she wanted the room pink, so now it’s “Pepto Bismal Pink” (sigh).

    • cybrczch says:

      Living in a house that was sponged a combination of “Pepto-Bismol Pink” and “Battleship Gray” when I moved in, I feel for you.

  5. Rachacha says:

    Modifying paint colors is not a problem, just make sure that you have more than enough to finish a room and hopefully some extra if so you can touch up a wall a couple of years later if need be.

  6. Cat says:

    Men can see only 16 colors – just like the original “Windows”. Only women and gays can see anything else.

    “Peach” is not a color. It’s a fruit.

    • SporadicBlah says:

      Its all just shades of grey

    • SporadicBlah says:

      Sometimes I see in impossible colors. That blueish yellow or reddish green.

    • DrPizza says:

      16? There aren’t that many colors!
      Red, orange yellow, green, blue, purple. Plus, there’s black and white.

      I can’t recall ever saying “indigo” except in 3rd grade science when learning some roygbiv thing. Violets are flowers, purple is a color.

      Anything else is a combination of two things: light blue, dark blue, or greenish blue.

  7. DrPizza says:

    This is 2012. What kind of nincompoops from the stone age can’t take a picture of their room, take a swatch, match the color, and use the computer to render what their room would look like in that new shade?

  8. DarkPsion says:

    When I used to work at the Hardware store, I made the mistake of learning how to mix paint. I don’t which are worse, the “interior decorator” who “studies” the colors for a week or more or the “That one!” who grabs the first color he sees. Well, the absolutely worst are the OCD paint customers. We actually banned a lady for this, she would bring that gallon back multiple time a day for weeks because [whine] It’s not riiiiight[/whine].

    There are two other factors not mentioned in the article, light and other colors.

    When you “see” color, you are actually seeing the light reflecting off the object. The type of light can affect the color you see; Natural Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and a multitude of specialty bulbs. Most paint displays use “full spectrum” light bulbs that mimic natural light so it may not match up with your sun room or kitchen.

    Also color affects how we see color, the best example of this are “Soft Whites”, white with just a touch of color. Bring a blue-tinted soft white into a red room, you see it as purple. Bring it into a green room, you will see it as turquoise.

  9. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    Don’t darken red with black. Black pigment is still very slightly blue. Your dark red will turn out purple. Darken it with green, instead. It’s on the opposite side of the color wheel, so it will darken the red without making it purple.

  10. PLATTWORX says:

    Um, we just had this happen and Lowe’s will do it for you.
    We happened to select shades too light for the rooms we were doing. Afraid of going too dark, we accidently went too far in the other direction.

    Brought the paint into the store. They showed them the darker hue we wanted and with the help of the magic paint computer they added pigment, fixed the paint and away we went.

    Why on Earth would you buy paint so far off from what you wanted you need to custom mix a new color yourself????

  11. Darkneuro says:

    I think the recommendations for mixing the paint for lightening miss one very important question: How light do you want to go? If you want to go really light, start with white first and add small, measured amounts of the color until it reaches the shade you want. If you try to take a bright or deep color and really lighten it, it could take huge amounts of white if you do it as described.
    Also, black paint added to anything needs to be added in tiny amounts. It’s really easy to go too dark. You can also use opposites on the color wheel to muddy colors (red&green, purple&yellow, orange&blue).

  12. farker says:

    Or…buy the color samples (paint pods, etc) and try them on your wall. The color chips at a paint store can get you close, but sheen changes the way a color reacts to light. Speaking of which, sunlight, fluorescent, incandescent light, shadows, nearby furniture, room shape/size will all change how a color behaves in a room.

    There’s no way to guarantee the instructions given in the article above will result in the color you desire. Go to a paint store or speak with someone knowledgeable at Home Depot, Ace, Lowes, etc, and they should point you in the right direction.

  13. ahecht says:

    When did this site go from consumer issues to “dubious money savings tips from random blogs”? Home finance is not a consumer issue, even if it involves money!