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3 Easy Steps to Your Perfect Paint Colour

Posted on July 18, 2017 by KylieMawdsley


Create the PERFECT Paint Colour:  Lighten and Darken

Are you having trouble finding the perfect colour? Just can’t seem to settle on ‘the one’? Well, maybe you have FOUND the perfect colour, you just haven’t found the right depth.

For example…

  • That gray that seems too dark might be perfect once it’s lightened
  • That beige that seems just a bit too light might be bang-on once it’s darkened

What is this magic I speak of? I call it ‘tweaking’, not to be confused with ‘twerking’, which no matter HOW HARD I try, I can’t seem to do (and yes, I’ve tried…a lot).

Every paint colour has what I call a ‘recipe’. And trust me, these are the only kind of recipes I follow. These colour recipes tell you what is in a colour and how much of it there is.

How to lighten and darken a paint colour recipe

  • More simple colours are made of up approx. 3 colours mixed together in varying amounts
  • More complex colours can have 7-8 mixed colours that are mixed together (BM Colour Stories for example). The more complex a colour is, the more challenging it can be to colour match
  • And you don’t need to worry about ANY of that jazz, the paint supplier has it ALL covered

When you are lightening or darkening a paint colour, you are removing (or adding) the same amount (eg: 25%) from each colour in the recipe. This changes the recipe, which in turn changes how the paint colour will turn out. Makes sense, right?

Revere Pewter lighter and darker by 25 percent. How to lighten and darken a paint color by e-decorating and color consultant Kylie M Interiors

Apparently not! I’ve had painters say to me ‘I don’t lighten colours by 25% – it doesn’t make a difference’. To which I say, ‘Okay, so if you were to make a cookie recipe and wanted to make less, you would reduce each ingredient in the recipe by 25% and you’re telling me it wouldn’t make a difference?’ OF COURSE IT WOULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE, YOU WOULD HAVE LESS COOKIES! That is my computer generated angst.

So, let’s get back to the main idea here in simple terms…

‘You can keep the taste of the cookies while tweaking the recipe to suit your needs’

Lighten and darken paint colours and how it affects them and lrv. Kylie M E-design


When you adjust a colour either lighter or darker, you are changing it. You will not HAVE the same colour. You are working off of the same BASE, but it’s no longer the same ‘colour’ – it is a variation of the original in that’s it’s lighter or darker – you have changed it’s LRV (read up on LRV here).

However, when you adjust a colour, the way it looks can shift slightly and not just in DEPTH, but in ‘colour’. That gray with a green undertone might look a weee wink more green – OR you might lose a touch of the green. FRACTIONAL at best, but it’s worth mentioning. You are not going to get any ENTIRELY NEW COLOUR that is no relation to the original – it is going to be a new, tweaked version of the original (particularly at 50%).

AND REMEMBER, IT’S SUBTLE, so don’t get your knickers in a knot. The moral of the story is that if you are going to lighten/darken a colour, make sure you see a SAMPLE of it lightened/darkened to make sure you still like what you see.

E-design, virtual interior design, decorating, paint colour consultant and expert. Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams. circle ad (3)


Step 1     Pick the colour(s) you want

Decide on the paint colour(s) that you’d like to play around with. Now BM and SW have larger sample pots that cost more money (upwards of $9.99). I can appreciate big jugs, but am of the firm belief that you don’t need a JUG of paint to find the right colour – you need a ‘sample pot’.

I’ve been told that you get a more accurate colour in the larger sample pot vs the smaller ones, but I’m yet to see a difference between the 2.

sample pots of paint

  • Behr sample pots are 222 ml / approx $3.99
  • Benjamin Moore sample pots are 465.5 ml / approx $8.99
  • Sherwin Williams sample jugs come in at a whopping 916 ml / approx $9.99.

The best and most affordable way to do this is to take your paint chips to H.Depot (Behr and CIL sample pots). Their colour matching system is approx 96% accurate (I would know this because I worked there), which for the sake of what we’re doing works like a hot damn and is approx $3.99 per sample pot. It’s also much more environmentally friendly. Why?

  • After doing your sample board, you will be left with only a small amount of paint – not 3/4 of a quart
  • Even if you decide to do that colour on your wall, it’s not a paint you would ‘paint’ with as suppliers generally use a lower quality paint for their sample pots – not the nice stuff

Some might argue that the colour matching is not close-enough. If you’re worried about that, then go back to SW and BM – problem solved!

Step 2     Ask the paint store to lighten/darken a sample pot for you

If you would like to lighten your paint colour, here’s what you say…

‘Hi, could you please colour match this and make me 2 sample pots?  I’d like 1 pot ‘as-is’ and I’d like one pot lightened by 25%.’

If you would like to darken your paint colour, here’s what you say…

‘Hi, I’m being directed by a maniacal ginger to darken my paint colour. Could you please colour match this and make me 2 sample pots?  I’d like 1 pot ‘as-is’ and 1 pot darkened by 25%.’

There, done.

Step 3     Paint sample boards

The best way to make a paint colour sample board by Kylie M InteriorsBenjamin Moore Gray Owl

Paint up large samples of your colours on their own boards. Here are the steps I follow…

  1.  Buy some poster board, cut it in 1/2
  2.  Give each paint sample its own board (label it on the back as if you do A LOT of samples, it’s easy to get them mixed up)
  3.  Use a small roller – always do 2 coats
  4.  Paint up to the edge on 1 side and leave a 2″ white border on the other 3 sides.  Why?

The 2″ white border. This will let you choose a colour on its own merits, without it being directly compared to another.

Painting right to the edge. When twerking tweaking colours and comparing them directly, the best way to do this is to put the colours directly next to each other, without the white border separating them.

The best way to do paint samples by Kylie M Interiors Online color services

By having both options you can look at a colour without interference from another (middle photo) and compare 2 colours directly to see how much they differ (right photo).

Capiche? And yes, I am a bossy lil’ thang.

Here are 2 sample boards with a white border between them…

How to compare paint colours. Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray and Repose Gray samples by Kylie M Interiors


And here are the same 2 sample boards without anything between them…

How to compare paint colours the right way. Sherwin Williams Repose Gray and Agreeable Gray on sample boards by Kylie M Interiors

While you should be able to see the subtle shift on BOTH examples, it is easier to see it in the 2nd example.

And just because I like to screw with you, that’s not even lightening and darkening – that’s 2 different colours entirely! This just shows you how example 1 doesn’t really give you the whole story. (Left – Agreeable Gray / Right – Repose Gray)

If you are inclined to be supa dupa anal (WAHOO, JOIN THE ANAL CLUB! Wait, that doesn’t sound so good, does it?), then paint both samples on 1 piece of poster board with no separation between the 2 (refer to the Revere Pewter sample near the beginning).

Part 2

How Light / Dark Do You Need to Go?


I usually lighten by either 25% or 40-50%. 25% is UBER subtle, it’s for those of us who are a bit more sensitive to colour than the average bear. At 40-50% you will notice more of a shift. Also, the more BLACK there is in the colour ‘recipe’ the more noticeable the shift will be.

*Sherwin Williams can adjust colours in almost any increment, (my faves being 25% and 50%). Benjamin Moore can do 10% / 25% / 50% / 75%

‘You will notice the difference clearly with 50%, whereas in some lights, 25% is barely noticeable’

Visually, 50% will take you ‘approx’ 1/2 way between your original colour and the next colour down on the strip. Remember, the colour itself (not just the depth) may change slightly, but will only be a slight deviation off of the main path (at best).

How to lighten and darken a paint colour. Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter. Kylie M Interiors e-decorating and online colour services

Revere Pewter lighter and darker samples. How to lighten and darken paint colours to create the perfect color by Kylie M Interiors

Important detail: Notice how much more gray Revere Pewter looks on a white background compared to a cream background – that’s why I recommend leaving some white space around your paint samples!

With regard to LRV, hopefully, you’ve read my blog post re: LRV and how it can help you choose the best paint colour (if not, jump on it!). Now this is so OBVIOUSLY not scientific, but in my experience (which is pretty damned vast), expect a 25% tweak to change the LRV by approx. 3 points. A 50% tweak might be closer to 8. So if the previous LRV was 48, lightening it by 25% could bring it up around 51 or so. 50% would take it to approx 56. THIS IS NOT A SCIENCE. But you’re not here for science, you’re here for the ‘user-friendly’ end of things (wink wink).


If 50% isn’t enough, maybe you need to look at a different colour. It can be as simple as moving along to the next colour above or below your original or looking at something ENTIRELY new!

However, 75-90%+ can be a great way to create a tone-on-tone palette with either your trim and/or ceiling. For example, if you would like your ceiling to be quite a bit lighter than your walls, but with the same undertones, you could lighten your wall colour by 75% – or even more, depending on how light you want your ceiling to be. Remember, with shadows, ceilings usually look significantly more shadowed than the walls, even if they are all the same colour.

*There are some colours that can’t handle more depth, simply because the paint can won’t have room for that much additional paint – but with most you’ll be just fine.

Less than 25%

If 25% is too much of a change, then I want you to sit back and take a better look at your original colour. Look at it on all wall spaces and at different times of the day. Know that depending on its LRV, it may look slightly lighter or slightly darker once its on a larger scale. Maybe the colour you HAVE is the best one!

Well, that was somewhat of an epic novel, but the info should be pretty darned straightforward. Pick a colour, lighten or darken it, paint a board – get ‘er done.

Check out my video on this topic here: 

Not sure which colours are best for your room? 

Check out my affordable Online Decorating, Design and Colour Consulting Services

E-design and colour consultations. Online color expert Kylie M INteriors. Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams specialist (1)

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  1. This is brilliant, and so helpful! I had this exact dilemma in my kitchen and and the dining room which is open to the kitchen, and was using Revere Pewter. I lightened the color by 50% in the dining room where there is much less light because the kitchen has a skylight. I followed your suggestions, painting large swatches on white paper. It worked like a charm! The only issue I have is that, at some points in the day, the Revere Pewter takes on a green cast that I don’t care for, and have no idea why. If I were to paint these room over (don’t tell my husband!), what grey is warm but without the green undertone (or whatever that is that I am seeing?

    1. revere pewter is known for casting green. she has other blogs about it. collonade gray by SW is closest and has LESS green, Collingwood by BM is another option which has much more taupe in it so NO green. Also check out Balboa Mist by BM if you are green sensitive.

  2. OMG I love you!! I NOW know how to do the boards, I always wondered if it had to be drywall, or some other “building” material but you always make everything so simple!! THANK YOU, if I could I would buy you a bottle of your favorite wine 🙂

  3. Love your tips! I am wondering if you always prime your walls before painting? Or what circumstances cause you to decide to prime other than dark colors.

  4. Thank you so much for this insightful post and also your posts on LRV! I have been referring to it for a couple of weeks while I sort out the best color for my main living areas and halls. I am wondering if you have a gut idea if lightening BM Stonington Gray by 50% would be enough if I’m trying to get a little lighter than the depth of BM Wickham Gray (lrv 69)?

    Stonington Gray is the “perfect” color in my eyes, but it is darker than what I want for our house with less natural light. I tested Wickham Gray in one room and while I love how fresh and cool it is, it may be almost too green-blue and maybe still too dark. I am trying to determine if I would be better off lightening Stonington Gray or trying to find a new lighter color (BM Paper White?) I feel like I need something in between…. My husband wants it to be noticeable, and I want light, bright, and fresh. 🙂

    1. Post

      Hi Kim! While I haven’t lightened Stonington by that much, I would THINK that 50% would do the trick. And of course you can TRY 75% even. It is a stunner! If you are open to SW colours check out SW Big Chill. I bet it’s a MUCH better depth for you and has similar gray/blue undertones.
      I hope that helps!

  5. Hi Kylie,
    I have recently bought several grays. I painted them on poster boards according to your recommendations. But, when I painted two coats on the wall it looked different. So, I taped the poster board on the wall and it doesn’t look like the same color at all. This has happened with every color I’ve bought. Why is this happening?

    1. I had the same problem. I dont know how big of a swatch you painted on the wall or if you painted the whole wall, but I painted a 12″ x 24″ swatch on my wal & it did not look like the poster board. Then I went back and outlined the swatch in white paint. This made a huge difference in how the color looked to me. It actually looked like the poster board. I have since painted the rooms each color and the colors are what I expected. Good luck if you haven’t gotten around to painting yours yet & if you have, I hope you like the way it turned out!

  6. I’m becoming obsessed with reading your blog posts! Thanks so much for your help and expertise. Tested a lot of colors and now have painted my living room and dining room BM Edgecomb Gray, up the stairs BM Ozark Shadows and upstairs hallway BM Gray Owl. I’m going to use some of your blue color selections in my bathrooms. Thank You! Nora

    1. Post

      Hi Dana, yes, the odd time, Classic Gray can flash a WINK pink. NOt often, but of the 3 it can – same with Pale Oak though. Revere Pewter is more likely to favour a vague green undertone :).

  7. I recently had a BM paint HC 81 Manchester Tan lightened by 25% as I thought it needed to be a bit lighter. I went to my local Farm & Fleet store which carries BM paints and the Paint Department people were bewildered on how to do it. They used the computer but I think I ended up with it being 75% lighter. I painted my paint boards with the “new” 25% lighter Manchester Tan and it looks extremely light. How do I know if they did this correctly. Wouldn’t you use .75 of the original formula to make the paint 25% lighter?? I think they used .25 of the original formula and I ended up with a 75% lighter sample. Any guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated. The painter is coming in one week!!

    1. I had the same problem when asked to have Edgecomb gray lightened by 50%. They looked at me dazed and confused. Paint people were getting calculators out and typing the ‘new formula’ into the computer. In the end, I pretty much have the same color and hue…no difference.

      1. Post

        Oh man. I do find it so strange sometimes how the paint store employees aren’t all on the same page. I’m so sorry to hear that…I’ve had the experience where I ask them to lighten something by 25% and they don’t want to do it, because they say I won’t see the difference. Drives me crazy! With most colours, it just isn’t that difficult and there should be a considerable shift in the depth!

  8. I love Wrought Iron for an accent wall in our home on the stairs landing and powder room. However, I think it might be too dark. I think Trout Gray might be too light. Have you lightened or darkened either of these colours? Thinking all the other walls (open concept) might be chantilly lace. Thank you, I have been obsessed with reading all your tips! Currently renovating our home.

    1. Post
  9. I painted SW North Star. It is the most beautiful absolutely perfect color when it is wet. When it dries it is still pretty but of course darker. I can’t get that perfect lighter shade out of my head. I had the paint store lighten it by 25%. It came out looking darker and all periwinkle-purple no soft blue or gray to be found. Any suggestions before I drive my husband crazy?

  10. Kylie, thank you for your videos. They’ve been invaluable.

    I wanted to share my experience with you and your readers. Hopefully this isn’t the norm. I reached out to Benjamin Moore regarding getting a sample pot of Revere Pewter, brightened 50%. They said they only offer tweaked colors in quarts. I then called a second BM location and was told the same thing. So from that, Benjamin Moore was out.

    I then went to Home Depot and purchased a $5 sample pot of Revere Pewter brightened 50% as well as 75%. I had these two samples made at two different Home Depots. The 50% was a slight difference from the Revere Pewter I already have on my Living Room walls, but not to the extent I expected (having previously watched your video). The 75% percent was actually darker than the 50% (whaaaat??).

    I’m going to roll the dice and have the room repainted with Revere Pewter, 50% brighter, and cross my fingers that BM’s lightening process is accurate. I took a paint swatch of Edgecomb Gray, but the beige undertones are coming out a bit much in my low-lit NE facing room.

    Again, thanks for all you do. Having watched videos from several paint experts, you’re my fav 🙂

    1. Post

      Hi Brittany! Yup, this makes sense. Their wee sample pots can’t always take that much tint out (although they can usually do 25%). And it sounds like HD screwed up on the 75% and went the other way!

      I’m crossing my fingers for you too and feel like BM is your BEST shot of getting what you want :).

  11. Hello! I had the same experience with BM- they wouldn’t even given me a sample size of 25% lightened— had to be a quart for $30 (which I didn’t do). Not to be a downer, but I feel like the people working at BM stores near me are incredibly unhelpful. Seems like a huge missed opportunity to have improved customer service and color consultants. I asked them to explain the lightening/darkening process and generally more about it and they just wouldn’t/couldn’t (with no one else in the store). I ended up sitting in the corner scrolling through your blog to get the info I needed! Amen to your blog!

    1. Post

      Thank you Miller! And you know, my local store is awesome, but I have heard complaints like yours quite often. I do know that the stores were short on sample pots for a while, with the supply chain issue, but HOPEFULLY they’ll have them fully stocked soon. I’m glad my blog can be a good resource for you :).

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