How to Find the Undertone in a Paint Colour (and inspiration too)!
I can’t even COUNT the times I’ve helped my E-Design clients fix rooms they’ve ALREADY PAINTED (and that’s not just because I suck at Math). The beige they picked looks pink, the yellow they chose is day-glo, the gray that looked soooo great in their friends home looks green. And the funny thing is, I RARELY suggest complete colour changes, it’s almost always about tweaking what’s there (which is MUCH different from twerking, which sadly, I’m yet to perfect).
Sherwin Williams Latte
In the above example, the colour was SO DARNED CLOSE. However, the undertones were a wink off with the stone fireplace and too warm for the drapes and accent chairs. CLOSE…but no cigar.
Seriously, this happens all…the…time. But why?
Well, there are two main reasons…
1. THE WRONG UNDERTONE
2. FAILURE TO FIND THE RIGHT INSPIRATION (in other words, they do what THEY want not what their room NEEDS)
In the above example, the inspiration is clearly there, it was the UNDERTONE that was off. What is UNDERTONE? Undertone is that lil’ bugger of a colour hiding in your so-called ‘neutral’ paint colour that doesn’t surface until AFTER you’ve spent the ENTIRE WEEKEND painting your room. So what do you do? Well, you get out the ole box o’ wine, a straw, and start reading my blog (I hope).
Read more: Why NO-FAIL NEUTRALS don’t exist
HOW TO FIND THE UNDERTONE IN A PAINT COLOUR: Tips & Tricks
1. Go to the paint store and pick the colour chip that you ‘think’ you want.
2. Pick four or five colour chips that are ‘very very similar‘ to the colour you think you want (colours that actually seem like the same colour, but you know they’re not). Take these home with you.
3. Don’t lay your paper/samples flat on a table as things shift light-wise from vertical to horizontal. Instead, tape a piece of white paper to the wall and then tape your paint samples RIGHT next to each other on the white paper – no spaces. Your current colour can ‘severely’ affect how your paint chip looks – especially if they are opposites, and its important to get some separation between old/new (which is why I keep Tim and my boyfriends WELL away from each other – wink wink).
Now, notice the shift in ‘colour’ from chip to chip. Try to see one that seems more ‘something’ than the other and figure out what that is. Is it more green/blue/red/warm/cool?
4. Move this piece of white paper to all of the different walls in your room. Well lit spots as well as shadowed areas.
Comparing samples this way is a great way to hone in on the one you intended on getting and you’ll find it MUCH easier to notice the green in your beige or the pink in your gray using the process of comparison.
5. As you move your paper around the room, remove colour chips that you don’t like. Eventually, you should end up with two or three faves to choose from!
Picking A Paint Colour Using Inspiration
Failure to find (or notice) inspiration is a GREAT way to choose the wrong paint colour. So, how do you find inspiration? READ MY BLOG! Just joking #notreallyjoking.
1. Find two or three things in your room that have colour in them. Permanent/fixed things are great if you want your colour to work for the LONG-term, but if you like to switch things around, you can use a more transient piece. For example…
COUNTERTOP OR BACKSLASH (or ideally both if they’re well-coordinated)
As far as wall paint colours go, it’s USUALLY best to pick-up on a colour that is already existing in your space. While there are exceptions, this is an easier way to create a palette.
Using this next photo as an example, you would want to pick a white or gray with similar undertones for your walls. You COULD venture into the blue-green range, but you HAVE to know what you’re doing to make it work!
FIREPLACE – BRICK, STONE OR TILE
Again, brick, stone or tile are great places to grab inspiration from…
TILE OR LINOLEUM FLOOR (KITCHEN OR BATHROOM)
Whether it’s in a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room or foyer, the flooring can be a GREAT place to pick up visual clues from!
In this next example, notice how the old green colour introduced something that wasn’t already in the tile and it didn’t tie in very well. The NEW samples are the way to go, in which case, green could then be used as a secondary ACCENT, rather than a full-time commitment on the walls…
A SENTIMENTAL ITEM
…that ‘come Hell or high water’ won’t be leaving the room as long as you live in that home.
If all else fails and all you have is wood floors or neutral carpet as your ‘permanent’ items, then look to these ‘secondary’ items…
The reason why these are ‘secondary’ inspiration pieces is that these pieces are likely to be replaced over time and you may not want to pick your colour scheme based on them. The other items tend to be higher cost items and are more ‘permanent’ – unless you’re like me and your home is a revolving door of products and colour…and husbands… 😉
Now that you’ve got 2 or 3 inspiration pieces, here’s what you do…
1. Break down their colour palettes. If you have 2 or more items, try to find a colour that exists in all of the pieces. If you have only 1 item then pick 2 or 3 colours that you like from it.
2. Decide which of those colours you like the best – that you could live with in your room. If it’s a strong colour that you love, but don’t necessarily want painted on your walls you have 2 choices.
Read more: How to Create a Paint Colour Palette
#1 choice is to find your ‘strong’ colour on a colour chip and choose one of the lighter versions of it for your walls.
#2 choice is to paint your walls a neutral (using undertones as your guide) and use your ‘strong’ colour on a feature wall or as an accent to be used on toss cushions/artwork/etc…
So of course, there are a billion other paint tips and ideas that I could share with you, but for the sake of staying focused on not having complete verbal diarrhea we’ll stick to these 2 ideas today!