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Comparing Colors to Chantilly Lace to See Undertones

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Lori Sawaya
(@lorisawaya)
Estimable Member Admin
Registered: 2024 years ago
Posts: 164
Topic starter  

Q. I've read that to see color undertones you should compare the chip against a Chantilly lace background. I gave up trying to do this because I just don't see what they're talking about. I've read blog post after blog post and watched many videos trying to find what I'm doing wrong. If this works, then why do all the blogs and videos say something different about the same paint colors?

 

A1. The first thing you need to know is colors/materials don't have (as in possess) a factual attribute of undertone.

Undertones are just someone's subjective opinion about what a color looks like under whatever random light source they happen to be lookin' at it under and in whatever random context they happen to be in - they could be in their car for all you know. This is called actual color; how a color actually looks in a certain context, under certain lighting to a specific individual.

Essentially, people who are assigning "undertones" to paint and other colors are literally making it all up as they go.

I don't believe there's any malintent, they just don't understand how they perceive color is unique to them and does not scale up and apply universally to everyone.

This is why the information you're finding about undertones is inconsistent; because it is a subjective judgment, it will never be consistent.

A2. Secondly, All colors of white do the same thing.

White overpowers color swatches and makes them appear more grayed down, not so bright and intense. Underestimating a color’s brightness and intensity is the #1 mistake people make when choosing paint colors. “It’s too bright” is the #1 reason people give as to why they don’t like the color they chose.

I would never recommend comparing color against a white background.

A3. So what are you supposed to do instead?

Learn how to look up a color's factual hue family. EasyRGB lists the hue angle for paint colors. You can use a Color Muse or Spectro 1 Pro to measure just about anything and get the hue angle from the app.

Factual color differs from actual color because color data values, like hue angle, come from measuring color with a special instrument. Like a spectrophotometer or a portable device like Color Muse. Because these devices use a standard light source and block out ambient light, the information you get from them, like hue angle, is repeatable and consistent.

I'll talk more about actual vs. factual color in future posts on the forum.

I explain how to use EasyRGB in this video:

 

I also explain how to use Color Muse / Spectro 1 to measure multi-colored materials here:


   
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CoastalRachel
(@coastalrachel)
New Member
Registered: 2 years ago
Posts: 3
 

Hi, Lori.

So factual color = what the color is made of in God's color factory ? 

And actual color = what the color looks like on earth, in YOUR house, with your lighting

So then when decorating, "actual color" is all that really matters. And "factual color" is just a starting place to help guide you to the best (actual) color for your setting.

Would you say that's correct?

 


   
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PatriciaDesigner
(@patriciadesigner)
New Member
Registered: 2 years ago
Posts: 2
 

I think undertones do matter.  And I can see the undertone (or how I perceive it) by laying either BM Chantilly Lace or SW Extra White against the color as a control white.  It's in the comparison with the control white that I can see if a color has a yellow, pink, violet or green undertone.  It may not be the factual color but the paint companies do create paint color using a formula.  For example, SW Eider White appears on the paint chip as a cool toned off white.  But often in practical application (after painting it on a wall) people complain about it looking "pinkish".  Not surprising - the SW colorant formula does contains a drop of maroon.  If you know how to see undertones you can see that on the chip.  Especially in comparison to other like colors.  The factual hue family is important - but how a color is mixed by the paint company is also key in how it will appear overall.  Sometimes their machines have not been recently calibrated & the colorants mixed into the paint are not calibrated in the right proportions & that can change the look of the paint color.  Or someone may have Sherwin Williams make a Benjamin Moore paint color (SW has all the BM paint codes in their system).  But BM's colorants are different than SW's colorants.  BM's base white is brighter.  So if you have SW try to match the BM color - especially a white, off-white or pale color it will not look the same - SW has to compensate for their white base being less white/bright & inject other colorants that shift the look quite a bit.

From a design perspective - it all comes down to practical application.  How does the color look in the space.  Lighting has a huge impact (whether man-made or natural lighting) but the undertone is still there - & can be either emphasized or de-emphasized by the lighting. From a practical perspective, learning the undertones in the different paint companies colors (as they present their colors) is an extremely useful tool for designing a space - especially when you're specifying colors for finishes that aren't just painted walls (easy to change) but hard finishes - cabinetry, countertops, tile, wood stain, etc. (expensive or difficult to change).  To me, understanding the undertone is key.  I don't think the undertone is "made up'.  I think it has some rationale.  For example, if I lay a white paint chip without an obvious undertone (BM Chantilly Lace) against a BM Simply White paint chip - I can show a client that the undertone in the BM Simply White is yellow (warm).  I don't think they will perceive that undertone as blue or pink or even green.  Understanding that undertone matters if they are looking to choose a white paint for cabinets that coordinate with a cool blue/grey toned marble countertop.  When I show them the yellow undertone - it helps them understand why I'm suggesting we shift the palette of "whites" to the cooler side - perhaps a BM Decorators White or even a neutral clean BM Chantilly Lace for a better complement to the blue/gray marble, for example.

Undertones, aren't just perception.  Their manifestation in a particular color can be traced to the paint formula.  How much of the undertone an individual sees - is a matter of perception.  Some are more sensitive to undertones than others.  But perceived or not undertones are one of the keys to a balanced pleasing space.


   
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Lori Sawaya
(@lorisawaya)
Estimable Member Admin
Registered: 2024 years ago
Posts: 164
Topic starter  

Hi Patricia,

Thanks for your comment. 

Your post illustrates perfectly that the theory that colors have undertones is as I said, subjective opinion. 

No more. No less.

The most important take away is to not buy in to the narrative that some people have a special sensitivity or a specially trained eye to "see undertones".

The truth is some people have developed a personal vocabulary to articulate and describe color appearance - according to how they see it, as they see it. This is what I mean by making it up as they go.

Choosing to use the word "undertone" to articulate how you personally perceive color and/or correlate your color perception to the same 12 colorants that are used to mix literally tens of thousands of color is a personal choice.

If you're able to articulate how you see color so it makes sense and works for you, that's great.

A list of colorants are just ingredients for a paint color recipe. No single ingredient in the formula (that's dependent on blending together the single parts in order to be a whole result) helps predict, define or describe color appearance.

It's the same as saying you can eat a carrot and know what a carrot cake is going to taste like.

Those who choose to articulate their subjective opinion of color with terms like "undertones" need to remember they aren't in a position to describe and define color appearance for everyone else.

That's why factual, repeatable color DNA is necessary.

Color DNA also known as spectral data, color data values, and color notations is an unprejudiced jumping off point.

A neutral home base that objectively considers how the human vision system sees color.

 


   
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Lori Sawaya
(@lorisawaya)
Estimable Member Admin
Registered: 2024 years ago
Posts: 164
Topic starter  

@coastalrachel

So then when decorating, "actual color" is all that really matters. And "factual color" is just a starting place to help guide you to the best (actual) color for your setting.

Yes. Factual color notations (Color DNA) are a framework to follow.

A kind of short-hand that defines and describes what a color looks like under a balanced light source.

It's a powerful, fast and easy point of departure for understanding a color's characteristics.

Oftentimes the factual color description holds true in the space and aligns with how the color is actually perceived.

If it doesn't, the organization of the framework plots what did or did not work and organically maps out alternative color options if needed.


   
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