In this blog post, I share my experience with tweaking paint colors. There’s a 16-minute video for you to watch plus you can read my answer to a question about lightening paint colors by percentages.

A abstract splash Colorful oil paint isolated on white background. Taken in Studio with a 5D mark III.

It won’t take you long to figure out that I strongly advise sticking with stock paint colors. I’m convinced the only reason people put themselves through the pain of trying to add white, cut, double or mix custom paint colors is because they don’t know how to search existing paint color collections to find the color they want. There is a better way and I can show you how.

So, right about now, you’re probably asking, “Okay, Lori, so how DO you find the perfect color when there are thousands of colors to sort through?” The short answer is I use color notations. I go into more detail about that in the video. If you’re interested in learning my secrets to finding the perfect paint color every time, head on over to Camp Chroma and check out my Color Strategist Training online color course. The course is open to everyone: color enthusiasts, homeowners, and color pros. Small bits of the content is geared towards color pros, but everyone can benefit from learning how to practically apply extraordinary color strategies. You’ll learn tactics that are similar to using light reflectance values (LRV) to predict how light or dark a color will look once on the walls — and SO much more.

2-Minute Read

Q. Can someone explain about lightening a paint color by percentages?
A. Adding white is different from cutting the colorant load. It can take A LOT of white paint to significantly affect a color. It depends.

Whenever you cut an existing formula, you’re creating a completely different color. It’s not the same as creating a color string. Color strings are a continuous range. Often starting with a saturated color moving in regimented steps all the way to a neutral gray. There’s usually a goal to change only one color aspect along the string. E.g. only change saturation but not hue or brightness. Only change brightness but not saturation or hue.

Tangible examples you can check out: Ben Moore’s Color Preview deck the color strips are strings. Ben Moore’s Classic Colors deck the color strips are NOT strings.

Since brightness and saturation are inextricably tied, it is very difficult to create color strings. And it’s highly unlikely to happen at a paint store counter.

When paint color formulas are cut at a paint counter, original colors are not being adjusted. Rather new variations of the color are being created. Due to substance uncertainty of bases and colorants, anything can happen. Won’t know until you mix the color, let it dry and then look at it.

IMO custom mixing color and adjusting architectural paint colors is romanticized to an extreme – especially out there in blogosphere. And the success of mixing and/or adjusting colors is decided before it’s actually done.

In other words, people mistakenly believe that cutting a color by 50% is going to get them a color that’s exactly half as bright and half as saturated so that’s exactly how they see the resulting color. Because it sounds logical. However, the reality of what happens with paint bases and colorants doesn’t always align with logic.

If you were to measure that same result, either by qualified observer or device, the outcome would very likely NOT be a color that’s half as bright and half as saturated.

Smart paint counter folks know that people will see what they decide they want to see in a color. So, they go along with the cutting formulas meme. Because it’s easier than going into the complex explanation like I just did and then arguing facts vs. perception.

Perceptible color is really just an illusion.

Tweaking Paint Color Formulas. How many of these have you tried:

  1. Adding white to a can of paint
  2. Cutting a paint color formula
  3. Doubling a paint color formula
  4. Made a custom mixed color

Tell me in the comments how it worked out for you? Successful or a tragic waste of time and money?