Paint Undertones And Why It Matters

Have you looked at a paint chip and loved the color, but when you put it on your walls you were not at all happy?  That’s because most paint colors intensify and become much brighter when they are all over your wall.  Even if you are aware of this fact, you are still shocked when you use a so-called neutral color and it turns out nothing like you thought.


Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation as I did several years ago?  I painted an entire room but when I woke up the next morning I was shocked.   My walls looked so “off” from my tile floors.  How can that be?  The color was beige, same as the floor tile, and yet they did not go together.  At the time I did not know why it was off, but I knew I could not live with walls that clashed with my floors.  So, I did what most people do.  I went back to the store and bought another gallon of paint hoping to get it right.  This time around I painted a small section close to the floor tile to be sure.  Luckily it was a match.


The truth is every paint color, including gray and beige, have undertones.  Beige typically has undertones of yellow, green, red/pink and occasionally orange.  Gray on the other hand usually has blue, green, or purple undertones.  So why does this matter?  If you have two competing undertones going on, either with the wall and countertop; wall and floor; or all three locations; your room will look “off” and most times you won’t know why.

The other factor that comes into play is you can’t see the undertones until you compare it to another color, like shown above.  You might think you have a “warm” paint color, but when compared to the floor that has a very warm tone, your paint color will look “cool.”  This is the very reason I like to pick out my finishes all at once.  Comparing them together will allow you to see the undertones, and if they all match.


Tip:  One of the biggest mistakes people make is to paint the inside of their new house BEFORE moving in.  This may seem like a smart idea because it’s definitely easier.  But until you are able to see all the elements in the room, you will not be able to accurately choose the right color.  Your paint is not the only element that has an undertone, your furniture does as well.  So, if you want to get it right, compare the paint to the elements in the room.  If it’s a new build, in the very least make sure your paint, counter top, and floors have the same undertones.



When choosing a color, please do not use the small strips in a fan deck.  Sure, it’s fine to use as the initial sorting process, but you will not be able to see the undertones with such a small surface.  If you’ve narrowed your color down then paint a large block on your wall.  Do NOT do this if you have any color on your wall, like shown below.  Why?  Because whatever color you put on your wall will be compared to your old color.  You won’t see the true undertones.


It’s difficult to see the undertones.


The better option is to buy a poster board and paint it with your new color, leaving at least 4” of a white boarder all the way around the new paint color.  You can also place a larger poster board behind, as shown below.  Notice how different the paint colors look once you isolate the color.  The additional benefit to having your paint on a poster board, is you can move it around.  Move it close to the floor, or next to your sofa.  Leave it in place so you can see it throughout the day when the light changes.


Remember our scenario earlier?  I was painting well into the night, so at the time the wall and tile looked fine together.  It wasn’t until the paint was completely dry and seeing it in the natural light that I could see the true color.  In my situation, I had a tile floor that had a pink undertone, but my wall color had a yellow undertone… the two do NOT mix.  I quickly changed it.



If you are still unsure, Blooming Daisy Interior Design can help.  We have 100 large 11×14 real paint poster board samples we can bring over to your home and help you determine the undertones inside your house.  Decorating and designing your space should be fun and not stressful.  Book a Paint Consultation today and we will help you solve your undertone dilemma.

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