Understanding Paint Undertones
Have you ever gone to the paint store and found the color you loved until you brought the sample home and found that in the light of the space it is too green for your needs? Or, what about when you find the perfect white, only to discover that it's got a ton of yellow in it, which wasn't what you wanted? It happens, and it can make choosing the right neutral, or any other color for your space so difficult.
Paint color undertones occur because, aside from the primary paint colors, every other color you can imagine is a mixture of different colors. That's why there are so many different variations of the same colors. It's also why whites can look pink or blue in certain lights, and finding the right greige can be so difficult.
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Yellow Undertones and Warm Undertones
You might also find that different undertones can make your chosen color look darker or lighter. And, when you have different colored undertones in the same space, you might find that you have a mismatched nightmare.
This is because paint undertones are what decides which colors fit together, and which ones don't. Take, for example, that crisp white paint color we were just talking about. Ordinarily, you'd feel confident that it would match with just about anything. However, when you combine it with green paint color that has a contrasting undertone, you might wind up feeling more like you're in a bunker and less like you're in a soothing retreat that you're trying to create.
Yellow undertones can be some of the most difficult to match but are fairly common. They can warm a space, but when combined with a white that has blue undertones, can look completely off in your space and lighting.
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What About Paint Masstones?
When the term masstone is used, it refers to the base color we see. It's a little like looking at the big picture and ignoring the small details. So, you might see a blue wall and think, "Oh, blue." What you're not seeing, though, is the undertone of the colors that were mixed to create that shade of blue.
Maybe the formula for the shade of blue you're looking at included more greens than pinks. That would lend a green undertone to your blue wall. This is often the case in navy blue paint colors. Some navy is a deep inky blue with a lot of green undertones, but other navy blues are more of a very deep pure blue. Both are lovely shades, but a navy with green undertones might not work with the warm light gray cabinets you have picked out.
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Working with Paint Undertones
Primary colors and white (think blue, red, yellow, and pure white) are the only paint colors that are made with pure pigment.
These can be an excellent guide when judging if the color you're looking at has undertones, and which undertones you're dealing with. A color wheel also helps. Comparing the color you're considering with the pure masstone color (yellow, blue, red, or pure white) you're interested in, helps you to see if you're dealing with warm undertones, cool undertones, or neutral undertones.
Cool undertones are often used to offer a soothing vibe to your space. They are most often used in bedrooms or spaces meant to be a calming retreat. Warm undertones can offer a cozy, welcoming feel. Kitchens and living spaces often do well with paint colors that have a warmth under their surface.
Yellow undertones can perk up a space that feels like it needs light or brightening, but can also make a space look mismatched or dirty.
Neutral undertones are often the most comfortable color palettes, as they can work with many different decorating styles and types of spaces. They also work well for many different tastes.
Choosing the Right Undertones for your Space
The best way to decide if you're working with the right undertones in your home is to create sample boards with the paint colors you like. Move them around your house throughout the day so you can see them in different types of light.
Compare your sample boards with the fixtures in your home. You might be surprised to find that lots of paint colors don't work well with the cabinets and countertops that are in place. Finding a color that has similar undertones can make a tremendous difference in whether your home looks like it came from a home and garden magazine or if the painting was a learning project.
When you understand how paint color masstones and undertones work, you can make choosing the right paint color combination for your space easier than ever before. So, before your next painting project, consider spending some time in front of the paint section, a color wheel, and nicely applied paint sample boards to help you choose the perfect colors for your space the first time.
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