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But Maria, I have the old colour wheel? Does it still work?

By 12/16/2022December 21st, 20224 Comments

Since the launch of the new Understanding Undertones Neutral Colour wheel earlier this week, we are fielding lots of questions about whether the other colour wheels are still useful. I have some good news if your purchased the wheel in 2022, but let’s also review the neutral colour wheel history.

Because when you invent something – it’s going to evolve and get better with time and usage. That’s just the nature of inventions.

Why do the wheels keep changing? Does it mean the two previous versions are obsolete?

This is a good question and like many I received the other day after launching this latest edition of my Understanding Undertones Neutral Colour Wheel.

How many times have you bought something that said “New and Improved” on it? Probably a lot. And, it usually triggers one of two feelings: 

  1. Sometimes you feel a bit slighted or even disappointed. Why did it have to change? What’s wrong with the version I have?
  2. Other times you feel a bit excited. Wow, I can’t wait to get my hands on the newest, latest and greatest version!

So, no matter which camp you fall into, here’s a bit more history of how this colour wheel evolved over time.

First, this neutral colour wheel is the ONLY tool available right now that will help you identify and compare the 9 most useful neutrals and 4 gradations of white.

That’s right, I invented it and covered the expense of producing them (these aren’t sponsored by anyone).

Why? Because I KNOW how useful it is to be able to compare real paint samples when trying to identify a neutral. Because when you have a system combined with a handy tool, ANYONE can make smarter decisions about colour.

And, I want to help as many of YOU do the same in your homes or client’s homes. 

So, each time we go to press, we need to make sure it’s the BEST VERSION possible. And, it would be silly to ignore customer feedback along the way. So we listened and made a few changes to make it as useful as possible. 

But Maria, I have the old colour wheel? Does it still work?

Right, just because we launched a new design doesn’t necessarily mean the wheel you have at home is obsolete or no good. The MOST IMPORTANT part of the colour wheel is the REAL PAINT deposits on the wheel for identifying and comparing. So, if you purchased a wheel as of February 2022, the answer is YES your neutral colour wheel is still useful! That’s because your wheel has real paint deposits!

Sure, your old wheel still spins, but if that bothers you, simply remove the top layer of the wheel to use separately from the base. Be sure to keep the base, though for comparing the white gradations on the back. #problemsolved

NOTE: when we printed the wheels back 2019 and realized paint colour accuracy would be compromised when using printer ink, we scrapped the entire thing. Instead, we decided to give the wheels to you for FREE with instructions for customizing them with the real paint chips. If you ordered one of these wheels, you only paid shipping costs.

If you have this wheel and have NOT customized it with the real paint chips, it is highly recommended you purchase a new wheel with REAL PAINT. 

This history of the neutral colour wheel

We have received a lot of feedback since launching the very first edition (below) and we think the 4th edition is the best one yet! 

neutral colour wheel history

All four versions of the neutral colour wheel can be seen above, but only versions 3 and 4 have REAL PAINT deposits on them.

Neutral Colour Wheel v1 (circa 2017)

When we first launched the wheel, we included the primary colour wheel in the middle so that people could clearly see exactly where the neutrals ended up. And since it was brand new, we printed a small number to test it. 

At that time, only students of my Specify Colour with Confidence events received the neutral colour wheel.

Colourful Sofa Green Interior Design

Interior Design by Maria Killam

However we quickly realized a design flaw. Whenever someone had a green or green grey sofa, for example, they would consult the wheel and assume that if they wanted to choose a neutral, green grey was the only option, because green + grey = green grey.

Which of course is not true. This is NOT AT ALL how the neutral colour wheel works.


Neutral Colour Wheel v2 (circa 2019)

When we launched the second edition of the wheel, we removed the primary colour wheel on the inner circle. However the colours on the wheel still were not accurate because it was a printed wheel (with printer ink, not paint deposits).

At the time, we didn’t know that we could get the wheel made with real paint deposits, so we settled on printing them with ink.

Colour Wheel Front

But because they needed to be customized with real paint chips by the customer, I decided to give them away for free, so the customer only paid for shipping.

I also instructed everyone to add colour chips from the Killam Colour System (colours available here listed by undertone) to the wheel to truly make it accurate and useful in the real world. 

Talk about an art project – to which we learned MOST of our customers didn’t end up doing. And that’s the wheel that you shouldn’t be using (unless you added the real paint chips, like this customer did below).

old colour wheel mocked up with paint chips

Maria customized a wheel with real paint chips to show you how to make this FREE neutral colour wheel useful and accurate. If you have this old neutral colour wheel at home, you MUST add paint chips in order to make it useful for comparing and identifying neutrals and whites.

Here’s a list of chips you need to customize this FREE version of the wheel (sold before 2022). NOTE: These are not the same paint colours on the newest colour wheel but are still neutrals that will help you make this wheel more accurate.

how to customize neutral colour wheel

Neutral Colour Wheel v3 (circa early 2022)

When we learned we could make it with real paint, we redesigned the neutral colour wheel again. This time we added more paint deposits and included both dark and light versions of each undertone on the outside of the wheel so that the customer could see more of the colour. Again, this helped make it easier to use in real life (see below):

But boy, did you guys keep wanting to SPIN the inside of the wheel around meaningfully. Many of you assumed that spinning the wheel somehow gave you a “neutral colour palette” to use while decorating. It continued to add confusion.

The ONLY purpose of spinning this wheel is to give you neutral undertone descriptions in the little window, when you pointed the arrow to an undertone.

Now we have just included these helpful neutral descriptions here.

However, as you’ll learn inside my live Virtual Specify Colour with Confidence events, the first guideline for decorating with neutral is: “Don’t repeat more than one or at the most two neutrals in any room”.

Sure, you might have 3 or 4 neutral undertones in a rug or tile for example, but you wouldn’t then go ahead and choose a blue grey countertop, pink beige tile floor, green beige walls, and a violet grey cabinet. That’s EXACTLY what NOT to do.

Not if you want a bathroom (or room) that is beautiful.

And let’s be clear, we definitely encounter this kind of bathroom, kitchen or exterior every day when we inherit a new house. But we certainly don’t want to build one now that we know better, AND now that we have the RIGHT TOOL to harmonize your neutrals!

Here’s the video again that explains why we changed the shape of the wheel:

So if you bought the wheel in February 2022 onwards, you have a wheel with REAL PAINT on it. Rest assured, it still does everything the new one does. The biggest difference?  You can stand the new one up better with flat sides and when testing neutrals, that can be pretty helpful.

The neutral colour wheel is a tool, not the answer

However, please to be clear, NEITHER WHEEL will simply spit out a colour for you. The Understanding Undertones Neutral Colour Wheel is  TOOL –a guide– to help you FIND THE ANSWER. But the wheel by itself is NOT AN ANSWER. 

None of the wheels will IMMEDIATELY give you a colour that you can run to the paint store with.

So, if you’re still spinning after getting the wheel home and trying to find the right neutral or white, head over here: Colour Wheel Explainer. I’ll be adding new videos and answering common questions weekly! There’s even a form at the top to submit your specific question if you can’t find it on the page.

And of course, when using the wheel to find a neutral undertone, the exact answer will always be confirmed and found by comparing to LARGE PAINT SAMPLES in my system of colours in the undertones you’ve narrowed down with the wheel. That’s why I also sell large painted colour boards in my system colours, available here.

Or, try to make your own large painted boards like I show here.

Remember, the Understanding Undertones Neutral Colour Wheel is a companion to these other Killam Colour System products: 

And, if you don’t already have my eBooks, the BEST VALUE are the ebook + wheel bundles. 


If you purchased your neutral colour wheel in February 2022 or later – it’s still GOOD! You have the real paint deposits, which is the most important part for comparing and identifying. The new neutral colour wheel has flat sides for standing up more easily and we removed the spinning top layer. 

And, while I cover the expenses of producing this super useful tool, I STILL try to keep them affordable and with free shipping, so everyone has an opportunity to get a hold of this EXCLUSIVE neutral colour wheel. 

Order the Understanding Undertones Neutral Colour Wheel Here

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  • Lorri says:

    Maria, with this new color wheel, you’ve achieved the Steve Jobs (Apple) philosophy of design, which is elegant simplicity.

  • I love the idea of the flat sides! Brilliant! I never would have thought of that.
    PS I was the kind of girl who did cut and attach the paint chips 🙂

  • Rebecca Schildroth says:

    Never liked the original color wheel. It was a waste of my money.

  • Marita Heberling says:

    Maria, did you see the article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend? “Why Isn’t Beige Ever the Color of the Year?” I thought about you immediately!

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