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Custom Colour Mixing; Yay or Nay?

By 06/02/2011January 23rd, 201732 Comments
A designer emailed me the other day asking whether taking a few drops of red out of Muslin would give her the perfect colour she needed for a clients bathroom. It’s been so long since I tried to ‘tweak’ a paint colour for a client, I forgot that I used to think it was a necessary component of specifying colour.


So I’m here to tell you, it’s not. 
As long as you have a good fan deck (like Benjamin Moore), you don’t need to fool around with mixing your own colours. 99% of the time the neutral you need will be in the fan deck.   It’s that sometimes, we don’t know where to look or we miss it, so then we think a custom colour is required. 


As I gained more experience in colour specifying, I soon learned that ‘custom colours’ were not only unnecessary but also a big waste of money. And you don’t even know if it’s right until you own the quart of paint you have just custom colour mixed.
So I vote nay for custom. What do you say?
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  • Kathysue says:

    For my clients Nay for my own home Yay!! I only have two colors in my home that I did not tweak, I am a bit of a fanatic in my own home. Kathysue

  • Donna Frasca says:

    Not a big fan of color matching either. I've seen to many mis-matched results. Some companies say they have the formulas in the computer to match but to my eyes, they are still a few shades off.

    So that would be a Nay 🙂

  • Luciane at says:

    Nay… I like to try new things, but when it comes to color, I want to "play safe". I want to know how it will look BEFORE I buy it…


    Luciane at

  • Coley says:

    I'm not really sure what I think yet! But that mixer is the cutest thing in the world!!

  • VALERIA says:

    I absolutely agree with you. Custom colors are not a good idea.

  • Donna says:

    I like the mixer too-LoL! No, I would never do custom colors. There are so many out there!

    Maria, I wanted to let you know I made quite a plug for your expertise today. I'm showing photos of the living room with the new accessories and a goodly dose of yellow I might add. :o) I think you will really like it. I almost died when I dug up photos of my house from a year ago to use for the 'before' photos. Thanks for your help. :o)


  • Karena says:

    Maria it has not worked for me and as you say there are so many fabulous colors available!

    Art by Karena

    Come and enter my $250 Amazing Giveaway from Tracy Porter!

  • Jen says:

    Depends! If I'm confined to one fan deck, I do end up customizing a bit. For example, my last painter only worked with Benjamin Moore, which lacks good mid-points between the two lightest colors on a strip. That deck also doesn't cover "drabs" in the same way that, say, the Para Paints or Farrow & Ball fan decks do.

    All that said, before I'm convinced I need a custom mix, I start with my best option from available colors. For example, I recently gave up on color matching Farrow & Ball's White Tie and Pointing in exchange for Benjamin Moore's Linen White and Mascarpone. Maybe not quite as beautiful, but definitely saved a lot of headaches and $$!

  • Carla@DesignintheWoods says:

    I've done some mixing in the past. It is a lot of trouble that's for sure. The hardest part is touch up and getting more paint afterward. Even with the formula, it just sometimes isn't right.

  • My House, My Garden says:

    The touch ups after are definitely the issue. I remedied this one time, however. After I tweaked the paint and had it exactly like I wanted, I took it back to the paint store and had them color match it.

  • Nichole@40daysof says:

    I say yay to custom, because the previous owners did not leave and paint for my cabinetry. And touch up are most definitely necessary. 🙂

  • Jennifer, Decorum says:

    I agree, Nay for custom colour. My biggest fear is that if there's not enough and it needs to be remixed, will it be EXACTLY the same as the first batch. Here in Australia I use paints from 5 different companies. If you can't find it in one of their fandecks you just ain't looking properly!

    Jennifer xx

  • Naturally Carol says:

    I say 'yes' for sure..I have seen some great work done in custom colours!

  • Shannon says:

    I do my own "custom" colors because it's a great way to use up left over paint and I have all the universal paint tints and glazes. I have had the paint store mix paint by percentages. For example my great room is 75% of BM White Sand OC10. I love it, but full strength was just a tad too dark for that room.

  • traci zeller designs says:

    Goodness gracious, that bathroom!! xo!

  • Pink Overalls @DIY Home Staging says:

    I am glad to hear you speak your mind about this, Maria. Custom color mixing is almost a pet peeve of mine. What's the point except to flaunt "expertise," or reinforce your own sense of uniqueness?

    If you can't find exactly the color you need in one fanbook, go to another company's fanbook. A good paint store will match any manufacturer's color.

    Adding a few drops of this or that is a slippery slope.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  • pve design says:

    When I was doing decorative work, I would often mix my own….but I say leave it the the Big Pots and use the wheel. I think it always comes out 10 to 15% deeper and so much depends on the lighting.

  • Kristie at The says:


    I'm with you on this one – nay! One of the reasons I like you so much is because you are so practical and so down-to-earth. You don't overcomplicate things that don't need overcomplicating!

  • mrsben says:

    On the whole I would say 'nay', however on two occasions I did prefer 'custom' to the original. Both times it was a BM paint. One being a navy blue that had far too much of a purple undertone, the other was for my home's exterior. The latter being a dark brown that was a horrid muddy chocolate. After tweaking the latter myself, the Professional Painter who had been in the business for a number of years and used only BM products, declared my colour was the nicest 'chocolates' he had seen and added the formula to his own recommendation list.

  • Michele from Boston says:

    I vote "nay". While looking for the perfect color to match the background of my new bedroom curtains, I refused to believe the color wasn't out there. I had every fan deck: Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, C2, Pittsburgh and when almost at my wits end I discovered California Paints at my local True Value Hardware store and there it was! I'd rather put in the footwork than fool with an expensive can of paint myself. Paint is paint. If a client demands something that no one else has, I tell them to join me antiquing – a far better place to put your design dollars.

  • Lesli at My Old Country House says:

    the only thing I like about color mixing is all the great mis-tints I get for $1-$4 at my Benjamin Moore store from ALL the color matches that DID NOT work!

  • Anonymous says:

    When I’m painting my house I always mix colors because I never like the color I start with. It is never JUST right –I’d like it a little lighter or darker or something. It drives my husband crazy.

    That is why I plan to consult Maria when I’m ready to paint again.


  • LiveLikeYou says:

    I often mix 50/50 of two colors next to each other on the fan deck. I find that sometimes the tone in between is the one I'm looking for.
    Some times I use two different colors on top of each other as well.

  • mika says:

    Nay! Nay! Nay!
    My first fan deck I use is the Canadian Benny Moore, if there's nothing there, I pull out the American Benny Moore, of which the codes are still here just not the fan deck. WAY more colour choices. If that fails, I head for my ICI or PARA fan decks. I have never failed in finding the perfect colour if I just keep looking.
    As an artist used to mixing my own colours on a palette, I know how much tiny amounts of colour affect a colour and that if you're not careful you just end up with something muddy.
    I am just not that brave when it comes to spec-ing colour for a client.

  • Lila says:

    I say nay. That mixer will look like the 70's avocado appliances in a couple years. Mark my words!
    Lila Ferraro

  • Ideezine says:


    I say nay to "specials" I carry and use all seven of my fan decks, and I'm a color hound, if it exists I'll find it. Colors are like spices if you know the flavor you can find the right mix for a perfect recipe dish. Lighting plays a huge roll in a room and can sabotage the effects if you ignore it. That's the first point I make note of and share with clients.


  • Tracey Ayton Photography says:

    I tend to play it safe ….. so I only use color as accents but that mixer would certainly cheer up any white kitchen!! Wow.

  • I must say I do like using percentages of colors on occasion. But tweaking the amount of one aspect of the color seems too risky (money wise) to me when it comes to a client.

  • Nicole Laye says:

    Ok, I have to chime in here.

    I think its funny our mixer is somehow the subject of this topic. Yes, its custom, but irrelevant to the subject matter here.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and everyone has their own style. So, to say that mixer is going to be the equivalent of "70's avocado appliances," couldn't be further from the truth. Some prize the artwork of Picasso. While others think they are all-together bad artwork. Yet, they are worth millions…

    BTW: I vote Yay, I just painted my walls a custom color. If you are smart and get a test sample, the mistake if any, is minimal.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Nicole,
    Wow is that your mixer? It's fabulous. I chose that image because its a mixer and I was talking about colour mixing. It's a piece of art in my opinion.

  • The Other Mother says:

    Custom painting should be left to the experts, you either got it or you don't! That mixer is an amazing work of art and should be the center point of your kitchen. Since it's custom made, your taste level would cause it or keep it from becoming the "equivalent to the 70's avocade appliances"…I'd go with a classy classic that would stand the test of time.

  • Nicole Dinardo says:

    Ok, I get it now. I was confused. My friends on FB were too. That is why I commented. I normally don't chime in…

    I painted it for Ree Drummond. The Pioneer Woman. It was a collaborative project between us. I have done many mixers, all different themes for all over the country. It's a passion of mine. I paint other things as well, but the mixers…they're different.

    My site is if you want to see others. My facebook has even more.

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