Skip to main content
True Colour Expert

The Difference Between an Expert and a Master

By 01/26/2011August 6th, 202329 Comments
Penelope Trunk sent me an email this month after she received my newsletter ‘Colour Advice from a True Expert’:

“Unsolicited advice.

I don’t think it should say “true expert” in the headline. I mean, only people who think people don’t trust their expertise would say that. When you just say “colour advice” it already implies expert because so few people send out that type of advice in this type of email.  Just my two cents.”

Maria Killam, True Colour Expert

It got me to thinking that maybe other people have had similar thoughts because it might sound kind of like I’m saying ‘I’m the best colorist that ever lived’, or something along those lines.

Therefore, for the record, that is far from it. My take on True Colour Expert is exactly what I say in the post that outlines what it is: ”A True Colour Expert can walk into any room, and distinguish what works and what doesn’t about the undertone of the colours in the space.” Does this mean I’m ‘the best’ colour expert in the world?  No. To say that about anyone in the creative field is just silly, because obviously ‘the best designer’ to one person is not that to someone else.

Interior Design by Maria Killam

However, anyone who is in the business of specifying colour in any shape or form, walls, fabrics, countertops, tile  etc, etc, should be able to nail the undertone of whatever they are looking at instantly (or by comparing if necessary, sometimes it’s obvious, other times it’s not). If you can do that, then you’re a true colour expert in my opinion.

As I said in this post:  ‘When specifying colour for walls (very different from fabric and other surfaces), most of the time I look like a True Expert and sometimes I don’t. Lighting still trumps the best predictions in the world and can suddenly change that fabulous colour I specified into something that makes you want to cry.   It’s why I’m in this business, it’s never the same and endlessly fascinates me.’

Interior Design by Maria Killam

Ergo, there is no such thing as total colour mastery or mastery in anything for that matter.

“In mastery there is always a gap. No master ever says’, ‘I’ve figured it out, I know it all’. If there is no gap the master creates one. Masters know they are never done so they always create a gap.” Dr. Angela Amado, Landmark Education

You and I could look at someone and call them a master.  And you can bring your mastery in something to your area of expertise, but a true master will say ‘they are never done’.

I’m an Expert.  Not a Master. That’s the difference.

Related posts:

How I became a True Expert
Are you Decorating in the Dark?
Ugly Costs the Same as Pretty
Do you Make this Mistake in your Business/Blog?

It’s All in the Undertones, download my eBook here. (if you have a computer you can download my book).

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.


0 pins


  • Karena says:


    A wonderful and concise response to Penelope's thoughts. I agree with you on this one for sure.
    Expertise is a good word as well for someone who is so talented in his or her field.

    Art by Karena

  • Kathysue says:

    Great article Maria. Color is a fascinating subject that is for sure. I think you were very concise in your description of an expert!!! Have a great rest of the week,Kathysue

  • Carol@TheDesignPages says:

    I think that calling yourself an expert gives clients a feeling of confidence in what you do. We want to know that when we're paying for someone's advice that they are really, really confident in what they are offering.

  • camdesign says:

    so looking forward to your class…hoping to call myself an expert at the end of our three days together…see you soon!

  • heather jenkinson says:

    I think Penelope makes a good point: True expert is an unnecessary emphasis on what is an already accepted status. However, we all recognise that the word expert is an emotive one and seeing as you are an expert and you're selling your expertise, it's a more appropriate term to use that Colour Advice' or 'Colour Advisor'. I'm not convinced that sells the same level of reassurance and so I would still with Colour Expert.

  • A Color Specialist in Charlotte says:

    I agree. I think calling one's self "Master" is a bit egotistical but after all the years experience you have you can clearly see that you are an expert – in blogging too!

  • lynne whiteside says:

    you can call yourself whatever you want, and in relation to the client, you ARE the expert, that's why they call you. clients would never call a 'potential expert, or expert in the making' or even 'expert wannabe'. I know that all sounds silly but don't we have to be bold in our statements to attract the potential customer?

  • Ideezine says:


    My understanding of an expert is a person who can handle their work experiences, learn from them, teach others, redefine what you know by teaching clients a simpler way to reach satisfaction.

    It's a matter of having quiet confidence as you gain more experiences. Because labeling yourself or others as an expert means you can't go farther.

    These days with technology the "experts" can be research and or discovered as false statements due to a personal definition. The only thing we can be true experts at is ourselves (subject to change) most of the time.

    Don't use the title expert or master because these days it means nothing. What is does do is create an illusion to part people with their money when they believe the value is superior to others.


  • Kelly Restyling Home by Kelly says:

    If she reads your blog, she would know you are a 'true color expert.' Why do people have to 'nitpic' everything?


    We all have areas of expertise that we enjoy. Of course, this does not mean we are done learning. It is one of the things I like about you, Maria . . . you learn and you share your learning.

    Enjoy that process.


  • Lazy Gardens says:

    Seeing ‘Colour Advice from a True Expert’ leaves me wondering about advice from all the false experts out there.

    Either you are an expert … or you aren't. Don't modify it because it weakens your presentation.

    I think that's what Penelope was pointing out.

  • Susan Seale says:

    I thought your description True Color Expert was musical:)

    I'm laughing now…how hilarious…being a musician I automatically tied together True and Color in your statement because of the song "True Colors". It began to sing in my head as soon as I read that description. I don't remember now but I think it was a cindy lauper tune..

    I still hear that song when I see your description "Colour Advice from a True Expert".

  • Design in the Woods says:

    I think it's hard to distinguish yourself in this business. There are so many people in this field that get here by just hanging out the shingle and helping out their friends. I know there are a lot of people out there that have intuitively come to be knowledgeable about design and color (I'm not knocking that), but there are those of us who not only have the knack for it, but have invested heavily in education, professional organizations and registrations, and our businesses in general to help make us better at what we do.

    I think anyone who is being paid by a paint company to work on their color line should be an expert and I have no problem with you calling yourself that.

  • rouge says:

    I like your blog and I like you. I think you're frank and generous. If there's a posting from you on my RSS feed it's always one of the few I'll go to first.

    That said, I agree with Penelope. Though obviously I can't know what's on her mind, I don't think she said what she did to 'nitpick', as someone commented. I don't think she said what she said because she questions your expertise. My guess was that she might have said what she said because, like me, she feels that it somehow devalues your obvious skill when you constantly remind us of it. Your posts speak for themselves. People will judge whether you're the person for them on the strength of them, not by being told that you're an expert. It's the only aspect of your blog that regularly turns me off a little. Otherwise I think you're fab.

  • You're just the best. Done. 🙂

  • Michelle Donald says:

    I think 'true expert' is a great marketing tool Maria and you are after all, not only a great teacher and motivator but also a great business woman. Don't change it, as it's very clever. I agree… I don't think anyone can ever know everything about Colour, but us Colour Consultants are going to give it a good darn try!

  • Donna says:

    Hi Maria, I'm so glad to see your post. :o) I always look forward to what you are going to share with us next. I understand the discussion about true being redundant grammatically speaking.

    However, I kind of took it in a completely different way, considering I'm not a designer at all. I just thought you were explaining that you are an expert in discerning 'true' colors…their undertones and even how they change from room to room and with changing decor and lighting. It's the hardest thing in the world sometimes, for me, to really discern what a color truly is. It can be very subjective.

    Just my 'uneducated' more time. LOL!


  • Anonymous says:

    Hmmm … that's an interesting point but not sure I agree. I have never considered it wrong for you to say "True Expert". It's your tagline, you should trademark it (or whatever it is that would let you protect it)! I also don't have a problem with you asking for people's business at the end of your blog. It's a great reminder to your readers that you are available.

  • Sandra says:

    Sometimes, comments aren't worthy of a response. Would rather see a blog post about design than this discussion.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments, I wrote this post because I loved the conversation about 'the master always creating a gap' to me that was really profound and applicable in any business.

    True Colour is definitely my tagline, and if reading that would have someone actually read my blog further to see if they agreed with me (and it's perfectly find if they did not) then I think it's done the job it should.

    After all, I write this blog for the business that I receive directly from it, so that it justifies all the time I spend on it!


  • Donna says:

    Maria, I really loved the comment you left me tonight.:o) My door is always open. :o)

    Funny, my son and daughter-in-law told me tonight–you ARE moving to in the next year..right? We don't want to move without you. It would be so strange if we really did.

    I love where we are…but if we do ever make it up north, where hubby has always wanted to go home to, I'll be sure to let you and your sisters know. I'm so humbled by your response and theirs.

    Thanks for sharing the note. That's why I blog–to share encouragement to friend who need it. :o)


  • pve design says:

    If you were a Master, then you would have a black belt – but maybe in your case, it would be all the colours…

    I think "colour whiz" or "colour genius" could work too! 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I can't remember how I found you, but what I do remember is that reading 'True Colour Expert' completely captured my attention.

    I think if it were more of a general title i wouldn't of noticed it quite as quickly. For me the word 'expert' really triggered my curiosity. I'm glad it did too because your blog helped restart my love for working with colour. I learned so much from you as well.

    When I was younger, if i received a gift or a letter from a friend, I would clean my room and get everything i had to do done. The letter was a treat. For me your posts and newsletters are a treat in the very same way. Plus I haven't been able to bring myself to delete of the posts from my inbox even though they're all up here in your blog. (Yes I appreciate and value your expertise that much. 😉

  • Donna in Potomac says:

    I have to say I felt a little uncomfortable reading this since it was a personal comment that Penelope emailed to you. I would be more comfortable if I knew she agreed on being quoted before it was brought to this public forum for discussion. Maybe I should assume it was since you're both experts.

  • Luciane at says:

    Well said, Maria.

    I really trust you with color and this is the place I come to learn even more about it. That's how much I trust you!

    Have a "Colorful" day! 🙂


    Luciane at

    Post of the Day: Tracery Interiors.

  • Kim says:

    Boils down to semantics. In this case, what one person means by "expert" might be totally different than what someone else thinks it means. Which is when clarification comes in handy. You've done a great job at clarifying what you meant 🙂

  • Christie says:

    Light Bulb Moment! Love the ending of the post, where you say that you determine the undertone by COMPARING colors… duh. I have read your blog faithfully and that hadn't sunk in. I thought you had to figure it out "by eye". If you get to compare it, that would make a big difference to me. Maybe I could be "good enough" to take your class.
    Thanks. ~ Christie

  • Elizabeth says:

    I like your blog also, but I too agree with Penelope. If you're confident in yourself and your opinions, maybe you don't have to talk about your expertise so regularly. More showing and less telling perhaps? I'd love to see more of your work.

  • Shelly says:

    Love your blog. I’m so glad I bumped into it. Can’t wait to repaint my garage. In has tan metal siding on the upper half and pinky beige paint on the block below. I knew it looked funny but your blog explained why. Someday I’m going to build a house and you are going to hear from me.

Leave a Reply