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Understanding Undertones

Vancouver Colour Consultant: The Fundamental Key for Colour Specifying (Not for Everybody)

By 11/20/2011January 28th, 20179 Comments



If you are a designer or design enthusiast and you want to start developing and training your eye to see undertones, you’ll need my 50 large sample boards – 40 neutrals and 10 whites, all from Benjamin Moore. No more searching through 140 or more whites to find the one you need for your kitchen cabinets or woodwork.  95% of the time, all you need is the 10 I have listed.

True Colour Expert Large Samples – Photo by Maria Killam

If you are looking for the right gray to pull your living room together or the right neutral to make the tile in your bathroom look good, you’ll find it in my 40 neutrals. Will you use more than these in general? Yes of course, but this list follows the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, we use 20% of the colours.

This is the breakdown of neutrals and whites you will receive:

Pinky-Beige, Yellow-Beige, Orange-Beige, Green-Beige, Green-Brown, Blue-Gray, Blue/Green-Gray, Green-Gray, Violet-Gray, Taupe, White, Off-White, Ivory, Cream, Gray White.

Shams (pink beige), Bedding (blue/green gray)  (Restoration Hardware)

My system for distinguishing undertones is simple and best of all it works! Think you’re not creative? Here is an email I received from Judy W. just last week:

“I got the color boards, and they have helped me to see the undertones of the beiges.  I know you said they would help people to see undertones, but, frankly, I didn’t think it would work for me : )  I am not artistic and  have never mixed colors.  But, it is working!!!!!

I had one of my son’s college diplomas framed recently at a ritzy framers, and when I got it, I immediately knew something was wrong.  The diploma is orangy ivory, and the nice mat I had picked out was greeny ivory.  Big time noticeable, so now I will have the mat changed out.  But at least now, I know what to look for.   Too bad the fancy framing place didn’t point this out to me.

Thank you for your help!!  I know I still have lots more to learn, but at least I am learning : )”


Here is one I recently received from a decorator who had purchased the boards:

“First and foremost, the selection of Benjamin Moore neutrals is beautiful and the presentation first class. I can’t imagine a more comprehensive range of shades.  The boards also look pretty and feel good. They are fun to place around the room (behind art, against the cabinets). My clients are impressed that I have such a great decorating tool in my possession!” As a decorator, the samples provide a wonderful source of inspiration for painting a neutral canvas. I have actually picked up two jobs because of them!” Pam H.

How many complex colour (ie white/neutral) decisions do you make every single day? Wouldn’t it be nice to walk around with the tools and the assurance that you are making the correct colour choices?

Looking for instant confidence specifying colour for your clients? You’ll get it the moment your boards arrive.

My eBooks will break down my system the best of course, but having these boards with each undertone already categorized, will give you a head start in becoming a True Colour Expert wherever you live.


So here’s the thing, whether you buy my boards or not, every time you paint a wall in your house, make sure you paint a sample board for when you go shopping for tiles or fabrics. If you are a decorator, having them with you when you source fabrics and hard finishes will ensure that you get the undertones right.

And then you can sleep at night, knowing you have made the correct colour decision.

Click here for more information on pricing and how to order.  Samples are custom made in small batches and stock is limited. Order now to to make sure you get a set!

Download my eBook, It’s All in the Undertones. 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.

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

Related posts:

Must Have Tools for Colour Consulting

Insider Secrets to Testing and Selecting Paint Colours

Should you Pay for a Room to be Re-painted if you Chose the Colour?

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  • Great tip, I always tell my clients to paint a sample of their wall colour………… makes picking other furnishings soooooo much easier.

  • Inka says:

    Ok, I have to say this! I live in France and not only that Benjamin Moore doesn’t exist here, but the color choice is really limited.
    You have no idea how frustrating it is to have read your website, have a feeling that I understand undertones and then have to choose basically between painting white or white. Of course, guess what, I chose white. 🙂

  • Lauren says:

    Cant wait to red your ebook Maria!!!


  • Judy says:

    Sounds wonderful!!

  • Jürgen says:

    Love your website they are very well done and informative, congratulations and good luck. Best regards jürgen

  • Lisa says:

    I’m looking forward to your e-books. I find myself quoting you to people as I’m trying to make sense of color. Down the road when I have more design experience under my belt I’d love to take your color course.

  • Kelly says:

    I love my large color boards! I use them on every color consult I do because the larger sample makes such a big difference when explaining how a color undertone is working- or not! Really a great color tool.

  • It sounds like such a good resource, Maria. :o) The tip about painting boards first is so helpful too. BTW, I read your comment about the 80-20 Pareto principle and thought..”Ahh..bright minds think alike!”

    I did a post on that same idea..but applied it to de-cluttering. It’s a revolutionary principle that works in so many areas of life. It makes so much sense that 20% of the paint colors get used the most. The other post you wrote about that idea was great too. :o)


  • Oh Maria. I think of you every time I see my living room. eg. Daily. See, my dining room (which I love) is painted Behr’s Dolphin Fin—a very neutral gray with slight yellow undertones. But for the adjoining living room I thought we should go warmer, to pick up the warm undertones in the rug, so I insisted on Martha Stewart’s Whetstone Gray. Well, after it not sitting right with us for a year, we realized that the rug is the problem, and therefore so are the walls. So, I will be repainting it Silver Drop, which is the next lighter shade to Dolphin Fin. Thanks for the education and the lesson learned. If you (or any of your readers) want to see the error of my ways (and prevent your own before it is too late!), you can see both rooms on my house tour:

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