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When you pick the wrong colour

Vancouver Colour Expert talks about The 3 Ways to beat the High Cost of buying the Wrong Paint Colour

By 05/02/2009January 23rd, 201712 Comments

Paint stores will not like this post; however the recycling depot will. Did you know that 40% of paint purchased ends up being the wrong colour? I would much rather that you hired me to pick the right colour in the first place (of course 🙂 or that you go back to the paint store to tweak it if it does end up the wrong colour. So, can your paint gallon be saved? Read on to find out:

1. It’s way too bright and clean. If it screams laundry room (my favourite expression for loud and bright colour) yes. The paint store can tone it down or ‘muddy’ it. That’s the easiest fix.

Everyone seems to pick a too-bright Yellow at some point (I did too the first time I picked one), like in the image shown above. Unless you live in Miami (which is where this entry is), a yellow this bright might be all wrong in your house. 
This is the easiest mistake to tweak at the paint store (if you still want yellow of course) all they have to do is tone it down (which starts by adding the complement purple), so it doesn’t have to go to the landfill. And/or if the pink you’ve chosen starts looking too much like bubblegum or the green, too minty, blue too baby, purple too girly, orange too peachy. . . well you get my point, it’s still possible to save it at this stage.
2. Warmer or cooler. See the green (below)? If you want it to be more yellowy/green, or more of a blue/green? Or if the yellow you picked is too green, you can add more orange to make it warmer, in other words, you can go warmer or cooler on the colour wheel (unless it’s already a murky gray colour, at that stage, it’s too late to do anything to it, it’s got too much gray or black in it) Also, if the colour is already dark, it’s better to start again, which leads me to my next point. . . 

3. Lighter or Darker. If it’s too light, you can make it darker but only as dark as the base you have purchased. Said another way, if you have picked a pale colour to begin with, it has been mixed in a 1 base or 2 base gallon of paint. A darker colour will have been mixed in a 3 or 4 base colour, therefore there is a limit to how much more colourant can be added to your gallon of paint–so within reason–it can go darker.
If the colour is too dark or gray to begin with, then you need to start again. You could add white paint to it, but that I would try on your own at home. The paint store won’t help you there, it’s too hard to manage the actual colour at that point.

My final tip: make sure you go back to the paint store where you originally bought the paint—this seems obvious, but it may not be to some. 
And, don’t expect them to work miracles however, if it’s not too far off what you want already, there’s hope.
If you would like to schedule a Colour and Design consultation with Maria Killam in the Lower Mainland, please call 604.318.9725 or for questions on on-line consultations email me at, [email protected]

Related posts:
Why is it so hard to choose yellow?
Clean vs. Dirty Colours
Three ways to describe Colour
Hiring a Designer: Luxury or Necessity?

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  • Ideezine says:

    Thanks for the tips. These are the things that come to mind when we start projects. You’re a great teacher!

  • DesignTies says:

    I’ve lost track of the times I repainted a room because the original colour I selected was totally wrong. The colour was OK, it just wasn’t OK in the room I put it in!!

    I had a bad experience once mixing paint colours together. The final colour was great, but the texture was chunky. I ended up going back to the paint store and getting my new colour colour-matched with a new gallon of paint.

    Any idea what could have caused the chunks?? The paints I mixed were from two different manufacturers, and two were eggshell and the other matte. I’m guessing there was a chemical reaction based on one or both of those factors??

    Thanks for another educational post 🙂


  • guylaine rondeau says:

    good to know!

  • Kelly@ColorSizzle says:

    This is such an informative post! It really is better to try and ‘save’ your paint before purchasing a new gallon. Great advice!

  • Kelee Katillac says:

    Good advice! 🙂

  • Maria Killam says:

    The only time I’ve ever heard of paint going chunky like that is if it’s been frozen (sometimes that happens in the winter while transporting it across the country).

    Mixing paint yourself is mostly not a good idea, it’s always best to take it back to the paint store to be tweaked, but I have heard of people doing it that have had good results!

  • Meade Design Group says:

    Thanks for the advice – I didn’t know a couple of things 🙂

  • VictoriaArt says:

    I love the advise, I usually try out different color options in trial sizes, that gives me an idea about the right or wrong hues, but sometimes even this can be deceiving. I am working on a bathroom with no natural light, all very plain but we incorporated a small decorative tile border, it was very difficult to find the right light gray blue,the bathroom looked at times like a patchwork quilt…But finally we nailed it!
    PS: Thanks for the feed back, I am sure it will work!

  • Awesome Sara says:

    amazing, utterly amazing. for some reason i am such a white walls fan. i love color everywhere else. for me white walls is like a canvas and everything else becomes brighter against white.

  • DesignTies says:

    I vote for hiring you, Maria!

    Which brings me to my carpet post.. it’s great that you like the carpet I’m loving, especially since you saw my place when you were by for my colour consult 😉 and because you helped me choose Powell Buff for the living room!! The first thing I thought of was that it could work with the wall colour… I should have mentioned you/it in my post (but I wrote it late last night and just wanted to go to bed!!).

    Now I just have to find something like it. I totally can’t afford the actual carpet from Weavers Art!! But now that I have a photo of something I love, I can try and find a less expensive and similar carpet. Hmmm. Wish me luck???!

    Thanks for dropping by DesignTies!

  • Ivy Lane says:

    Thanks for the advice! Good tips here! I LOVE the yellow entry way!!

  • Renae says:

    Maria…you are sooo smart! Thanks for all the cool tips.

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