How to Mix
Custom Paint Colors

Need instructions for mixing custom paint colors? In the lesson below you will learn how to shift and adjust home painting colors with craft colorants.

Have you ever bought a wrong home paint color that you couldn't return? Do you have a can of screaming yellow paint sitting in your garage? Or maybe you found a gallon of Oops paint in your local paint store that sells for only $5, but the color is just blah?

custom paint colors

Mixing your own custom paint colors may be the answer. Instead of dumping the "wrong" paint, try tweaking the color first. Oftentimes, the paint can still be saved and used for your home painting project - plus you will save money too.

This is also a great alternative to paint disposal.

To change paint colors, you will need:

  • a paint color mixing chart (a.k.a. the color wheel)

  • craft colorants (acrylic for latex/acrylic paints, and oil-based for alkyd paints)

  • white paint (in the same sheen as the starting paint)

Before you start mixing custom paint colors, realize that you will usually get only an approximation of the color you have in mind. The final color will mimic your desired color, but may not match it exactly.

The final result will depend on the starting color, your experience with mixing paint colors, and available colorants. Paint base will also determine how much a color can be lightened or darkened.

Mixing Custom Paint Colors

Lighten Up the Color

lighten custom paint colors

The only way to make a paint color lighter is to add white paint to it. The amount will depend on how dark the starting paint color is, and how pale you want to make it. But usually it takes a lot of white paint to noticeably lighten up a paint color.

Sometimes it makes more sense to just add a few cups of starting paint to white paint, than the other way around. Lightening up a color is the cheapest way to "stretch" paint, because white paint is usually very cheap. You may already have some white paint leftovers in your garage.

Darken the Color

darken custom paint colors

To make a color darker, add some black or gray craft colorant to it. Use black when darkening already deep colors, and gray when working with lighter colors. It takes a relatively small amount of black to visibly darken a pastel. But when going for a dramatic change, be prepared to use a lot of colorant.

A rule of thumb is, stay within 2 shades of the starting color. Trying to turn a pale sky blue color into a dark navy blue will only lead to frustration.

Intensify the Color

intensify custom paint colors

If you want your custom paint color to look more vivid, you will need to add more of the base color.

For example, to liven up a tan color, add some yellow or orange to it. To brighten up a sage green, add more green.

Tone Down the Color

tone down custom paint colors

Adding a complement to a color will decrease the color's intensity (complements are 2 colors lying directly across each other on the paint color wheel).

For instance, violet colorant will neutralize a bright yellow and make it look calmer and more sophisticated.

Change the Hue

alter custom paint colors

You can also shift color temperatures, undertones and even hues. For example, green can be warmed up by adding yellow to it (moss green), or cooled down by adding blue (sea green or teal). Red can be turned into violet, with addition of blue. See the paint color mixing chart for more details.

Keep in mind that complex paint colors like browns, beiges and grays are more difficult to change, because they already contain a lot of hues. Simpler colors like greens, yellows, blues, etc. are usually easier to modify.

When mixing custom paint colors, practice in a small container first to see the effect, before adding colorant to a full size can. And don't forget to stir the mixture well!

NOTE: Make sure you mix enough paint - you don't want to run out of paint in the middle of your home painting project. Custom paint colors can not be re-created.

And, when you are done, don't forget to give your paint color a fancy name!

Paint Color Cheat Sheets
Paint Color Cheat Sheets

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