Can someone explain about lightening a paint color by percentages

sis2twoJune 19, 2014

I am trying to understand if you take a color down to only 50% does the color just lighten? The reason I am asking is that I am considering Wedgewood Gray but it appears too dark in in the north facing bedroom. I have it in the bathroom and I love it

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes the color lightens by the percentage of white that is added. The person mixing the paints can give you an idea of how the color will work. I always have a spare can of white and sample it myself to the paint I'm using, that way I have a swatch I can show them. I've made up some of the prettiest tones with craft paint mixes and they translate them in to a formula and I but the gallon.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 12:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It may also slightly shift undertones, but it's not going to go from a blue-gray to a brownish grey.

(the reason for the shift is that color and pigments aren't linear at all concentrations)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 12:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

Adding white is different from cutting the colorant load. It can take A LOT of white paint to significantly affect a color. It depends.

Whenever you cut an existing formula, you're creating a completely different color. It's not the same as creating a color string. Color strings are a continuous range. Often starting with a saturated color moving in regimented steps all the way to a neutral gray. There's usually a goal to change only one color aspect along the string. E.g. only change saturation but not hue or brightness. Only change brightness but not saturation or hue.

Tangible examples you can check out: Ben Moore's Color Preview deck the color strips are strings. Ben Moore's Classic Colors deck the color strips are NOT strings.

Since brightness and saturation are inextricably tied, it is very difficult to create color strings. And it's highly unlikely to happen at a paint store counter.

When paint color formulas are cut at a paint counter, original colors are not being adjusted. Rather new variations of the color are being created. Due to substance uncertainty of bases and colorants, anything can happen. Won't know until you mix the color, let it dry and then look at it.

IMO custom mixing color and adjusting architectural paint colors is romanticized to an extreme - especially out there in blogosphere. And the success of mixing and/or adjusting colors is decided before it's actually done.

In other words, people believe that cutting a color by 50% is going to get them a color that's exactly half as bright and half as saturated so that's exactly how they see the resulting color. Because it sounds logical. However, the reality of what happens with paint bases and colorants doesn't always align with logic.

If you were to measure that same result, either by qualified observer or device, the outcome would very likely NOT be a color that's half as bright and half as saturated.

Smart paint counter folks know that people will see what they decide they want to see in a color. So, they go along with the cutting formulas meme. Because it's easier than going into the complex explanation like I just did and then arguing facts vs. perception.

Perceptible color is really just an illusion.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, funcolors. Thank you so much for that explanation! I have always wondered the original question myself, as lightening existing colors seems quite popular. I have never done it myself, nor do I think I would, but your explanation makes a lot of sense. Appreciate your time!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 9:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My BIL used to double the pigments from a pastel to get a more intense shade for woodwork in his spec houses. It works pretty well as long as the starting color is really pastel.

If I like an overall color, but want lighter, I get a sample and add white, testing as I go, starting with 1/4 white and increasing. Then I take the swatch to the paint store and say "Match this".

Currently working on the right shade of moody grey-blue-violet for the woodwork in this house. Without a 2-hour round trip, I'm limited in color chips, si it's blending time. I have samples of the two closest and we want something "in between".

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 9:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

Yep. Adding white or gray is a whole other way to approach creating new colors from existing ones.

Sometimes, paint stores can tell you which one of their whites is 'most white' or which gray 'most neutral'. But there's still going to be some degree of hue bias that you may or may not be able to detect with your eyeballs. That hue bias can absolutely be an influence when mixed in. For example, won't know if that white paint will shift your new color towards green or purple, not just lighten the mix, until you mix the color, let it dry and look at it.

Perfect example of substance uncertainty.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 2:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you all for the information. Adding white makes sense to me. I had it mixed at 50% and it still wasn't the shade I was looking for. I still have some time before I need to make a decision thank goodness.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 1:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh, crap.
I was going in tomorrow to get ceiling paint, and I wanted a lighter shade of Glidden's 'Natural Wicker.' I'm getting that matched at SW.

Now after months of all these squares on my walls, I'd made a decision. At least for wall paint. Now I'm concerned that no matter what I do for the ceiling, it'll be a wrong hue.

Why is this so difficult?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 10:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

The paint mixer person can absolutely create a "lighter shade of Natural Wicker" for you. That's a reasonable color request.

It's labels like 25%, 50%, 75%, etc. that don't really mean much. Especially when the amounts of colorant are small to begin with. Cutting such small amounts is just not physically possible for the equipment and formula ratios.

30YY 67/084 is called Natural Wicker in the Glidden rack. It's called European White in The Master Palette (ICI/Dulux/Akzo Nobel) which is also found at The Home Depot. Posting a link that talks about the "Big Book" which is the atlas for The Master Palette (TMP) that you can find bolted to an end cap somewhere in the Home Depot paint dept.

Ceiling color options for your wall color, 30YY 67/084, are 30YY 79/053 TMP name is Opal and 51YY 83/060 TMP name is Pacific Mist.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Master Palette Atlas

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 3:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Does each paint company have their own "master Palette", or is is universal like Pantone for printers?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 5:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

No, not universal.

Some people may not know that Pantone is just a catalog of ink colors - it's not a "color system". Pantone colors are organized and numbered so every time your "order" a Pantone color you get that color. As consistently as possible across different materials from T-shirts to mugs to business cards, etc. Just like using the same item number to order the same jeans from the Sears catalog.

There are several color systems similar to TMP. TMP is based on the Acoat Colour Codification system or ACC. Sikkens stains use it too.

Internationally there's also RAL and NCS. Interesting to note that The International Standards Organization recognizes four order systems: Munsell, NCS (Natural Color System), DIN 6164-2, and OSA-UCS

A color system will address color from the 3 key dimensions, hue, value and chroma. Different words are sometimes substituted. E.g. Munsell is credited with coining "chroma". Whatever terms are used, if those 3 key dimensions are not addressed, then it's not a color system. It's something else.

Many paint brands have Munsell notations for their collections. Some make them public, some do not. Dunn-Edwards and California paints DO give you Munsell notations in fandecks and their architectural atlas. Others like Sherwin Williams do not make the notations public.

Then there are paint manufacturers like Benjamine Moore, Pittsburgh Paints, Pratt & Lambert, Behr, Valspar, ACE, Colorhouse that have to have some means of notation for their collections but to get to the people with the right skill set to even have a conversation about it is extraordinarily daunting.

Typically, the interior designers, sales and marketing, color trend experts paint companies have "out front" have very little to offer in terms of color skills or knowledge.

It's highly unlikely they're equipped to talk about their palettes in terms of notations or anything tactical that would actually be of value. Instead, all they talk about are color trends because trends are safely banal. Shoot, many of them can't even answer basic questions or tell you what their top grade is and how much it costs and covers.

But you can bet they all know what Pantone's color of the year is.

And @CEFreeman that's one of many reasons why choosing paint color is so difficult.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 6:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh, thank you, fun colors! :)
This is a great help and I'm cking out the link.

I've also learned having some kind of blue tint on the windows doesn't help with color choice. It's probably why I chose (and painted) my kitchen cabinets 3 different times only for the color to turn turquoise in natural light.

I've written this down and today I go to the paint store.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 6:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

"only for the color to turn turquoise in natural light."

Apparently not natural, rather it's filtered thru the window film. And, yes, some of those films are brutal. "Amber" was popular for a while for office buildings. Again, brutal.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 7:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I went to the SW today, armed with the codes you supplied, my paint swatches, and a good attitude. I felt more confident!

The fellow, a very young guy, actually knew exactly what I was talking about. I was impressed and reminded not to make assumptions based upon age. Anyway...

He was able to make the Pacific Mist for me and it's purrrrrrfect! I'm so excited to paint tomorrow. I hate to paint, but it's been almost 9 years since I've had a room with walls, let alone drywalled and ready to paint!

BTW. I read all the posts on the blog link you posted. Very interesting and is a completely logical system! I think I feel much more able to make decisions. Thank you.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 9:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok, I have a question. I've read about matching colors from one manufacturer in another manufacturers product. Seems like it's very hit or miss.

Does any of this info help make this easier? This happens to be SW Pewter

Color Space Conversions

RGB rgb(163, 157, 145)
RGBA rgba(163, 157, 145, 1.0)
RYB red: 60.3922%, yellow: 63.9216%, blue: 56.8627%
Hex #a39d91
Decimal 10722705
Android / -6054511 / 0xffa39d91
HSL hsl(40, 9%, 60%)
HSLA hsla(40, 9%, 60%, 1.0)
HSV / HSB hue: 40 (40), saturation: 11 (11.0429), value: 64 (63.9216)
XYZ X: 32.2721, Y: 33.9448, Z: 31.6391
xyY x: 0.3298, y: 0.3469, Y: 33.9448
CIELab L: 64.9187, a: 0.0308, b: 7.0449
CIELuv L: 64.9187, u: 4.2314, v: 9.9094
CIELCH L: 64.9187, C: 7.0449, H: 89.7496
Hunter-Lab L: 58.2622, a: -3.0857, b: 8.5862
CMYK cyan: 0 (0), magenta: 4 (0.0368), yellow: 11 (0.1104), key: 36 (0.3608)
CMY cyan: 36 (0.3608), magenta: 38 (0.3843), yellow: 43 (0.4314)
YIQ Y: 157.426, I: 7.4295, Q: -2.4649
YUV Y: 157.426, U: -6.1132, V: 4.8901
YDbDr Y: 157.426, Db: -18.696, Dr: -10.602
YCbCr Y: 151.229, Cb: 121.844, Cr: 131.486
YPbPr Y: 157.414, Pb: -6.69, Pr: 3.552
Munsell Color System 2.5GY 6/2 approximate; exact match: Munsell 2.5GY 6/2 / #979581

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 11:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, is this ever timely! I just bought 5 gal. of SW Interactive Cream. I looked at photos of walls painted with this color and it appeared to be 'creamy' and soft. I've swatched the walls in different rooms and, to me, it's just tan. A very goldy tan. I took it back to SW and they pumped white into the can and the change is, just like funcolors said, imperceptible. What can I do? I've thought about buying a big plastic tote (the kind you put ice and drinks in for a party) and just mixing the IC and a can of bright white base paint. Once it's lightened, could I add a few drops of pigment to 'pink' up the gold tone? Any advice welcome.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 1:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

@williamsem, right? To answer your question, no It doesn't make it easier. Relative to mixing paint colors It doesn't mean anything.

And without knowing the origin of the data used to compute these conversions, it's hard to comment on the usefulness of the info provided by that website.

Best way to describe the color values and the color notations that lists is that they are like bios and latitude/longitude.

Color notations are like a bio for each color. Read the notation and you know the color.


Color notations are like latitude and longitude for your house. Latitude and longitude tells you where on planet earth your house is located. Color notations tell where within a color space a color resides.

Either way, the notation gives you information about a color and direction about how it relates to its neighboring colors within its home color space.

As far as matching colors, it's not uncommon for paint brands to be unable to match their own colors from their own deck when certain processes and/or materials change.

There are colors out there right now in fandecks that will never be duplicated exactly per the old color chip ever again.

It takes a skilled colorist to make a paint color so it falls within range and qualifies as a "match". Knowing how to ask for what it is you want, how to communicate color in the best way possible is helpful.

That's why understanding color systems matters. And I mean the legitimate, time-tested color systems developed by very smart old guys who are now dead and not anything hatched since blogosphere was born.

All of the color systems mentioned earlier in this thread are hinged on the same things: spectral order, hue families and the three core dimensions of color, hue/value/chroma.

Most colorists understand this and if you can ask them for what you want in terms they can relate to, you up your odds of getting what you want - and faster.

Or better yet, if you know how to navigate a particular color system, you can just go find the color you want. Kind of like I did for CEFreeman and Pacific Coast for her ceiling.

Which, btw, CEFreeman, I'm glad it looks like that's going to work out. Congrats on your new space. :)

This post was edited by funcolors on Fri, Jun 27, 14 at 1:51

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 1:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

@tomatofreak well, that sucks. Five gallons is a lot of paint.

Off the top of my head, maybe take a just a cup of paint and experiment with that small amount to see if you can get it to move where you want it to go. Keep track of what you do and then take your documentation and dried sample back to the store. You documentation and dried sample will at least provide a target for the store colorist to aim for.

Or, keeping looking for the right paint color and see what the store can do about moving IC towards that target.

I'd pull Biscuit, Steamed Milk, Medici Ivory and Fragile Beauty. Line 'em up in that order and see if any of them 'read' to you like a lighter and creamier/not tan Interactive Cream.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 2:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, funcolors; I like Biscuit, but the 'fix' didn't come out nearly that light. I think I'll go to another store and ask if they can move it toward Fragile Beauty.

Years ago, I painted my living room Thai Silk, a Glidden paint. It had a pink tone that changed with the lighting, did not look pinky pink, but made everyone's skin look terrific! This Interactive Cream has the opposite effect. I don't know why it's so popular.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 3:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The "hue bias" is what most people call the "undertone" in wall paint. It's the "nnn-ish" part of the color. "greenish grey", " purplish blue", etc.

" I've swatched the walls in different rooms and, to me, it's just tan. A very goldy tan. That's what it is.

Paint color is relative to its surroundings and also very dependent on the wave length of the light it is reflecting.

BEFORE you worry too much, try changing incandescent and "warm white" lights to a cooler or "sunlight" bulb.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 3:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I just want to say that this is one of the most fascinating and informative threads I've read lately. Who hasn't been confounded by paint color? Why is it so hard to get it right?

Funcolors, you're just plain fun to read.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 5:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Great info, thank you!

Seems like if you can't learn to speak the language, you're left with combing through chips and sticking with the company with the chip you like.

Biggest lesson learned so far? Don't pick a single color for the room you are working on, pick a coordinated color palatte up front to work with! Lesson learned for the next home :-)

I think if this couch comes tomorrow and I still can't pick a color from the dozens of chips I have I might have to get some professional help.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 12:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

Actually, if you learn one color system - the language of just one color system - it's not hard to figure out all the other ones.

The one to learn is Munsell. Albert Munsell is my favorite old dead guy. We share the same birthday but that's not the only reason he's my favorite. Al was a teacher and his motivation for creating his system was color education for elementary school children.

What that means is you don't even have to be smarter than a 5th grader to figure out how the Munsell Color System works.

I recently wrote an article about the absurd state of retail paint stores and how manufacturers market color.

In the article I ask readers to imagine walking into a department store to buy an outfit: shirt, jeans and shoes. Everybody can relate to that, right? Now imagine that there are no tags on anything. No labels sewn into the collar of the shirts or seams of the jeans. No sizes imprinted on the bottom of the shoes. No clues whatsoever about sizes or prices.

The only way you're going to be able to find a complete outfit it to start trying stuff on.

You have to start by searching out a shirt that "looks like" it might fit. Try it on and when it doesn't fit, your only option is to keep trying on shirts; comparing each one to the one before that didn't fit.

Then you have to do the same to find a pair of jeans.

Then you have to do the same to find a pair of shoes.

How long do you think it would take you to find an outfit that fits? How long do you think it would be before you got totally frustrated, confused, and exhausted by the process. How long before you said "this is crazy, I'm outta here!"?

No one in their right mind would shop at that store. They'd find a department store where all the items had labels and price tags.

Substitute color notations for labels and this is exactly the situation in paint store world right now. Some stores have paint brands that have notations. And some do not.

Sounds half hopeful, right? Not so fast. Sadly, the people who own/work in the paint stores that do have brands with notations have not one fat clue their brand has a color system loaded behind it - let alone what to do with the actual notation.

So, unfortunately, @williamsem nailed it. Most people are left with aimlessly combing through chips and sticking with the company with the chip you like.

Bonne chance my colorful friends.

P.S. Thanks @linelle for the kind words.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 1:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

linelle, you are so right. I've been looking for a soft gray for my current house. I found Martha Stewart's Ice Rink. So pretty, so soft, so nicely gray - until I hold it up against the wall. Then it's baby blue. Phfffffffttttt......

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 1:52AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Have rounded drywall corners, do I do rounded baseboard?
We are redoing the millwork in our 1995 house. We...
SW Kilm Beige
If you have used this color, would you please tell...
help with retudorfying my house one step at a time
My front steps have succumb to the coldest February...
Office Desks - Coordinating Styles
Hello all, I'm working on my home office, and I'm excited...
Before I Take the Tags Off........
What do you think? DH & I got this BHG set (and...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™