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Why Picking the Right Paint Undertone Matters

Have you ever picked a paint color that you fell in love with on a color chip, only to paint a room and realize it looks nothing like you thought it would?

There are several reasons this can happen, but one of the most important is light and how the light in a room interacts with that color. According to Sherwin-Williams, paint never exists alone; it always exists in relation to light. So the light that your room gets will change how the color appears on your wall.

Take a room flooded with natural light, for example. If you paint it an orange or red hue, the natural sunlight will counteract the bluish tones in paint to produce a warm glow. When the sun sets, however, or if the sky is overcast, that same room can look stark and cold--or too dark, depending on the circumstance.

Working with a contractor and designer who understands color theory will help you best understand how different colors will react with the light your rooms receive. They can also help you understand how undertones affect paint color and why that matters. All colors except primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) are created by mixing colors. Created colors have masstones and undertones. A masstone is the color you immediately identify when you see a color: purple, turquoise, beige. An undertone is the underlying color that distinguishes it from other colors.

For example, if a beige is made with more green, it takes on a green-ish undertone. If it’s made with more red, it takes on a pink undertone.

Why does all this matter? Because it seems simple to “match” or coordinate one masstone to another (for instance, white looks great with blue); but if the undertone of the blue is too green and the undertone of the white is too red, the colors won’t go well together at all.

It’s true that it can become difficult to determine which colors will ultimately work together if you’re not accustomed to identifying and coordinating undertones. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it on your own, though. You can strive to have all warm or all cool undertones, and make sure you’re taking each element of your space into consideration: walls, floors, countertops, hardware, etc.

Or, you can work with your contractor and your designer (or us, if you want someone who does it all) to make sure your favorite colors work together in a way that best serves your space and your design aesthetic.

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