Two weeks ago when John shared this post about the times that we’ve made bad painting decision, we received a bunch of requests for a follow up post in the comments:
Q: I guess I just have a hard time picking colors because I have a hard time telling which swatches have grey or brown undertones. Maybe you can show some swatches (of say the teal from the built ins). One that has a grey or brown undertone and one that is more saturated? It might be helpful to see them side by side! – Aubrey
Q: Thank you for this! I actually think tip #3 (pick a muddier color) surprised me the most because I’d never heard that or thought of that. But it rings so true in my experience! Although colors don’t show up perfectly on monitors, I would *LOVE* to see a post with color samples and explanations like, “We love this peacock blue, but we think it would be too garish on a wall. Instead, we’d try this color, and probably get the effect we’re looking for.” -Heyruthie
Sounded like a good time to us. Comparative swatches will probably demonstrate more than words ever could. So let’s just let the swatches do the talking. First we have the bold and fun color you might be going for on the left, so if you envision a deep teal tone, you might be tempted to use Classic Teal after seeing the swatch. But on the right, we put the swatch for Plumage, which is actually what we used in our guest room. See how grayed out the swatch looks?
Yet on the walls it’s every bit as bold as we hoped!
Colors in general – and especially dark ones – seem to amplify by a TON when they’re up on the walls, so we’ve had luck picking the ones that look a bit faded or grayed out, knowing that once they’re up on the walls they’ll look a lot more clear and bold. You can read more on the guest room here.
Next we have a swatch on the left that you might be tempted to pick if you want a bright and happy accent of pink – perhaps for the door of a kids room, like we used on Clara’s closet. But the swatch on the right is actually the one that we picked. A small square of it looks a lot more muted (sort of faded) compared to the bold and happy color on the left…
… but once it’s on a nice big area in the room (like the door), you can see how bright and clear that color reads. So even though the swatch on the left might be the pure and unfaded one you’re initially drawn to, in a nice large chunk it could almost read as neon. You can read more about Clara’s closet and those raindrops here.
Another coveted color seems to be a cheerful aqua tone, but in our re-painting-riddled experience it can be hard to get right. The color on the left is a peppy Tiffany Box blue… which is actually a color that seduced us when we moved into our first house… but once we had it on the walls of our dining room, well, it was a little overwhelming. Of course it depends on your room (someone with an amazing room full o’ light could make it look stunning) but in our experience, that color’s just not muddy enough not to get blindingly bright on the walls. So we’d be drawn to something like the swatch on the right, which should still clearly read as a pretty aqua tone in such a large quantity (here it is in a laundry room makeover).
So my general rule is that for painting smaller items (like a tray, side table, accent chair, or lamp base), those more clear/unfaded/unmuted colors can be great. But for larger expanses (doors, walls, ceilings), we tend to prefer muddier tones of the same color – like a softer aqua with more of a gray-green undertone – just so it doesn’t go from chic-tiffany-box blue to punch-you-in-the-face-when-you-walk-in blue.
The same thing seems to ring true for greens for us. Something bold and clear can work really well on a piece of furniture or a bathroom vanity (but not necessarily all of them, ha!). But when it comes to the walls, the color on the left would likely turn most rooms into Kermit Theee Frog (I love when he says his name that way). Meanwhile, the one on the right might look dull by comparison, but on the walls it could be really pretty. Sage is always gorgeous with wood trim or cabinetry, so that could be a nice choice for a kitchen with wood cabinets or a den with wood trim.
Here’s another way I thought I could attempt to illustrate the strange mystery of how a swatch with those muddy/muted undertones can almost look beige in your hand in some instances… but then when it’s on a bigger area, it’s very clearly a color. See how muted and almost wheat-toned the swatch on the left with the arrow next to it looks below? Yet when it’s in a bigger area (that’s the exact same color in a larger rectangle on the right) it definitely looks green and not tan or beige anymore.
Update: Someone asked if the muddy version of a color would typically be on the same swatch as the bright one (if you slide up or down) or if it’s on a different swatch. In our experience, it’s almost always on a different swatch, so there might be a whole range of clear tones on one swatch (from bright aqua to a light baby blue) but you’d want to go a few swatches over to the one that has a much grayer or muddier top color (like a deep blue-gray) and slide down to find those muddier counterparts.
One last example would be Dune Grass, which we used in our first house’s bathroom. It looks almost completely cream/beige/tan in a small swatch (with just a tiny hint of green) – especially when it’s arranged with other green tones that are a lot less muted…
… but in our bathroom it clearly reads as a soft green color. Once again, when it’s up on the walls, there’s just a lot more of it, and it’s definitely amplified from the neutral-looking swatch. So if you’re looking for a light or subtly colored wall (be it green, blue, pink, yellow, orange, purple, etc) you might want to consider those lighter wheat or gray toned swatches that almost look like there’s just a drop of that color in them. The result can be a room that’s clearly that color, but a soft and subtle version of it. You can read more about that big bathroom reno here.
As Heyruthie mentioned, colors aren’t always great on monitors, but hopefully just seeing these comparisons might help. And when making a final choice, the best method we’ve found has just been to bring some swatches home, check them out in our lighting situation throughout the day, and then grab a test pot (or three) of paint if we’re still nervous. Those small sample pots are only a few bucks and they can save you a whole lot of re-painting trouble.
It’s also amazing how different the same paint color can look in a variety of rooms/lighting situations, so I’m sure there are folks who’ve used those bolder colors in the left columns above with great results – so it really does depend on your room, how much light it gets, and how you layer stuff in. Like this could-have-been-blinding bright blue paint color, which looks awesome in a lofted and light-filled studio – especially when it’s tempered with lots of tan texture in those pin boards and that over-sized mirror.
Oh and since we’re on the subject of buying paint, here are a few tips we’ve learned over the years about scoring a discount:
- “Oops paint” can be awesome (it’s someone else’s already-mixed paint that has been returned for some reason, but it’s usually extremely marked down as low as $1 for a whole gallon, so you can even get a few cans and mix them in the hopes of creating a color you like for a serious discount).
- If you have a favorite paint shop (ours is a local place called Virginia Paint), you might want to pop over to their Facebook page and click the Like button or sign up for their mailing list. By doing that you’ll often be alerted if they’re running sales or specials, and sometimes you can save $10 or even score 40% off.
- If you get paint from a big box store like Home Depot, you can hit up their website and check out their Paint Promotions page.
- You can also get 5% off any purchase at Home Depot or Lowe’s if you use your store credit card there (Lowe’s does it automatically, and you just have to ask for Home Depot to match the 5% off that Lowe’s provides when you’re checking out and they will).
- Sherwin Williams tends to run some great specials. In fact right now they’re having their big 40% off sale. And I’ve heard you can buy untinted gallons (like a whole bunch of them) for 40% off and then bring them back later to get them tinted at no charge (I’d check with your individual store, but that’s the rumor). So even if you’re not sure what colors you want right now, if you have a bunch of rooms to paint it’s a great way to save serious loot.
- It never hurts to click around on any paint website for promotion info. Right now Behr is having a $5 off promotion and Benjamin Moore is offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal on a quart of paint.
Do you guys have any other paint undertone tips to share? Or just some stories about going for the wrong swatch? Any other tips for getting paint at a discount?
Sorry to anyone looking for Weekly Crafty posts on Tuesdays, it seems that they’ve shifted to Thursdays for the past two weeks! Since my hands are still recovering from staple pulling, more wallpaper peeling, and more painting (we’re doing our stair risers today so we can hopefully install the runner this weekend and have that post for you on Monday), I wanted to pick something fun & easy for this week’s crafty little endeavor. And here’s where I ended up: with a big ol’ hand-painted planter full of succulents and colorful cacti.
You know I like sharing house plants that we’re adding/loving/killing every once in a while (like this and this), and this project all started when I found some glass/ceramic paint on clearance at JoAnn for $1.97…
I don’t think I’ve ever used specifically formulated glass or ceramic paint, so a maiden voyage like this is thrilling for a gal like me (seriously, it falls somewhere between finding a five dollar bill in my coat pocket and a new episode of The Walking Dead on my DVR). At first I gave a few other project ideas some consideration – like painting mugs, a vase, or some ceramic candlesticks – and then I saw this amazing planter and said “boom, I’m going planter.” Just like that. Out loud and everything.
The reason for a planter was two-fold. Clara had showed some interest in the colorful cacti at Home Depot the last time we walked by, and I’d been meaning to grab her one or two so we could care for them together. The second reason was that about a week ago I was going through our serving bowls and noticed there were some big winners we use all the time, and one shallow bowl that we hardly touched. But when I saw that inspiration planter, I realized the shape of my poor abandoned bowl was similar. And it was nice and big (around 17″ wide) so I thought it would make for a sweet centerpiece at the kitchen table when it was all said and done.
So Clara and I took a trip to Home Depot, where we got a little carried away. We stared at everything, discussed their merits and shortcomings (“I like this one because it’s extra pokey!” “I like this one because it’s yellow like a lemon!”) and ended up grabbing 10 plants. Five of them were colorful cacti and the other five were smaller/cheaper succulents to fill things in. All told, it was around $30 in plants (I told you we got carried away) so I’m pretty dang invested in this project now – but Clara is so excited. Begging: please share your cactus care tips if you have any! I don’t want to kill these guys.
As we were checking out the cashier sweetly told me to mix some sand into the soil when I potted them because they like that and dropped the fact that they actually sell Cactus Sand for a few bucks if I don’t have sand on hand to mix. After
embracing her with tears in my eyes thanking her profusely, Clara and I grabbed a bag (when you put $30 into plants, $3 for the dirt they like best felt like a nice insurance policy for a black thumb like me).
Once home with our haul, the first step was ceramic painting, which had me torn. If I wanted to be literal about it, I could paint the entire outside of the bowl like the one that inspired me, but I liked the idea of some white with a fun slice of blue around those colorful cacti, so I decided to paint the inner lip of the planter with my teal ceramic paint. The best of both worlds. Kinda like Two Face. Except less gruesome and eye-ball-y.
Applying the paint inside the lip was easy enough…
I just followed the instructions: wiping down the part I was going to paint with alcohol, letting it dry, and painting a nice even coat with a small craft brush. I did my best to keep the line around the lip of the bowl even, and since the paint was really slow to dry, if I messed up and got a blob up on the lip, just wiping it with a paper towel left me with a nice clean edge once again. The paint was non-toxic so I could have done it with Clara (I did it right in front of her) but she said “call me when it’s time to touch the dirt!” Funny kid.
Oh and the reason I didn’t bother painting the entire inside of the bowl was because I figured I’d rather conserve my paint for another project instead of using it on a large part of the planter that wouldn’t be seen once the dirt was added.
To cure the paint on ceramic and glass surfaces, you can either let it air dry for a while, or you can speed things up by baking it in the oven. Although this was a serving dish, it was only microwave and dishwasher safe – not oven safe – so I skipped that step and just opted for the air drying approach. After a few days it was no longer tacky, so I decided the lip could continue to cure even after the pot was in use and Clara and I could commence the much anticipated Adding Of The Dirt.
The plants were spikey so we had to be careful, but she had a lot of fun dumping cups of dirt into the bowl and digging little holes for me to drop the plants into.
Now every night at dinner Clara and I talk about our favorite plants (they all have names) and check to make sure nothing’s giving up on us. So far, so good! Maybe the bean will grow up to be a botanist. Or a paleontologist. The dirt was definitely her favorite part…
In the end, this project only took about thirty minutes to gather my supplies, and another twenty spent painting that lip, followed by around 15 minutes to pot things with Clara in our special cactus sand, but I hope it’s a kitchen centerpiece that lasts for years and makes us smile. I actually really like the bright pot + succulents thing, so I’m thinking I might make a bunch more as holiday gifts and even some little ones for the neighbors (one small cactus and a little brightly painted pot should only be around $7 total – and I can try stripes and dots and a dipped bottom, etc).
Is anyone else out there painting ceramic or glass items? Or planting something inside to add a little life to the house as we head into the colder months? How about homemade holiday gift ideas? I’m flirting with the concept of trying to DIY all of them this year, but it might lead to final-hour hyperventilation, so I’m not sure yet.
Psst – Can’t shake the crafty? Check out nearly 50 other craft projects here.