Paint it off white - sounds so simple! - Property Women

Paint it off white – sounds so simple!

Sounds simple right?  But in reality choosing paint is not as simple as it sounds.

Believe it or not, choosing the right “off-white” can be agonising. I watch customers flounder as they stand in a store surrounded by harsh, artificial, commercial lighting, and try to imagine what the colour that they are looking at on a tiny cardboard swatch will translate to on the walls of their newest project.

I train retail staff in colour nationally for Inspirations Paint and Colour. In our courses we focus at length on the differences between the neutrals as it is the dilemma most of our customers struggle with.

Basic paint facts:

Paint colours are created by adding tinters to a paint base, much like food colouring being added to a cake mix. Each tinter is a definite colour. The amount of tinter and the combination of tinters will determine the resultant colour.

In the case of a neutral paint the base will be white. (Stronger colours require a different base paint.) Off-whites are still light and neutral in their appearance, but vary significantly according to the tinters and amounts added.

The underhue (hue being another word for colour) is the colour that the paint throws once it is on the wall. I can guarantee you some underhues, particularly yellows or blues, will take on a life of their own once on the wall.

Trends dictate the underhue of the day. Even if you are someone that likes to buck trends, there is some logic in following the trends when it comes to your base neutral. You will then find it easy to co-ordinate furniture and furnishings. The designers of fabrics, carpets and tiles release products onto the market and they have particular neutrals that we need to match with our paint. At the moment the trend is for neutrals to have a dirty, brownish underhue. (Dulux Hogbristle half strength is a safe bet currently).

If the resultant underhue is red, orange, yellow or earthy brown, then the room will feel “warm”. If the resultant underhue is blue, green or blue/grey, then the room will feel “cool”. Despite warm neutrals being great as compensation for south facing windows and cool neutrals compensating for west facing windows, the preference for warm or cool is usually a personal one.

Opacity is another factor that needs to be considered with neutrals. Opacity refers to coverage. The best example I have found to explain opacity is make-up. Some foundations cover all our blemishes, others appear thinner and blemishes show through. With paints, we want good coverage. Your paint stores should know if the colour you choose has a potential coverage problem. Generally, if your neutral has some black tinter in it, it should cover well and if it has a lot of yellow in it, it is potentially problematic.

Here are some steps you can take to hopefully eliminate the risk of making mistakes:

  • compare your neutral swatch with other neutrals to see the underhue,
  • compare your neutral swatch with plain white to see the underhue,
  • match your neutral with actual swatches of other materials you are using (tiles, floorboards, carpets, fabrics),
  • purchase a sample pot,
  • brush the sample onto a large sheet of cardboard or a left over piece of plaster,
  • observe the sample in the space it is to be used in,
  • observe the sample at different times of the day, and at night with your artificial lighting on,
  • move the sample from room to room as each room receives natural light differently.

Neutrals are great to use in projects where you are decorating to appeal to a large number of prospective buyers or tenants. They are also a fabulous backdrop for artwork and feature walls. Where strong colours are used from room to room, neutrals can be used for architraves, skirting boards and doors to create a flow through the home.

Happy decorating!

This article was provided by Sue Strickland


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