Answer: I’ve had more than one person come to me with this similar dilemma- “Why does my gray paint color look [fill in the blank – blue/purple/green]?
“Unsatisfactory color is probably the most common source of failure in interior design.” – John Pile, Interior Designers, educator and author. So true, Mr. Pile. Selecting the right paint color for a particular room is not an easy design decision. And the color gray, which is the top trend right now as far as wall paint colors go (going strong still!), makes it that much harder. This is largely due to the fact that gray is the most neutral color. In a Munsell scale which ranges from 0 to 16, 0 is a neutral gray and 16 is the most saturated and pure color.
Here are some tips and notes to consider when selecting a gray paint color:
- What direction does your room face? If you’re unsure, use that handy compass app on your iPhone. If your room is North-facing, it will have more gray light with slight blue cast. This means any gray paint you select will look more blue.
- Simultaneous contrast – the affect of colors against one another. A dark brown against a large expanse of blue will appear very dark brown and a small patch of light color against a very dark color with look much lighter. What does that mean when it comes to a gray paint color that looks blue? In contrast with your your brown wood, it might look even more blue.
- Metameric Shift and LRV (Light Reflectance Value) – meaning the shift or appearance of a color in one light and another color in another light. It’s important to test your color in both the daylight it will receive and artificial light planned for the room – both affect how the paint will look on your walls. If you look at the back of your paint swatch, find the LRV number. LRV ranges from 0-100 and expresses the percentage of light reflected from a surface. The number tells you how light or dark your paint color will look once applied to your walls. The higher the number, the more the color will lighten when exposed to light (meaning your gray color can wash out if it is flooded by illumination.)
- Understanding mass tone vs. undertones and how all the external factors affect how paint appears on your wall – Mass tones are what you see first when looking at color. The closer the undertone is to the mass tone, the purer the color. Gray paint colors usually have blue, green, or purple undertones (in contrast, beige might have yellow/green, red/pink understones). Study the undertones in addition to the other variables such as the light your room receives and if the rest of your furnishings or decor are mainly warm or cool tones. All of these factors working together will affect how your paint color will look on your walls or if it will clash.
Here is an example of how all these various elements/external factors work together and affect how paint color appears on your walls: Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray – it’s a medium gray with blue undertones. Used it in a North-facing room and no matter what you do, your walls will look blue. This color used in a room furnished with items that are mainly warmed toned may cause the overall look to seem “off” — and you might not be able to pinpoint why.
But using the factors above, you can see that: 1) The wall paint color is a gray with cool undertone (blue), (2) it is being used in a room that receives cooler light (north-facing room) adding to its blue cast, and (3) the room is furnished with warm tones and so clashes with all the ‘cool’ color choices that were made.
Taking in all these factors when selecting your wall paint color will help you avoid the headache or re-painting.
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