How to Pick the Perfect GRAY PAINT…. A Popular Color choice of the Moment

The color Gray, one of the most popular interior decorating trends of the moment, you see it on everything from paint, fabric, carpeting and on painted wood furniture.

The color Gray, one of the most popular interior decorating trends of the moment, you see it on everything from paint, fabric, carpeting and on painted wood furniture.

If you look through interior decorating magazines, go to show houses, or even watch reality shows on TV, you will see gray interiors everywhere. Gray, be it light and silvery or dark and slate toned has taken the place of the colors gold, red and green which for years were used constantly. I think with the national obsession for all things that look Pottery Barn, gray has become the perfect new neutral color for a person who wants something different from the classic colors of the past.

Looking at the different colors of gray.. When a person thinks about the color gray, the first thing that comes to mind is a color that is made up by mixing a bit of black and white together. Those two colors combined do make gray, but there are many more tones, tints and shades of gray that are more color complex than that. The book, the musical and soon to be movie titled 50 Shades of Grey kind of sums it up.

Now let’s look at some different shades and tones of gray. IMG_0041

When it comes to gray, or any other colors, there are really many different variations of that color. Looking at the paint color strips (shown above) the darkest color on those strips (shown on the bottom) is called a shade and the lightest color on the strips (shown on the top) is called a tint. All the different tones between the shade and tint were made by adding different amounts of pure white to the darkest shade. All of the different color tones, on each of the individual strips, are from the same color family.

Now look at the paint color sample strip that is numbered 1. Paint strip #1 is probably the closest, (with this brand of paint), that you get a gradation from almost black to white. If you look closely at the top three lightest tones of gray, you will see that the paint colors have a bit of a gold/yellow undertone to them. All of the paint samples on this strip have yellow in them as part of their base color.

When looking at all the different samples of paint colors at a paint store, you will see that not all, but many of the paint colors have golden-yellow undertones. The yellow undertones, subtle as they might be, warm the color up a bit. On paint color sample fans, a color of paint will change from being cool (blue bases) to warm (yellow based) as it travel along through the progression of paint sample strips. Sometimes a color doesn’t have to go through too many changes to go from cool to warm. (An example of this, on a paint color fan, is when you look at peach which is a warm yellow based color, that turns into a salmon which is a warm yellow based pink, and the salmon can start going / progressing toward true pink which does not have golden-yellow undertones, and then onto mauve as it gets cooler and more blue toned).

In the world of painting, a color is grayed by adding a bit of its opposite from the color wheel. Red is grayed by green, as is green grayed by red. Blue is grayed by orange, as is orange grayed by blue, and yellow is grayed by purple (violet) as is purple (violet) grayed by yellow. In the world of interior and exterior house paints, I think, all the primary paint colorants have some black in them to also gray the colors.

Paint sample number 2 shows different variations of gray-blue. There are blue undertones to the different gray color samples. IMG_0043 Paint sample number 3 shows a variety of grays with mauve (purplish) undertones.

Paint color samples numbered 4 are called taupe. Taupe is a combination of gray and beige (brown). The lighter versions of taupe on this paint color strip show, like paint samples #1, that there is a bit of yellow added to the paint color which gives this taupe sample a subtle golden/yellow tone. IMG_0045 Paint color samples numbered 5 show a transition of gray-green at the top to gray-beige (taupe) in the middle, and gray-gold at the bottom. On paint color samples strips you will see that probably most/all colors of paints have a grayed version.

Picking the Right Color of Gray… To picking the right color of gray for your home, you should thing about pulling it from an Inspiration Piece. A granite, marble, quartz, Corian or Formica counter top in your kitchen could be a good starting point, or a fireplace front clad in stone, ceramic or marble is another. If you have gray as part of your house’s color story, as seen on upholstery or drapery fabric, patterned carpeting, a large painting with many different shades of gray on it, or even painted wood furniture you can start from there.

Now let’s look at some stone samples and some gray paint colors pulled from the stones, that a person could use if the stones shown were their inspiration pieces. IMG_0050 This stone sample, which I don’t know if it is marble or granite, has a lot of gray, gray-green and gray-violet colors in it. The paint samples that I put next to it show a gray that has subtle green undertones. If you look closely at the darkest colors on the stone, the darkest shade on the paint color strip almost perfectly matches the color on the stone. The lightest tint on this paint color strip is very close to the veining on the stone. Any of the colors on the paint color strip would be perfect for wall colors, as they compliment the stone which is the inspiration piece /focal point. IMG_0053 This stone sample is the same as the one just shown, but this time I put a gray-violet paint sample next to it. As I said before this stone sample is gray, gray-green and gray-violet colored. Look at how, by changing the paint color samples from gray-green to gray-violet, that all of a sudden it highlighted different aspects of the stone. The number one thing that I want you to take away from this is that you have more than one right option for gray colors.IMG_0059 This stone sample is flanked by two different paint color strips that are right next to each other on a paint color fan. The paint samples on the left all have subtle golden-yellow undertones to them, where as the paint sample strip on the right is a bit more taupe/gray-beige colored. Like the previous stone and paint samples shown, you can see many of the colors that appear on the stone are also seen on the paint strip. Any of the colors from either of the sample strips would compliment the stone inspiration piece.

Picking a tone of gray to go with gray fabric, carpeting or painted wood furniture is the same as picking a gray to go with stone. Take your paint color strips and slowly pass them over, or lay them next to the gray thing(s) you have. When you find a gray on your paint color strip that exactly matches the gray that is on your inspiration piece, any of the other colors of gray on that paint color strip will work perfectly with what you have. Remember all of the colors on that single strip are from the same color family.

When picking a gray for your walls think about going for a lighter tone. All tones of paint will shadow a bit and seem darker than they really are during different times of the day. Too many people go into show houses, or see perfectly lit dark gray toned rooms in magazines and think they would like something like that in their house. A gray room that is kind of dark by day might look cavernous at night. If you really are attracted to the darker tones of gray, think about painting one wall, the focal point / accent wall, in the dark color and do the other walls in one of the lighter shades from that same paint color strip. (click here to read a post I wrote about painting an accent walls). Dark gray rooms can be very dramatic, but they can also seem to close in on you if you don’t counterbalance them with light colored upholstered furniture, drapery fabrics and many art objects and mirrors. (click here to read my post about adding light accents to dark rooms). Lighting is crucial in dark rooms. Dark colors seem to eat up light, so add extra lighting with table lamps and floor lamps, (click here and here to read about them).

If you find a tone of gray that you like, but still think it is a bit too dark for you, ask the person at the paint store if they have even lighter versions of that color, or if they can lighten the lightest tint on that paint color strip. Just make sure they write down the paint formula in case you need / want more.

I once tried helping a person who had a beautiful granite island that probably measured 6 feet by 10 feet in an open concept kitchen, dining room, living room area. The person wanted to work with grays. The granite had a lot of gray-mauve tones in it. I isolate a few really great paint colors choices that would perfectly go with / compliment the stone. Being such a large size element in that space it was the focal point of that great room. The person dismissed the color options, from light to dark saying “they were just too mauve, and wanted something else”. The thing I want to say here is that sometimes a person has something in their mind’s eye, or thinks there is something out there that is better than what is offered, and the truth is, what they are offered is the best they will ever get. So if you have something like the 6 foot by 10 foot gray-mauve granite counter, you will have to go with white, or some kind of off-white with gray-mauve undertones, or one of the different tones from the gray-mauve paint strip for the best results.

Finally, when looking for gray paint color options, go to many different paint stores and pick up every possible tone of gray they have. Different manufacturers of paint have different versions of paint colors. Take the samples home and slowly pass them by the things you have, so you can narrow them down to a few choices. After that, go back to the paint store and get 4, 6, or even 8 of the same samples of the colors that really interest you. Cut the samples from the strips and tape them together to make one big sample of that color. Tape your big sample of the paint color up on the wall with painter’s tape and study it in the morning, at noon and at night with your light on. You should then be able to decide which color is the right one for you.

Companion Posts
When Decorating a Beige Room, think Tones, Texture and Sculptural interest 3-16-2011,
ADD Color to a Beige Room with Accessories 4-2-2011,
Picking the Right Paint color to go with the Wood in your Home…Color Theory 3-9-2013
Pick (Use) Four Colors when Decorating a Room 3-7-2011,
Paint a Room a Dark Color then Add Light Accents 3-27-2011.

The Right Height of Table Lamp for your End Table 5-19-2011,
Matching the Right Shape End Table with a Table Lamp 1-12-2014,
Looking at the Different Shapes of Lamp Bases 12-20-2013.

(Arranging Furniture)
Arranging Furniture, so Sofas Talk to Chairs, Like the Pros do 9-7-2012,
Arranging Furniture TWELVE different ways in the Same Room 9-15-2012,
Arranging Furniture around a Fireplace in the Corner of a Room 9-29-2012.

(Hanging Curtains and Drapes)
The Right Way to Hang Curtains and Drapes 5-3-2011,
Hanging Valances, Curtains and Drapes on Different kinds of Windows 7-15-2012


About fredgonsowskigardenhome

Your eyes deserve to view beauty. I hope Fred Gonsowski Garden Home helps to turn your vision, into a reality.
This entry was posted in Interior Decorating Principles, Picking Paint Colors Interior / Exterior / Front Door / Roof. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to How to Pick the Perfect GRAY PAINT…. A Popular Color choice of the Moment

  1. Darlene says:

    Love your blogs! Looking forward to more of them. You would make a wonderful design teacher (if you’re not one already). Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge.

  2. Dawn Reckers says:

    Forgive me, as thinking about the yellow v. Blue based concept is new to me. I want to paint my bedroom grey, but I am hesitant as our furniture in that room is lighter colored wood. I am thinking choices similar to samples 1 and 4 would be the best with the furniture. Am I thinking correctly?

    • Hi there Dawn, both paint color strips 1 and 4 are yellow based. Look at the lighter tints and you can see the hint of yellow in them. I would say go and get every gray paint color strip the paint store has and place them up against your wood furniture and fabrics and see what paint tones work with the different pieces of your decorating puzzle. Good luck with your project!

  3. Susan Anderson says:

    I have a lot of green and yellow in my house . I do not want to throw away or recover everything .the decorator has suggested lofty gray for the walls . I am wondering if I should instead find a gray with beige/ yellow overtones or even green overtone. Please suggest and give me your thoughts
    Susan Anderson

    • Hi there Susan, I would suggest a “Taupe” (gray-beige) with golden undertones. I would also add a bit of red-orange (tomato red) to the room for accents (depending on tones of green and yellow that you have).

      Have you read my post titled Pick (Use) four colors when Decorating a Room. You might have other colors in your house to go with the room.

      My main suggestion when picking the color for the paint is to have samples of your fabrics with you when looking at the paint colors. Don’t just pick a paint color at the paint store and go with it. Instead pass your fabrics by all of the grays that attract you, take home every paint color chip that smiles at you and look at them in your home. When you find a few paint colors that attract you, go back to the paint store, get many of the same paint color chips and tape them together to make an even larger sample of the paint, then decide from that.

      Also look at How to Pick paint colors that go with an Oriental Rug/Carpet. You aren’t working with a patterned carpet, but it will help you look at color.

      Good luck with your project.

  4. Susan Anderson says:

    I meant undertones

  5. Grace Demaio says:

    I just redecorated a sitting room off of my kitchen in mostly “blush” (light pink). This room is connected to the kitchen by granite which is mostly mauve with gray, black, silver. The cabinets are white with stainless steel appliances. So these rooms are beautifully coordinated but I have to choose a paint color to complement them. I definitely don’t want pink walls! I want something beautiful and classy. The only color that comes to mind is gray, but I don’t want boring. I know there are hundreds of grays, perhaps one that has a very slight rose undertone might do? I haven’t come across anything like that in Ben Moore or Sherwin Williams. I am open to any suggestions. Thank you.

    • Hi there Grace, as soon as I read your description of the space, (but not seeing it myself), I thought, how about painting the walls a darker tone of the pink, more like a red. If you find your blush pink on a paint color strip, there will be a darker tone of that color, which is called a shade, your blush would be a tint. Lighter tones of a shade are made by adding white to it. If you pick any of the darker colors from the same paint color strip, any of those colors will work with your blush, because they are from the same color family. Grace go out and find the darker colors, bring home like six samples of the same color strips and cut out each color and tape six or so of the same sample together to make a larger sample of that paint color. Take painters tape, if you have it, and tape the samples to the wall, and lay the paint samples next to what you already have and see which one smiles at you. Also remember, paint colors do shadow a bit, which means they can look darker according to the light in the room and time of day, so look at them at different times of the day. Also read my posts, Paint a room a Dark Color, then add light Accents, and Pick (Use) four colors when Decorating a Room. Those posts might be helpful to you. Best of luck with your decorating project.

      • Grace Demaio says:

        Thank you so much for the guidance. It will help me a lot. I appreciate your time.

      • Hi there Grace, I had another thought about the color, how about some shade of green, possibly a celery or blue green. Green is a neutral of sorts, think about every flower has some kind of green stem. Pink and green are really opposites on the color wheel, so that color might appeal to you also. If you can go to fabric stores and take a sample of your blush paint with you and see if there is a fabric with your blush on it and a companion tone of green that you think would work with what you’ve done so far. I hope you read this note, having probably looked for me to respond one time.

      • Grace Demaio says:

        How interesting that you wrote this! I was just sitting here thinking that green is a possibility because I also have a little bit of green in the blush room. Love those colors together. So things are starting to come together in my mind. So comforting to hear that we were on the same wavelength. Thank you again.

      • Hi there Grace, glad you came back and saw my second comment. I think you were supposed to see it, and I was supposed to come up with a second choice for you. Find that green on a paint color strip and either match it or pick a lighter or darker version of that color, from that one paint color strip, and you will do just fine. Now have fun and relax, as you know you are going in the right direction ;-}

      • Grace Demaio says:

        Thank you again. I believe it’s going to be a celery green. All along, I’ve had a beautiful pillow on the couch in blush/celery green! Sometimes we just have to explore a little. It’s fun when it starts to come together.

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