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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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, 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