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Paint It's All About Tint

By Susan D Ferrell

1. Have you ever wondered how paint is made?

2. Have you ever wondered why some colors cover better than others?

3. Have you ever heard the words overtone and undertones?

4. Have you ever wondered why some colors make you feel differently than others?

5. Have you ever heard of the term Tint Blots before?

Well then, you are in luck because I happen to know the answers to those questions.

How Paint Is Made

House paint starts with a base (foundation) that consists of a binder, liquid, and additives. Each of these elements determines the performance, durability, and finish of the paint. Not all bases or even brands of paint, for that matter, are equal in quality.

The paint color is created by adding tint, also known as colorant or pigment, to the base in various hues and amounts. The can is placed into a shaker which blends the ingredients, creating the desired color. But did you know that not all paints are made from the same base?

Base 1 is for white and pastel colors.

Base 2 is for mid to bold colors.

Base 3 and 4 are for bright and dark colors.

Basically, the more tint needed to make the color determines the base. A Base 1 has more foundation in the can than a Base 3 or 4 does. The reason being is because if it didn't, the tint needed to make bright or dark colors would overflow the can, and nobody wants that to happen.

One Two or Three Coats

This brings us to question two, why do some colors cover better than others. Did you know that some pigments are naturally more translucent than others and will affect the opaqueness or transparency of the paint? And as we just learned, not all brands are equal in quality. But the color you are painting over also determines how many coats it will take to cover it. Even though pastels are generally more opaque than their bolder counterparts, that doesn't necessarily mean they will cover over a darker shade with one coat.

It has been my experience that dark or bright colors tend to need more than one coat of paint. However, if you paint over a similar color in depth-of-tone, you may get away with one coat. If you are unsure, you can use a tinted primer as your foundation. Professional painters find that a gray primer that matches the desired color in tone provides an accurate match and fewer coats than a white primer.

SideBar: Regardless of what color I am using, I always paint two coats. Not sure if it's me or the roller, but I tend to have skip marks with the first coat.

Overtone and Undertones

The meaning of overtone and undertones in question 4 refers to the dominant color that you see (overtone) and the tints used to make up that specific hue (undertones.) These tints also lend to the cool or warm appearance of the paint.

SideBar: Usually, I can look at a color like taupe, for example, and see undertones like blue, red, or green. Even though I like green, I tend to stay away from colors with a green undertone because it makes me feel ill or uneasy, which segues nicely into our next question.

Colour and Our Psyche

Question four is a bit trickier to answer. Colour is a very personal choice that evokes positive or negative feelings depending on our experience with them. For example, I like most shades of green. It evokes feelings of peace and happiness. Perhaps it's because I enjoy gardening and going for hikes in the woods. My sister-in-law, however, hates the color green and would never use it in her home.

Is there a coalition between colors and our emotions, most professionals agree that there is. While researching this topic, I found an intriguing article, "The effects of colors on behavior" that you might find interesting.

I also compiled a list of primary, secondary, and neutral tones and the feelings they may arouse. It is a general guide to keep in mind before you choose paint colors. But as I explained before, it will depend on your experience with the colors and which ones you add to your decorating palette.

Red is a primary color that evokes feelings of excitement, passion, intimacy, and romance. It is widely used in advertising because it is generally the first color our eyes are drawn to. If using red on all four walls does not appeal to you, try it on an accent wall. If you are still a little nervous about painting your walls red, you can add this warm color to your decorating palette with accent pieces such as; pillows, wall art, and window treatments.

Yellow is a primary color that induces happy feelings; it recharges and uplifts us. I also read that it stimulates brain activity. A bold yellow may not be the right choice as the primary color in a child's bedroom, especially if you want them to sleep. However, using it as an accent will give your palette a spark of happiness. Yellow is a warm color that is well suited for a study or work area.

Orange is a secondary color known as the hue of happiness. It has a combination of yellow and red, giving it the power of energy and excitement. It's a warm color that evokes feelings of friendship and good cheer. Adding accents of this hue to your front foyer might be welcoming touch.

Blue is a primary color that evokes feelings of dependability and nurturing. It also has a calming effect that eases tension and nervousness. Because it promotes a sense of tranquility, it will work well in a bedroom, bathroom, and spa. Blue is a cool color that coordinates well with most colors on your palette.

Green is a secondary color. It evokes feelings of balance and freshness and reminds us of the outdoors. It has a combination of yellow and blue, giving us a happy, relaxed sensation. Like blue, green is a cool color that will work well in any room, especially in a bedroom, bathroom, or spa. It, too, coordinate well with most colors on your palette.

Purple is a secondary color that arouses creativity and curiosity. It combines the excitement of red with the tranquility of blue. It will work well in a studio, workspace, or a child's play area to help stimulate the imagination. This cool color coordinates well with most shades, but especially so with green, blue and yellow.

Brown is a neutral color that prompts feelings of stability and security. It is also known as an efficient color. Brown is a combination of red, yellow, and blue. When used only on its own, it can promote feelings of complacency. Brown is an excellent choice to start point of your palette. Depending on the shade or tint, it coordinates well with most colors.

Black is considered a shade rather than an actual color. When added in small amounts to other hues, it gives them depth and dimension. Using too much black in your room will promote feelings of gloom and foreboding. However, black accent pieces like coffee and end tables can add a stately appeal to your decor. It will coordinate with any color on your palette.

White is considered a tint rather than an actual color. When added to other hues, white lightens them and adds a touch of gentle airiness. Using white accent pieces introduces a crisp, clean appeal to your surroundings and will brighten your space. However, if used in too great of an amount, it can make your room look sterile, pristine and promote uneasy feelings. White in its true form will coordinate with any color on your palette.

Gray is a neutral color that evokes feelings of balance and fairness. Too much gray, however, can dampen the mood in your space. Gray is the combination of black and white and, in its true form, coordinates well with all colors, no matter the shade or tone. However, today's grays come in various shades with cool or warm undertones that might not go well with all hues.

The Art of Tint Blots

Did you know that when tints are added to a base, it creates intriguing patterns.? Watching the blending of the ingredients is mesmerizing, especially if you are using a base 2 or 3. The result is similar to adding dish soap and drops of food coloring to a bowl of milk. If you haven't tried this experiment with the kids or grandkids yet, you should; it's very cool.

What is a Tint Blot, then? Simply it is the name I coined for the art I created using photographs of those patterns. Let me explain. Once upon a time, I worked for a manager that appreciated my creativity. She allowed me to take pictures of the designs before the paint was mixed. Luckily the customers found the images intriguing, and it gave us something to talk about while they waited for their order. Like the art of acrylic pour, no two Tint Blots are ever the same, even if you are mixing the same overtone.

Here are some of my favorite Tint Blots. I have paired the original tint with the artwork that I created with it. I did not alter the original photos; that is how the pigments bubbled to the surface. The artwork was created by loading the images into a Microsoft Word document. First, I used the Picture Tools Bar to change the color and contrast. I added an artist effect, played with the background, and embellished a couple of them with inspirational words and poems.

I hope you found Paints It's All About Tint informative and engaging. Would you mind adding questions about the article or feedback on my artwork to the comment section below?

Stay tuned for our next series Decorating Made Easy with Wall Art, where I'll show how easy it is to decorate your space with wall art as your starting point.

Susan D. Ferrell was a kitchen designer and Home Improvement sales specialist. She has fifteen years of experience assisting customers with their renovation and interior decorating projects in various home improvement environments. Presently, she is transitioning from sales to writing content about the industry, related products, and services. Susan specializes in kitchen designing, color coordination, visual art, and merchandising.


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