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What color do you tint with?

What color do you tint with?

When it comes to tinting, the color options are nearly endless. Tinting allows you to subtly change the tone and shade of a paint color to create the exact hue you desire for your home. While tinted paints typically start with a base white or neutral tone, the addition of tinting colorants can transform them into any color imaginable. Understanding the tinting process and the main types of tinting colorants available at paint stores is key to getting the custom color you want.

Primary Tinting Colorants

There are three primary colors used for tinting paint: red, yellow, and blue. By adjusting the amounts of these three basic hues, paint suppliers can mix up any color on the spectrum. Here is an overview of the main tinting colorants:

Red – Red tinting colorant is used to add warm, fiery tones to a paint. Adding more red will make the color deeper and more saturated. Red works well for accent walls or to give a room a cozy feel.

Yellow – Yellow colorant adds brightness and vibrancy to paints. Adding yellow will make the tone lighter, while increasing intensity. Yellows are great for sunrooms, kids’ rooms, or to achieve a cheery cottage look.

Blue – Blue tint is ideal for cooling down paint colors with a calming effect. Blue makes colors more muted and subtle. Different shades can create pale sky blues, aquas, or deeper navy tones.

Secondary Tinting Colorants

In addition to the three primary colors, most paint suppliers also use secondary colorants for tinting:

Orange – For warm, inviting paint colors, an orange tint adds a fiery glow. Orange works for accent walls, dining rooms, or exterior house colors.

Green – Green is a versatile tint for achieving natural or cool tones. Lighter greens are relaxing, while dark emerald greens have a sophisticated look.

Purple – Purple adds a rich, royal flair to painted rooms. This tint ranges from pale lavenders to deep aubergine.

Specialty Tinting Colorants

Along with the basic primary and secondary hues, there are also some specialty tinting colorants:

Black – For subtly darkening a color, adding black tint deepens shades with a sophisticated look. Black also cuts down the intensity.

Brown – Brown is an earthy, natural tint for paints. It also helps to mute colors without dulling them.

White – White is already present in base paints, but extra white tint lightens colors in a more gradual way than adding yellow.

Metallic Tints – Shimmery metallic tints like gold, silver, copper, or pearl add a glamorous, lustrous sheen.

Tinting Strength

The strength or intensity of the tinting colorant also impacts the final painted color. More concentrated tints dramatically shift a color, while weaker tints only slightly modify the original hue. Most paint stores offer tinting colorants in different strengths. For example:

Light Tint Base Only allows tinting up to 6-12 oz per gallon
Medium Tint Base Allows tinting up to 10-12 oz per gallon
Deep Tint Base Allows tinting up to 14 oz per gallon
Ultra Deep Tint Base Allows tinting up to 16 oz per gallon

Factors That Affect Tinting

When working with paint tints, it helps to keep these factors in mind:

– Undertones – Every color has subtle undertones that can shift the look when tinting. Red and yellow have warm undertones, while blue and green have cool undertones.

– Opacity vs. Transparency – Opaque tinting colors will hide what’s underneath, while transparent tints allow undertones to show through.

– Value – The lightness or darkness of a color impacts the tinting strength needed. Darker colors require heavier tinting.

– Sheen – Higher sheens like gloss amplify tinting intensity, while lower sheens need more tint to achieve the same depth.

– Base Color – Starting with white requires more tint than a base that already has color, like tan or grey.

Tinting Darker Colors

Deep, darker paint colors require special consideration when tinting. Here are some tips for effective results:

– Choose a deep or ultra-deep base to allow for heavier tinting strength.

– Add more opaque colorants like black, brown, or purple rather than translucent tints.

– Increase all tints gradually until reaching the desired hue. Avoid adding too much at once.

– View color samples on the actual wall surface, rather than color chips, to see the true undertones.

– Consider using an extra finish coat to ensure full, even color coverage with darker paints.

Tinting Lighter Colors

For light, airy paint colors, follow these guidelines when tinting:

– Select a white or light-tint base to begin with a clean palette.

– Use mainly transparent tints like yellow, green, blue to allow light through.

– Add white or very pale tints to lighten colors if needed.

– Add small amounts of tint at first and gradually intensify color.

– Use less opaque tints like orange, red, purple to avoid overpowering lightness.

– Prioritize undertones over color dominance for softness.

Tinting Neutral Colors

For versatile neutrals that go with any style, keep these tips in mind:

– Start with a base middle ground between white and deep bases for flexibility.

– Use a balance of warm and cool undertones for a natural, harmonious look.

– Add black, brown, or gray tints to mute colors without dullness.

– Limit bright primary tints to only subtle amounts for muting.

– Add the same amount of complimentary tints (red+green, blue+orange, etc.) to cancel intensity.

– Adjust opacity vs. transparency to find the ideal neutral color saturation.

Achieving Specific Color Tones

Want to end up with a specific color of paint? Here are some tinting tips for popular hues:

Soft blue: Start with white base and add small amounts of blue tint, using transparent rather than opaque blue for softness. Add a touch of black to mute the blue.

Sage green: Use a base with subtle yellow undertones. Add muted green and brown tints for an earthy feel. Soft white tint lightens the sage tone.

Warm taupe: Begin with a base that has yellow/red undertones. Add brown, purple, green, and a little black for a muted effect.

Charcoal: Choose a deep base to allow for lots of black tint. Add blue, brown, and purple for dimension. Use heavyweight opaque tints.

Robin’s egg blue: Tint a white base with transparent cyan blue and very pale yellow. Increase blue tint gradually to retain brightness.

Tinting Technology

Paint suppliers use advanced tinting machines to blend paint ingredients and colorants together. Here is an overview:

Computerized Tinting System – The computer controls dispensing precision amounts of each colorant into the paint base.

Spectrophotometer – This specialized device scans and matches paint colors for accurate tinting.

Software – Complex software databases contain millions of color formulas for precise tinting.

Colorants – High-quality concentrated tinting pigments provide vivid, consistent color.

Shakers – Mechanical paint shakers thoroughly mix the tints and base together.

Dispensing Machine – An automated machine draws from storage tanks of colorants and dispenses precise amounts.

Troubleshooting Tinting Issues

For the most color-accurate results, take these precautions with tinted paint:

– Carefully follow the paint supplier’s tinting instructions.

– Have an ample amount of the original paint base on hand for future touch-ups.

– Mix the paint thoroughly before use and periodically as you paint.

– Request color samples during the tinting process to preview the tone.

– Check that tinting equipment is recently calibrated for precision.

– Use the same paint base and formula if an additional gallon is needed.

– Allow deep colors to dry fully before determining if further tinting adjustments are needed.


With the right colorants and techniques, tinting opens up an endless rainbow of possibilities for custom paint colors. Following the tinting best practices we’ve covered will help you achieve the exact energizing, soothing, or cozy hue you have in mind. Now that you know the color options available, it’s just a matter of choosing your perfect tint.