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A Primer on Paint Terms

Painting a room is never an easy task, and probably the most difficult task for many people is choosing the color you will use. This can be daunting, especially as we have so many more choices now than were available in years past. Where do colors like The Green Hour or Juneberry even come from, let alone how should you use them in your home?

Well, setting aside marketing names like that, there’s actually a logical system that goes into categorizing colors, along with some general guidelines on how you should use given paint colors in your home.

To start with, we consider what are called the Primary colors. These are the basic colors that, when mixed together, can create any other color needed. Typically, these are referred to by name as Red, Yellow, and Blue, though in the last few years you may have heard Cyan exchanged for Blue. How these colors mix will depend on the pigments and processes used by the manufacturer, but ultimately they are the source of the colors you’ll find on most pain swatches.

These primary colors, plus the colors you produce from mixing them, are Hues. This is the base color we are working with to then create subtle variations to match the personality of your home. From these hues we can produce Tints, Tones, and Shades.

A Tint is the basic color hue added with white to lighten the color. Tinting is helpful if you want a lighter feel to a room, reflecting more light back and enhancing the natural light of a window or skylight. A Tone is created by adding grey to the color hue, subtly darkening the color but not as much as a Shade which is the result of adding black.

All of these can affect the Intensity or Saturation of the color. These refer to the Intensity - the purity of the original color hue pigmentation. Basically, by added either white, grey, or black, you are thinning out the pigmentation mixture that creates the basic hue to create these different results.

These are some of the early basics to know when it comes to navigating paint colors, and hopefully with this knowledge in hand you can start to more systematically consider your choices. Start by looking at a basic hue, then consider tints, tones, and shades to adjust that hue to your personal needs. Next time, we’ll talk more about color theory and how considering "warm" and "cool" colors can help you decide on what paint to choose for a given room.

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