How to Mix Interior House Paint Colors

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Mixing your own custom interior paint colors doesn't require a degree in paint chemistry. If you have some leftover paint in your house, save a little money by using it up with some clever mixing tips. Different paints can be mixed together as long as they're all the same base--water or oil. You can also use colorants to custom-tint your own paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint
  • 2 5-gallon buckets
  • Paint stir sticks
  • Colorants
  • Paint strainer

Use Existing Paint

  • Calculate how much paint you will need for the job. Use the paint calculator linked to in the Resources section, and don't forget to factor in the number of coats of paint you will need. If you are changing either the color or the sheen of paint, figure on at least two coats. Paint is available in quarts, gallons and 5-gallon buckets.

  • Do an inventory of your existing paint. Open each can and make sure it is still fresh. Stir it to ensure it's not lumpy. Have a clean 5-gallon bucket ready for mixing the paint.

  • Decide what colors you can make by mixing your interior paint together. For instance, if you have 1/2 gallon of pink and 1/2 gallon of light green, they will create beige when mixed together. Add white or lighter paint to go lighter, or darker colors to deepen the shade.

  • Experiment with your colors, mixing them together in small increments in the 5-gallon bucket. Once you have a shade you are happy with, paint a swatch of it on a card. Any paint store will be able to match this color exactly, should you need more.

  • Pour the paint from the bucket into a second 5-gallon bucket, using a strainer if there are any lumps or shreds of dried paint. Paint strainers are lightweight mesh bags available at any paint store--a clean pair of nylon hose will work just as well. Thoroughly mix it again.

Using Colorants

  • Purchase colorants online (see Cal-Tint link in Resources), or at paint and craft stores. These are concentrated tinting colors similar to what is used to tint pain in paint stores. Use them sparingly and carefully, as some can be very strong.

  • Mix the colorants slowly into white or off-white paint in a 5-gallon bucket to achieve a shade you like. Remember that most paint will dry a little darker on the wall than it appears in the can.

  • Follow step five above to ensure the paint is completely mixed.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the color you've mixed turns out darker than you like, purchase some white paint and mix it in until you get the right shade.
  • It is fine to mix together paints of different sheens (like flat and semi gloss) and even paints by different manufacturers, as long as they are all water- or oil-based.
  • When mixing paints together, or stirring in colorants, always do so in very small increments. It's easy to ruin a whole batch by adding too much of the wrong color.

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