6 Easy Steps To Color Tint Your Own Unique Paint(+Useful Tips)

Why are DIYers (and You!) Should Learn How to Color Tint Your Own Paint.

You’re sold on a new paint color for your house, but when it comes to painting, you realize it’s completely different than you thought. Or, more commonly, you have a ton of paint leftover from your remodel that you don’t want to go to waste, but you’re not set on that specific color for the space you’re painting. Whatever your painting needs are, you’re not out of luck (or more cash). You can easily learn how to color tint your own paint at home, using a few simple steps to achieve the perfect color you had in mind. And no, a paint shaker is not required! Let’s take a look at some DIY paint tips, secrets, and tricks to creating your own custom color at home.

What Is Base Paint?

Not all paint colors start with a white base. That little piece of information is vital to determining how to get the exact color you want. Some base paints are indeed white, and these are used for mixing light colors. Darker colors often call for a sheer base paint, that may even be clear. Base paints come in a variety of finishes, including these in order from the flattest to the shiniest:

  • Matte
  • Egg-Shell
  • Satin
  • Semi-Gloss
  • Gloss

Did You Know?

Glitter, chrome, and textured bases are also available to suit your DIY project needs. Like other bases, these can be tinted as well!

Is Base Paint The Same As White Paint?

Base paint is sold with the idea of mixing and tinting in mind. White paints, on the other hand, are ready to be applied to a surface without any mixing involved. Using a base paint allows you to achieve specific finishes and have greater control over the final color, as base paints are less pigmented than pure white paints. However, white paints can still be tinted to achieve a specific color in mind. Unlike base paints, white paint can often already contain small amounts of other pigments (such as yellow for a warmer white tone), which could interfere with tinting after the fact.

What Does Tinting A Paint Mean?

Tinting means making adjustments to your paint to make the color lighter, darker, brighter, or softer. If we take a basic color, such as blue, for example, we can lighten it to make sky blue, or darken it to make navy. We can soften the color to make a pastel blue, or we can brighten it to make royal blue. One other advantage of tinting is that you can make a color warmer or cooler. That’s usually the case with white or gray paints. A warm white or a cool white can make a huge difference in a space, and the difference between the two is the addition of small amounts of yellow or blue.

How To Color Tint Your Own Paint Step By Step

Tinting your own paint at home starts with having your ideal color in mind. Having a swatch handy is a great idea to compare your paint.

  1. Purchase enough base coat in your desired finish to paint your area. If you’re using leftover paints, make sure they’re well mixed and still usable. Ultra-white or clear bases are ideal for tinting.
  2. Purchase smaller quantities of paint that when mixed, will achieve your color. For example, let’s consider the color lavender (we’ll use Pantone 531 C as a reference). According to color theory, red and blue create purple, so we’ll pick up small quantities of basic red and blue paint.
  3. Using a leftover container, make a test batch using your paints. For this light, pastel color, we’ll need several portions of white and equal portions of red and blue.
  4. If you’ve achieved a satisfactory color, mix your first batch of paint. Add small amounts of base pigments at a time and mix thoroughly to prevent any mistakes.
  5. Mix again to ensure that the pigments are well blended together. Paint a test swatch or dip your paint sample in to judge the color.
  6. Make additional adjustments as needed. If you desire a bolder color, you will need to add more red and blue pigments to increase the strength. A lighter color would require an additional portion of white paint. A darker color could be achieved by adding a very small quantity of black or grey. However, remember that black and grey paints have base colors themselves, and this may interfere with your results. Always do a test batch before mixing your paint bucket.

Can You Paint Base Without Tint?

You can most certainly opt to paint an area using a base with no tint. Most people don’t, however, because many paint bases come in ultra white with few other options available. When people do paint using a base without any tint, it’s usually because they’re planning on adding color over it. Some paints don’t cover well over existing colors, such as pastels over darker shades, so you’ll save a lot of time and hassle by slapping a base coat over your wall to start fresh.

Can You Tint Paint With Food Coloring?

It might seem convenient if you have food coloring on hand from your last DIY baking project, but most experts advise against it. Food coloring contains natural ingredients that are prone to breaking down and changing over time, which can affect the longevity and finish of your paint. It’s also difficult to achieve your color goal using food coloring because they’re often diluted or have other pigments mixed in. Black food coloring, for instance, is actually an extremely dark blue, which will totally throw off your paint. In some cases, it can even be more expensive! A paint sample can is about the same price-or cheaper-than food coloring.

Can You Change The Tint Of Paint?

You can change the tint of paint, but only within reason. Even though you’re making minor color adjustments, the color theory still applies. That means that some color changes are irreversible. For example, if you have blue-tinted paint, you can’t use more tints to turn that color a light orange. This is because these colors cancel each other out, and are opposite each other on the color wheel. If you mix two contrasting colors or too much of any color, your paint is bound to turn into a muddy brown or gray color. Tinting works best with white paints and pastel colors.

Did you know?

Hairstylists use a purple shampoo-a shampoo with small amounts of purple dye pigment-to remove brassy tones from hair and make platinum

blonde. Orange tones from bleaching are corrected using blue shampoo or toner, as these colors are opposite each other, just as purple and yellow.

How Do You Tint Grey Paint?

Grey paint is not only popular with current home design trends but also a common color that’s tinted. Like white paint, greys come in cool tones, warm tones, and shades as dark as charcoal or as light as an eggshell. Before tinting your grey paint, take into consideration what tones it already has before adding more. You’ll have a difficult time turning grey paint that’s already significantly warm to a cool grey, but you will be able to cancel that warm tone out.

How Long Does Untinted Paint Last?

Paints straight off the shelf often last ten years or more, depending on whether it’s been used or how it’s been stored. Paints that are several years old may need to be thinned and swatched before using.

Why Does Paint Say Must Be Tinted?

Base paints often have this warning to shy away customers looking for a standard, white paint that’s ready to apply. Some bases are semi-transparent, which can produce undesirable results if used as traditional white paint. However, opaque white base paints are typically fine to use without tinting.

Does White Paint Need To Be Tinted?

This answer is up to you! If you’re working with a base that’s sheer or translucent, you’ll definitely want to add some pigment in (or more white) to strengthen the color. Many white paint bases come as ultra or pure white, which when left untinted, can be somewhat of an eyesore. White is also known to be a dirt magnet, so if you have little ones or pets in your home, you might stray away from pure white. Warmer whites or cream colors can make space feel cozier and more inviting, without making the room feel smaller like some dark colors do. A cool white can be a refreshing addition to a bedroom or bathroom, and match stainless steel appliances. Other variations of white, including blush, are great choices for kids’ rooms to add a little color, while still maintaining versatility.


Learning how to tint your own paints at home is easier than you think, and surprisingly addictive. Just be warned that a little pigment goes a long way, and the last thing you want to do is to spoil an entire bucket of paint. You can always take your paint to your local hardware store and have them mix it. Another word of caution is that eyeballing your paint tint means that one gallon can have a slight variation of color to the next. Paint also tends to dry darker, so that can interfere with your project as well. Swatches are key to seeing your final result and ensuring the correct color. As the saying goes, measure twice, mix once!