How to Lighten Paint for the Perfect Color

How to Lighten Paint for Your Home
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How to Lighten Paint for Your Home

Hey guys! I’ve been on a roll lately with painting rooms in our home and chatting all things paint over on Instagram. You can even get a look at our recent guest room update (so good!). And one of my favorite ways to work with paint is by lightening paint colors to create the perfect shade. So, how do you lighten paint?

That’s what we’re talking about in today’s post! I’ll be sharing my own experiences lightening paint colors and sharing my best tips to get to your perfect color.

How to Pick a Paint Color

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Paint is the easiest way to transform a room instantly! Picking out a paint color is another story. It’s the longest and hardest part for me. Like, super long!

Here’s an example of what happens when picking out a paint color for our home:

1. Browse Pinterest for any inspiration.
2. Go to Sherwin Williams and grab a few paint chips.
3. Tape the paint chips on the wall and narrow them down to two favorites.
4. Head back to Sherwin Williams and purchase samples
5. Paint samples on a wall and make a final decision. OR this is where I start these steps all over again because I still can’t commit.

A photo of paint swatches in various colors

Do you see what I mean?? But, the crazy thing is, this is one of my favorite parts when transforming a space. It’s a process, but it’s so worth it!

After all of my trips picking out paint, I discovered something new (for me) that made this whole process a little easier: I can ask my paint store to lighten (or darken) paint! I’m so excited about this little discovery, that I got straight to work to paint you a visual so you can see for yourself.

A photo of a hand painting swatches of lightened paint while figuring out how to lighten paint

Can you lighten paint colors?

If this is new to you like it was to me, you might be wondering if lightening paint colors is really a thing. Well, I’m here to tell you that it very much is – and it’s a really useful tool!

Have you ever found the perfect color but it was a little too dark or a little too light? Then you head back to the paint store and try to find a different paint color that is just a tad bit lighter or darker without changing the hue. 

This process can go on forever! It’s hard to find a color that is a bit lighter or darker without also being a very different color, with different undertones and a different look.

If this ever happens to you, just ask your paint store to lighten (or darken) your paint by 50% (or another percentage). Here are two examples of colors I asked Sherwin-Williams to lighten by 50%:

Examples of two Sherwin-Williams paint colors lightened

It instantly brightens the paint but keeps it within the same color family that you fell in love with. Since discovering this, I’ve lightened the paint for our guest bedroom and our playroom. I want our home to feel fresh and let the natural light be the star of the show. This allowed me to put some color in our home while doing just that. Here’s a look at both rooms:

Sherwin-Williams Accessible Beige 50% lighter on a wall with white wainscoting
A room painted with Sherwin-Williams Rainwashed 50% lighter with a Seagrass hamper from World Market

Can Sherwin-Williams lighten a paint color?

Absolutely! I’m not sure about other stores, but Sherwin-Williams will lighten or darken a small paint sample for you if you’re not ready to commit to a gallon just yet.

How do they do this exactly? From what I’ve heard, if you want to lighten a paint color for example, they’ll only add half the color drops compared to the original paint color. But! I’ve been noticing the formulas on my paint cans lately after sharing a lot of paint with all of you. This doesn’t seem to be the method Sherwin William uses to lighten paint. I’m thinking it’s just a matter of typing in 50% lighter or the press of a few buttons to lighten paint. Point is, they can do it!

Examples of lightened paint from Sherwin-Williams

What happens when you lighten a paint color?

The simplest answer is, you get a slightly lighter color! But I think we all knew that, right? So let’s talk instead about how much of a difference you’ll actually see on the wall. That depends on how much you lighten or darken the color.

What happens when you lighten a paint color by 25%?

If you ask your paint store to lighten a color by 25%, you’re going to see a very subtle difference from the original. This is a great option if you really want to stay true to the original color but want it to look just a touch lighter and brighter on the wall. 

What happens when you lighten a paint color by 50%?

This is what I did with the paint colors for my guest bedroom and playroom makeover. You can see in the image below that 50% lighter paints offered a very noticeable difference. When you order 50% lighter paint, expect it to look like a whole new color. A similar color for sure, but different.

When you lighten or darken a paint color, is it still the same color?

I like to think of lightened paint colors as your own custom shade. While the lightened (or darkened) version is still a similar color and definitely part of the same color family, it is a whole new color so it may look very different on the wall. This isn’t a bad thing though – it’s the goal!

Just keep in mind that you should always sample the lightened version of your paint in the space you plan on using it before ordering a whole can to make sure you really like it.

How to Order Lightened Paint Colors

The key to learning how to lighten paint successfully is by having the professionals do it. It’s not as simple as combining a can of white paint with a can of your color of choice. It really needs to be done in a controlled way to ensure you get the exact right color. This is especially important if you end up needing to order another can – you want to make sure they’ll be an exact match!

Ordering lightened paint colors is easy. Just head to your Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore store and ask them for a sample pot of your color but made 25% (or 50%) lighter. You can do the exact same thing if you want to order a darkened version of the color.

I recommend getting samples of the original color and the tweaked version and testing them all in your space. Sometimes a lightened color will look different than you might imagine and it’s important to be able to compare the colors in natural light.

Will You Try Lightening Paint Colors?

I hope this helps you as you pick out colors for your home. It has already saved me a lot of time! Instead of heading back to the paint store to hopefully find a lighter or darker color in the same color family, I simply ask them to lighten my current sample. So easy, right? And such a game changer!  Maybe you already knew this or maybe you didn’t. But I think we can all celebrate together in that moment where we find the perfect paint color we’ve been looking for. Have a great Monday!

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  1. Can you do this with dark colors like navy? My Sherman Williams store said they can’t do colors with a black base?

  2. Dulce Day says:

    Love the colors you chose, wish I would have known about this when I was doing my daughter’s nursery. I could never find the perfect pink. I finally settled for one that was slightly darker than I wanted but it was the right hue. Thank you for sharing!

    • ElizabethRishel says:

      Thank you! Finding the perfect shade is always so hard. I imagine pink is just as tricky! Thank you so much for hanging out here on the blog!

  3. Rachel says:

    Thanks for sharing. Most the colors in my house have be lightened. All of my paint is Benjamin Moore, so they can do it too. It doesn’t have to be just 50% either. I have 50% on my ceilings and 25% on my trim. I have been considering accessible beige for my kitchen cabinets. I don’t know if I should lighten it since it will appear lighter in a semi-gloss on cabinets. I’m off to get some samples.

    • ElizabethRishel says:

      So good to know! Thank you for sharing! I love how you used the same on your trim. Great idea! How did the samples turn out for the kitchen cabinets?

  4. Sydney says:

    Mind blown! I could’ve used this tip about a year ago. It took 15 paint chips and 3 samples to find our bedroom color!

  5. This is really nice. Thanks for sharing the post.

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