Reuse, Recycle, Discover new colors with old paints

Mixing 2 different house paint colorsOne of my objectives in writing The Keys To Color is to encourage people to reuse/recycle all the leftover paint that lurks in the crannies of every house in the country.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that about 10 percent of all paint purchased in the United States (around 64 million gallons annually) becomes leftover paint*.  That is a lot of paint just sitting around waiting to be used or thrown out.

Since the beginning of my career, I have always looked at and used the mis-tint stacks of house paint at paint stores.  I could buy premium paint for pennies on the dollar and usually get one close enough to the color I wanted to be able to easily adjust it with pigments or with other paint.   The more I understood color and paint, the more options opened up for me.   Reusing leftover paint by adjusting the color with complements and secondary colors follows the same basic rules as pointed out in The Keys to Color or in any book on color theory.  You can make beautiful light grays, beiges and taupes as well as browns, golds and drab greens with almost any combination of colors.  The only thing you generally can’t make is bright colors; but complex, de-saturated and earthy hues are what we use in homes anyway.Mixing two house paint colors together              

All latex and acrylic house paints (as of 2010) are intermixable.  Of course, only use paint that is in good condition and without mold.  You can strain out any lumps in old paint with a nylon stocking or strainer bag from the paint store.

  I mainly use paint as a base for glazes so final sheen is not too important as long as I have some sheen.  A gloss paint mixed with a flat makes a semi to satin gloss, a semi-gloss paint mixed with a flat makes a satin and so on.  All paint companies make their paint a little differently so exact ratios are impossible to give.  If a paint is a little too shiny, add a quart of flat.  If it is too flat, add a pint or more of sheened paint until you get to the right sheen.  When you have the right amount for the job at hand, then you can work on the color.

Always make sure you have enough paint to complete the entire job because it is very hard to exactly match a paint color that has eight or more pigments.  Even if you won’t have enough to complete the job, you can still use your leftover paint for a first coat that is close to the color you want.  Then buy enough of the right color to apply the second coat.

Over the years, I have found that designers were always drawn to the colors I made with a variety of paint colors, not just the simple formulas.  That is what convinced me that I am on the right track when I write about the beauty of complex and full-spectrum colors in homes rather than the simple colors foisted off on us by most paint companies.  You will have a lot of fun discovering new colors and derive satisfaction from using up all those old cans of paint.

As an added bonus, you will feel good knowing that you will be keeping gallons of paint out of the waste stream. 

When people used to see me rooting around the mistint paint bins, they called me frugile.  Now I am earth friendly and totally PC !