The Facts Regarding Cutting Paint By 50%

March 16, 2019

So you finally decide on your paint color and you are going to paint your living room walls with Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl. You think that a great ceiling color would be a lighter version than the Gray Owl. You read somewhere online that you can get a custom color made by asking the paint store to lightened your color by 50%.   Makes sense, right?  Adding white will make the color lighter, right? Nope- not that easy. I decided to look into the idea that when you want a paint color lightened by half, you can ask at the paint store to ‘cut’ the color by 50%.  Is it practical? Is it doable? Does it work?



I spoke with many different Benjamin Moore store retailer and company representatives and also Sherwin Williams and these were my results:

* Everyone I spoke with agreed that the best solution is to choose an existing paint color instead of custom mixing, (cutting the color with white paint).  The results are often less than desirable. Here are a few reasons why:

* When you request a custom color, (asking for a lighter color),  you can NOT see the results until it is mixed, let it dry and then see the actual color. Some stores may custom mix a quart for you, but most stores will only custom mix a gallon or more.  You may have a color you picture in your mind, but it might not look the same after the formula is cut by a percentage. The color will be lighter, but it will not be the same color. It begins to get very technical when you talk about trying to cut formulas in half when not all of the colorants in a color can be split. 

* If you need more of the same of the lighter color at a later date, you can not be sure to get the same results.

* Cutting a paint color by 50%, for the best results, needs to be a lighter color or an off-white to get the best results for coverage.

* When trying to lighten a darker color, such as navy, and the formula is cut by 1/2, (50%) the paint coverage is not going to cover well. You may have to use several coats to cover.

* When a paint color is lightened, the LRV is also lightened. The color will be lighter, but it will not be the same color.

* Another thing that will affect the color is the type of paint finish you choose also will have an effect on the color’s appearance. Flat has a chalky finish when dry. It also absorbs light and can make a color appear slightly lighter. Semigloss and gloss finishes will typically make a color appear darker.

Then I came across the best video explaining it all. It is from Lori Sawaya, a color genius! She really, really know her stuff in the color world. She did a vlog about cutting paint colors by 50% and explains how all the components that come into making a color are affected when trying to lighten a color by 50%. Lori used SW 7029 Agreeable Gray as an example while trying to help someone find a ceiling color. It is entertaining as well as very educational. If you want to know the facts about cutting a color by 50%, you can see Lori’s video here.



In conclusion, whenever you ask for a formula to be cut by whatever %, the computer does the best it can with the calculations. The color will be lighter but the end result will still be a completely NEW color. I agree that the best solution is to choose an existing paint color instead of custom mixing and trying to cut by a percentage. There are thousands of paint colors to select from and find a lighter version, plus  you will know exactly what color you are getting.

So now you know the facts!

Have a great weekend everyone!



  1. Kelly,
    If you looked at a kitchen and it had wood (oak) 20 year southwest style cabinets and a very dark granite, travertine (stormy) beige variant and a backsplash with brown, cream, white what would you refinish the cabinets in. If white is there a paint that looks better than others? Just wondering.. Ivory?

    • Hi Neal,

      Yes, I would go creamy like an ivory. Take a look at Ballet White OC-9 or Navajo White OC-95. Two different types of cream. Be sure to get a sample and look at them with your granite and back splash. Good luck with your project!

  2. Custom mixing has been hyped a lot in the past maybe to increase the sales of colors since one might have to redo the paint all over again. Selecting a preexisting color might be the best solution. If you are thinking of painting your home and you are confused which is the right color for your home then you can contact Painting Contractors Spring Valley/a> .

  3. Applause!!! Clap clap clap! Standing ovation!!!! You are soooooo right! It’s Jenny Johnston here; I am a fellow Certified TCE 🙂
    I was thrilled when Maria taught us that 50% of BM Manchester Tan IS the exact color BM Featherstone. I agree with all you said (and I am LOVING your blog, btw!) Plenty of pinning going on from your page to my feed!

  4. Hi,
    Really enjoying and learning from you! Remodeling……..pretty sure going with revere pewter and white dove
    Open rooms, in the darker north facing area I was going to do the lighten the pewter 40%. The pewter does look muddy green/ grey in that area. After reading this I’m wondering what color would be a bit lighter,and go with White Dove, So don’t have to lighten the tone? L shaped area, Kitchen sits between light filled room and darker area. Darker grey cabs and Puerta Venata counters which are creamier than they look online.
    Thank you

  5. I just found your page and love it! Years back we had our trim painted Benjamin Moore Linen White. I am trying to find a white to go with it for the walls. Its so creamy yellowish that its hard to find a good color. Do you have any suggestions in how to choose a white and offset the yellowish tone of the linen trim?

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