All You Wanted to Know About Gray Paint

It’s a very tricky color.  I could end this post with just that line and that would give you enough information.  But, I won’t do that to you and will tell you another little paint journey I just had. Maybe I should rename this post “when bad things happen to good people.”  Because I am a good person and this has happened far too many times now.

Moving on…

You know I am changing up the dining room.  And you know it was red.  And you know there is a lot of molding work in that room now because we added the crown and chair rail.  So instead of putting some anniversary money we received toward a nice romantic dinner or something, I put it towards hiring the paint contractors I’ve used before to paint for me.  The thought of priming over red, then painting a lighter gray color, and all of that cutting in just really didn’t appeal to my lazy ways.  The contractor was only charging me $150 which is not bad at all.

Sooo I did a lot of research on gray paint, and asked my friend and gray paint queen, Jami, what a good color would be.  She thought Light French Gray by Sherwin Williams would be nice and recommended a few others.  I went and got some samples, liked the Light French Gray a lot, painted it on poster board, and hung it up in my dining room for a week to make sure I didn’t get any wonky colors or anything. And nope, I didn’t.  It was lovely and straight up gray just like I wanted.

Painting day came and I was thrilled.  The painters were done in about 3 or 4 hours.  There was a problem though.  The Light French Gray that looked so beautiful on paper all week long looked periwinkle in the dining room.  *Sigh*  I tried to convince myself it didn’t have a blue or purple tint.  *Sigh* again.  I took it back to SW and they thought the “computer mixer” might have mixed the formula wrong when I had my gallons made. *SIGH*  They mixed it again, it was wrong again, so then I just chose another color altogether.  And no, I didn’t have to pay for all of the other paint.  And Jami I still love you, it wasn’t your fault!! :)

Here is a picture of my sample on the poster board, and you can see the blue-ish/purpley walls around it.  Not right.  And by this time I had already started testing new colors.  And this is a terrible cell phone quality picture so it looks like tons of different hues.

See the blueish/purplish color around the poster board?  It actually was a pretty color, but not gray.  Not at all.

So with me just blowing $150 (and this was the 3rd time this has happened), I knew I had to repaint it by myself.  Good times.  I called my friend Megan who has a lot of gray in her home, and I remember liking the color of her master bedroom when I was over there. We figured out the color in her room is a color called Mindful Gray by Sherwin Williams.  And if it’s not that color, it’s a close match. So I went and bought that color then painted it again that same day.  What a pain!!

But once you get it right, it’s lovely.

Another thing I did was buy flat paint.  My original sample was satin.  I didn’t think the color differences could be that dramatic, but apparently so.  But I LOVE the flat paint.  It covers up the texture so good, and that’s a bonus in my book.  The less texture the better. I went from shiny walls in here with a semi-gloss red paint to flat gray.  I’m extreme like that.

I do want to show y’all the full room, but there are things I still have to do and buy.  Too bad I could have an extra $150 right now to buy those things.

SO, the things to know about gray paint are:

1. It changes colors all day long.  Especially if you get a ton of light like we do.

2. It will be a different color on the wall than poster board.

3. Gray paint comes in colors that have undertones of blues, purples, browns, and greens.  So remember that when you choose gray.  It’s really tricky.

4. Satin vs. Flat will look different.

5. Gray is a beautiful color.  Did you know brown and gray go well together?  For some reason I always thought they wouldn’t look good together.  But they look great together, and gray is an awesome neutral color that goes with pretty much anything.  I want everything gray now.

There, I hope you feel educated about gray paint now. :)

Surely I can’t have another painting mishap right?

Do you love gray?



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  1. I love gray… (except in my hair). I must have 8 million paint swatches at home as i decide which one is going in my bedroom….

    this post has helped immensely and it has been starred in my reader so i can find it again!!

    I love the one you chose and thats ranking right up there at the top!!

    • Aww well thanks so much Rebecca! Just take your time with it. Gray is so hard. I still see blue on one wall. Don’t know if I’m going crazy or not.

  2. I am just starting to like grey paint! Our bedroom was grey when we moved in and I hated it, now it is growing on me. It is painted with flat paint so I wonder if that made the difference, cuz I usually do not like flat paint. Your walls look great though!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I soooo feel you on the pains of grey. We picked out a paint strip that went from blue to gray and wanted to do the living room in the darkest blue and the wall that went from that room into the kitchen as a striped wall that mimicked the paint strip. Then the lightest color (gray) was going to go in the kitchen. After a day of taping, painting and doing trim – we have a lovely baby blue kitchen, GRRRR! It was so much effort though we just left it up and hope to repaint one day. I still need to show you pictures.

  4. Your final gray color is really petty. I think all neutrals have some kind of undertone. I had the same problem with the beige in my home. It has a pink undertone, and boy is that hard to work with. I can’t wait to see your final room. Gray is so pretty. Hugs, Marty

  5. Jennifer L. says:

    I just repainted my formal living room with gray paint. I am so in love with it also….and now I’m thinking about painting our kitchen gray. I have a ton of redecorating to do.

    I also opted for the flat paint which I was a little skeptical at first. It turned out so awesome. Our paint looks very similar. Mine is Woodlawn Colonial Gray by Valspar. Can’t wait to see the full room!

  6. Painted my whole living area, hallways and master bedroom a nice, soft beachy gray this summer. LOVE it!

  7. Oh no, Emily! I feel horrible recommending Light French Gray now which looks entirely different in my home btw (not that periwinkle is a bad color but NO thank you). Grays ARE tough. I told you that in my kitchen they turn purple and in my living room, blue…even when they have no blue in the formula. Silly paint. I love the new paint color and am so so so very sorry that you’re out $150 even after testing your paint (the frustrating part). I’m working on going white in the front living room (with a grayish undertone) and a month later, I have yet to find the right gray for that particular room. I don’t want cool undertones at all. Maybe I can add a touch of Mindful Gray to white paint. Hmm. Thanks for putting together a “learning” post, as I’m sure anyone that’s gone/going down the gray road has encountered or will encounter this pain-t in the butt. And, they also now know to always test your paint on a primed wall! Oh man, if I lived closer I would have helped you paint! :( I had planned to do a similar post about grays after I find the right living room color. Right now, two walls in my living room have a train of gray color blocks wrapped around the room. It’s a work of art, really. ;)

    Poor, you!

    • LOL don’t feel bad at all silly! LFG IS a beautiful color. I don’t know what happened with it. If the formula really got messed up in the computer system or what? It was the weirdest thing though. Don’t worry at all!!! :)

  8. I love it! Looks fantastic.

    I’m thinking that I need to “quit” reading your blog, lol. Every time I do, I look around my home and think that I need to “re-do” this or that. You are certainly an inspiration!

    Keep bringing it and I’ll keep reading.

  9. I also LOVE grey! Our living room is Ralph Lauren Dovecoat and Sterling, they are amazing. They can be grey/green/taupe/gold/silver, it’s amazing. I would paint everything in my house those colors if I could. (Why can’t I?)

  10. We just painted our bedroom gray also and I am still working on the details of the entire room. Like you have to buy things a bit at a time! But I looooove the gray walls. Doesn’t it feel serene? I love waking up in there now.

  11. Kelly Lanley says:

    Twilight Zone moment…..just yesterday I went out to 3 different paint stores and brought home a bazillion greys to choose from for my master bath. I’m stuck – don’t know whether to go with a very slight blue tint, or a ‘true-er’ grey. Don’t want it to look depressing in there….want to be able to add pops of color like yellow, orange or pistachio.

    So your advice is extremely timely! Thanks so much!!!

    • Hahaha too funny Kelly. Did you decide on one yet? I don’t think the gray is depressing at all. Now, if it looks like concrete or cement on the walls that might be different. lol.

  12. Gosh I totally understand about your gray paint issue. What I thought was a light gray turned into being a baby blue. I hate it but its in the whole kitchen and down the hall. I’ll have to live with it untill I get the guts to tell the BF that I hate it :P I want that Mindful Gray darnit!

    • Oh man what a bummer. Well be sure and test the Mindful if you do it. On one wall where the light comes in, I can still see a slight hint of a blue. Maybe I’ll just paint that one wall a different shade of gray than the rest of the room. Ha.

  13. Hi! As a designer, gray is tricky, even for me. I have a few tried and true gray’s. The key is keeping it from looking “cold” or “uninviting”. I tend to think that the gray’s and blue’s are a trend just like red was a few years back. For that reason, I tend to stick to warm, classic neutrals in my own home because I can always punch it up with accessories. I have done a few homes recently where gray is quite the showstopper. Can’t wait to see it all done!

    • Hi Nicolette! I think I’m going to do another post maybe tomorrow asking everyone to list their favorite grays. I’d like to keep a list and try a bunch out. Hopefully you will tell us your tried and true grays? :) I’m sure the grays are the trendy thing at the moment. Next month it might be orange. Who knows! haha. I do love the warm colors too. I just love everything to be honest.

  14. Thanks for the inside scoop on your gray paint! I too just put up a sample of gray on a wall and it is way more blue than even the drop of paint on the lid of the can. Hmmm…I am wondering if I get it in a flat if it will tone it down..I am going to try it. Thanks for the tip! I am also going get a sample of your new gray and see how it looks. Thanks for all the information, it couldn’t of come at a better time.

    • Well it’s really strange because my satin sample seemed to be more gray, than the flat. The flat was bluer. So weird. Let me know what you end up with! But again, only blue on the wall, not on paper.

  15. Stephanie says:

    Hot tip, in case you didn’t know – my husband is a store manager for Sherwin-Williams. They are having a 40% off all paints and stains this weekend (30% off supplies too)! They are open Sundays now too from 10-4. You can go get your white base paint while it is on sale then take it back to tint later, if you don’t know which color you want yet. :)

    I just love how you talk about Sherwin Williams and show them love!

    • Thanks Stephanie! Yes I did hear that. I get our paint really cheap through the contractors already, but I may go there for some supplies and primer just to keep around. Thanks so much! And I love SW so much. I think they are the best paint…seriously. Your husband is so lucky to be a manager there!! Will you ask him what his favorite gray color is?

  16. I suggested gray to my daughter for her room re-do and she flatly refused. So, I sneaked over to Home Depot and got a paint chip for Naturally Calm – a gray (grey?) lavender that is gorgeous in her room with black and lavender accents. I so wish I had done it a couple years ago as she is a freshman in college now…oh well. And it made a HUGE difference to chose a flat paint with primer built in to cover the satin finish bright yellow that was in there. She loves it! (:

  17. Glad your gray finally worked out!

    A really great gray that we used in our old master bedroom was Tony Taupe by Sherwin Williams! Okay, technically it’s taupe… but that’s in the gray family ;) I loved it and actually miss it since we moved. It’s a wonderful wonderful color if anyone ever wants to try it out!!

    • Thank you so much for telling us about Tony Taupe! I’ll have to get a sample of that one as well. I really like the grays with the brown/taupe undertones too, so this sounds perfect!

  18. UGGGG, wish this had been about a month ago. I too wanted a grey/blue paint and never knew it was the hardest color in the world to find!!! We bought over 7 different paint samples at 3 different stores. I finally decided on one, it’s more blue than grey but it looks good. I never knew grey could take on so many different hues, yours looks great!

    • Ah Kim I’m sorry! I don’t know what it is with gray. It’s the strangest color. And why a lot of them turn blue when there is no blue in the formula is beyond me. If there is too much black in the formula, that can be the cause of the blue hint too. Again, weird!

  19. Great post, and great tips. It turned out nicely. Gray is a nice color, however, I would never paint any of my walls with it since I live in the Pacific NW. For about 8-9 months out of the year, we have gray skies and tons of rain on most days, so I have to have some color on my walls that is a bit more cheery than the gray skies outside.

  20. I painted my guest bedroom gray this summer, and I absolutely love it! You are totally right about how tricky picking a gray paint can be! I stood in the paint section of the store for like 1.5 hrs (and that’s a long time for me since I’m a bit impulsive when it comes to my projects..hehe).

    Great advice! I’m impressed.


  21. i love gray too! i plan to paint my bathroom gray. your room is coming along great!
    your story reminds me of myself after we moved into our home. everyone kept telling me not to make any drastic changes until after a year, but i was so anxious to re-decorate i didn’t wait. we hired a painter and re-did 3 rooms in the house. i knew immediately that i chose the wrong colors. i was so upset with myself for not waiting and wasting money- i could have spent elsewhere. needless to say i lived with my color choices for a year and repaint the rooms myself-saving myself a ton of money!!!!

  22. So glad to see your post on gray! We just bought a house and my husband chose gray to paint his office. Specifically, he chose Sherwin William’s Morning Fog and we both love it!!

    And, like you, we’ve also painted the bedroom in Sherwin William’s Rainwashed. Love that too!!

    • I am looking for a silvery gray, no undertones or as few as possible. My kitchen living room are owl grey, looks silvery in kitchen but blueish in LivIng room. Any ideas on a silvery gray that’s stays that way?

  23. Love your color and flat finish paint is wonderful. What an absolutely awesome change!

    Ahhhh…believe it or not some of your comments have now made me want to check out the grays for my living and dining rooms! Just when I thought I’d found the “right” neutral (Concrete Thought). I think in the past I used what is called eggshell finish – a teensy bit more wear resistant and still no shine! I wonder if it’s even offered anymore?

  24. Your new gray is really lovely- if it’s any consolation!!

  25. I feel your troubles with gray. I love various shades of gray because just about any color next to it looks great and pops. When I re-painted my Craft Studio from yellow to gray I had the issues with them looking purplish almost like glow in the dark crazy lavender. Yuck! Can’t wait to see what you’ve done. Didn’t you just not long ago paint the walls shiny red??? Maybe I’m confused.


  26. Just read an article in Real Simple magazine that suggested when using gray on walls, make sure its in flat. Because it will start to show differently! Glad you found a gray that works!

  27. I am trying out grays for my living room (with a brown couch). I tried Behr Porpoise and although I bought eggshell, it is VERY shiny, more so then the semi gloss currently on the wall and it is VERY blue. I have been eyeing the Mindful Gray in my SW paint swatch so I think I am going to try that color next!! I have 4 kids and am worried about using flat paint. How cleanable is the flat that you used??

  28. I’m a late poster, but I have to say…I love love love Gray! In my house, I am continually telling my husband that I want the room we are thinking of to eventually be a nursery to be gray. I think I am getting him there. I keep explaining that it is a great (not sad) color that will be awesome with any decor we add (including furniture) and it isn’t gender specific. Also, as the baby grows, the walls will never be, well, too baby! We aren’t expecting yet, but man am I ready to paint those walls and now I am wanting to run to Lowes and pull swatches…

  29. Man, I am so glad to read this. I have lived with patches painted on my walls of sample paint for almost A YEAR now! I want a gray-ish blue in my den, but the light is low and I am afraid it will look like a prison cel… I do love this light gray you have though…it looks fab! Esp against the white molding. Cant wait to see the reveal!

  30. I like gray as well and took a shot at making a long hall on the main level of my home brown on one side and grey on the other. I like how it came out. They gray wall rolls into the kitchen and I want to make the wall below and above cabinets blue.

    I have some grey paint left over and some blue from kids playroom, I’m wondering if I should mix to or use the blue to tint the grey.

  31. Hi, I was wondering if you could help? I’ve been decorating a bedroom on my main wall I have a mural of new York skyline (black,White &gray) but don’t have a clue what colour to do my other 3 Walls? My girlfriend suggested a nice Gray but I don’t know.

  32. I tried a dark Grey (Can’t remember the name) on my living room walls and one accent wall colored Yellow. I was so worried about whether or not i’d like the yellow that i didn’t pay much attention to the grey. The Yellow turned out GREAT! The Grey walls turned out PURPLE!!! like hard core purple…. Like Barney blew up in my living room! I was so mad i just left it for now!

  33. I am feeling everyone’s pain with gray paint. My daughter decided she wanted a gray striped room in our new house. I went to Sherman Williams and chose what I thought was a medium, neutral, true grey, called Lazy Gray. I painted the closet and I think it looks pale baby blue, my daughter said it looks lavender. I went back to SW yesterday to get more paint samples and I can’t decide which one to try next, narrowed it down to Gray Clouds and March Wind. I was leaning towards Gray Clouds, but may might dig through the trash to see if there is a Mindful Gray in there. To make things more complex we I will need a darker shade once I get the base color done for the stripes. I am always the go- to- gal when friends and neighbors are choosing paint, because I have a knack for seeing all the undertones. I have always been able to pick the perfect shade… until now! I will be purchasing testers for the 1st time, before proceeding with my project. I will be sure to put them directly on the wall.

  34. You’ve just made up my mind for me on what color to paint our master bedroom. Grey it is!

  35. Anonymous says:

    I painted my living room walls Antigue Silver in satin. There is a very short window of time during the day that the walls actually look the gray color that I had intended…otherwise it is various shades of Blue. I am wondering if anyone knows what color of drapes/ furniture/accents I might use to make the walls look more gray????

  36. OMG!!! Thank u for this post cuz I thought I was nuts when I put “silver spoon” on my walls & it looked like a gray plum!!! I wanted to cry!! And now I see it may be the undertone & the satin finish!! I didn’t think gray could be such a complex shade! Thanx! ;)

  37. Hi everyone! I’m on the hunt for that great super soft, super light-almost-white gray you see in all the magz nowadays, the color that looks absolutley fabulous with orange n yellow accents. I’m talkn almost white but not quite..Most colors I see are just too dark.. Does anyone have suggestions?

  38. Anonymous says:

    I mixed one quart of Edgecomb Gray by BM with one teaspoon of black paint then mixed this into a gallon of Classic Gray. I got a color that NO paint swatch has ever come close to matching. There is a velvet brown sofa and a small white bowl of hot pink carnations. The room is heavenly to walk into. Stop chasing paint swatches and think about what you want and try to mix it yourself.

  39. I chose “Silver Fox” from Benjamin Moore, a medium grey, for my entry way. Underneath those “extended life” lightbulbs in our ceiling lights, the color has tones of purple. Any ideas of what color temp is needed to cancel the purple? Meaning, what kind of lightbulbs to buy?

    Thanks so much,

  40. So I picked up 2 different samples of gray for my kitchen walls. So glad I did that because both looked bluish/purplish once on the wall. A search on my phone brought up your story about gray paint so I went with the Mindful Gray. I love it. Thank you so much!!!

  41. Thank you for the info, your gray is lovely (is it still gray?). I have umpteen paint samples on the walls throughout my house which gets a ton of sunlight — everything pulls BLUE – UGH!!!! I’m heading to SW for hopefully my last sample — Mindful Gray. Our main color will be BM At Sea (aqua) which is beautiful in every room, gray will be for a few accent walls and my daughter’s room.

  42. 50 shades of gray and still not right says:

    I wish I found this site earlier! I just spent $200 and a lot of time painting my open concept main floor of my house house SW Light French Gray. Unfortunately the color now reads as “dirty baby blue.” Like the Decorchick, I looked at many different grays, then tested Light French Gray poster board – and it looked great, but once it was on the walls, even with multiple coats, the paint looks a dingy light blue. I am now trying to find a fix without having to spend another a lot more money – thinking about trying to mix in the remaining LFG with some taupe (BM – Ashley Gray) to try to counteract the blue.

    • After what seemed like a MILLION paint samples and tests, we settled on Sherwin Williams Repose Gray (Grey?). LOVE IT! It’s a perfect neutral grey that doesn’t look industrial. We have it at 100% in the foyer and hallways and at 50% in the formals.

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  50. Teresa Carson says:

    I’ve been reading the comments. My sister-in-law has mindful gray in her son’s room & it looks great.
    However, bought a sample to paint my daughter’s room & it looks brown. I purchased it in eggshell, maybe
    I should try flat..

  51. Seriously? you are one of the first blogs I ever bookmarked but somehow I missed reading this post which could have saved me singe headaches. I had 5 different shades of gray on 4 different walls for 3 weeks until I added a 6 this morning in the shade of Repose Gray. All the other shades looked too blue and thankfully I found several blog references about this color.

    I needed to settle on something soon because it’s going in my kitchen first which we are renovating next month.

  52. Norma Morales says:

    I bought Benjamin Moore Cement Gray, when I paint it a patch on the kitchen wall it looks blue.
    I tried to see if the manager at Benjamin Moore could fix it but no success. He added a little yellow all this did was make it a lighter blue. I have painted this kitchen 2 times already I cannot fail the third time. Are there any suggestions PLEASE?

    • Norma, I had the same issue, I picked grays that I loved but they looked blue oh the wall. I found a blogger who used Repose Gray by Sherwin Williams and they mixed it at 125% I got samples at regular mix and that was too might for me but I went with it at 130% and it’s perfect. I hope this helps you!

  53. I was looking for a gray with just a hint of blue. Found SW Krypton and thought, too blue. Then found Colonial Revival Gray and thought, maybe, but it’s too gray. Well… once painted on the walls? It looks like a baby nursery for a boy. A color I thought was TOO gray turned out to be baby blue. Unfortunately, I was halfway through painting (and $800 for the painter) and couldn’t just redo it. I didn’t notice it until the sun came out a few days into it! I loved how it looked in the evening and on cloudy days. My only recourse is that there are 2 rooms he hasn’t gotten to yet, that are separated enough from the open floor plan to paint a different color. I’m looking for a color that will counteract the blue and make it look gray. I see a lot of “Mindful Gray” and “Repose Gray” in blogs where people are trying to get rid of the “too blue” look. I see an undertone of green in those two, and I remember reading that green undertones are the way our eyes perceive a ‘true’ gray. So maybe I will use one of those colors in the two rooms left to paint, and if I like it, down the road I will repaint the rest of the house myself. I feel so awful because I have a great painter, doing a fabulous job. I will have to hire an interior decorator to help at this point. I’ve never had so much trouble picking colors before!! Be careful with grays, everyone… it’s a chameleon! (And it’s the SW 200 eggshell finish, not flat, which could be why it’s showing so blue.)

  54. Jenni Bixby says:

    An FYI, do NOT get Lazy Gray…unless you like blue. Super disappointed & can’t get “approval” from my partner to purchase more paint. Also, the thought of re-painting makes me sick. I did the entire room and hallway in the middle of the night. As soon as the paint dried and the sun came up SURPRISE!!! Blue! Not only that, but I WAY over purchased and have two gallons left! I’m trying to find out what colors I can have SW tint this color gray/blue to be able to use in my craft room. (I’m just leaving my living room how it is.) I was wishing for like a Tiffany Blue? They told me yes over the phone. When I got to the store they told me there was more black in my paint than they thought (20?) They suggested I buy one more gallon of white and they could mix my now 3 gallons into whatever color I wanted. If I go for it, I’ll have to wait until payday. What a disaster. Anybody have a different idea for me?

  55. Den-SW Dorian Gray, Kitchen-SW-Dovetail, Dining Room-BM mixed SW Gray Owl (has blue undertone). Would like a pop of color for my foyer since all the other colors are grays. You see all these rooms from the foyer. I am having a really hard time, painted it peacock blue, didn’t work, too strong & wrong undertone foe Gray Owl. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated!!!