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Lee Wallender

How to Get Designer Paint Colors Cheap

By March 26, 2009

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Home Depot Color Solutions Center

Color is color is color.

One major, distinguishing quality (but not the only quality, as you will see later) between expensive designer paints and cheaper paints is a better attention to color.  Or could it just be that designer paints do a better job of marketing these colors?

  1. Color is Color is Color.  Any color is identifiable and copy-able.  Or yellow or brown or whatever you like.
  2. No One Owns Colors.  Paint companies make money not just by supplying paint but ideas.  It's one thing to call a color "Light Tan."  But "Desert Rapture MoonWindFire" sells a whole lot better.  Sell the Sizzle Not the Steak is so true in selling designer paint.
  3. I Reproduced a Designer Paint Color in a Less Expensive Paint.  What else can I say?  I took advantage of the care and research undertaken by a certain upper-tier designer paint company, and then had it reproduced in cheaper form by another company.

Interested?  Find Out How to Hack Designer Paint Colors in 7 Steps

On-Screen Color Approximation

Yes, colors on the screen may appear differently from the colors on the chips or paint on the wall. As Ralph Lauren Paint says, "On-screen swatches are photo representations and do not reflect color with 100% accuracy..."

It's About Color, Not Substance

Copying a designer paint color does not mean copying the paint itself.  A can of Benjamin Moore Aura will likely apply better and last longer than the generic junk from your local dollar store.  You need to assess your needs.  I would be more likely to choose premium paint and pay its high cost for exterior applications, simply because performance is key with exteriors.

What's Your Opinion?

Spout off! Let us know what you think about hacking designer paint colors.

More About Designer Paint Colors:  What Can I Say?  You're Right!

An anonymous commenter named Angelo raised a point.  He/she says, "Quality and price of paint doesn't have anything to do with colors. It's about adhesion, coverage, and, durability."  Long ago, I amended my blog post so that it deals more with getting designer paint colors cheap, than with the actual paint substance itself.

This commenter also says that colors go beyond red, blue, and yellow; that there are 10-12 different tints available.  This is true.

Another commenter advances the point that "...any employee of Home Depot who mixes a gallon of Glidden using a Behr or Ralph Lauren chip is risking serious disciplinary consequences."  Technically true.  For instance, Sherwin-Williams stores are Sherwin-Williams products only.  They cannot mix Ralph Lauren Polaris TH03, per se.  But bring them a chip of Polaris TH03, tell them you like this color, and they will get you awfully darn close.  I would be surprised to find an employee who would balk at this.


August 22, 2009 at 11:07 pm
(1) Sarah says:

If you use the sherwin williams website (their visualizer) and add the color scheme to your favorites, it will actually give you the hex number for each of the colors you pick

September 18, 2009 at 5:59 pm
(2) homerenovations says:

Thanks for pointing that out.

September 21, 2009 at 3:57 pm
(3) Erin says:

That is some helpful info!

September 22, 2009 at 9:31 pm
(4) Angelo says:

You don’t really know what you’re talking about. Quality and price of paint doesn’t have anything to do with colors. It’s about adhesion, coverage, and, durability. $12 ace paint will need 2-3 coats to cover, where a $30 valspar signature will only take one coat, will go on easier and smoother, and will look nice for longer. Red, green, and blue? No. There’s 10-12 colors of tint at paint stores, ranging from white to brown oxide.

September 22, 2009 at 9:31 pm
(5) Angelo says:

Quality and price of paint doesn’t have anything to do with colors. It’s about adhesion, coverage, and, durability. $12 ace paint will need 2-3 coats to cover, where a $30 valspar signature will only take one coat, will go on easier and smoother, and will look nice for longer. Red, green, and blue? No. There’s 10-12 colors of tint at paint stores, ranging from white to brown oxide.

December 1, 2009 at 1:04 pm
(6) Victoria says:

The colors are made from red, blue and YELLOW. Not green. Green is not a primary color as it can be created from blue and yellow. The definition of a primary color is a color that can not be made using any other colors.

February 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm
(7) Neli says:

I agree with Angelo. The quality of paint comes first that color.

February 28, 2010 at 12:07 am
(8) Fern says:

I don’t understand why you are posting this article. It is painfully obvious you don’t know any actual information about paint and just decided to sit down and write something off the top of your head. If you did even just a little bit of very simple research without even leaving your computer, you would know there are consumer reports based on testing paints, and even that Behr brand, which you cited as Home Depot’s cheap stuff, is superior to most, based on things like ease of use, durability and scrubbability.

March 1, 2010 at 10:51 pm
(9) Tracey says:

Hey, Lee, I get what you are talking about. Not sure why everyones instincts are to attack your words… The message was clear to me.

March 2, 2010 at 9:38 am
(10) homerenovations says:

Thanks, Tracey. I appreciate the words. I realized it was hopeless to argue with anybody when I saw people attacking me from both sides of the argument.

The bottom line in all this is that no one should feel that the designer paint’s extra-expensive color is anything special: it’s just a color.

June 14, 2010 at 9:21 am
(11) Jesus says:

Need help painting

July 12, 2010 at 9:42 am
(12) Miriam says:

I really appreciate this article for the valuable information that it offered. The point that I took away is clean; you can get the same color for a cheaper price. Thanks homerenovations for taking the time out to open this discussion. :-)

July 25, 2010 at 11:48 am
(13) Sean says:

Even if Lee did leave out some of the specifics, his posting still served as a platform for discussion.

Play nice Kidz! :)

August 13, 2010 at 2:42 pm
(14) Rain says:

I think it is clear that here you are talking about duplicating the color of a designer paint. Seems like common sense that different brands would vary in coverage, etc. Thanks for the hints.

Now If I see a sweet color, I can get it duplicated in my favorite brand, whether my brand offers it or not!

August 13, 2010 at 2:57 pm
(15) new painter says:

I think that it is a combination of both. I went to Home Depot and they use their fresh air eco-friendly paint and it worked beautifully. It was $30 a can approximately, but it covered in one coat and it was much smoother. Then, they purchased their inexpensive brand and it took at least two coats, but the color was exactly what I wanted. If I were to do it again, I would probably go with the Behr paint (tthat is not what I purchased) this is one of those cases where you get what you pay for. If I had to pay someone to do the job it would have been far more expensive with the inexpensive paint because of the labor involved.

August 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm
(16) LJB says:

Thanks so much homerenovations! This is great advice and certainly supports an experience I had long ago at a home improvement chain~~I had picked out a beautiful antique blue color paint for our front door. When I went to the paint counter with the paint chip, the clerk there pointed out that the brand of paint that went with the chip was REALLY expensive! I was so disappointed because I had my heart set on that particular color. Well that wonderful clerk looked over his shoulder, smiled and then said, “let’s see what we can do!” ~~ He picked out a cheaper brand store paint and used the color formula from the expensive chip! Viola! I was in business and at quite a savings! And I might add that was several years ago and the paint has stood up perfectly!

As a retired Art Director this all makes sense to me because in printing, most of it is based on the 3 primary colors – magenta, yellow & cyan (blue) and/possibly black. All created colors come from them and the sky is the limit!

Thanks so much for pointing this out. It’s a great hint and for those argumentative posters, chill out guys!

Linda @ The Jersey Shore (the good one not the cheap MTV version!)

August 13, 2010 at 4:46 pm
(17) Teriqua.Jones says:

I have used Behr paints and must say, THEY ARE THE BEST PAINTS I’VE EVER TRIED! I was amazed they covered with one coat. And actually true to color.

August 13, 2010 at 5:04 pm
(18) Tony Crombie says:

I have had my condo painted twice in the last 8 years.
I chose “professional” painters and the color. They chose the brand name paint, which I purchased separately.

Choice of the “pros” Benjamin Moore both times. Because I bought the paint, I knew there was no “kick-back”.

Ease of application is far more important than color. Today, color is a given. Any paint can be made to match any color.

Both times each advised they would not use Behr.

August 13, 2010 at 5:04 pm
(19) Jason says:

Have you ever actually been to a paint store or painted anything?

First, any employee of Home Depot who mixes a gallon of Glidden using a Behr or Ralph Lauren chip is risking serious disciplinary consequences.

Second, the difference between cheap and quality paints is in the solids content and the quality of those solids. Weigh a full gallon of Speedwall and a gallon of Pratt & Lambert (if you can find them in identical containers) and you’ll find the Pratt & Lambert is heavier. The cheaper the paint, the more water you’re buying.

Lastly, if you can get the same coverage and finish out of a gallon of Glidden and a gallon of Pratt & Lambert Accolade, I will send you a hundred dollar bill.

Even at half the cost of a quality paint, CHEAP PAINTS TAKE UP MORE OF YOUR LIFE TO APPLY! If your time isn’t valuable, then go ahead and buy the cheap junk.

I would rather get the job done and spend time doing something OTHER than painting. You will also spend more time later doing touch up work.

The old axiom “buy cheap, buy twice” works very well here.

August 13, 2010 at 8:29 pm
(20) AngiS says:

Color is color is color…I am an artist, who also happens to paint murals. I use the hex color system to assure proper colors…HOWEVER, as with the same paint that I use to paint on canvas, quality is very important in my work. People pay a LOT of money for my murals. Therefore, I assume they want it to last longer than 2-3 years. The colors I use in my murals are, number-wise, as close as possible to the colors that I used in the sample picture I gave to the client. The paint, however, is top quality. I use either Pratt & Lambert or Benjamin Moore. With the P&L, I use the Designer White. This is the closest to a pure Titanium White that I have found in interior oils. I tend to use the Accolade as this is a great paint for high maintenance areas and child’s rooms. Then I use hex numbers to pick my palette and usually blend most of my colors as I need them.

My point with this, however, is that ANY color can be copied now to a close degree of certainty. If you are the type of person who likes to COMPLETELY redecorate every few years, go for the cheap stuff – but don’t complain when a simple scuff mark turns into a major problem when you try to clean it. Most cheap paints will simply scrub away like chalk after a few accidents.

August 13, 2010 at 10:57 pm
(21) Margie says:

You may believe that Behr is at the bottom; however, I firmly believe the Behr Premium Plus (paint with primer) in Satin or Semi-gloss to be the absolute best paint I have ever used in 50 years. I’m on my third house with it. At HD, Lauren was replaced with Martha??? Hmmmmm.

I did find that Dutch Boy flat will not be purchased again.

August 14, 2010 at 7:25 am
(22) Doug says:

a much better color picker + matching colors is:


explore the site, it is a pro tool for graphics

especially try “select a rule” and color schemes from other pro’s

August 14, 2010 at 8:57 am
(23) beau10 says:

Darned nifty idea – and I’m going to use it to save $$$. I hope Marthe doesn’t mind a small dent in her yearly haul.

August 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm
(24) 0neNita says:

Thanks, Lee, for valuable insight. I get from your article that color is basically….color. Since quality was not the subject of your article, I won’t comment on that. The proverbial hornet’s nest also provided valuable information.

Good work! I used the same basic idea for getting good information myself at one time. If you want people to input their ideas and opinions just throw out a wild, outrageous one and see what happens! :)

August 14, 2010 at 4:25 pm
(25) Lori says:

Consumer Reports named Behr as the best paint. I prefer Sherwin Williams for easy of application, great coverage, and durability.

August 16, 2010 at 3:12 am
(26) Dee says:

I found this to be a very helpful article and for the people who wanted to argue Lees point… geez, get a grip this is a helpful article, not a scientific insight into paint!

My husband and I are doing painting right now, our first paint job since we bought our house almost 12 yrs ago!! YES long overdue, i agree, I picked out the color it took me 3 months to make a full decision, I picked a color called Butter in the Behr premium brand…. finally i picked a color that is a beauty. The last time I painted it was in the house we rented, thankfully our landlord had a great sense of humor and figured paint could be painted over because i chose what i thought was a dusty rose to cover some old yellow in a dining room and yep you guessed it … it turned out pink, really PINK… i then bought red for the trim…. it was not pretty… he said i want to see it, i said welllll it’s kinda not what i picked out, before i had the words out he said wow, that’s pink…. i said im sorry and never picked paint again until now… LOL this article back then would have helped me out A LOT! too bad i didn’t have any help and understanding of color. TY for this article i will use it as i pick out more paint for my home. :)

August 22, 2010 at 3:12 pm
(27) Margie says:

Dee, it reads as if you did not know about primer and that would be a good reason to get ‘strange’ colors that were not what you picked out unless you want to apply numerous coats. You can take a color chip from anywhere including a magazine and HomeDepot will match it for you and for $40 gallon you get paint & primer in one coat. They also apply a small amount on the lid on the white label so you can see what it looks like. Going from dark to light you would need to apply 2 coats of the Behr. They will not take a Behr color and sell it in a Glidden brand paint or a Martha paint. ‘Butter’ reads as if it’s a nice soft color with a hint of yellow. Good Luck!!

March 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm
(28) Rochelle Kirk says:

I would say most o you leaving comments have no idea about color properties. As a professional graphic and web designer for over 10 years now AND a recent DIY home remodel(er), I can tell you that knowing the HEX system and being able to get the RGB color code from ANY paint manufacturer that produced a color you loved can save you money. This author never argued with the fact that some paint applies better then others. His article was simply to inform you and help any DIY’ers out there on a budget, that there is a way to get any color you want in any nam brand you choose. As for trusting home depot, I say not to. I brought in a color chip from Behr and asked them to scan it and tell me what color the scanner says it is, and it didnt even read their own color right. Tried it on the one that you can scan yourself too, and same result.

March 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm
(29) Rochelle Kirk says:

Bottom line is that if there is a Martha Stewart color called Araucana Teal which I researched and found its RGB code is 67 212 212 and HEX value is #43D4D4 and I take that to any paint store that can mix colors and they mix it to the specifications from above you will get THE EXACT color regardless of the brand. As far as coverage goes, thats beyond my expertise, but it doesnt take a graphic designer to tell you that white is white. Green is green. One companies white isnt going to be different then another companies white. And all the paint companies do is mix RGB together according to their own “potion” to come up with different versions of RedGreenBlue colors. For those of you that felt it was your duty to criticize this author it might actually be more helpful if you yourself did the research you would find out that a lot goes into the paint before you receive it, which I’m assuming from your comments that some for you are painters or sales people for paint. Just keep in mind that even if you are heavily trained on any brand pant, you are trained at the same as their direct sales people also. You are told and trained on what they want you to know and what they want you to carry on to others.

March 8, 2011 at 8:07 pm
(30) homerenovations says:

Thank you for your well-written, constructive comments. –Lee Wallender

March 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm
(31) Kerry says:

Lee, I think you did a great job in opening up discussion on paint colors. And who knew it would go all over the place? As an interior designer and a lover of color it is true that any color can be made and it is also true that the better quality of paint the less work and the longer it lasts. Everyone has made great comments and good and well as poor experiences in their painting for the rest of us to take away. Keep it coming. I just love this site. :-)

May 9, 2011 at 12:25 am
(32) matty says:

These comments on what the physical world of paint colors are ALL WRONG! A basic science/physics class in high school has subtractive and additive color explanations. CMYK is how physical (ink) colors are represented NOT red, yellow, blue. Get a clue people since you hopefully can read books and magazines that are based on the cmyk color model!

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