An Open Letter to all Paint Companies

Alright my lovelies, it’s time to literally shake things up in the paint world!

Sleeping Beauty

Wake Up!

It’s 2013!

Most of you are so behind with your colours it’s totally painful.

I conduct on-line colour consultations all over the world and I use your fan decks.

Before I can even look up a colour on some decks, I have to read the instructions first.


Kids picking colour


A small child should be able to find a colour in your deck. Keep it simple. Colour is complicated enough.

Don’t even get me started on architectural kits that are not on rings? Those are not even remotely designed for colour consultants. Individual chips in a box are designed for architects to pull out and stick on boards. If you ever want your paint specified by colour consultants, stick them on a ring.

Or do yourself a favour and shadow a designer who has to use your loose-leaf paint chips and let’s see at the end of the call, if you would use that kit yourself? Who has the time to start filing them away? Not me.

Your colours should be organized by undertone so that your customers never pick a pink beige again by accident. How do I know this happens by accident? Because I spent four years working in a paint store. There are many hundreds upon thousands of homes that have been accidentally painted pink beige.

You should at least have a fantastic selection of neutrals. But most of you do not.

I don’t get paid to use Benjamin Moore Paints in my colour system. I use it because my system works inside it.

My system works like this: Once you know the colours that fall into the undertone categories, everywhere you go in the world, you can look at any building or walk into any room and once determining the undertones, choose one of the neutrals in my system for the space. Or you can easily put together finishes, stone, tile with coordinating tones.


And it’s totally transferrable to any paint deck. If you had the enough neutrals. But sadly, most of you do not.

Your brochures are mostly not useful. Four paint chips in a combination does not help anyone. What about the fixed and furnished elements in any given space? The minute you take those into consideration, and you must if you are going to have a harmonious and cohesive colour scheme, it renders your brochures, completely useless.

And stop putting peach and pink beige (we don’t all live in California) into exterior colour palette brochures. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

fan deck

If you have a collection of colours that do not go from light to dark, you should let people know. Every designer in my workshop breathes a sigh of relief when I tell them that if they see a colour right beside another one on the same strip that doesn’t look like it’s the lighter or darker version, it probably isn’t.

Hire colour consultants to help you with your fan decks. You should never work with anyone that hasn’t conducted a minimum of at least 500 consultations. Work with a designer who understands the colour business. It’s clear by looking at your materials right now that either you don’t hire these people or you don’t listen to them.

Beautiful neutrals

Mostly, you don’t listen because I’m in the industry and I know some of you do hire designers that are in the colour business. But it’s expensive to change colours, it means every single colourizer even in the tiniest paint store in a one horse town has to be replaced. I get it.

But the colour world has changed. You are limping along and way, way behind.

Related posts:

What Everyone Should Know About Fan Decks

Why Pink Beige Should be Banished Forever

A Perfect Example of How Complex Colour Works

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, become a client

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. April in Toronto and Vancouver in May.



leave aREPLY

  1. You have just about convinced me to just use a Pantone fan deck, and just let the computer scan it.

    Graphic artists would never tolerate such balderdash.


  2. I have a Behr paint fan with colors divided into undertones. It’s still difficult to find just the right color sometimes anyway. But it is helpful to get into the right area at least.

    Some paint fan company’s fan are very hard to use. And the salespeople in the stores aren’t very helpful to customers either when choosing a color…sometimes just the opposite, sad to say. I hate to hear “This is one of our most popular colors.” How do they know what I’m doing for a client? They haven’t been working with my client. Ugh! And we all have been to a person’s home to ‘fix’ a color the store employee messed up….because they never went to the customer’s house to see it in their light.

    I do have something to say about pinky beige. No, it’s not the best neutral for a lot of applications. However, it does occur in nature quite frequently. I wish I could get a true color photo of the Missouri River that we cross every day. It has so many different neutrals together during our winter months. A color consultant would scoff if they saw them all used in a room! And yet, hmmmm…..God put them all together and made them beautiful! Every day is a perfect study in neutrals for me seeing the River and the surrounding area. Pinky beige, yellow beige, green beige, gray blue sky, darker blue water, whites and off whites, etc. It never ceases to amaze me how it all works together.

    Could all these colors work simultaneously in a home setting? Maybe, maybe not. It would definitely depend on the lighting both natural and artificial…and of course all the other aspects in the room like furniture, accessories, etc.

    Paint fans from any company, in my opinion, are only a starting point. Paint/decorating is like any other art form: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As a decorator and a musician, I find what’s beautiful for one person is annoying/awful/stressful, etc. to another.

    Art is subjective…and color (being part of art) is no different.

    Lest you think I’m admonishing you, I’m not. I loved your article! Hopefully paint companies will take note and we’ll all have an easier time finding just the right color first time out 🙂

  3. Rah rah! I’m completely with you on this. And the SW deck drives me CRAZY!!! I got so mad at my Ben Moore deck that I ripped out a whole bunch of pieces trying to make the dang thing go back together. It didn’t help so I pried out the metal peg that held it together and put in string. But the most annoying thing is the lack of logical organization of the colors. Bleah.

  4. Oh my goodness ! I totally agree with this. Maria, you are spot on ! Knowledge is power, and the paint companies don’t help us to understand color in any way whatsoever with their lack of organization of color shades. There will still be plenty of room for talented color consultants and designers. The layman having some knowledge and understanding of undertones and being able to know more about paint colors will never take away the need for hiring a great professional.

  5. Maria,

    I agree with you. I feel paint companies need to take more interest into the organization of their fan decks and to how many decks they have. As for our trade secrets being given away. No worries! Some will get it but most still need help with how to work color correctly. As you show and talk about, color does go beyond the wall and other fixed elements. It takes a trained eye to bring a whole room or house together. Your home is a perfect example of how it should be done.

  6. I am not a pro but paint a lot and I agree with Maria in regards to the darker lighter point. I finally got why I couldn’t find a darker version of Ben Revere Pewter after reading that some cards in decks have chips that are not related in her blog. Very frustrating.

    I love the way Maria says what she thinks and I send lots of people to her blog.

  7. Wonderful letter Maria! I’d also add that paint companies need to work harder to bring together the design and contractor communities. I work in a high-income community outside of Sacramento with minimal architectural rep support, lots of cranky paint stores — filled with cranky employees — and stubborn painters. All this makes my job difficult — and none of these things even has to do with color!