Ten Tips for Mixing Together Leftover Paints…and actually be able to use it!

Today I am sharing with you my top ten DIY tips for mixing together leftover paints (and actually be able to use the paint when you are done).

DIY Tips for Mixing Together Leftover Paints

A few days ago I shared with you how I took 29 (more than half-used) gallons of leftover paint and started mixing until I got enough paint to cover my living room walls. This color has turned out to be my favorite in the house, thus far! It’s far nicer than I expected it to be. It’s a good job that my furniture complemented this color of paint as I would’ve been in search for the best online interior design company that I can find to help me look for pieces that would look good with this paint. With that being said, it still doesn’t stop me from updating them at a later date. I just want to see how everything else turns out first. I have also mixed paint together for the big wall in the studio and the quick update to the wall in front of the basement door. And although I didn’t share these projects with you, I mixed together leftover paints to paint our upstairs hallway, our front entrance, and the room we plan on turning into a nursery.

In other words, I have a lot of experience mixing together leftover paints…and then using them!

bloguntitled6August 12, 2013

So, without further ado, here are my…

10 DIY Tips for Mixing Together Leftover Paints

Tip #1 – Look for sales on basic white paint

Every so often, Menards will offer the basic white, flat gallon paint that is FREE after rebates. When that time comes, stock up! Recently, we were able to score five gallons for free and it is what I used as a base to mix together all of our leftover paints.

Tip #2 – Invest in a couple good 5 gallon buckets with lids

We will probably never use the buckets for anything other than paint storage again, but you could totally clean these out after you are done mixing to have them be reusable. For us, we simply keep adding white or different leftover paint to the bucket to come up with a new color for the next room! But, I would like to point out how much more useful a bucket (with lid) is versus a leftover paint can, so it is a good, environmentally friendly, investment!

Tip #3 – Get yourself prepared PRIOR to mixing

Some of the things you are going to want to have on hand (right by your side) as you begin mixing, include:

  • a long stick to stir (it needs to reach the bottom of a FULL bucket) – we actually used small pvc tubes we had leftover from a different project
  • a paint can opener to open all of those leftover paint cans
  • paper towels…for you, your floors, and so forth
  • newspaper (or other floor covering) placed on the ground of the mixing area
  • paint brushes – as you mix paint, take a bit and paint it on the wall to see how you like it
  • and, of course, your leftover paint!

Tip #4 – Invest in good storage containers for the touch-up paint you need to save

After you have mixed together your paint in the five gallon bucket, I recommend saving enough of the color so that you can touch up paint for years to come. Use containers that have a flat top (that can be easily stacked) with tight fitting, screw-on lids. Our paint storage area has become very organized with these bad boys from Amazon:

Leftover Paint Storage Containers
4 oz Clear Plastic PET (BPA Free) Travel Jar with Black Smooth Lid- (6 Pack)

Tip #5 – Only mix the same “type” of paint together

As we all know, oil does not mix with water. Therefore, only mix oil based paints together with other oil based paints. Water-based paints should only be mixed with other water-based paints. Most of the paints we had leftover were water-based, so it was pretty straight-forward for us! You will know if you have mixed two of the opposite types together when your liquid starts to look like curdled cheese.

Also, only mix interior paints with other interior paints and only mix exterior paints with other exterior paints.

Tip #6 – Keep the color wheel in mind

If you have a red paint and you mix it with a yellow paint, you are going to end up with an orange paint.

{picture via + }

Tip #7 – Mixing different “sheens” is okay!

Yes, you can mix a flat paint with a high gloss paint. Just keep in mind that the more flat paint you add, the less glossy your paint will be and vice-versa.

Tip #8 – Thoroughly mix the leftover paint before mixing it with another

If you are like us, you have paint that is REALLY old. I am not exaggerating when I say we had leftover paint from 2001. We aren’t even sure where the paint had been used originally. You just want to max sure you mix back together all of the pigments in the paint to ensure you are actually adding colored paint together.

However, if the leftover paint is still lumpy after mixing it for a bit, or you see signs of bacterial growth (brown or white spots on the top upon opening can), do not use it. And check the label. Paint made before 1978 might contain lead, and paint made before 1991 might contain mercury.

Tip #9 (maybe the most important tip!) – It is harder to lighten a dark color than it is to darken a light color

We learned this lesson the hard way.

We had a almost-completely-unused gallon of the chocolate-y purple color from our guest bedroom {it was a situation where we ran out of paint with 3 feet left to paint on the wall, so we bought a whole new gallon}. Instead of adding this darker color to white paint, we tried adding white paint to this dark color.

Luckily, after realizing what was going to happen after adding a whole gallon of white to this dark purple paint, I started adding in browns and beiges (to get the hue away from purple and more towards a brown) and hoped we didn’t end up with something too dark. After adding in browns and getting a hue I was happy with, I topped off the five gallon bucket with white paint, was lucky enough to find it wasn’t too dark, and that is what we used in our living room!

Had we started with white paint and then slowly added some of the purple paint to the bucket, we would have been better able to control how much purple was incorporated and how dark it was. Things worked out for us, but it could have been a five-gallons-worth-of-paint disaster!

Tip #10 – Try to keep tabs with how much paint, in total, you have mixed and mix enough for your project

Relatively speaking, if you are mixing paint in a five gallon bucket, once the paint is about half-way up the bucket you know you have about 2.5 gallons. I would suggest not having any less than this mixed for a “standard” size room. The worst case scenario would be to not have enough paint…remember, you are mixing leftover paint and did not choose this from a color swatch at the paint center!

Also, a reminder about Tip #4 – you will want about a quart of leftover paint to keep on hand for touchups over the years )unless you are like my mom and like to repaint almost every room every year).

All in all, mixing together paints is not hard and can be a really inexpensive way to refresh or update your home (as long as you are not dead-set on a specific color)! When it is all said and done, we will have spent about $100, in total, to paint 80% of our home! That, my friends, is a pretty good deal.

Just remember to work slowly and add colors in small increments as this is really the secret in mixing leftover paints when trying to create something new.

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DIY Tips for Mixing Together Leftover Paints

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