How to Mix Cream Colors When Painting
It can be a challenge to mix the right blend of colors to get a cream color. Before attempting it, it's important to know a little color theory. Applying the tips here will enable you to mix it like the pros do.
Definition of Cream Color
Cream is an off-white color that tends toward a yellow hue. Its name comes from the color of cream produced from cow's milk. A shade of cream would be a cream color mixed with black, or its equivalent, making it a darker value or tone. Some other names associated with off-white colors like cream are beige, ecru, and ivory.
Before attempting to mix colors, you need a firm understanding of color (and mixing) theory, which can be summed up in a few important points:
- You can create any color from the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. The primary colors form the basis for color theory or color mixing, which states that you can create a vast array of hues, as well as a tertiary (third) color by using the primary colors in the correct proportions.
- Be aware of simultaneous contrast, which refers to the way you perceive the effect of two adjacent colors on each other. Your cream color will look different depending on what other color or colors you pair with it.
- Add dark to light. It takes only a little of a dark color to change a light color, but it takes considerably more of a light color to change a dark one. For example, always add blue to white to darken it, rather than trying to lighten the blue by adding white. This is a vital point to keep in mind when you are mixing colors to achieve cream.
Also, stick to single-pigment paints. Check that the two colors you are mixing are each made from one pigment only, so that you’re mixing only two pigments. This is especially important when you're trying to mix two (or more) colors to make cream. Also, don't overmix. Rather than mixing two colors together completely on your palette, if you stop a little before they are totally combined, you'll get a far better result.
With a bit of basic color theory under your belt, you're ready to mix colors to make cream. As you probably have guessed from the color theory points, there are actually a variety of ways that you can create a cream color.
- You can mix a brown with white, such as raw sienna or burnt sienna, and then add raw or burnt umber. Add a little brown to white, rather than white to some brown, as noted above. If this doesn't give you a cream you like, add a tiny bit of yellow and/or red (or orange) to warm up the mixture.
- Mix yellow ocher, Naples yellow, or raw sienna with titanium white in varying amounts.
- If you're going to be using a lot of cream, buy a tube of titanium buff (also called unbleached titanium) to use as the starting point, and then add extra white to this to get various lighter creams.
- Mix different values of gray and add color to it until you get the desired result. Try ivory black, which is a slightly warmer black than Mars black and lamp black, mixed with titanium white to create a gray tone. Then add yellow ocher or yellow oxide and raw sienna or burnt sienna in varying amounts until you get the desired color. The yellow ocher, yellow oxide, and raw sienna are more of a yellow hue, while the burnt sienna is more of a red hue.
- Start with paints that are designated as skin-tone colors. They come in a variety of hues and can be supplemented with titanium white, yellow ocher, burnt sienna, and burnt umber to produce varying hues and shades of cream.
Remember when mixing two colors that the darker paint will quickly overwhelm the lighter paint. Add the darker color slowly to the lighter color so that you don't end up with more paint than you need.
Tips and Tricks
Additionally, keep a few other points in mind as you create just the right shade of cream that you want.
- Do not try to create a shade of ivory by merely adding black to something that is a yellowish hue. Black mixed with yellow will give you an earthy green color.
- Do not add blue, as blue and yellow combine to create green.
- Burnt umber is an earth tone that is good to use to darken a cream color.
You can also add a bit of violet or purple to create varying shades of cream. The red in the purple adds the third primary color to the mixture and keeps it from becoming green.
ECO-FRIENDLY AND CHILD-SAFE
Back in 2010, we moved our entire range to an eco-friendly water base that’s low odour, low VOC and child-safe, becoming the first in the industry to do so. Easy to clean without harmful solvents, in tins that can be recycled again and again, our paints help to reduce the environmental impact of redecorating your home.
Our paint colours are available in a range of durable interior and exterior paint finishes, each rigorously tested to ensure an exceptional depth of colour and long-lasting finish. For the very best results, we always recommend using a Farrow & Ball Primer & Undercoat – see above for the correct tone for this colour.
All Farrow & Ball finishes except Limewash contain isothiazolinones, which may produce an allergic reaction. Farrow & Ball Limewash contains calcium hydroxide which can cause severe damage in contact with skin or eyes. For further information about our products, including guidance on safe use and application, click here to view our advice pages.
WARNING: This product can expose you to chemicals including acetaldehyde, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer. For more information, go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.
Which Color Coordinates With Cream?
Cream, a simple yellowish white, seems neutral enough to pair with almost any color, but some tones or shades bring out its subtle richness and warmth better than others. A room with two well-synchronized hues and maybe a third color for emphasis is both aesthetically pleasing and comfortable to be in. Your options for cream-pairing colors depend mainly on the vibe that you want to create within the space.
Pale or mid-gray against cream produces a calming effect. The coolness of a pure gray -- free from a murky brown undertone -- in an equal or slightly stronger saturation level or color weight as cream, works in a minimalist bedroom or a spa-like bathroom where soul-soothing relaxation is the goal. Pepper a cream and gray kitchen with red, orange or black accessories to create a more lively, contemporary setting.
Warm and Complementary
Lavender, across from cream on the color wheel, is cream’s complementary color. Complementary hues -- color opposites -- have appealing contrast. Cream and lavender or pale purple may produce a cutesy or ultra-feminine atmosphere that isn’t for everyone. As a more rustic, earthy, gender-neutral combination, generously layer the space with warm orange-brown cedar or reddish-brown cherry-wood trim, cabinetry and furniture.
Visually refreshing sea-foam green, turquoise or sky blue alongside cream works in a country home. Toss in some pale pink to create shabby-chic style. Cream with pale green and mid-green creates an analogous color scheme. Use analogous colors -- those that sit next to each other on the color wheel -- so the color palette in the room blends effortlessly. A darker slate, sapphire or navy blue or emerald green with cream creates a classic, more traditional look, and helps to bring out cream's yellow undertone.
To capitalize on the subtle yellow present in cream, pair it with pure white. When you place white next to a color that appears almost white, your eye can recognize the subtle difference in shade. Use cream on the walls and white on the moldings, and flood the room with more whites and creams for a monochromatic, airy setting. Sprinkle the space with neutral or colorless crystal and chrome accessories, beveled-edge mirrors and sun-bleached driftwood to keep color to a minimum -- and the creaminess to a maximum.
Lorna Hordos is a home-flipping business owner and freelance writer. She writes friendly, conversational business, home and lifestyle articles for Bizfluent, azcentral, Daltile, Marazzi, Lowes, Philips Lighting, WordPress.com and numerous other publications.
1Chantilly Lace, Benjamin Moore
"This color is the perfect balance of crisp white with the slightest cream undertone for warmth. It's always a winner, whether a city apartment or a beachside residence. Chantilly Lace is my favorite background color and a champion in both matte and satin finish. It's a classic color that allows art and upholstery to take center stage." — Nathan Thomas, Pembrooke & Ives
"This warm shade with taupe undertones brings a velvety depth to walls and millwork. It works wonderfully with crisp white trim, and while it's right at home in more traditional spaces, it's bright enough to feel modern and fresh when paired with medium wood tones and clean lines." — Regan Baker, Regan Baker Design
3Vanilla Milkshake, Benjamin Moore
"We love Benjamin Moore's Vanilla Milkshake and its blend of gray with a strong cream undertone, for the walls, especially in a bedroom. It's super soft and soothing on the eye. The walls should be a softer tone to let the patterns on curtains and upholstery and textures in pillows show." — Meghan Hackett-Cassidy, Hackett Interiors
"I like Belgravia by Myland for wall and trim. The ground marble powder in their Marble Matt finish offers depth to complement the bones of classical architecture and show off the curvatures of fine woodwork." — Carolyn Pressly, Carolyn Pressly Interiors
5White Tie, Farrow & Ball
"I love this pale cream, as it serves as a warm neutral and brightens any space. It's also a great backdrop for art and pops of color. I like to use it in hallways; on kitchen cabinets; and for moldings and trims in contrast to a vibrant wallpaper." — Ritika Bhasin, Ritika Bhasin Design
6Swiss Coffee, Benjamin Moore
"My favorite cream paint is Benjamin Moore OC-45 Swiss Coffee. It’s the perfect creamy white, with a touch of beige and grey. I have it all over my home and have used it in many other homes. It’s warm and inviting while still modern and clean." — Danielle Fennoy, Revamp Interior Design
7Slipper Satin, Farrow & Ball
"I love this soft neutral. It warms up a space more than white, but doesn't carry too heavy of pink or yellow undertones." — MA Allen, MA Allen Interiors
8Natural Linen, Sherwin-Williams
"Sometimes creams can either have too much of a yellow undertone or resemble white and read cold, but this one’s just right and creates a calming understated elegance, allowing furnishings and art to be the real statement makers in the room." — Saudah Saleem, Saudah SaleemInteriors
9Pointing, Farrow & Ball
"I love Farrow & Ball Pointing for its ability to simultaneously invoke light and air, as well as depth and warmth. It's just as welcome in a historic estate as in a contemporary home. I especially love to use this color on the trim, walls, and ceiling in slightly different finishes for a cozy space with a subtle play on light." — Mel Bean, Mel Bean Interiors
10Tallow, Farrow & Ball
"I love this cream color for a space. It has a very subtle peachy undertone that warms a room, but also a clean feel so it can be in a modern home or a more traditional setting." — Jess Cooney, Jess Cooney Interiors
Monique ValerisSenior Home Editor, Good HousekeepingMonique Valeris is the senior home editor for Good Housekeeping, where she covers decorating ideas, home tours, gift guides and more.
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