Can You Base Paint Without Tint? (Why You Shouldn’t)

Painting a room with a fresh coat can be exciting when you are looking for a change or a pop of color. Tinted base paints in particular offer a seemingly unending number of color options for the homeowner’s personal customization. However, can someone use a can of untinted base paint right off of the shelf?

You can base paint without tint, but it is not recommended. Base paint serves as a foundation for a colorant, even whites. Without a tint mixed in, the base paint can unevenly spread on surfaces leaving behind a splotchy or streaky effect. Even worse, you can see blemishes and other colors poke through.

What Is Base Paint?

Base paint serves as a neutral foundation for tints (colorants) to be mixed into. Once a base paint has been mixed to create a customizable color, it is the final layer of paint that goes over a primer paint on your walls and other surfaces. 

Untinted base paint appears opaque, clear, or white. If it goes over other layers of dried paint without tint, the underlying color often can be seen through it. 

To prevent this, people either purchase pre-tinted base paint or have a customizable color created.

Bases come in 4 levels, which are described further down below.

Bases can also be formulated to offer other benefits such as resistance to wear and tear from washing or scrubbing the painted surfaces. 

The final mixture can also be formulated to offer different sheens such as eggshell, semi-gloss, satin, or high-gloss.

Oil, Latex, Or Acrylic Base Paint

Base paints can also be either oil, latex, or acrylic.  

Oil-based paints use linseed or alkyd oil. This makes the paint tough, durable, and ideal for exterior surfaces, doors, cabinets, trim, and high-traffic areas. Oil-based paint dries slowly to offer a smoother finish that is resistant to staining, scratches, and fingerprints.

Latex paints are water-based and offer resistance to cracking or chipping. They also resist yellowing from ultraviolet exposure. Latex paints emit fewer odors than oil-based and are not flammable. Latex is often used on trim, ceilings, and walls.

Acrylic Base Paint

The acrylic base paint is chemically-based with components such as polymers, plasticizers, stabilizers, and defoamers. These chemicals make the paint more elastic than latex, giving it the ability to expand and contract. Many are water-based but are water-resistant once dry.

What Does It Mean To Tint Paint?

Tinting paint refers to the addition of pigments, or colorants, to the oil or latex base paint to create a desired final color. The transparency or white pigment of the base paint is infused with the colorants.

This gives the customer the ability to create a custom color and overall look. Paints can be tinted in home improvement stores in their paint department. 

A machine is used to mix precise amounts of colorants to get the desired outcome. These colorants are very concentrated and a little goes a long way. These machines can also match colors to any samples you bring in.  

The employees here know what base you need to get the color you want. Generally, bases 1 and 2 have more white pigment in them. These are used for lighter colors. 

Bases 3 and 4 have little or no white pigment in them. For dark shades, black may also be added to get the desired color.

The machine will mix the paint for you, and then the store employee will put a dab on the lid to show you what it looks like. Remember that shades of paint change in color as they dry.  

Can You Base Paint Without Tint?

You can use base paint without tint, but you may not get the results you are hoping for. 

As mentioned above, base paints are foundations for colorants. So, they are either white, opaque, or clear. When you apply an untinted base paint onto a surface, you will likely be able to see the surface color through the base paint.  

When you add a layer of untinted base paint to a surface, it will not harm anything. However, you have probably made more work for yourself.  

If you chose white-pigment base 1 or 2, you might see a darker under-color through it, or the surface may simply just be white. You will need to paint another layer of tinted paint if you wish to have a color other than white. 

However, if you wish for it to be white, using a base without white colorant added will not look as nice or consistent. This is because it can become more transparent once it fully dries.

It is highly recommended that tint, even a white one, is added to the base paint. This results in better and even coverage for your surfaces.

If you previously painted with the untinted base paint, thankfully it can be easily covered. Simply purchase tinted paint in your desired color and put a layer of it over the untinted paint.

What Are The Benefits Of Tinting Paint?

Tinting paint offers the consumer several benefits that make their job and effort easier overall. When you can use a product that offers flexibility and consistency, you can save money as well. 

Read about these and more in greater detail below.

Service-Specific Paint

When a machine tints a base paint, it uses a specific “recipe” to get the desired results. Tint options allow you to create a subtle or intense shade or create a unique color. 

If you need a specific paint color to maintain a service-specific brand color, a tinting machine can do that for you. If you run out of paint, it can also recreate the same color.

Tinting machine

You Get Reliable Results

The base paint is white or translucent, and as it dries you can see imperfections and color seeping through from the surface it is painted on. With tinting, you will get reliable results. 

Tinted paint will cover walls consistently, hide blemishes, and dry with an even appearance. As a result, you will get the brightness, color, and coverage you desire.

It’s Quick

Tinting paint offers a quick and efficient way to get consistent, ready-to-use colors. Some base paints come pre-tinted. This means you can skip adding colorant and purchase the tinted base paint right off of the shelf. 

In many cases, you can simply buy more of the pre-tinted paint if you need more without the need to wait for it to be mixed.

Cleaning Up

Spilled tinted paint is easier to clean up. This is because it is more viscous than untinted paint. Viscous liquids do not spread or drip as quickly. This allows you to “catch” spills much faster than if it was untinted. 

Water-based paints in particular are also easier to clean up if they spill by using dishwashing detergent and warm water.

Lower Price

When you purchase pre-tinted paint you may use less colorant. If a paint store has tinted paint all ready to go, they can produce the color on a large scale, thus reducing overall manufacturing costs.

Conversely, if you are looking to create a customizable color, it could cost you less. It will all depend on the type of base paint and the amount of colorant that is used. 

It may be helpful to shop around to find the best deal to get your ideal color.

Act Independently 

Tainted paint allows you to act independently in creating your ideal shade of paint. Often, stores will set machines to remember the formula and colorants that you used to make your first batch. They then can easily replicate the paint color again if you need more.

Even better, you can shop around at various stores to find the ideal mix and price.

Another option is to tint the paint yourself with liquid or powdered colorants. There are a large variety of colors available. 

However, keep in mind that if you wish to make more of the same color, you will have to follow the same formula exactly to get the same results.

Types of Base Paint

There are four different types of base paint, simply described as base 1, base 2, base, 3, and base 4. The more white pigment that a base has, the lighter the additives will appear in the mixture. 

Base 1 offers a white foundation to make the lightest pastel colors. Bases 2 and 3 progressively have less white pigment for darker colors. Base 4 is without white pigment, and is used for intense and dark colors.

There are typically 4 types of base paints:

  • Base 1: White pigment base
  • Base 2: Less white than base 1
  • Base 3: Medium mid-tone base
  • Base 4: Darkest, deep base (clear/no white pigment)

Other companies may refer to these paints in different terms such as:

  • White base
  • Pastel base
  • Medium base
  • Deep base
  • Accent base (deep, vibrant colors)

What If I Use Base Paint Without Tint by Mistake?

If you already own base paint without tint, it is okay to use. However, keep in mind that it may not spread out evenly on surfaces, and that other colors or blemishes can peek through.

White base paints (base 1) can refresh a white wall, however, the other levels 2 through 4 tend to have more transparent material in them. 

This means surfaces can look patchy or streaky. If a color other than white is underneath the base paint, you will not be able to effectively cover it.

If you use untinted paint by mistake, it is an easy problem to solve.

First, make sure that the mistake paint is completely dry. Refer to the label on the can to see how long that might be. For example, oil-based paint can take up to 24 hours to set, and latex is dry in about 4 hours.

In most cases, you will need to buy a new can of tinted paint, and cannot use the partially-empty untinted can. This is because the colorant machines are designed to work with full cans of paint.

Also, keep in mind that base 4 paint cannot be turned into a white color. You will need base 1 if you are looking for a bright white or light-colored application.

Once it is dry, use the new tinted paint to cover over the old paint. Once the new layer of paint dries, you should have consistent color across your surfaces.

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