One Man’s “Oops” is Another Man’s Treasure

When I went into Sherwin-Williams to buy paint to transform my son’s room, the sales guy asked me if I paint a lot. I started laughing, and I think my response was something along the lines of, “Um, yeah.” He entered my information in his system as a “professional,” so now I save a small percentage each time I buy paint there.

If you do as much painting as I do, it’s not hard to end up spending tons of money. Paint is really expensive when you get down to it. A quart of cheap paint runs you about $10; a gallon is around $20. The price skyrockets from there if you are buying higher quality paint. Then, after your projects are completed, you end up with tons of half empty paint cans stored in your garage.

Recently, I’ve taken a smarter approach to paint buying. By shopping the “Oops” paint section at home improvement and paint stores, I’ve been able to buy some great colors for much cheaper prices. “Oops” paint is just paint that has been custom mixed at the store, but the customer decided not to purchase it for some reason – most likely the color didn’t come out quite like they wanted or they completely abandoned their paint can at the counter. Their loss is your gain!

I check out the “Oops” paint section each time I go to Home Depot. Occasionally, I am able to pick up a quart of a very neutral color. However, most of the time I find myself purchasing a super cheap quart of bright yellow, turquoise blue, or pinky brown. I usually ask myself why someone would want that particular mixed, but who am I to judge when I get the quart for just $1 (or the gallon for $5)?

Why would I buy colors that aren’t exactly what I want to use? That’s because of color theory, my friend. You can do an Internet search for “color theory” if you are interested, but the gist of it is that you can mix some colors together to get other colors. Very scientific, huh? It’s just like when you learned in elementary school that yellow and blue make green.

For instance, I mixed four parts white paint with one part yellow and one part beige to create a creamy, antique white for a table (yes, the table), I’m working on. I loved that I spent a total of just a few dollars to create the perfect hue…and it’s a color no one else will ever have.

Don’t be afraid to mix leftover paint from other projects with “Oops” paint. You probably have some white just hanging around your garage that would love to jump into a brightly colored paint to create a lighter hue. You see? There is a use for all of that bright yellow and navy blue “Oops” paint you spy at the store.

Have you used “Oops” paint before? What have you painted with it?

Filed Under: Create Your Decor

About Lindsay Ballard

Lindsay Ballard is a former college mascot turned political geek turned DIY fanatic who is conspiring to live in a Technicolor dream world. Her designs are bold and graphic, while her spirit is fun and full of color. Lindsay chronicles her projects and design ideas here at Makely, where she shares daily tutorials and inspiration. Lindsay lives outside of Austin, Texas with her husband (Tom), children (Zack and Emma) and dogs (Jack and Duke).


  1. I buy 'ooops' paint all the time. I just painted my reading room in an 'oops' color, and my bookshelves were covered in an 'ooops' shade with another 'ooops' glaze over top. (see: I also mix colors, but haven't used any of it yet. Have some projects in the recesses of my mind, though.

  2. Love me some oops paint! I've used it for walls, murals, furniture. I've found the large 5 gallon buckets particularly helpful for mixing colors at home.

  3. Clint & Alicia McLaws says:

    I just bought my first gallon of "oops!" paint the other day. I went in to purchase yellow paint for the bathroom, and I wandered over to the "oops" section while I waited for an associate to show up. lo and behold, almost the perfect shade of yellow was in the "oops" section!! Its a bit lighter than I had envisioned, but for $5, I'll make it work!! 😀 I am beginning the painting tomorrow! 😀

  4. I have only bought regular paint once…oops, all the way. :)

  5. When we moved into our home four years ago, the dining room was a dark plum… beautiful but not my taste for the dining room. We finished off a portion of the basement for my sewing studio and since funds were tight and there was half a gallon of plum and a half gallon of creamy white in the garage, I mixed them together to paint the sewing studio. It turned out to be a gorgeous color. Not really an oops paint but certainly a way to be frugal and use something we already had!

    Linda Turske

  6. our entire house is either leftovers from family or oops paint. wouldn't have it any other way. i love happy accidents!

  7. That is an excellent tip! I've always wanted to buy the "oops" paint but chicken out. I have industrial sized containers of white paint left over in the garage. Diluting is THE answer! Thank you!

  8. I used an "oops" paint before and it turned out to be one of my favorite rooms!

  9. I painted my laundry room with "oops" paint. It was the perfect color and finish. I didn't need to do anything to it! And, I used the entire gallon right down to the last few drops that I saved for touch ups. My life rarely works out that way, so all these months later I'm still stoked about it!

  10. Who needs sleep? says:

    I love the "oops" paint section. I just painted my front and back door in a dark navy blue that looks great on my little red house. I get complements all the time on it. Not bad for a $2.00 upgrade!

  11. I love the opps paint!

    I found the exact, and I mean exact, color I was looking for to paint our playroom in the opps section for $3!!!

    I never thought that the fancy paint stores would have opps paint too. I'm going to have to head that way tomorrow morning!

  12. I love oops paint! I can't go to Lowe's without checking the cart behind the paint desk. My den was painted with an oops gallon & it's one of my favorite colors in my home. I think it was $5.

  13. I live in the land of oops! Oh, you meant paint? I am all about oops there too. The Kelly-Moore guy knows me well and has been known to call me when he has an oops that is in the range that I usually buy. Yes, I am carrying on a torrid affair with the paint guy! Just don't tell them that I am using him for his paint.

  14. All the time! Perfect for accent walls!

    I have to say, though, I never considered mixing it. Great tip!


  15. I NEVER pass the oops paint without a quick perusal, and often a purchase. Even if I don't know where I'll use it, I buy it. I paint a lot and always have a project idea smoldering in the corners of my brain. I just got a gorgeous gallon of slate blue.

  16. Paint shops deliberately add another color to paints rejected by buyers so as not to have them come back and buy it as a highly discounted 'oops' paint. Nothing wrong with the paint and if you need more, they can color match more.


  17. I wanted to give our bathroom a quick makeover. We don't have that much wall space so I didn't want to get a gallon of paint that I know would go wasted. So I checked out the oops paint section a few times a week until I saw something I could live with. We ended up with a quart of a really nice mellow aqua blue color and it's perfect.

  18. Small House says:

    The best kept secret. Maybe not so secret anymore.

  19. Heidi @ Wonder Woman Wannabe says:

    This is a new idea to me! Thanks! 😉

  20. Oops paint scares me – I'm pretty picky, but I have never thought of mixing to get custom colors!

  21. I need to remember to check out the oops paint section before I buy. I can't believe you purchased one for just a dollar. That's great.

    I am having a giveaway on my blog. Hope you can stop by.


  22. Oops paint is my bff. Two bathrooms are painted in Laura Ashley oops butter yellows. My bedroom is a lovely spa blue-gray that I mixed up from several oops cans. I never would have found that color on my own. My front door will be a fab barn red I found for $2. I'm about to dive into my collection of oops cans to mix up a nice sandy taupe for my half-bath.

  23. Kara@ Creations by Kara says:

    Love the Ooops paint. I found a great blue color that I used in my laundry room. It was a little dark, so I just added some white. You can save so much money, and I love that!

  24. I also buy OOPS! paint all the time. I scout it out and keep paint chips of colors I like and then check them against OOPS…I have not been disappointed, there is usually something I can use, either a pint or gallon. I picked up a Dark Olive Green from Ralph Lauren and mixed it with a Dark Green from Behr. Two gallons would have cost me $45.00 Retail, only $10.00 Oops! Super Frugal Savings!

  25. Condo Blues says:

    I just bought a gallon of outdoor oops paint in hunter green for $5. I only needed a pint, but the gallon of oops paint was cheaper and higher quality than the pint I planned on buying to paint some porch chairs with. Well, I sucked it up and bought the gallon of more expensive paint for cheap. I think every paint project of outdoor items will be hunter green for long time.

  26. I love oops paint and have probably 20 or so cans down in the basement!!! I have noticed that the Lowes store is not selling it as cheaply as they used to – a gallon is 10 – 15 dollars now!


  27. I am an oops girl myself…I mixed some for one of my dresser redo's, my laundry room, the stripes in Kayla's room. I sure have tons of paint. Too bad we didn't live closer we could do a paint swap…I am sure between the two of us we can make any color in the rainbow.

  28. I'm all about the "oops" paint. And, like you, I'm always mixing my own custom paint colors with a bunch of white, some burnt umber or black tint, and those "oops" colors. Someday, you and me girl, we're going to have our own paint color line together.

    PS Seriously thinking of coming to Austin in November to visit my cousin. Can you say 'thrifting' ? Woooo hooo.


  29. Hrm I never thought to mix my oops paint, I usually just buy the ones that look pretty and hope for a chance to use them 😉

  30. 4littlepilgrims says:

    Ha! It is nice to know that there are other out there that have as many cans of paint as I do. I buy oops paint all of time from Lowe's, HD and Wal-Mart. I just got a quart of $18 chocolate glaze for $6 at Lowe's this week~ I agree their prices aren't as great as they once were. I can buy the sample sizes of Behr cheaper than I can buy the tiny ones at Michael's or Hobby Lobby!

  31. Doesn't your Habitat ReStore have a paint section? Some of the larger stores excess oops paints as well as extra paint from home builders and painting companies are donated to them….i mixed about 5 different oops & sample sizes together & got a color just a smidge lighter than the custom color my entire 1st floor is painted, in a satiny finish (instead of builder flat) which I used to paint the inside of my pantry closet to wear better…..

  32. I don’t go for oops paint often…I am blessed with a landfill that has chemical recycling so I scored a gallon of $60 Ball and Farrow paint there for—FREE! So far I’ve not paid anything for paint (oh, wait, the F&B was a bit too light, but I went back to the store where they originally purchased it and they tinted it a bit darker. Our family room just glows when the sun is right.