If you’ve ever tried to choose paint colours, you’ll know that it can be a bit of a rabbit hole. You might simply want white walls. But do you want a warm white or a cool white? A bright white or an off-white? Full strength or half? And that’s before a hint of colour even enters the picture…
Ultimately, the choice of colour comes down to how you want the space to feel. Colour has a powerful effect on our emotions, which is why classrooms are so often green, restaurants spike our appetite with red, and that certain ice blue takes our minds straight to coastal holiday mode.
For Alex Roberts, co-founder of rebel paint company (yes, there’s such a thing) Tint, that emotional connection trumps all. “We really wanted to break all the rules down and democratise colour”, she tells us of the philosophy behind Tint. “I quickly realised that people have such strong emotional responses to colours – a colour that I loved could make someone’s stomach turn (even if technically it could look great in their space). In the end when you are selecting a colour for your home, it can be as simple as making sure that it is a colour that you like – not one that you’ve been told to like.”
Six years ago, Alex’s husband DJ co-founded a company called Palette, which developed tech devices to scan and capture colours digitally. When they developed the Palette Pico, a colour scanning device, “we knew it was finally possible to see a colour, scan it and order it as paint without ever stepping foot in a store”, she recalls. The ramifications were enormous. “Scanning a colour that means something to me transforms it from just another blue to the blue of my Grandma’s sewing table – I know no matter where I paint that colour it will make me happy!”
It wasn’t long before Alex and DJ decided to take the leap and found Tint, the paint brand that would supply the colours captured from real life.
Not content with simply disrupting the paint market, Tint paint goes above and beyond to ensure their formulations are water-based, odour-free and absolutely devoid from animal cruelty or by-products. They are 99% VOC-free, making them far less polluting than most paint products, and as a result they’re safe for families living a low-tox life. The business is entirely online, with giant peel-and-stick colour swatches and Virtual Try-On with the Tint app.
And who could have predicted that within their first year of launching, we’d all be in lockdown, itching to redecorate homes we were suddenly spending far more time in?
Most importantly, Tint is all about the feelings colour evokes. ‘Potter’s Square’, a colour from their debut range, is “a deep terracotta that I scanned on a business trip to Kathmandu”, Alex tells us. “There is a place, referred to as Potters Square, where thousands of tiny handcrafted terracotta objects are laid out in the sun to dry. It’s a stunning spot and made a lasting impression on me. Luckily, when I was there I had my Pico on me, so I simply went up and scanned one of the drying objects to capture the colour. Little did I know it would later become part of Tint’s very first range!”
We spoke to Alex about life as an entrepreneur, preparing for her first baby’s arrival, and running a business with her husband. We don’t predict any baby blues around here…although the shade Ol’ Blue Eyes, a beautiful cool dusty blue, might just change our minds.
Visit Tint at www.tintpaint.com.au
Tint co-founder Alex Roberts
What did your career entail prior to Tint?
I studied science and psychology at university, but have always been drawn to creative roles – and when I started working I also found that I was naturally better at what I was passionate about. Prior to Tint I worked in visual merchandising, store planning and store decorating for Seed. I then moved into product design and management for a homewares company called Down To The Woods. A day at work could range from painting illustrations for packaging, to picking colours and trends for the next season’s range, to physically building a trade show stand. I loved the variety, creativity and analytical aspects equally.
What inspired the launch of a paint brand?
In 2014 my husband DJ co-founded a company called Palette – simply put, they make devices that can be used to scan a surface and capture its colour digitally. Naturally, Palette started supplying these devices to paint companies around the world and over time we started talking to them about how a colour scanning device, like the Palette Pico, could unlock so many opportunities to move a paint brand online and stir things up! We knew it was finally possible to see a colour, scan it and order it as paint without ever stepping foot in a store – that excited us!
Thinking practically, we originally just wanted to enable this for other brands (that would be a lot easier), but when we realised the only way to make it possible was to go out on our own, we did just that! That’s when we decided to launch Tint and I quickly came onboard. It seemed kind of crazy at the beginning but the opportunity was too good to pass up.
I can’t imagine building a paint range is a walk in the park … How did you even begin to start the process?
We had our colour scanning device Pico, and knew that that could really shake up the way people thought about colour when looking to paint. But we also knew there was a lot more to it than that, so we went back to basics and broke down the whole paint shopping journey from start to finish. How do people get inspired? How do they pick a colour? How do they pick the right paint and tools? As DIY painters ourselves we knew the hurdles we had faced when trying to shop for paint the traditional way, so we reassessed every step with the aim of making the whole process fun, simple and rewarding. Quite quickly we had a long to do list to get cracking on!
Have you always considered yourself to be entrepreneurial?
I wouldn’t say so! I had watched DJ start Palette and obviously shared that experience with him, but that also meant I knew all too well how hard starting a business could be. But once we started talking about Tint I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to get involved. It was the perfect combination of all the things I love – analysing data, exploring trends, developing new products. I saw so much potential in what we could do, and sharing thoughts from the sidelines was no longer enough.
What has been the most challenging part of setting up the business to date?
The hardest part is letting the little things go (for now at least). We spent a lot of time working on the product (the paint, the samples, the app etc). Customer experience and product quality are two things we’re not willing to compromise on.
The dark side of attention to detail is that you can get bogged down in specifics at the expense of progress. For example, obsessing over text spacing on the website and button shapes on the app. I think if we had let our inner perfectionist beasts get the better of us, we would still be waiting to launch!
Let’s talk paint … What should we be looking for when we select a colour for our home?
This was obviously something I had to think about a lot when pulling together our first colour range. There are many ‘colour rules’ and guides about what colour one should and shouldn’t use in space, but in the end, at Tint, we really wanted to break all the rules down and democratise colour.
As I worked through the range I quickly realised that people have such strong emotional responses to colours – a colour that I loved could make someone’s stomach turn (even if technically it could look great in their space). In the end when you are selecting a colour for your home, it can be as simple as making sure that it is a colour that you like – not one that you’ve been told to like.
For me the colours I am most happy with are the ones I have captured with our Pico device. Scanning a colour that means something to me transforms it from just another blue to the blue of my Grandma’s sewing table – I know no matter where I paint that colour it will make me happy!
When it comes to colour, trust your instincts and roll with it. Draw inspiration from other parts of your life – like fashion, art or even food. Observe what colours you’re naturally drawn to and have a little fun in designing your spaces.
How have you gone about selecting the colours in your range?
Picking our colour range was part science and part art: it took a lot longer than I thought it would and so many different aspects came into play. As a starting point, through Pico we have a huge database of colours that have been scanned all around the world. I was able to use this information to monitor trends through time, pulling out popular colours and observing strong variations based on locations and the seasons.
Personally, I also drew inspiration by looking at other industries, especially turning to fashion to see what is filtering down into homewares and design spaces.
In some ways, I had started curating the collection years ago, as I always travel with my own Pico and had captured colours from all over the world as inspiration struck or as I fell in love with a hue – so some of those colours have definitely snuck into our first range too.
There were many iterations of the range and the hardest part was narrowing it down to just 70 colours. But knowing that we had the option to offer infinite custom colours with Pico took the pressure off a little.
What are some of the colours you’re most excited about?
Probably the personal ones that I have scanned over the years. For example, ‘Potter’s Square’ is a deep terracotta that I scanned on a business trip to Kathmandu, Nepal. There is a place, referred to as Potters Square, where thousands of tiny handcrafted terracotta objects are laid out in the sun to dry. It’s a stunning spot and made a lasting impression on me. Luckily, when I was there I had my Pico on me, so I simply went up and scanned one of the drying objects to capture the colour. Little did I know it would later become part of Tint’s very first range!
There are other colours in the range that I just love, such as ‘After Dark’, because of the way it transforms with light, as well as ‘Hygge’, for the warm cozy feeling it gives.
Are there any colours we’d never see in a Tint range?
Never say never! I know that there are many colours that I have hated in the past and learned to love as time changes. Perhaps I could say fluros won’t make into such a curated collection – I can’t imagine painting a full wall in fluro, especially in a living space…but hey, let’s see what the future holds.
What are your thoughts on DIY painting vs hiring a professional?
Do what suits you best! But don’t be afraid to DIY at least once in your life.
DJ and I have always painted our own places, and we’ve found that once you get started, you can really enjoy the process! It’s a great weekend activity and it’s not as intimidating as people might think. The plus side is also that once it’s done, you’ll feel a real attachment to a space that you have transformed with your own hands!
Of course – ask me again later in the year when I have a young baby and my concept of time may have changed a little! Who knows?!
What tips can you provide if we’re going to tackle a room ourselves?
This one is boring advice but it holds true: don’t skip the prep! It’s tempting to just get rolling but you will finish a room much quicker and get a much nicer finish if you clean the walls, tape things up and prepare the surface first.
Also don’t treat it as a chore – grab your partner or friends, get some treats and put on a playlist. Painting a room is a great way to get moving, put down your phone and have a little fun!
Finally, I’m not really one to talk, but try not to get caught up on every centimetre of the room being perfect.
What does a typical day look like for you at the moment?
We haven’t yet reached the stage of a ‘typical day’ at Tint: each day we seem to be working on new projects and running towards new goals. That’s one of the benefits of being a small, young company – we can react quickly and get new ideas up and running fast! For example two days before Valentines we had the idea to make a ‘Tinter’ extension to our app – where you can swipe right to match with your next colour crush. Everyone one on the team got involved and by Valentines Day it was up and running. Lucky for me I had the fun job of giving each colour a cheeky valentines themed description based on its name – check it out for a giggle.
Do you have maternity leave plans?
I’m really fortunate to have a lot of flexibility around my leave. I plan to stop working around 36 weeks (which is scarily soon) and then give myself as much time as I need to settle into life with a baby. Of course I will never fully be switched off – I’m sure there will be many business conversations over dinner and nappy changes, but I will also want to stay involved with Tint. I can’t imagine not being part of it.
There is no set date or time for when I plan to return to work or what that will look like yet. I’m sure when the time comes it will be a bit of a juggling act, and something I’ll slowly build up to.
One thing I do plan to work on during my time away is to work on our next colour range or collection. I’ll definitely be keeping a Pico in my nappy bag and I’m sure as a mother, a whole new world of colour inspiration is about to open up to me!
What are you most excited about when it comes to motherhood?
Watching my child grow and learn for sure! Child psychology and neuropsychology were my favourite subjects at university. I find kids absolutely fascinating and am so excited to have one of my own – I just hope I will be capable of doing more than just staring at them 24/7.
How have you painted and decorated your own nursery?
To be honest, our nursery has been a little neglected thanks to our focus on the launch of Tint and all the attention it demands, but there are definitely plans that we now have to get cracking on. I have a few of our sticker samples up on the walls, and since we plan to mostly use the furniture we have, I think a nice coat of paint will bring new life to the room.
In general our colour palette will compliment the bare wood already in the space – so instead of replacing the wardrobe doors I’m thinking of painting them in ‘Inner Self’ (a pale dusty green) and using ‘Fika’ (a warm light beige) on the walls. The space is small so I don’t want to overwhelm it. I want to make it as calm and peaceful as it can be. Luckily the paint is super low VOC and has no odour, so I am not stressed about painting the space so close to my due date.
Other than Tint, what are some of your favourite brands or sources when it comes to your home?
When traveling I love to collect things, so a lot of the little objects we have around have just been gathered from our travels. We have also both spent a lot of time living in Europe and definitely have a love for European design, so there are quite a few pieces from brands like Vitra (and of course the famous IKEA).
But otherwise we like to keep it local, there are so many great Australian brands out there right on our doorstep – at the moment I have my eye on the Coco Flip Sequence tables, the colours and shapes are to die for.