Ultimate Gray and Illuminating Are Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2021

Gray and yellow paint

If you’re planning to do any lockdown decorating, then look no further than Pantone’s Colour of the Year for inspiration – Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. The combination of these two colours express the mood for 2021 to convey a ‘message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting’.

Dependable and warming colour

Gray and yellow paintAfter a tough year in 2020, many of us are looking forward to better times ahead. As we’re spending more time at home, there’s no better time to give your rooms a refresh with some painting and decorating and bring a little optimism into your homes.

Chosen by Pantone’s colour experts, Ultimate Gray encourages ‘feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience’ to provide something dependable in these uncertain times. When this is combined with the ‘bright and cheerful’ Illuminating, it creates optimism and ‘the promise of something sunny and friendly’, which supports each other well.

Whether you’re looking for living room or bedroom decorating ideas, Gray is now one of the top neutral colours for decorating, it is very versatile and is anything but boring or dull. It can be solely used to paint a whole wall to create a sense of relaxation or just paired with a classic white trim or ceilings. This timeless colour is also ideal for permanent features, such as kitchen cabinets or sideboards.

Preparing your base

Before you get stuck in with painting, the preparation is key for a professional finish.

  1. Protect the area by removing any furniture and covering the floors with drop cloths or plastic sheets. Add painter’s tape to skirting boards to ensure a clean edge, as well as any light switches that you want to protect.
  2. Sand down plaster walls, either by hand or with an orbital sander, to avoid highlighting existing imperfections to create a smooth surface to work with. Use Between Coats sanding sheets or rolls in a 120 grit for removing rough textures and a 240 grit for creating a smooth and even finish. This anti-clogging range provides a consistent scratch pattern for greater surface removal and better results.
  3. Liberty Green fillerIf there are any holes in the walls, these need to be filled in. You can sand down any filler with Liberty Green sanding sheets or rolls, use 120 grit for removing rough textures and a 180 grit for creating a smooth and even finish. Our most popular range, Liberty Green, is self-sharpening, anti-clogging, extremely durable and lasts up to 10 times longer than standard sandpaper. 
  4. Clean the walls with detergent or sugar soap to leave a clean and dust-free surface to start painting – once it’s dried of course.
  5. If there are any imperfections or the wall hasn’t been painted in eight years, it may be best to use a primer to ensure the paint sticks to the wall correctly and is long lasting. After applying primer, use Between Coats in 180 grit to create a good surface before applying paint.
  6. When you begin painting, start from the top with the ceiling first and work your way down.
  7. To smooth any surface imperfections between coats, use Between Coats in 180 grit and move to a 240 grit and 320 grit before applying your final coat of paint.


Don’t forget your dust mask, safety glasses and work gloves when sanding and to keep the room ventilated! If you’re hand sanding a large area, try using a rubber sanding block to provide more support. Read more tips on sanding by hand.

Yellow sofaFinishing touches

If you love to accessorise with wild patterns and bright furnishings, then grey is the ideal colour to ground everything.

If you don’t feel brave enough to use the bright yellow paint on a whole wall, why not incorporate this colour with throws and cushions to add a bit of fun. Finish off by adding a touch of luxury with high gloss finishes to reflect the light.

Don’t forget to tag @oakeyabrasives on Facebook and share a photo of any decorating projects using Oakey products and tell us all about your creation. Take a look at our reference chart to find the right grit for your project. Alternatively, please contact us to find out more about our products.