​Picking the Perfect White Paint

​Picking the Perfect White Paint

White is one of the most frequently used paint colors, and yet it is also one of the most difficult to get right. If you have ever browsed the aisles of your local paint store looking for a basic white paint, you may have been surprised to find hundreds of swatches. How do you pick one that will look right in your space? Today we will be exploring the world of undertones to help you identify your perfect white paint.

What is an Undertone?

Recognizing the dominant tone of a color is easy. We quickly classify colors into larger groups like red, blue, white, and so on. But what happens if you line up several swatches of the same color? Let’s say we are looking at red paint swatches. Collected in a group one red looks redder, one looks like a blue-red, and another looks orange-red. The subtle variations you see between these swatches are the color’s undertone.

Identifying undertones can be tricky, especially when you have a single color swatch in isolation. Color experts are often experienced enough to identify the undertone of a color without needing to compare it to another. The average person though will have an easier time recognizing undertones by collecting swatches in the same color family.

Cool White vs. Warm White

One of the first things you will notice when you have a small collection of white paint samples is that some whites appear warmer in color while others look cooler. Cooler whites tend to have blue undertones. Warmer whites have yellow undertones. The biggest decision you will make with white paint is whether you want a cool or warm white.

As a general rule of thumb cool whites tend to feel very bright, and they often look great in modern spaces. The one complaint people sometimes have about cool whites is that they can make a room feel cold. If you are looking to make your room feel comfortable and especially inviting a cool white probably is not the right choice for your space. Warm whites have a creamy appearance. They make rooms feel incredibly inviting and are often recommended for older spaces.

We always recommend that you test paint swatches in the room you plan to paint. You will want to pay attention to how the color shifts in natural light vs. artificial light. There are no hard and fast rules in decorating, but we often find that white is best suited to rooms with plenty of natural light. (This article has some very helpful tips for figuring out if your space will look good with white paint.)

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Photo by Juliette Byrne

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