How to Choose a Shade of White Paint

  • Kimberly Wake
  • 11/30/20

Wondering where to begin when you are considering a change to the space. Our first go to and most affordable way to revise the overall feel is to paint. If you're looking for a fresh feel, we often recommend a blank canvas of White as a starting point. This will help you to layer in your decorative items to create a vibe that is unique to you. 

To a homeowner, the choice of “white” for a wall, ceiling, or cabinet might seem like a relatively simple one. 

But that illusion shatters quickly when you find yourself staring at hundreds and hundreds of white swatches at the local paint store.

White can be an amazing choice for so many different designs, so perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that there are more whites to choose from than any other color. 

To start your search for the perfect shade of white for your project, evaluate the following factors. 

  • Sunlight - Brighter, more direct sunlight feels more yellow, and might call for a cooler white with blue or gray undertones. However, rooms with all indirect light (such as those with north-facing windows) might benefit from warmer whites. It’s not always the right choice to choose a paint with more light reflective value for darker spaces, since these spaces can look particularly dark when the sun goes down. 
  • Style - People opting for a gallery-like, modern feel in their space will want neutral or cool whites, while people who want cozier or more rustic vibes will want to look for a shade with warmer undertones. 
  • The Other Colors In The Room - Reflections from other pieces of furniture or decor in the room will affect how a certain color of white looks on your walls, as will reflections from anything the light bounces off before it comes into your space, such as trees or other buildings. You can choose a shade whose tones either complement or counteract those shades. 
  • Finish - If you’re painting a surface that needs a higher-gloss finish, such as cabinetry or bathroom walls, you can expect that surface to naturally take on a more yellow tone. In these cases, you can plan to adjust with purer whites. 

Once you have a better idea of whether you need a cool, neutral, or warm shade of white, you can check out the following colors. They’re some of my all-time favorites and can be used in many versatile ways. 

Pure White by Sherwin-Williams 

This is my go-to choice for spaces that I want to look clean and sharp. It’s as close as I can get to a completely neutral white, and it's great for applications like ceilings and cabinets, as well as for walls in spaces with super modern looks and the ideal amounts of sunlight. 

Paper White by Benjamin Moore 

This color has a beautiful and subtle touch of gray that can keep a cool white from feeling too sterile. It’s a great choice for a bedroom that feels fresh but also soothing. It’s also a great choice for any room with strong sunlight, because it reflects the energy of the sun — bright in

the morning but deepening throughout the day.

Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore 

This color has warm undertones that make it a great option for rooms that need a cozier or earthier feel, but it still maintains an air sophistication. It can be a great choice for a room that has gold or cream-colored themes. Its creamier look doesn’t reflect the light as starkly as other shades, which can create a tranquil effect. 

White Dove by Benjamin Moore 

This is another off-white with a softer, warmer feel and hints of gray. White Dove scatters light through a space in a way that feels bright and that doesn’t change too much in appearance throughout the day as the light changes. The result is a space that feels airy and calming. 

Alabaster by Sherwin-Williams 

Sherwin-Williams chose this shade as its 2016 color of the year for good reason. It’s what they describe as a “true neutral,” that projects warmth while still maintaining a sense of crispness. This is another great choice for a clean, calming bedroom or a kitchen with a bright and spacious feel. 

Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore 

This is another shade with a gray base, but it’s almost a pure white. This is another great option if you want a clean white that reflects the color around it. I love how Benjamin Moore’s website sums up this color: “As delicate and refined as the lace it was named after, this crisp, clean white evokes images of pure silk, soft linen and simpler times.” 

Simply White by Benjamin Moore 

This shade was the Benjamin Moore color of the year in 2016, and is still going strong. It is as close to pure white as Benjamin Moore gets. Beyond walls, you can use it for cabinets, trim, or doors. 

Still Wondering Which White to Choose? 

You probably still have a few doubts about which shade of white paint to choose for a certain space. Even the most experienced designers have to think hard about these options when it comes down to a final decision. 

That’s why a standard best practice is to buy a sample and paint a section of the wall before you fully commit. Once the new shade of paint is on the wall, you’ll see for yourself how that particular shade reflects the colors around it and changes throughout the day.

Picking a few different samples and painting them alongside one another can be a great way to illustrate just how different two seemingly similar shades of white can look once they’re actually living on your wall. 

Still have questions? Please reach out to us. 

 

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