Picking the Perfect White Paint

A modernized classic bathroom painted in all white paint.  The floor is black and white tile and the overall look of the room is clean and spacious.

You are in the frame of mind to work on a DIY project, and it’s going to start with a wall color refresh. You’ve looked at all the inspiration and can picture it in your mind – clean white walls making your room feel bright, airy, and open. White is one of the most popular wall colors around, it seems like a simple and straightforward color. However, when you begin researching the options you realize not all whites are the same.

The photo of 9 paint swatches featuring slightly different white paint colors, all with different nuances.

Behr color experts have gathered the BEST advice for choosing white paint:

Most whites have a slight color nuance or undertone. Very few white paints are colorless. That means they may have a tiny hint of blue, pink, yellow, green, tan, violet, gray and so on. It may not be easy to see the undertone by looking at paint chips, comparing them side by side, or viewing them on a computer screen. The best way to see your white’s undertone is to place chips on a piece of white copy paper, use natural daylight conditions and see what color stand outs. It’s almost like magic how quickly they appear.

Lighting can play a role. Be sure to look at white swatches under all light sources in your home. Test your color in as large an area possible. The best visual test is purchasing 8 oz. samples, painting an area on the wall, and reviewing them throughout the day. 

Warm whites feel cozy and inviting. Use them whenever you want a room to feel comfortable and intimate. Behr’s Swiss Coffee or Smoky White are examples of warm white because they have creamy golden notes.  

A large modern farmhouse style kitchen, these is small, round dining table and chair on the background.  The color featured on the walls is warm white called, Smoky White.
wall color: Smoky White BWC-13, trim: ULTRA PURE WHITE®
 

Cool whites will feel serene and crisp. They will have blue or gray undertones and help a space feel vast and expansive. Behr’s Frost or Bakery Box are examples of cool whites.

An casual-eclectic bedroom featuring simple furniture and some wood decorative elements, the color featured on the walls is cool white called Frost.
wall color: Frost 57, trim: ULTRA PURE WHITE®

Compare your white paint swatches to other elements or materials in the room. Look at your white color chips next to flooring, cabinetry, counter tops, tile, and furniture pieces to ensure they harmonize. In general, if you have warm décor already in the room like a sandy beige sofa and natural hardwood floors, you’ll want to look at warm whites. If décor and furniture leans cool in the blue-gray or green ranges, you’ll want to go with a cooler white tone.

All of our best whites are featured online at behr.com or can be found at your local The Home Depot. Ask us any of your color questions as well at Ask an Expert.

Colorfully yours,

Erika

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