In this post: we will learn about choosing the perfect white paint for your home. Here's what will be covered: different paint sheens for white walls, the importance of undertones, how light affects white paint, the most popular warm and cool white paints and 8 steps for choosing the best white paint for your home.
I love white walls! For me, they are the perfect background for furnishings and white paint makes a room look bright, airy, and even bigger. But white paint can be tricky! The undertones that make white paint so beautiful can also make it hard to choose the perfect white paint for your home!
But, of course, we CAN choose the perfect white paint for our homes by learning a few things that unlock white paint’s secrets! Let’s chat about how you can confidently choose the perfect white paint and how to get the nuances of undertones right!
Here’s what we will cover in this post…
- we will learn about selecting the perfect white paint for the walls in our home
- white is a beautiful choice
- how lighting affects white paint color
- paint finishes and how they affect white paint color
- unlocking the secrets of undertones
- how white paint works with the color palette in your home
- when to choose warm or cool white paints
- why choosing the perfect white paint color is all about undertones
- popular white paint choices
Today we want to take the guesswork out of choosing the right white wall color for your home.
WHY CHOOSE WHITE WALLS?
There are many reasons to choose white paint for a room or even your whole home.
If you are toying with the idea of painting a room white or have already painted a room white but are thinking it might be the wrong white paint color then this post is for you!
One of the best reasons to take the plunge and paint a room or home white is white paint’s clean, open, and airy look!
And because of the reflective quality of white, a room will look a bit bigger. White walls receded. It’s a beautiful illusion.
Another reason for choosing to paint a room white is white walls will let you show off the furnishing and art in a room. There is no obvious paint color to compete for attention in a room.
The fourth reason to choose white is white walls are classic! They are tried and true and are stand-out winners for creating beautiful rooms.
White has been an on-trend color to paint walls for quite a while now. But remember white is also a true classic. It has a record of longevity and will continue to be popular even when it is not the “hot” color for walls.
White walls play nicely with most color palettes and styles. So it is not only a beautiful choice for the walls in your home, it is the smart choice!
No wonder white is an interior decorator’s number one overall choice for painting walls!
WHAT IS THE BEST WHITE PAINT COLOR FOR WALLS AND INTERIORS?
Oh, goodness! Choosing white paint is not that straightforward. The answer is…
It depends on a lot of things. And that is what we will chat about in this post!
So don’t run out and buy white paint off a store’s shelf without doing a bit of homework first!
Here’s what you need to know…
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING WHITE
Have you ever painted a room white and realized that it looks dirty or blue or pink?
White is one of the most complex paint colors. Did you know there are over 900 different hues and tints of white paint?
So the chances of choosing the perfect white for your home are slim if you just grab a white paint color in a store without considering a few things first.
Let me encourage you! You can choose the perfect white for your home. Here are some things that will really help you once you understand them.
LIGHTING AFFECTS WHITE PAINT
Light plays an important role when it comes to color. Actually, we need light to see color. The way light is bounced off or absorbed by an object creates the color we see. And light has an immense effect on white paint!
This is a very easy explanation of the very complex properties of color. But it will help us understand a bit about the importance of light when we talk about white walls.
AMBIENT AND NATURAL LIGHTING AFFECTS WHITE PAINT
Both natural light and artificial light have a big impact on the color of white paint in a home.
AMBIENT LIGHTING AND WHITE PAINT
Instead of talking about Kelvins and the color rendering index, let’s just say that artificial lighting affects white paint just as natural light does.
The warmer the ambient light the warmer the white paint on walls will look. The opposite is true with cool ambient light!
So the color of light coming from artificial light sources will alter the look of white paint.
NATURAL LIGHTING AND WHITE PAINT
Since natural light can be both warm or cool at different times of the day, this light can have a big effect on how the white paint on your walls and other surfaces will look.
I have an open concept home with lots of windows. And Simply White (Benjamin Moore) looks very different from room to room and on different white finishes depending on the time of day.
WHITE PAINT IN NORTH-FACING ROOMS VS WHITE PAINT IN SOUTH-FACING ROOMS
Another way light affects white paint is the direction sunlight comes in through a window.
If a room is south facing the light is warmer and will tend to make white paint look warmer too.
And if a room is north facing the sunlight coming through a window will tend to be cooler and will make your white paint look cooler too.
East and west-facing rooms can go either way. So it is important to observe them to see if that room looks warmer or cooler in natural light.
This is one of the biggest reasons we should always paint big samples of the white paint we are considering on several walls and make notes about how they look at different times of the day.
PAINT FINISHES AFFECT WHITE PAINT
Paint finishes or the luster or sheen of paint will either reflect or absorb light. Flat or matte paint absorbs more light than semi-gloss paint because light reflects off of it more.
There are many paint finishes. Here are the most popular listed in order of least shiny to the most shine…
- high gloss
Today we are only talking about white wall paint so we will be looking at three paint finishes: flat, matte, and eggshell.
FLAT AND MATTE WHITE PAINT
I’m going to sing the praises of flat paint for walls! I absolutely love flat paint. Flat paint will give you the truest color when put on your walls and has a soft look.
It also absorbs the most light so it is not shiny.
If you have walls with few imperfections then flat paint is a great choice.
One of the biggest reasons I LOVE flat paint on walls is scuffs and marks can easily be painted and my walls look like they were freshly painted. No funny-looking patch ghosting on the walls.
Matte paint is very close to flat paint. It has the same luxurious look but it has an almost unnoticeable shine.
Flat and Matte painted walls do not wash up well. Touch them up instead.
EGGSHELL PAINT ON WALLS
If you don’t like the idea of touching up your walls then an eggshell finish might be for you! It has a higher sheen than flat paint and is easier to wash. Getting rid of dirt marks is a matter of using a Magic Eraser or a cloth with water and a mild non-abrasive cleaner.
One caution. Depending on how stubborn a mark is on an eggshell wall and how vigorously it is scrubbed you can take some of the paint off of the wall along with the mark. And the area will be noticeable and the entire wall will probably have to be repainted.
A good rule to remember about paint finishes is…
As the luster of the paint increases, touch-ups become increasingly hard to do because you will see the “patch”. You can see where you have painted over a mark.
OTHER PAINT FINISHES
I would not recommend the other paint finishes listed above for walls. Keep lusters like semi-gloss and higher for trim, cabinets, and doors.
Look for a post about painting with higher gloss paints soon.
UNDERTONES AND WHITE PAINT
One of the biggest things that affect pure white paint are UNDERTONES! And if you take one thing away from this post it should be to know the undertones of the white paints you are considering!!!!!
PURE WHITE PAINT
Pure white paint is important to mention. Think of it as the white paint painters use ceilings. It is a bright white that has no detectable undertones.
You may like this paint for your ceiling but it is quite uninspiring and not very pretty to put on your walls.
There are so many gorgeous paints with beautiful undertones that make white paint interesting and complex so use one of them for the walls in your home.
Color is made up of two “tones”. Mass tones and undertones.
Mass tones are the color you see at first glance. A white wall is white when we talk about mass tones. A daffodil is yellow. The grass is green.
It is also known as the base color.
But hiding behind or lying under almost any color are things called undertones. They are colors that are mixed into pure color to make them unique!
So when we inspect what we think is a white wall more carefully it probably is not pure white at all.
Most likely other tints have been mixed in the white paint to create gorgeous and often frustrating nuances of the color white.
This is why the white paint you bought at the store now looks a bit pink or dirty or blue-ish on your walls.
It’s all about undertones!
You might like to see a very thorough but easy to understand post all about undertones and how they affect color HERE. This post will also help you mix warm and cool colors in your decor like a pro.
WARM AND COOL UNDERTONES IN WHITE PAINT
Color, even white, is broken down into warm and cool colors.
Undertones are created when a pure color is mixed with a little bit of another color.
White paint with warm undertones is made when a pure white base paint is mixed with just a little warm colored paint.
Warm colors on a color wheel are browns, yellows, beiges, creams, and pinks to name a few. Warm colors, including white paint with warm undertones, are softer and tend to feel cozier and friendly.
White paint with cool undertones is made when a pure white base paint is mixed with a little bit of cool paint color.
Cool colors on the color wheel like blues, purples, and greens. They are crisper, fresh, and feel colder.
Undertones create a plethora of different tints and hues of white, both warm and cool.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE UNDERTONES IN WHITE PAINT
Knowing the undertones will tell you two important things…
- if the white paint you choose will look warm or cool on your walls
- and if the paint you choose will fight other colors in the room you want to paint
HOW DO I DISCOVER THE UNDERTONES OF WHITE PAINT COLORS?
There are a couple popular ways to find the undertone in a particular white paint.
It’s important to never look at a paint color in isolation or on its own. White paint needs to be compared with other white paints.
FINDING THE UNDERTONES ON A PAINT SAMPLE OR IN A FAN DECK SWATCH
The paint swatches above are all shades of white paint!
If you are looking for white paint using a swatch that has other colors on it, there is a good chance the darkest color on the swatch is best to ferret out the undertone of all the paint colors on the swatch.
Even though the colors on the swatch look different, all the paint on a paint swatch has the same undertone color.
If you are using a Sherwin Williams fan deck, the bottom color will help you figure out the undertones of all the colors on the swatch.
COMPARE ONE WHITE SWATCH TO ANOTHER
Comparing white paint swatches is another way to find undertones. However, it can be unreliable.
COMPARING A WHITE SWATCH TO A TISSUE OR PIECE OF WHITE PAPER
You may be able to see the undertones of a white paint swatch by comparing it to a white piece of paper or a white tissue but again this is a bit unreliable. Undertones can be very tricky and elusive things!
Also, paper and tissues are not pure white and will make seeing the true undertones of a white paint color difficult.
THE BEST WAY TO FIND THE UNDERTONES OF WHITE PAINT
My favorite way to find the undertones in white paint is to go to the source!
Google the company that makes the whites you like and they will usually tell you what the undertones are.
I also like to check out other sources to confirm the undertone.
This takes the guesswork out of the whole mysterious undertone thing!
WILL THE WHITE PAINT LOOK NICE IN THE ROOM I WANT TO PAINT?
It’s important to know if the white paint you like will look nice in the room you want to paint.
We need to consider the color palette of the room and whether the color palette is warm or cool.
The undertones of the white paint need to work with the warm or cool colors of a room’s color palette.
Our living room is made up of warm neutral colors. So I chose Simply White by Benjamin Moore because it is a warm white that reads white but has slight yellow-beige undertones.
The colors all play well together because the paint is a slightly warm white and my color palette is warm too!
If a room’s color palette was navy, green and white, all cool colors, the best white paint for the walls would be a cooler white like Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White.
Your room’s furnishings and wall colors should be the same temperature. Either warm or cool.
POPULAR COOL WHITE PAINT COLORS
Here are some of the most popular white paints to consider for your home.
Although these paints may not look white on your computer screen they are white paints with cool undertones.
To see more about these colors go to the paint sources listed below…
top/ left: Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore
second from top/ left: Pure White by Sherwin Williams
third from top/ left: Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore
bottom/ left: White Diamond by Benjamin Moore
top/ right: Ice Cube by Sherwin Williams
second from top/ right: Paper White by Benjamin Moore
thrid from top/ right: Dove Wing by Benjamin Moore
bottom/ right: Nano White by Behr
POPULAR WARM WHITE PAINT COLORS
Here are some of the most popular warm white paint colors you might like to consider for your home.
Just like the cool whites above, these are white paints but the computer screen may make them look different than they would appear on your walls.
Simply White, the color of our walls, all the trim and doors, and our kitchen cabinets is the top left paint circle.
Here is how Simply White looks in our kitchen…
top/ left: Simply White by Benjamin Moore
second from top/ left: Alabaster White by Sherwin Williams
third from top/ left: White Dove by Benjamin Moore
bottom/ left: Swiss Coffee by Behr
top/ right: Atrium White by Benjamin Moore
second from top/ right: Cloud White by Benjamin Moore
third from top/ right: White Opulence by Benjamin Moore
bottom/ right: Acadia White by Benjamin Moore
EIGHT STEPS FOR CHOOSING THE BEST WHITE PAINT FOR YOUR HOME
Here’s the boiled-down formula for choosing the best white paint color. Following these steps will go a long way in helping you pick that perfect white paint color.
1. Do not go into a store and buy paint off the shelf without following these steps.
2. Collect white paint swatches.
3. Narrow down the swatches to about 6 colors you like.
4. Find the undertones of each white paint color and make sure they work with the undertones of the decor in the room to be painted.
5. Choose 2-4 colors and buy paint samples. Or buy large peel and stick pain squares and use them instead.
6. Paint or stick large samples of the paint on several walls in the room you want to paint.
7. Look at the paint at different times of the day and in different artificial lighting. Make notes.
8. Choose your perfect white paint and paint your room!
LIVING HAPPILY WITH WHITE PAINT
White paint is a beautiful choice for the walls in most homes. And you don’t need to have a degree in interior design to choose the right one for your home.
Use what you have learned here and choose what you love!