So, you’ve decided to paint your space white. Whether staging or freshening up an old design, white paint can add vibrance and life to a dull room. Choosing which white? Now that can be a challenge. In this post I'll go over what to look for when you are considering which white paint to use in your space. Then I will show you some of my favorite whites! So let's get into the nitty gritty, where should we start? color undertones.
There are many, many “white” paints on the market. From snowy whites to eggshells, how do you know which to choose? Once you understand undertones, sorting through all these options becomes easier. White paint will usually skew warm, possessing a yellow undertone, or cool, a blue undertone.
To begin to understand and spot the differences in undertones look at any paint deck. You can grab one from your local paint store, or look at the in-store display, and you'll be able to see which whites feel warm and which feel cool. A warm white will have a yellow or red undertone while the cool whites will have a blue and sometimes green undertone.
As you can see in the photo on the left there are many variations in white paint. In the photo on the right you can see the variation between cool whites (on the left) and warm whites (on the right).
When to choose warm or cool undertones?
The cool natural light in Northern climates guides us toward warmer whites while warm southern climates can handle cooler shades.
The style of your design will affect your choice also. Warmer whites are better for organic, traditional cozy rooms with lots of wood accents, like in the room on the left, while cooler whites match modern, crisp design styles with black metal and white wood options, like in the space on the right.
Once you decide to go warm or cool, stick with that choice in the rest of your project. Keep that undertone in all of your paint choices, colors, fabrics, and lighting.
Hue, Value and Chroma
If you want to get technical.... you can look at the Munsell scale. this tells you the Hue, Value and Chroma. Let me break that down quickly. Hue is the color tone - red, green, blue, yellow (shown in the wheel to the right). Value is the amount of light in a color. Lastly, Chroma is the amount of pigment in a color.
The last thing I want to mention here is LRV value. LRV stands for “light reflective value” which measures the amount of light that will be reflected off the walls, thus giving you a lighter room or a darker room.
We are talking about whites so our LRV is not going to factor in as much as it would with other paint colors but I always like to refer to LRV when considering paint colors. LRVs do have a little nuance and as you see below, even in whites, there is a variation.
When in doubt, go to a professional.
The world of design is filled with nuance and variations and if you aren't versed in them making these decisions can feel overwhelming. If you are not working with a designer, then ask a pro at the paint store, they can usually guide you to the right choice. Take your time and enjoy the process, and don't be afraid to ask for help!
Now that we've covered the elements of a paint color, let's go through some of my most used white paint colors! I've organized them according to their hue, starting with warm whites ranging from red to warm yellow undertones, then neutrals with true yellow undertones and finally cool whites ranging from green/yellow to blue undertones. As you look through the colors try to see how they change from warm to cool. Is your eye drawn to certain shades more than the others? Think of the colors already existing in your space and see if there's a pattern!
A compilation of 152 white and off-white colors. This color has a warm yellow red undertone that pulls pink.
Hue 9.33YR, Value 9.25, Chroma 0.52, LRV 87%
This shade is another great option to freshen any room. It is a closer to yellow red than any of our next picks. Though it is on the warm side its lower value of 8.2 helps it feel neutral and can likely be used in a wider variety of palettes.
Hue .093Y, Value 8.21, Chroma 0.92, LRV 63%
This buttery yellow pulls just enough warmth into any room, with a hint of grey it also pairs well with beiges playing into one of 2023's biggest trends of brown and beige tones.
Hue 3.21Y, Value 9.36, Chroma 0.78, LRV 87%
This soft yellow white has a touch of gray, keeping it from pulling too warm creamy or yellow, giving it a unique depth. This shade is perfect for trims and moldings. Similar to Atrium White above with a much more neutral undertone to help it fit with most other colors.
Hue 4.97Y, Value 8.86, Chrome 0.65, LRV 78%
Another very neutral white, this is a clear, clean white with the lightest tinge of yellow that will brighten any room.
Hue 5.85Y, Value 9.53, Chroma 0.38, LRV 90%
If you are looking for a true neutral go-to white this color is for you. This paint doesn’t lean too warm or cool, it falls right in the middle to make it a perfect match for any palette.
This color has a slight mint green feel because of it's green undertone. Making it a great bright white for a room drenched with warm southern light.
Hue 2.19GY, Value 9.56, Chrome 0.25, LRV 90%
This color feels so bright and shiny, similar to Chantilly Lace yet even cooler, as It heads towards green.
Hue 9.14GY, Value 9.22, Chroma 0.21, LRV 83%
Part of Dunn Edwards Cool Neutrals collection. This shade is a misty, silvery grey. Perfect for southern climates and modern rooms.
Hue 4.34B, Value 8.9, Chroma 0.2, LRV 76%
Do you feel prepared to choose the best white paint for your space?
Hopefully this post helped you to understand the variation that exists in white paint colors and equipped you to make the best decision for your space. What seems like a simple process on the surface really does take a lot of attention and precision. You can now use hue, value, chroma, and LRV to evaluate any paint color. If you have any questions or one of my picks ended up being the perfect shade for your project let me know in the comments. Make sure to check back into my blog to see the best white paint colors for each interior design style. Whether Organic Modern, Industrial, or Scandinavian every style carries its own palette. Now that we've gone over the basics we can explore the best way to incorporate these whites into a palette. I can't wait to explore these styles with you!