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November 11, 2022 4 min read

White is a popular neutral paint color that goes well with anything. But did you know that there are different shades of white?

Picking the right shade is not as easy as you may think. Here's a cheat sheet to help you choose the ideal paint color for your space.

Study the Nuances of Different Shades of White

Each shade of white paint is a little different from the others and will have a unique effect on your space. Basically, white paint will not appear the same way on your wall as it looks on the paint chip. That's because each white hue has a unique undertone, and undertones can either create harmony or bring chaos to a room’s appearance.


What you see when you first look at the paint chip color is the mass color tone or overtone. And what lies beneath it is an undertone color that gives the room a warm or cool feeling. Knowing the undertones will give you a better picture of how your shade of white will actually look on your walls.


So how do you determine the undertone of your white paint color?

How to Spot the Undertone Color in Your White Paint

Kelly Wilkniss, the host of My Soulful Home on Smart Healthy Green Living, says you have to hold the paint sample adjacent to a white sheet of paper.


By doing so, you’ll be able to tell whether the white paint sample is a cool white or a warm white. For example, the undertone could be yellowish, representing a warm tone. Meanwhile, a bluish undertone has a cool tone.


Does your home have warm or cool tones?

Figure Out the Colors in the Room

Warm colors—red, yellow, and orange—add an element of energy, sunshine, and positivity to any space. In contrast, cool tones—green, purple, and blue—evoke calmness and relaxation.

If your space has warm tones, you'd better stick to warm whites.


But if the space has cool tones, go for cool whites. Warm whites have a yellowish undertone that matches well with warm colors. Meanwhile, cool whites have a blue undertone that goes well with cool tones.


A consistent undertone gives the room a cohesive, synchronized feel. But a blend of contrasting undertones feels off and disorganized.


Consider the Room’s Lighting

The lighting in your room is another crucial aspect to look into when choosing a white paint color. Again, this goes back to undertones.


If your light fixtures have a cool undertone, choose a white paint color with blue, green, or purple undertones. And if your lighting has a warm undertone, go for warm whites with yellowish or orange undertones.


Your geography will also impact the type of natural light entering your space. For example, in places where the weather is often cloudy or overcast, like Alaska and Seattle, natural light is usually softer and may have blue or gray undertones. As a result, white shades with cool undertones would match such settings.


Meanwhile, the natural light in a sunny place has warmer undertones, as you would see in Arizona and California. Warmer shades of white would be perfect for this environment.

Collect Swatches of Several Shades of White

Most people want a go-to list of white paint colors that will work in different situations. But what you need to do is compare several whites and collect swatches of the shades you’re interested in.


Apply these paint swatches to your wall. Look at the paint at various times of the day. In this way, you can analyze how natural light and light fixtures react to the wall color and the rest of the space.


A comparison of the various shades of white will help you pick the right shade of white. And while you're at it, here are a few handy tips to take note of:


  • Pure whites tend to have a contemporary look, compared to whites with other colors in the undertones.
  • Bright white shades often need to be tempered by other colors to best fit a space.
  • Neutral whites work for a wide variety of rooms and natural light settings.

Common White Hues

If you haven't figured out what shade of white your space needs, here are some top-designer-endorsed white tones to consider:

  1.     White Dove OC-17

White Dove OC-17 from Benjamin Moore is a soft, creamy, off-white paint shade. It has a yellow undertone that gives it some warmth and a slight bit of gray that helps balance out the yellow undertone.

Since it has a balance of undertones, it's considered a neutral paint, which makes it the ideal white paint color for an array of spaces.

  1.     Simply White 2143-70

Simply White 2143-70 is a warm white paint featuring a yellow undertone. In naturally balanced lighting, Simply White is neutral, and its yellow undertone is inconspicuous.

However, the undertone becomes more apparent in low light conditions or against other brighter, cooler whites.

  1. Swiss Coffee OC-45

Swiss Coffee OC-45 is a warm, creamy white paint color. It is a member of Benjamin Moore's Off-White Collection. This shade lends an inviting softness and elegance to your space.

  1.     Super White PM-1

Super White PM-1 is a clean, crisp white paint color. As the name implies, it is almost sparkling white and it evokes feelings of clarity and simplicity.

This hue doesn't have any warm or cool undertones. Therefore, it is a go-to choice for those who want the purest shade of white available. It draws attention to architectural details in your space.

The Bottom Line

Nailing down the right shade of white paint doesn't have to be complicated. You can use a few tried-and-tested tips to find the right white.

First, determine the undertone of the white paint color. Then pick white paints that complement the warm or cool tone of your home and the natural or artificial lighting in your room. Finally, test the white paint samples on a section of your wall to determine which one looks great in your space.

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