White is the most popular colour of paint and even more so if you love Scandinavian interiors like me. You’d think that white is white so it would be easy to choose a paint. But it’s not. White can be one of the trickiest paint colours to choose for your home because there are so many shades out there.
It can be agonising figuring out how to choose the right white paint because most have a tinge of colour. This can make the paint look yellowish, greyish, bluish or many other shades depending on the lighting in your room, the other colours in the room and more. That’s the trickiest bit because there are many other things that influence how a particular white paint will look in your room, despite what it looks like on a swatch.
I’ve tried a range of white paints over the many homes I’ve decorated and made some big mistakes too! So I thought I would share what I’ve learned in case it helps you. Just below are my tips and I’ve gone in to each one in detail after the picture.
How to choose the right white paint for your home
1. compare swatches with each other
2. check the undertone
3. consider other colours in the room
4. test, test, test (keeping natural and artificial lighting in mind)
5. choose your sheen or finish
6. choose the shade for doors, trims and windows
1. COMPARE SWATCHES
Collect all the white paint swatches that you like and compare them. Many swatches on their own will look white to the naked eye but when you place it next to another, you’ll see that it looks more green or yellow or pink. You can then compare the greenish ones with each other, the yellowish ones with each other and so on, until you narrow down your preferences. You can also lay each swatch on a piece of basic printer paper and the underlying colour tint will become obvious.
2. CHECK THE UNDERTONE
Warm white paints will have undertones of warm colours like yellow or red whereas cool white paints will have tints of cooler colours like blue or grey. You can get un-tinted white paints which are totally neutral and are neither warm nor cool. And then you have the bright pure white but that’s not for everyone. It’s my personal preference in my living room at the moment as I love the brightness and crispness but if you’re scared that it will look too stark then avoid it. So keeping this in mind, decide whether you prefer a warmer white or a cooler white.
3. CONSIDER OTHER COLOURS IN THE ROOM
While it’s super important to consider the lighting in your room (which I mention below), it’s also important to consider what else is in the room because white paint will look different depending on the colours already in the room. The easiest way to do this is if you’ve got mostly cool tones in a room then stick to a cool white or similarly a warmer white for a room with warm tones. Or else there are more neutral whites that are neither warm or cool which can work with both cooler and warmer tones in a room.
4. TEST IT
Once you’ve decided on an undertone and selected a few shades of white, it’s time to test it in your room. Your lighting, both natural and artificial can have a big impact on how a shade of white can look in your room. Depending on the lighting, a cool white shade with blue undertones can look so much more blue than it looked in the shop. I recommend testing your paint in various parts of a room where the lighting can differ (like near a window or in the darkest part of the room). And look at the paint at different times of the day over a few days so you really get a sense of how it looks in various lighting conditions.
5. CHOOSE THE SHEEN OR FINISH
My preference is as little sheen as possible for walls. So my go to is always a flat (matte) finish which reflects the least light and gives you the truest colour. However this finish shows the most scuffs and marks show up easily especially if you have kids and pets. To overcome this, I always keep a spare pot of the paint which makes it easy to touch up as and when needed. The other finishes can include eggshell, satin and semi gloss. But for a room with lots of natural light, the shinier finishes can look too shiny. As well as testing different shades of white, it’s worth testing different finishes if you’re unsure. As a general rule, it’s usually best to stick to a flat finish for walls.
6. CHOOSE SHADE FOR DOORS, TRIMS & WINDOWS
When it comes to white rooms, if opting for a pure white without undertones, I prefer to match the the trims, doors, windows and any architectural features like ceiling mouldings with the same white colour as the walls. I do however opt for a slightly shinier finish (usually eggshell) for the woodwork (trim, doors and windows) as they need to be a bit more durable than the walls and it adds a subtle contrast. Alternatively if you go for a white paint with an undertone pairing it with bright, crisp white trimmings will make the colour stand more. So that’s definitely an option which can look really great too. Finally you can mix different whites with different undertones but I would stick to cool with cool and warm with warm.
As tricky as it is to choose the right white paint for your home, a little trial and error will get you there. The one step I absolutely wouldn’t miss is testing the paint in your room. Samples can sometimes be expensive but they’re a whole lot cheaper than repainting a room! And you definitely don’t want to end up with a yellow room when you were going for a soft, creamy white.