White paint might seem the simplest choice for painting your home’s walls, but it’s anything but. One trip to the paint store is all it takes to see that there are dozens of white paints, each of which looks a bit different. So how to choose the right white paint for your home? Here are some tips.
Find the undertones
Determining the undertone of white paint is essential to choosing the right one. White paints generally contain pigments other than white, and these determine how much the paint color varies from a pure white. Whether a white paint has warm, cool or no undertones determines its suitability to your home and decor.
You can quickly see a paint’s undertone by holding a sample of it next to a piece of white printer paper. If the paint contains yellow, red, orange and/or pink pigments, it will look warm. White paints containing blue, green or violet pigments will appear cooler than the paper. If the paint is basically the same shade of white as the paper, it’s considered a neutral.
Warm white paints give a cozy, comforting feel to a room and look good in traditional design schemes. They’re the right choice for neutral and warm-toned furnishings and organic materials such as stone and leather. By contrast, cool white paints can give either a formal or a bold, contemporary look and are often a good backdrop for art. Choosing a neutral white is always a good option if you’re unsure which undertone is right for your home.
Study the light
Before choosing a room’s white paint, paint a large sample or attach a self-adhesive patch of the color to several walls. Then study the paint at different times throughout the day. Paint looks different depending on the time, the amount of natural and artificial light in the room, and whether the room’s windows face north or south.
If the light a room receives is warm, a warm white paint may look too yellow. Likewise, a room where the light is cool may look too chilly if painted a cool white. On the other hand, you may want to choose a cool or warm white to accentuate the warmth or coolness of the room’s light. A neutral white looks good in either type of light.
Further white paint pointers
- Pure white is the best choice in rooms with lots of natural light.
- It’s best not to mix warm and cool whites in the same space. Doing so can make some surfaces look dirty or dingy.
- If the light your home receives varies significantly from room to room, you may need to choose more than one white to give a similar look throughout the house.
- If a room has no windows or only north-facing windows and is furnished in neutral tones, white may not be the best color. Instead, a cream, pale taupe or pale gray may give a similar effect but with more life.
- Choose a high-quality paint for a richer color, no matter the undertone. It will contain more pigment.
- Warm whites are said to be the easiest to live with over time.
- Remember that light paint will show more dirt and wear than colored paint.
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