Choosing the best white paint color for your space can be challenging. That’s why we’ve created this guide to choosing the best Sherwin Williams white paint color to help you navigate the cools, warms and go-to paints to find the perfect fit.
Often times I get asked, “What is the best white paint color for my house?”. And the short answer is, it depends on many factors including the direction the room faces, natural light, how and when you use the room, and what the other elements of the room are.
If you’re looking for the best Benjamin Moore white paint colors, read this post.
But, we’re going to address all of that and leave you with a list of great Sherwin Williams white paint colors to try out in your space. And it will be based on whether you like cool or warm colors and which undertones best work with what element’s you already have.
Firstly, undertones will play a huge role in this. So what is an undertone?
Mass tone vs. undertone. Whenever a color is made by mixing two or more colors together, that color will have both a mass tone and an undertone. The mass tone is what you see first; it’s what tells you the color is red, blue, green and so forth. The closer the undertone is to the mass tone, the truer the color will appear. So a true red will have a mass tone and undertone that are very similar, but magenta will have a blue undertone, while poppy will have an orange undertone. – via Sherwin-Williams.com
UNDERTONES & COMPARISON
We use undertones to talk about color in comparison to other colors. Either it is cooler/warmer than or cleaner/muddier then the item of comparison. And it will lean towards the undertone color.
Let me give you an example of the undertones and three white paints in comparison to one another.
- SW Ice Cube is cooler (blue undertone) and cleaner (purer/closer to mass tone of white) than SW Pearly White (see above).
- In comparison, SW Pearly White is warmer than Ice Cube and has pink/peachy undertones.
- Whereas SW Dover White has creamy yellow undertones and is also dirtier than SW Ice Cube.
- If you were to paint Ice Cube and Pearly White walls side by side in a room (perhaps trim and wall color), the room would look off because the undertones do not mix well.
- i.e. the blue gray and pink peach undertones don’t play well together.
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE UNDERTONE
The easiest way to identify a color’s undertone is to compare it to a true white and also compare it to a primary color. Once it is paired with a blue, red, or yellow, you will likely be able to pick out the color towards which it leans.
So, before you start painting an entire room with a color from this list, you’ll want to consider a few things about your existing elements. This will prevent you from having a mismatched undertone problem. You should also ALWAYS paint large sample boards before committing to a color.
CHOOSING THE BEST WHITE PAINT
Alright, I know you want to choose the best white paint for you space, but we’re going to get there slowly. We will walk through a few things to do before buying gallons of paint and getting it right.
I want to give you a really strong foundation before you buy paint and slap it on the wall. Follow these simple steps before putting paint to the wall for the best color choice. Who knew choosing white paint could be so involved?
- Create a room plan
- Take note of existing elements
- Assess the tones of furniture
- Consider lighting
- Narrow down the choices
- Test paint samples
Now, you know I am a huge proponent of having an entire house design plan. It saves you money in the long run by not making purchasing choices that don’t fit the size, color scheme or style of your house.
Before you start painting, you should have an entire room plan together at least. Notate whether you will be keeping your existing furniture to starting from scratch, have a plan from top to bottom. The plan should include:
- lighting – color, style, type (ceiling, lamps, floor lamps, sconces)
- paint color and finish (you can list the general color family until you pick the exact color)
- upholstered furniture & seating
- measurements of the space, including window and doorway size and placement
- any fixed elements in the room (built-ins, fireplace, cabinetry, stonework)
Once you have a full list of everything you think you will need, plan out the space with a floor planner tool like this one.
Next, use a program like Canva to make a mood board with pictures of elements you have already chosen. If you haven’t bought anything, start with Pinterest and identify rooms you like. Make a list of the commonalities. Use those elements to plan to the room.
Once you have a room plan in place, you should note the things that you cannot change. This list should include hard elements that will not be removed from the room, that you have to work around.
Some examples are the fireplace, floors, cabinets, trim, countertops, window sashes.
For each of these things you should identify the element’s undertone. Make a list of each item and write the undertone beside it. Then jot down whether it can be changed or not.
The list should looks something like this:
- stone fireplace – green gray undertone – Yes (can be painted)
- built in cabinets – beige undertone – Yes
- wood flooring – orange undertone – No (floors will not be replaced)
- trim – beige undertone – Yes, can be painted
Along the same lines as the fixed elements of the room, consider what furniture you already have and will be using. Or if you have a room plan, note the furniture you will be purchasing for the room.
You can also consider things like drapery, pillows, coffee and side tables, sofas, chairs, book cases. You’ll want to pay close attention to the fabric background color of the pieces and compare them to the paint colors you are considering. This is to make sure that they look “clean” and not muddled next to each other.
Next on the list is to take into account the natural and added lighting. Lighting sources may include ceiling lights, chandeliers, sconces, recess lighting, floor and table lamps.
All of these things affect how we see the color of paint on the wall.
Your lights should be part of your overall plan, as well as the lightbulbs you use in them. Aim for LED temperature 2700 for a soft, natural looking light. Read more on this post about choosing the perfect size lighting.
As far as natural daylight goes, this will depend on the number of windows in the room and the direction the room is facing.
South facing rooms get great diffused natural light with windows. Whereas north facing exposure tends to have more shadows and less direct sunlight. The amount of natural light in a space will affect how the color looks. White paints can look gray due to shadows in a northern exposure room.
Which brings us to the next point which is the most important thing: try out LARGE paint samples. You will be able to see how the light affects the way we see the color.
NARROW IT DOWN
Now you should take a look back at the fixed element undertone list. If you have primarily warm undertones in those fixed elements, you should choose a warm white. A cool white would look cleaner and make the fixtures look “muddy” or not as crisp.
On the other hand, if the elements have cool undertones green, blue, grays, you can stick to a cool undertoned white so that the walls don’t look muted in comparison to the other elements.
What if you have both? If you have both cool and warm undertones in the fixed elements you should mask them.
Is the floor an orange undertone? Cover it with a large natural rug. And if you have a brick fireplace or built in bookcases, consider painting those the same as the trim or wall color as well.
The less variance in competing undertones the better, the colors will work together rather than making the one color stand out as wrong.
I know it sounds scary to paint a wrong color, but here’s what you should avoid mixing:
- Avoid pink beige undertones paired with yellow or orange beige. Pink beige should be paired with green, gray or blue undertones
- Orange beige with pink beige. Pair orange undertones with yellow, gold, taupe or green gray undertones
- Yellow undertones- avoid pink undertones. Pair with gold, orange, green gray
- Green, blue and purple beige or gray undertones- work well with most neutral colors
- The big takeaway is if you have pink undertones in a fixed element, work carefully with the colors you choose to pair with it. Pink does not play well with other warm undertones.
For each room, make a short list of 2-3 whites you would like to try. Compare the swatches to the fixed elements and furniture choices to make sure the undertones complement each other and move on to ordering samples.
Most importantly, before deciding on a color, you paint sample boards. I want you to gather large size poster boards (12 x 12) and buy sample pots of the white paint choices you have narrowed it down to.
Paint each poster fully to the edges. Jot down the color of the paint on the back of the board. Hang them on the wall and observe them throughout the day. Place the boards in a corner or next to a door frame to see the shadows cast on the color.
You should also move the boards around at different times of day. The lighting changes in a room and you will want to be comfortable with the color at all times.
Pay special attention to the evening, when you use lamps to light the room. Especially, if you spend a lot of time in the room in the evenings, after the sun has gone down and there isn’t natural light.
Assess whether you like the color at different times as well as with natural light and lamps. After observing the color for a day or two, you should be able to eliminate the ones you don’t love or start again if you aren’t liking any of them.
MAKE A SHORT LIST
But to avoid overwhelming yourself, only work with 2-3 colors at a time until you find the one that’s right for you. If you’re having specific trouble, read to the bottom of this post, where I’ve listed FAQ for troubleshooting the best white paint colors.
THE GUIDE TO WHITE PAINT
You’ve made it to the color selection process! Give yourself a pat on the back. So I want to give you 12 Sherwin Williams white paint colors to start working with. If you’re looking for the best Benjamin Moore white paint colors, read this post.
Here are the best white paint colors to use as a starting point for your white paint selection:
- Pure White
- Extra White
- Ceiling White
- Ice Cube
- Pearly White
- White Flour
- Dover White
- Toque White
- White Duck
- Oyster White
Are you ready to talk about the specific undertones and some color properties of each of these 12 white paints that made the list? Let’s get to white paint talk.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS PURE WHITE
Is a great neutral that isn’t too warm or cool. It has the slightest bit of color to it so that it is not entirely stark white, but not a strong yellow or beige undertone. It looks great on trim & built-ins in a semi or high gloss finish.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS EXTRA WHITE
Extra White is another great choice for trim and built-in cabinetry. It has very little undertone and runs slightly cool. It will complement any modern space well.
Above is SW Extra White in a kitchen paired with BM Gray cabinetry. image via: https://www.homebunch.com/black-home-exterior-design-ideas/
Here is SW Extra White paired with navy blue lower wall image via: https://www.homebunch.com/black-home-exterior-design-ideas/
Lastly, SW Extra White paired with Benjamin Moore Grey Husky cabinetry. image via https://www.homebunch.com/black-home-exterior-design-ideas/
SHERWIN WILLIAMS CEILING WHITE
I’ve included Ceiling White in the list because if you are going to paint the walls white, you should probably also paint the ceiling a bright white.
But, I will put a huge caveat on this, if you are painting the walls a saturated color, you should also paint the ceiling the same color, not white. So make your ceilings bright with white walls, but paint them as the 5th wall if you plan to wallpaper or paint the walls another color.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS SNOWBOUND WHITE
Snowbound on its own looks slightly gray, but when compared to warm whites, it shows its cool color. Once it’s on the wall, there is hardly an undertone, but you can feel the crispness of the color. If you have a very open room, without much wall decor, it can feel sterile, so use this color carefully.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS ICE CUBE WHITE
There’s no doubt that Ice Cube is cold as ice. When it is painted on the wall, it will feel cool and clean. It has light blue- gray undertones which work well with anything.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS PEARLY WHITE
Pearly white has a nice taupe base. While it is slightly off white, you won’e be disappointed if you’re looking for a white paint color to wash the walls without it feeling sterile.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS ALABASTER
You have probably heard the name Alabaster by now. It has trended quickly for a warm modern white for trim and wall paint alike. It works wonderfully in rooms lit with natural light, giving them a warm sun filled feel.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS WHITE FLOUR
Sherwin Williams White Flour is slightly warm. It doesn’t have a strong yellow or blue undertone, you could say it has the slightest pink undertone. So if your hard fixtures have pink undertones, this is the direction you would paint.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS DOVER WHITE
Dover White has a definite yellow undertone. It is much warmer when compared to Snowbound or Alabaster. If you are looking for a warm white, without going full on yellow, this is your color. It’s going to be alright for walls in rooms with great lighting, but don’t use it on trim. It will look “dirtier” and yellower compared to bright white ceilings and doors.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS TOQUE WHITE
This white leans gray/griege. It will be a good fit for walls or trim, or even painting interior doors for a little something different.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS WHITE DUCK
Staying with the warm whites, White Duck has a slight beige to it. It looks great with wood tone floors and natural stone elements.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS OYSTER WHITE
Sherwin Williams Oyster is creamy and warm. It looks like a hint of coffee in your cream. Great for bedrooms and bathrooms, or pairing with dark wood tone floors.
That’s the roundup for the top 12 Sherwin Williams white paints. In the end it’s going to come down to personal preference for favorite white in your space. While there are sometimes colors that look “wrong”, there is also more than one color that will look right.
White Paint FAQ’s
How do I pick from my favorites?
Two words. Sample Boards. The best way to figure out what your favorite paint color is will be to paint a huge poster board and hang it on the wall. Monitor it in different light until you find your favorite.
What sheen should I use?
Semi gloss & high gloss is great for trim and built-ins. Painting the baseboards and cabinetry the same sheen will give the room a high style look.
Ceilings should be painted flat.
For walls you can opt for a premium flat if you don’t want any sheen or a satin for a scrubbable- high durability wall paint.
Cabinets- Satin or high gloss depending on the room.
What white paint looks good with wood trim?
Assuming the wood trim isn’t gray, you’ll want to choose a slightly cool white paint so that it doesn’t look “dirty” next to the warm trim baseboards (aka a dated orange trim next to a warm white will look dated, not crisp).
Small room with not a lot of natural light, which White should I use?
None! In all seriousness, if your goal is to make the room feel larger, a bright white isn’t going to add square footage. So embrace the intimacy of a small unlit room by adding 4-6 light sources- table, floor and sconces, and paint it a saturated color. Don’t forget to paint the ceiling the same color for an enveloped feel.
This technique works great for offices, a library, den, study, bathrooms, and small bedrooms.
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