What if “vanilla” didn’t have to mean “boring?” When it comes to painting a house, it’s tempting to paint with an entire rainbow of colors. But there are times when what you need is a good shade of white. Unfortunately, not all shades of white are created equally. And if you don’t pick the best white paint now, you’ll just be stuck repainting again before you know it. So, how do you find the white that’s “just right?” Keep reading to discover the answer!

white painted apartment

Why White Paint?

We’ve put together the ultimate guide for choosing the right white paint. Before we go any further, though, it’s important to understand why you want to paint the house white. One good reason to do this is to create a sense of space. White is like a blank canvas, and white walls can make even really small spaces feel larger. White also helps to accentuate either a very rustic look or a very modern look for a room. It may not be the best choice for a suburban home out of the ’70s, but rustic and modern aesthetics really shine with white paint. But what’s the most important reason to bust out the white paint? Simple: because it’s your home and you love this color. And with our guide, you’ll be able to get that color “just right.”

Understand the Undertones

nursery painted white

As a paint color, white can be confusing to many people. Aren’t all white shades the same? The short answer is “not at all!” Different shades of paint actually have undertones of various other colors. So, that white you are checking out most likely has an undertone such as red, blue, or yellow. It’s tough to spot the undertones right away. But once you paint an entire room white, those undertones determine whether the shade of white is eye-catching or downright ugly. Be sure to get a color professional’s help in spotting the undertones before you buy paint. And understand how those undertones will interact with other colors in the room before you break out your brush.

Different Whites From Room to Room

nursery painted white

Will you be painting multiple rooms white? If so, it’s likely tempting to use the same shade in each room. That will make it easier to touch colors up over the years. For the best look, though, you should consider different shades of white for different rooms. This is because different rooms are going to have very different color temperatures and lighting situations that affect the aesthetic. If you have a room with lots of natural light and want to accentuate that look, it’s best to use untinted shades of white. This white looks “pure” and will really shine in natural light. This is assuming that your natural light looks mostly white. In some regions in the Northeast, even natural light can look gray and warm. When the natural light has its own undertones and color temperatures, you should go with the paint that matches it. You may get lucky and have two (or more) rooms that look great with the same paint. But some people are going to need multiple shades of white for multiple rooms.

Check Those Color Temperatures

white color temperature

Unless you’re a designer or photographer, “color temperature” may be a new term to you. However, it is vitally important to understand what color temperature is and how it affects your paint choices. Certain colors can make a room look and feel “cool.” Blue is a great example of this. If your room has many cool colors already present, it’s best to choose a cooler shade of white. Sometimes, different materials have different temperatures. For example, wood creates a warmer atmosphere and pairs best with a warmer shade of white. The temperature is determined by the undertones we mentioned above. White with blue undertones is “cool” and white with red or yellow undertones is “warm.” As an advanced trick, you can also use certain color temperatures to create a visually-pleasing contrast. For example, pairing a sunlit room (which is warm) with cool whites will make everything “pop” with contrast.

Glossy AccessoriesWhite playroom with pinstripe walls

So far, we have focused on painting your walls. But what if you want to paint something like a bookshelf white? For such accessories, it’s best to go with untinted white. These are shades of white with no undertones, making them the brightest possible shades. It’s also good to put on a semi-gloss for cabinets, shelving, trim and doors. This accentuates the brightness and helps it to stand out that much more. By painting selective accessories white, you can bring your favorite color into every room.

Put the Colors to the Test

white living room with cathedral ceiling

As we said, it’s tough to distinguish different paint undertones if you don’t know what you’re looking for. And it’s even tougher to guess which undertones will look better in which rooms of your home. That’s why you need to do two things. First, select a variety of different white paint swatches. Second, bring those home and determine which shades will look best in which rooms. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you may even partially paint the room in your chosen color. While this is more work (especially if you don’t like the color), it’s also your most accurate way to test colors.

Some Popular Whites can of white paint

There are an endless number of shades of white. We get asked all the time what our favorite whites are. Here are some of the more popular shades of white from different brands:

  • Sherwin-Williams Pure White – A good neutral white with a hint of gray undertone. This is a popular color for decorators and gives a very modern look.
  • Sherwin-Williams Extra White – This standard off-the-shelf white give a neutral, slightly cool undertone.
  • Benjamin Moore Simply White Another shade of white that is popular with decorators. This neutral color has a warm undertone to help avoid a stark and sterile look.
  • Benjamin Moore Navajo White A creamy, slightly off-white hue with a warm undertone that evokes images of vanilla.
  • Behr Falling Snow – A clean, cool white with blue/gray undertones
  • Behr Antique White A classic white with a warm, yellow undertone. This vanilla-cream color is a nice wall color that gives a contrast to pure white trim.

Painted Into a Corner? Call a Pro

It’s tempting to do all of the painting on your own. But if you’re not a natural painter (or don’t have a good eye for color), you may end up painting the same room multiple times. If you’re not fully confident, feel free to call a professional painter. It will save you plenty of time and you can rely on their natural skill and knowledge of lighting and color temperature.