Let us start with a little bit of myth-busting. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as “just white paint.” A single true white paint does not exist. Instead, there are hundreds of thousands of white paints, each featuring its own unique pigment that’s just as true as the next. It’s best to think of white paint as an overarching category, with an endless number of whites within it.
If you stop by your local hardware store, you’ll quickly see what we mean. The selection of white paints is often overwhelming and it can be challenging to decide which color is right for you. To help you avoid a white paint-induced panic attack — or worse, a swift, careless choice — we’re here to explain everything you need to know about picking a shade and to share our designers’ favorite white paints so you can test them out in your own home.
How to Choose a White Paint
The first factor to consider when picking a white paint is the undertone. This fancy designer term simply refers to the hue that appears beneath the white. Whites that are mixed with reds, oranges, yellow, or browns have a warm undertone that, unsurprisingly, radiates warmth. If you’re looking to create a cozy vibe, this is the type of white you need.
On the other hand, whites that are blended with blues, greens, or grays possess a cool undertone for a fresh, bright feeling. Once you determine the overall ambiance you’re seeking to achieve in your space, you’ll be able to start narrowing down your white paints.
Natural light is the next most important element in your decision process. You may remember from your middle school science class (or Magic School Bus — anyone??) that light bounces around and reflects off of surfaces. That means your newly painted white walls will look totally different depending on the natural light in the room.
If the sun spills into your space, your walls will appear much lighter. In this case, opt for a warmer white with some dimension because a cooler white may appear too sterile when it’s washed out. Conversely, if you’re wanting for windows, consider going with a cooler white to create a crisp look that will chase away any notion of darkness.
Finally, embrace swatches. That age-old saying “you never know until you try” really applies to white paint. The color you fall in love with under the fluorescent lights of the hardware store may read completely different in your space, so it’s worth bringing home a sample and testing it out.
Don’t be shy, either. Paint swatches on multiple walls so you can see how the white looks from different angles. Then evaluate the options at different times of the day to make sure you choose a shade you like from morning to night.
Our Designers' Favorite White Paints
To provide you with a jumping off point in your quest for the perfect white paint, we asked our in-house designers which colors they return to time and time again. These are the white paints you’ll find in real client homes, so you know they’re tried-and-tested favorites.
Perhaps the most popular white paint of all, this color is a designer favorite for good reason. Much like your favorite white T-shirt, it goes with everything. It leans warm, with a soft yellow undertone, but is versatile enough to work with cool palettes, too. A go-to for natural light-filled spaces, this white is inviting as ever.
This is another one of those crowd-pleasing, plays-well-with-everyone tones that our designers frequently recommend. It’s a serene, soft white that doesn’t lean too creamy, or too gray. Kinda like Goldilocks, it’s a “just right” white.
Often described as “understated and alluring” (adjectives we can get behind), this white is our preferred soft, creamy shade. It’s another great pick for rooms with abundant natural light, since it won’t feel too stark.
The name of this color says it all. It reminds us of a rich whipped cream, as it’s delicate yet sumptuous. Best of all, this white has a dreamy quality that adds depth and character to areas that are flooded with natural light.
For a white with a hint of cream, look to this well-balanced hue that brings the softest shade of gray into the mix for a timeless aesthetic. It doesn’t get much more classic than this.
A subtle golden tint and a cream undertone set this warm white paint apart from the rest. It somehow strikes the perfect balance between contemporary sophistication and tradition, making it a winner in historical homes.
We know we said every white has undertones, but there are exceptions to every rule and this paint is it. It’s as close as you’re going to get to a clean, gallery-style white, so look no further if you’re going for a fresh, modern vibe with Scandinavian and midcentury styles.
Light and bright, this white paint has the softest blue undertone for a crisp aesthetic. It’s an excellent choice for breezy California vibes (like in our very own CEO’s home), so it pairs well with a coastal palette and natural textures to warm it up.
Want to see your home in a fresh new light? Whether you need a little pro help choosing the perfect shade of paint, or ideas for the best layout in your space, our designers have you covered. Get started today with our style quiz.