Tricks for Choosing the Perfect White Paint Color

Quick Tricks for Choosing the Perfect White Paint Color.

 How to Choose the Right White Paint Color

White Dove, Benjamin Moore

White Dove    Benjamin Moore


Hi there Remodelaholics,  It’s Cyndy from The Creativity Exchange, back with this month’s paint color palette.

Today I wanted to share my tricks for easily choosing white paint colors.  Choosing whites are the hardest colors to choose for trim, walls and cabinets because of the sneaky undertones that always pop up in different lighting situations.  What looks like a safe bright white on a paint chip card can look dirty white or even cream in artificial lighting.  I have a really easy trick to safely and quickly zone in on just the right shade of white instantly.

**today’s post has the name and brand of the paint color directly below each image. The featured images are  colors from today’s color palette **

Best White Paint Colors, Clawson Architects Via Remodelaholic
Traditional Entry by Clawson Architects

Atrium White by Benjamin Moore


As you look at today’s color palette above, while they may not look like they are true whites, they are.  What you are seeing are the pure undertones because the white part fades into the background.  All of these colors on a wall would look white but when we look at the colors this way, we seen those dangerous undertones crystal clear!

For example, if you look at this room below, the white walls look pure white:

Paper White, Benjamin Moore

Paper White by Benjamin Moore


But as you look back at today’s palette, where you can see even the slightest undertones, you’ll see that the actual color “Paper White”, is one of the darkest and grayest of the whites in today’s palette (bottom row-center):

Quick Tricks for Choosing the Perfect White Paint Color.


For this reason, I only choose whites online rather than looking at fan decks.  Whites are the only color where looking online is so much better than looking at a paint card.  You can instantly spot the undertone so much quicker and see even the slightest variations in color better.

Both Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams have their websites set up where you can explore specific colors (like whites) together.  As you can see below, you can instantly spot and zone in on undertones this way:

Here is Benjamin Moore’s page on all their white colors.  Look at how quickly you can zone right in on a specific undertone in a white:

Tricks for Choosing the Perfect White Paint
Source: Benjamin Moore


Here is Sherwin-Williams’ page of whites:

Tricks for Choosing Whites
Source: Sherwin Williams


These online color cards are the greatest of resources when you are looking for a white with a certain undertone but as you look at these colors all at one time like this, you can see just how dangerous whites can be!  You don’t see these slight undertone variations on paint color cards as much as you do online.  If you’re not careful, you can unknowingly choose a white with a strong undertone that you won’t see until you get it up on a wall or worse, when you paint all your kitchen cabinets in that color!

How you choose what white undertone you want in your white is purely subjective.  My little trick is that I always play it safe and lean to whites with the most subtle gray/green undertones because of the way these whites look at night.  For example, the Benjamin Moore white color called “Frostine”, has a very subtle gray green undertone and I found a night shot of a space painted in Frostine to show you how it looks dark with artificial light:

Frostine by Benjamin Moore

Frostine by Benjamin Moore

Notice how this white still looks white in these bad lighting conditions.  If you have an undertone of subtle yellow, this space would look cream at night instead of white.  Or worse, pink subtle undertones would look peachy at night.

Here is another example of Frostine in bad bathroom lighting conditions at night.  Notice how the color still looks like the perfect white:

Frostine by Benjamin Moore

Frostine by Benjamin Moore


If you want to play it as safe as possible, choose a white that has basically no subtle undertone at all.  There are very few of these whites and while all colors have an undertone, whites like Decorator White by Benjamin Moore have the subtlest of undertones.  This is why Decorator White is one of the most popular whites consistently used by builders and designers

Decorator White by Benjamin Moore

Decorator White by Benjamin Moore


Extra White by Sherwin Williams is another popular white with very little subtle undertones as used in this space below on the trim:

Extra White by Sherwin Williams

Extra White by Sherwin Williams


If you’re looking for a transitional white (balance of warm and cool tones), Simply White by Benjamin Moore is one of the best:

Simply White and Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore

Cabinets and Trim are Simply White by Benjamin Moore (Wall color is Revere Pewter)

So as you can see, it’s so much easier and faster choosing whites online rather than on a paint color chip/card because you can see the undertones instantly.  As with any paint color you’re considering, it’s so important to paint a sample board of your prospective white color! The bigger, the better and consider painting a poster board and keep your eye on it throughout the day and especially in the evening when you turn on your lights!

For more paint color inspiration, you can check out all of my color palettes on my blog at The Creativity Exchange.  If you are looking for more examples of rooms painted in specific colors, you can check out my Pick a Paint Color Board on Pinterest here, where I have more than 400 paint colors pinned.





Don’t forget to check out the other color palettes that Cyndy has put together for us:

Most Popular and Best Selling Paint Colors. RemodelaholicBest-Selling Paint Colors

Tips and Tricks for Choosing Bathroom Paint Colors. RemodelaholicBest Bathroom Paint Colors

Trends in cabinet paint colors. Remodelaholic

Cabinet Paint Color Trends

Tricks for choosing bold paint colors and subtle ways of incorporating them into your home. Remodelaholic

Tips for Choosing Bold and Bright Paint Colors

Easy paint color strategy for the whole home {Remodelaholic}

An Easy Paint Color Strategy for the Whole Home

Palette of paint colors that are great for mixing warm and cool tones. Remodelaholic

Transitional Paint Colors for Balanced Warm/Cool

Trends in Paint Color for 2014 {Remodelaholic}

2014 Paint Color Trends

Website | + posts

Cyndy is a color expert who has transitioned from the fashion world to the design world by helping others choose just the right paint colors for their homes. Cyndy takes the guesswork out of choosing paint colors and has been sharing her tips and paint color palettes with her readers for more than four years on her blog The Creativity Exchange.

Cyndy lives in East Texas and is an artist working with designers to create commissioned paintings that enhance the color and design of a space.

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  1. This post couldn’t have been timed any better for me! I’m currently struggling to choose a color for my son’s room. The doors and baseboards are cloud white by Benjamin Moore (a creamy white for sure). Since we’re going for a rustic cabin sort of look, we’re planning a wood plank wall on one of the walls with various shades of wood and his dresser and bookshelf are a warm pine colour. I can’t decide whether I want to go with something creamy like cloud white or something that looks more grey like oxford or decorator’s white. And then, do I paint out the baseboards and door? Would LOVE to hear your suggestions Cyndy!!!

    Thank you SO much for sharing!!!

  2. It’s perplexing when you realize how many shades of white there is! Thanks for the tips, I have recently been renovating my house as this was really helpful

  3. I painted my entry way gray. It was silver bullet by Bahr. It looked too bluish on the wall so I had them add some white. I like the color. I am reprinting all trim. What hue white should I pick to deemphasis the blue hue and highlight the gray?

  4. Cyndy – I’m so glad I came across this post. I’ve been postponing our order for white shaker style custom kitchen cabinets because it’s overwhelming to choose what color of white.


  5. There is some good advise here, but *PLEASE* look at the actual paint chips for the whites before you make your final decision. Do not simply rely on what they appear to look like on your computer’s monitor.

    Computer monitors are notorious for displaying color incorrectly. They’re fine for _comparing_ two whites, but you cannot know if a bluish white on your monitor is really truly a bluish white as your monitors calibration is likely off, add to that your viewing environment and it becomes very dicey.

  6. I am also perplexed at choosing which white to paint our kitchen cabinets. We have light gray undertones on backsplash, floor and countertops. I have decided to take a run up to Sherwin Williams and purchase 3 whites that I like and paint each one on a large piece of cardboard. Then I will check them during different parts of the day to see which one looks the best in our low natural light kitchen.

  7. I have Atrium white trim and want a contrasting white wall. The room has turquoise accents in fabrics. Any suggestions?

  8. Could you possibly translate these white selection tips to exteriors? What undertones are most ideal to look for when choosing exterior whites?
    Thanks so very much! Wonderful post!

  9. Trying to find an exterior paint color for a small ranch-style house in Michigan. Do you think Beach Glass would be a good exterior color?

  10. Thank you for your insights into selecting the white wall color to go with my newly-stained dark walnut wood flooring. The information you provided about the available colors out there, along with sharing the best way to go about selecting that color (online selection vs. paint chips), has given me some hope that I can actually choose the best color for my walls. THANK YOU for this article!!!