Tricks for Choosing the Best White Paint Color

Tricks for Choosing Whites (Paint It Monday) The Creativity Exchange


Trim and Cabinets White Dove Benjamin Moore

After all these years blogging about paint colors and sharing color palettes, I have never done a palette of my favorite whites.  Today I’m teaming up with paint contributor Jenny from Evolution of Style to share our tips and tricks for how to choose the perfect white paint color.

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


Atrium White by Benjamin Moore

I have always been hesitant to talk about whites because I personally think they are the trickiest of of all colors to choose.  The subtle undertones that are really hard to see and those sly hues that pop out after you’ve painted a whole room, trim or a set of cabinets, makes this color challenging to nail down. I think white makes everyone nervous!

Jenny and I wanted to give you a palette full of our favorite whites that also happen to be some of the most popular whites out there.  Here is the palette of our favorite whites:

Tricks for Choosing Whites (Paint It Monday) The Creativity Exchange


As you look at the palette above, I know they don’t look like pure whites but 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 pure white but when we look at the colors this way, we seen those dangerous undertones perfectly clear! For example, if you look at the chair rail below the dark gray wall (Chelsea Gray) of the next imagine, it looks like as white as you can get:


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):

Tricks for Choosing Whites (Paint It Monday) The Creativity Exchange


This is  why I look for 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 zone right in on the undertone so much faster 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 white 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 {Paint It Monday} The Creativity Exchange

Source: Benjamin Moore


Here is Sherwin Williams page of whites:

Tricks for Choosing Whites {Paint It Monday} The Creativity Exchange

Source: Sherwin Williams


These online pages 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!  Look at all those whites with strong pink and peach undertones (yikes!)..  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 decide on a 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

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
Another trick to play it safe with white is to 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

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

If you’re looking for the slightest very subtle hints of warmth in a white, Simply White and Atrium White by Benjamin Moore are two of our favorites:


Simply White by Benjamin Moore


Atrium White by Benjamin Moore

Jenny has an awesome trick for finding just the right color of white for kitchen cabinets. She looks at custom cabinets for inspiration at design centers.  Most of the time, you can pick up a small sample of the cabinet color and she has the white samples color matched! Sherwin Williams has one of the best color match systems and this is a fantastic way to find a white that you love for possible kitchen cabinet colors.


Decorator White by Benjamin Moore

Last but not least, 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!

Jenny and I hope that today’s post will really save you guys so much time (and agony) as you look for your perfect whites.

Thanks for stopping by and if you happened to miss last week’s Paint It Monday, you can get to that post by clicking the image below:

Awesome enamel paints for painting hardware and fixtures. Tutorial from The Creativity Exchange {Paint It Monday}




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26 Responses to Tricks for Choosing the Best White Paint Color

  1. My hubby always used to say, “white is white, why is the choice so difficult?!!” LOL Men.
    Lauren@SimplyLKJ recently posted..A Weekend In Texas~My Profile

  2. Paula says:

    I love that you brought up how some colors can look so different and bad at night. This is what I struggle with the most in my house. With our open floor plan the majority of the house is one color Gobi dessert by berh. In daylight I can tolerate it at night I loathe it. As soon as I can confidently find a replacement that works in all lighting conditions I will begin the tedious task of repainting. Love your tips. Please keep them coming!

    • Cyndy says:

      Thanks so much Paula! Yes! I bring up the night factor because I have been there myself with whites! It too drives me crazy when a white looks bad at night or on dark days. Now I know how to fix it and stay away from those sly undertones. I hope this post will help you zone right in on your perfect white! Thanks for your note Paula!
      Cyndy recently posted.. Tricks for Choosing the Perfect White {Paint It Monday}My Profile

  3. Laura J says:

    Thank goodness you’re such a paint geek! Those Sherwin William whites don’t look white AT ALL on the palette board. Thanks for (yet again) a great post!

  4. Great tip on the page shots for BM and SW. It’s really hard to see the undertones on a small chip – but when you see them in comparison to the other whites the undertones jump off the page! M.

  5. I absolutely love these Paint It Monday posts Cyndy! White IS so tricky and the tip to look at them online is really interesting – you are right – it’s much easier to see their undertones on a chart like Ben Moore’s. I like all your fave whites, especially Atrium White and Decorator’s White, and I have one to add to the collection: BM China White. It has a bit of a warm grayish tint to it and makes a great wall color if you want an all white space, but want the trim to pop. I just used it on the walls of two houses, both with with White Dove trim. So pretty.

  6. Sometimes I feel like whites can be even more overwhelming than colors! I love this! I recently painted our master bath with Decorators White and found it was the best match to the basic white square tile that most builders use in bathrooms!
    Jenn @ HomeStyleReport recently posted..Kitchen Sneak PeekMy Profile

  7. Julia says:

    This post is so timely for me! I’m currently experiencing the white paint struggle in my north-facing dining room. I want a white with just a hint of greige, but so far every sample I’ve tried has looked purple or mauve! So frustrating! 😉

  8. Wow, such awesome advice! I am so glad to learn the tip of looking at whites on-line to compare undertones. My walls are BM Linen White and I’ve been struggling to find a trim color that doesn’t clash.
    Kimm at Reinvented recently posted..Wear Your Dreams- An Origami Owl GiveawayMy Profile

  9. Karen says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for your many great posts on paint colors and decorating! I am not a visual person and am finally able to look at your photos and tell a decorator “I like these colors” etc.!

    One thing I would like to see is when you post paint colors, it would help to have the paint colors for the walls and the trim. As I look at some of the pages, I can’t tell if the color mentioned is for the walls or the trim and when I love the combination, I don’t know what the ‘other’ color is. Would love to copy both colors of many of these rooms:).

    Thanks again!!! You are awesome!

  10. Brenda says:

    Thank goodness I found this post. I can’t thank you enough. This has confirmed the fact that I am not crazey! Lol. I am a creative type that is hyper sensitive to colour. I will soon be painting my cabinets white to blend with my white appliances (which I love). Not an easy task. B.M.’s Decorator’s White is a near perfect match but makes me a little worried regarding how cold it is.I would love something warmer like B.M.’s Dove White, but can’t stomach how badly it clashes with the appliance white. I was thinking of B.M.’s Oxford white or B.M.’s Frostine. I am leaning toward the latter. If you don’t mind my asking; which would you choose. I would be eternally greatfull for a response. 🙂 Respectfully, Brenda.

  11. Jaime Ehrenreich says:

    I recently painted the inside of my house Decorators White and I hate it!! Does anyone have ideas for trim colors that might save this?

  12. Jenna says:

    Do you have a white paint suggestion for exterior trim? We are building a modern farmhouse that will be done in Benjamin Moore Polo Blue. I picked up Benjamin Moore White and Sherwin Williams Extra White. But I don’t know if I should be considering others as well!

  13. Tori says:

    Hi, what an awesome website! I’m looking for white to paint some furniture. I wonder if you know the colour number of these whites? (Like S 0502 B)

  14. Asia says:

    Hello! Love your blog.

    I’m looking to paint my house Simply White. I’d like to paint the trim and ceilings white too, but do I go with a white-white? Or stick to Simply White? My gut was saying to use white-white, but now I’m worried the walls may look a bit dirty.

    The colour palette for the home is white, grey and black, with pops of colour throughout. Also, the kitchen is mostly white as well (white soho cabinets).

    Thank you so much! Looking for expert input!

  15. N.Coache says:

    My house is light buttery yellow and I am so done with it. I want to go with white but I’m afraid that the yellow will come out. Would a white with a hint of grey under tone prevent that? I’,m very scared since I painted my basement white with a under tone of green and it look sage to me. I was not very happy with it since the accent colors are all in the blue family/turquoise.

    • Cyndy says:

      I would suggest whatever white/color you choose to use the Behr paint/primer all-in-one from Home Depot. I think it’s one of the best paints on the market and it will totally cover your yellow (even in one coat). They can color match to any Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore color. If you want a pure white with no undertones, go Decorator’s White from Benjamin Moore. I compromised in my own home and went from creamy yellows to Repose Gray from Sherwin Williams and I love it! It is so calming, fresh and clean! I wanted to go white but I know I would get bored, so I compromised. I hope that helps!

      • John Klasing says:

        Our semi-open floor plan house has naturally stained/poly-urethene covered white oak flooring throughout (including stair treads and kitchen) which leans towards an “orange” coloring now. We have pale yellow walls with white trim and are also ready for a change of wall colors. I love what I’ve seen with Repose Gray, but most pictures have darker brown wood floors. I know I could darken my floors, but that would be a whole lot of work. How good does Repose Gray work with the color my white oak floors have become?
        In addition, a lot of our furniture is “brown and old” as our daughter says, so does it go well with browns? I already imagine I’ll be painting some of the pieces darker shades of gray and/or black.

      • Lynzie says:

        What color trim did you use with repose gray?

  16. paolo says:

    Heeeelllppp…What do you think is the best white cab color to go with Calacatta quartz counter…our floors are tiled with a busker gray porcelana ( med gray ) ..i’m leaning deco white due to the gray untertones..thoughts ? thx

  17. Jill says:

    Hi Cyndy. I had no problem finding the perfect espresso paint color for a table I’m doing….But white? Oy! I bought a sample of ‘White’ from BEHR and it has pink undertones…Totally disappointing. I want a white with no undertones or grey/green. Would you happen to know of a really good white from BEHR? I thought of trying Ultra Pure white. I know what I want, but I can’t seem to find it at The Home Depot..I’m on a tight budget, or I would go with a Benjamin Moore white. Thank you.

  18. Karla says:

    Great article! Five days too late for me but perhaps for the best! This past weekend I painted my mud room (little natural light) after much stress and turmoil of which white paint to choose. With brown “slate” tile floors and a light walnut wood trim I chose Sherman Williams Creamy. I was in a bit of a panic with the first coat, thinking it was too white, but after the second coat I’m in love with this dreamy color! What would you say the undertone of this color is considered?

  19. R. Perez says:

    We love white walls… the painter recommended SW Extra White but we painted an area on the wall and it is way to bright… need sunglasses… so we went to Pure White and it looks good on the walls day and night… he is using flat paint which I prefer… hoping the color looks white and not too grey… so far the area we painted looks white day and night… is there anyone who used this color and have an opinion?

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