Choosing paint colors can be so tricky. Choosing the best whitepaint colors can be even more so.
Undertones, LRVs, north or south-facing rooms, and SO MANY options… How’s a girl to choose? Scroll on down if you just want the list of the best white paint colors, or continue reading for some background and guidance for choosing the right color for your space.
HOW TO CHOOSE A WHITE PAINT
First things first: white paint colors are not actually true white. To understand that, you’ll need to understand LRV.
LIGHT REFLECTIVE VALUE
The Light Reflective Value or LRV of any paint is a number assigned based on how much light the color reflects, with 0 being absolute black and 100 being pure white. The higher the number, the more light is reflected.
No white paint actually has an LRV of 100, though. Sherwin Williams High Reflective White (which is one of the brightest paint whites you can get) is 93. Pretty much anything 80 or above is considered white, and “off whites” can hover from ~70-80. So you have to ask yourself how bright (LRV closer to 90) or soft (LRV closer to 80) you want your white to be.
And speaking of “soft” whites, the less bright the white, the more added colors (aka undertones) to soften the bright white. An “off-white” paint has some added color to it:
- blue tones – which gives you a “cool white”
- yellow tones – which gives you a “warm white”
- a mixture – which can leave you with a “neutral white”
So the question you have to ask is, which undertones are right for my space?
First, you have to consider style. Generally speaking, warm whites will help to create a cozy feeling, and they pair well with a more traditional space. Cooler whites, on the other hand, can lean more crisp and modern. These are generalizations, of course, but a good starting point if you know you prefer a more classic or more contemporary atmosphere.
Second, you have to consider the natural light of the room. North-facing rooms (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least) tend to have slightly cooler light, while south-facing rooms tend to have warmer light. So if your room is north-facing, you will want to choose a slightly warmer white paint to balance out the cooler natural light. And conversely for south-facing rooms.
East or west-facing rooms are tricky because the light quality will change in these rooms throughout the day, but suffice it to say that sunset light coming into west-facing rooms can often be orange or pink. It can also be tricky if the light coming into your home is filtered by lots of tree coverage or close buildings that might reflect their colors into your home.
Finally, you have to try the color in the space. White paints are especially sensitive to the color of the light, flooring, and other elements in the space… So I always test 2-3 colors before committing. It’s worth the extra effort!
THE BEST WHITE PAINT COLORS
SHERWIN WILLIAMS ALABASTER
A (Slightly) Warm White
This is a go-to for many interior designers. It’s a soft white (LRV 82) with a very subtle creaminess to it. But, unlike many creamy white paint colors, the undertones are more of a beige or greige rather than yellow. It creates a lovely, elegant space which still feels cozy. It’s got a lot of similarities to Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee.
MAGNOLIA HOME SILOS WHITE
A (Slightly) Warm White
A very similar shade of white to Alabaster, but with a touch less yellow. Silos White is also beautiful and cozy without being too warm for a more contemporary or modern farmhouse style.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS WHITE DUCK
A (Slightly) Warm Off White
One of my favorite warm white paint colors, White Duck is a creamy and soft off white. It still leans beige in its undertones, rather than truly yellow, which makes for a solid warm neutral. With an LRV of 73, it is an excellent choice for exterior white paint colors because it doesn’t glare as much in the sun as something with a higher LRV would. Exterior paint colors, in general, read lighter than they do indoors. As an interior color, it reads darker than you see below but still soft and rich.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS AESTHETIC WHITE
A Neutral Off White
More gray than White Duck, Aesthetic White is an excellent choice if you want a soft off white that doesn’t read warm. Aesthetic White is not cold either, though, it’s more of a true very very light greige, and an excellent choice if you have colored light coming into the space.
BEHR CAMEO WHITE
A Neutral (or Slightly Cool) White
All the bedrooms and bathrooms in my home are Behr Cameo White – not sure I can give a better recommendation than that! 🙂 My favorite of the Behr white paint colors, it’s a lovely light light gray and blends especially well with Carrara marble (one of my favorite materials). It is not too cold, though, and reads as a soft true white with an LRV of 81.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS SNOWBOUND
A Neutral (or Slightly Cool) White
Extremely similar to Cameo White, Snowbound is on the cooler side and looks basically true white on the walls. With an LRV of 83, though, it is soft and elegant enough to let the furnishings and art work do the shining.
OTHER LOVELY WHITE PAINTS
A list like this wouldn’t be complete without a few honorable mentions. My other go-to Sherwin Williams white paint colors are definitely Pure White (SW 7005) and Extra White (SW 7006).
Pure White, with an LRV of 84, is a little softer than Extra White, which has an LRV of 86. Pure White is also a touch warmer. Both make excellent trim colors, though, and can either blend well with your walls (for example: soft, Pure White trim with Alabaster walls) or provide a brighter contrast (for example, Extra White trim with Aggreable Gray walls).
I hope you found this helpful! Have you tried any of these colors? Do you have another favorite? I’d love to know.