If you’ve ever gone to a paint store to choose a white paint for your home, you know there’s more to this than simply grabbing the first white you see. Line up a selection of white paint chits and the myriad of choices could befuddle and bewilder. Never fear, we’re about to explain how to go about choosing the right white.
The first thing you need to determine is if you need a cool white with blue or grey undertones, or a warm white with yellow or pink hues. Sylvia O’Brien, creative director at Colour Theory in Toronto, advises novices to make sure they know what type of white they’re dealing with.
“Whites are the sneakiest of all colours,“ she says. “They hide their true personality until you see a large expanse. I always look for whites that have warmth to them. If you compare swatches of white and really study them, you'll see some have a whisper of green or pink, blue, grey, or yellow. If you're planning on painting a room with white, it will need testing just as much as any other colour.”
White falls in the neutral colour group, along with black, brown, and grey and doesn’t appear on the colour wheel. Tamara Naleway, principal designer at Stem Interior Design in Vancouver, B.C., suggests we here in Canada keep to the warm tones.
“For homes, generally the warm shades are softer and preferred by most people. Cool shades can be on the grey side, which can make spaces ‘feel’ cold. If you live in a climate that‘s warm year-round, you could opt for a cooler shade, but with our Canadian winters, warmer tones are ideal.”
Taisa Kelly is a senior art director. She says when choosing white for door and window trim, it’s important to decide whether you want the trim to blend in or be in stark contrast to the walls.
“If you’re looking for high contrast, you should choose a white with the least amount of pigment, in the same temperature range as the colour on the wall, either cool or warm.“ For a more subtle contrast between the wall and trim, she suggests you look for a white with more pigment, but still staying in the same temperature range. Which means you can’t just walk into your neighbourhood paint store and ask for Cloud White (which, in case you were wondering, is a warm white).
To know whether a white is cool or warm in tone, put it next to a piece of white paper. If you see hints of brown, pink, or yellow, it’s warm. If you see hints of blue, green, or grey, it’s cool. If you’re still not sure if it’s the right white for your room, Taisa suggests placing the white paint chit next to the colour you‘re using. If the contrast between the two is too vibrant or intense, you’ve gone to opposing sides of the colour wheel (bad). If the contrast is less intense, you’re on the same side (good).
Just white? Think again!