Choosing White Paint – 3 Simple Steps

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Choosing White Paint

Choosing white paint for your home can be a very difficult task. Today I’m sharing 3 simple steps that helped me in the process of choosing the right white paint for our home.

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Almost every home has white paint in one room or another. Whether on the trim or the walls, white paint is a simple, neutral color that is timeless and clean. White paint also gives you so much flexibility when decorating your home. Choosing white paint for your home however isn’t as easy as it seems like it would be. There are so many shades, finishes, and brands of white paint, it can easily become overwhelming.

After recently going through the process of choosing white paint for our home, there were a few steps I wish I would have known ahead of time. As always, the main purpose of my blog is to be a help to you and to allow you to learn from my mistakes so when it is time for you to choose white paint, it is a flawless, simple process.

In this post, I am sharing 3 simple steps to always follow when choosing white paint. These steps include:

  • Always buy samples
  • Research the tints in the sample white paint colors you are choosing
  • Consider what your white paint samples are reflecting off of

Built In paint color that clashed with current wall color

After craving change in our living room, I recently decided to paint all of our walls a fresh shade of white. Our previous white color, Halo by Benjamin Moore, was competing with the new greige paint color I chose for the built-ins above the fireplace. In the photo above, Halo is on the left of the built-ins, and a white paint called White Dove is on the right.

I loved Halo on our walls first at first, but after living with it for a while I realized that it read very grey-green in that space and it just was not the right shade of white paint for our living room walls. 

Now I love Halo in my bedroom and it even looks good in my kitchen. But in my living room it just looked completely different. I will explain why it looked different in the steps below.

For a while I have been wanting to brighten things up, and I have always loved the look of creamy white paint. What I didn’t realize is how difficult choosing white paint for your home really is. 

I mean holy cow, have you looked at white paint samples lately? Goodness gracious. I tried to be smart about it and do my research over on Pinterest. I looked at so many different homes and so many different whites. I decided that White Dove would be the color I chose, so I went and had a quart made since our local hardware doesn’t provide samples. 

Big mistake. It looked completely different in my living room then it did on all of the beautiful photos I based my inspiration off of on Pinterest! And on top of that, my ceilings were a creamy pink/white, which was throwing everything off.

Mantle Paint Colors against the old white walls before refresh

We first decided to change the white paint on our ceilings, and made the decision to paint them a bright white that was just a ceiling and trim paint I purchased at our local hardware store. This was a huge task which is why I put it off as long as I did. I hate painting ceilings haha, but it had to be done. Once we finished painting our ceiling, it was time to decide on the walls. 

I’m going to share three steps that I learned in the process of choosing white paint for our walls

1. ALWAYS buy samples. 

I was impatient and I didn’t want to drive an hour just for white paint samples. Yes, that’s how far away a Home Depot or Lowes is from where we live which is why I purchased a quart of White Dove without actually seeing it on my walls first.

Of all the beautiful images of rooms that had this paint color on their walls on Pinterest, I thought for sure with the huge variety of spaces it would work on the walls in my home but I was completely wrong.

I’m telling you guys, EVERY space is different. It doesn’t matter if EVERYone else is painting their home that color…don’t purchase it without getting a sample first.

This even more so applies in your own home when considering different rooms! As I said above, I love Halo by Benjamin Moore in my kitchen and bedroom space, but it did not work at all in my living room. If you are choosing the same white paint color in more than one room of your home, make sure you test the color in each space with a sample and then follow steps 2 and 3 outlined below. Lighting from room to room along with other factors I outline in the post can really make the same color look so different.

This was unfortunately the case for me the moment I saw White Dove on my walls. It immediately read green (see photo above). I know that sounds crazy, but it did. That’s when I decided I would buy three or four samples and actually try the white paint colors in my space before making a decision. 

Paint samples for our white wall and ceiling refresh

Seeing the different white paint samples actually painted on my wall in big enough sections to judge the colors made an enormous difference and the process is a must when choosing white paint for your space.

Painting samples on your wall also shows you how many coats of paint you will need in the space you are painting white. This will help you determine how much paint to purchase once you do decide on a color which is helpful for people like me who live over an hour from Home Depot and Lowes.

I also realize there is software available that can digitally show a color on your wall when you submit a picture of your space, but please realize this can just give you an idea. I wouldn’t rely on that for your final decision, an app cannot possibly determine different lighting and trust me, purchasing samples when choosing white paint is the best way to go.

2. Research the tints in the sample white paint colors you are choosing

Tints are so important. If you look at a paint can you’ll see letters like “CL” and “BL”. Do a quick internet search and see what tints those letters stand for! 

Try to choose white paint samples that have completely different tints so you can see how they look in your space and don’t assume which tints will look best without actually seeing the sample painted on your wall.

The white I ended up choosing for my white walls

For example, White Dove has a bright yellow tint in it. For whatever reason, that color was reading green in my living room. Since I knew that, I decided to try a few colors without that same tint in it to see the difference it made on the sample painted on the wall.

I tried Alabaster by Benjamin Moore, Cloud White by Sherwin Williams, and Swiss Coffee again by Benjamin Moore. Alabaster was out right away, it was much too white and I still wanted some contrast against my white trim paint.

Eventually I decided that I liked Swiss Coffee the most, but I wanted it just a tad darker. I ran to my local hardware and ended up finding a True Value color called…you won’t even believe it…Swiss Coffee! Haha! I brought a sample swatch home since they do not provide samples and loved this shade of white against my built-ins.

Once again, I do not feel a tiny paint sample swatch taped to your wall is enough to choose a color. Actually researching and choosing white paint samples to paint onto your wall in large sections is the best method. Since I did this process already though, and the Swiss Coffee from our local store had the same tints as Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore, I knew this would be a good option.

I purchased the amount I needed and once I actually painted it on my walls, I loved that it was extremely close to Swiss Coffee by Ben Moore. It was just a teeny tiny bit deeper, exactly what I was looking for and was perfect for our living room space.

Different shades of white and samples on my wall refresh

If I would not have gotten a variety of samples, and researched the different tints and shades of white paint that worked and didn’t work in my space, this process would have taken a lot longer. Both of these steps were so helpful in making my decision.

White paint colors, which to choose?

3. Consider what your white paint samples are reflecting off of

This third and final step when choosing white paint for your home is SO important and I wish I had considered it first before taking the plunge to paint the entire room.

When I had all my furniture pushed to the center of the room and I was almost done painting everything this new color, the sun started shining in one day and the walls in one corner suddenly looked pink. I got really nervous until I realized that the sun was bouncing off our orange floors and casting a pink tone on the walls. 

White colors reflecting off of different parts of the room

Thankfully, once I rearranged my furniture back to it’s original placement, the sun reflected my white chairs instead of our flooring. But keep that in mind as you’re choosing white paint. Live with your samples for a while, try them in every corner of your space. See how they look on a sunny day and see how they look when it’s cloudy. 

Furniture in center of the room for a white paint refresh

I would not consider myself a paint expert, but this foolproof 3 step process in choosing white paint will ensure you pick the perfect color for your home:

  • Always buy samples
  • Research the tints in the sample white paint colors you are choosing
  • Consider what your white paint samples are reflecting off of

Final things to consider when choosing white paint-

This post is about choosing white paint colors for your home, but I realize another huge thing to consider when choosing paint is the sheen. For some it’s obvious which sheen to purchase for your walls, but I know this is something I had to learn personally and hopefully these few tips I am sharing below are helpful.

This is my opinion of course, and like I mentioned above, I would not consider myself an expert. Whatever sheen you decide to go with should be your personal preference, but if you have no idea where to start, hopefully this helps.

The higher the sheen of the paint, the more durable and easy it is to clean. However, the higher the sheen, the more flaws are exposed. I feel that gloss and semi-gloss should not be used on walls, but trim only. Satin is a good choice for high traffic areas, and flat is a good choice for low traffic areas like your master bedroom.

In summary, I’m really loving how bright and open the living room is feeling. Swiss Coffee was the perfect choice for this room and the right white paint made a huge difference! I am so happy I didn’t paint the entire room Halo, or White Dove and I took the time to really make sure what I chose was the right shade of white paint for this space.

Now with the walls and ceiling painted fresh coats of different white paints that complement each other perfectly, I can’t wait to get everything put back together in our living room! 

White paint color I chose against the Mushroom Paint

I hope these 3 steps in choosing white paint will help you when you are choosing paint for your own home. I know they helped me so much, and since I love the look of fresh, clean white walls I will for sure be following this process in the future!

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Choosing White Paint

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21 Comments

  1. You are so right about the way light can change a color. What works in your house may not work in mine. Samples are a must and be sure and check them in the daylight and in your night time light.

  2. Thanks for all the tips … getting the right white can sure be tricky! But yours turned out beautiful! What type (sheen) paint do you use on your walls & trim? Flat, satin, semi etc…? Also, not related but do you have a source for the pretty natural color shades I saw on the windows in one of your rooms? Thanks so much and I LOVE your home and style!

  3. Samples are they way to go for sure! What color do you have on the board and batten in the room? I love how the 2 colors go together.

  4. Not sure if you had a Ben Moore store mix your color, but if not, this is an important & invaluable lesson I learned from a designer, about “certain” Ben Moore “whites” when I had Sherwin Williams color match these colors & they read incorrectly on my wall: White Dove & Simply White are examples of Ben Moore “white”paints that do not color correctly if the Sherwin Williams store does not know the following: Benjamin Moore OC 17 White Dove, or Simply White, must start with The *Cashmere High Reflective* white base; otherwise, your outcome is incorrect.

    1. I came to say this! Any time I’ve had white dove mixed anywhere besides a ben Moore store, it turns out with a green tint! I didn’t know about the cashmere high reflective, but I learned my lesson about “color matching” white dove!

  5. Hello! I actually love the paint color of your cabinets above the fireplace. Can you advise what paint brand and color that was? Thank you!

  6. Hi, this is really good information as I am also trying to find a perfect off white tone color for my house.
    Just curious to know as your post didn’t clearly specify. Did you end up using BEHR Swiss Coffee over BM Swiss Coffee as it was a bit darker?

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