How to Select the Perfect Neutral Paint Color

How to Select the Perfect Neutral Paint Color

Though they may all look similar, neutral wall colors are some of the most agonizing colors to choose between when you’re deciding how to paint a room. Though it’s a background element, your wall color is the single largest surface in the room and forms the backdrop for everything that you put inside it.

To make the decision even harder, there are thousands of shades of neutral colors, all with varying undertones that will all look different in your home.

Daunting? Definitely. Impossible? Not at all!

Here are some key considerations for your choice of a neutral wall color.

Start with the undertone

A color may look white on the sample card, but when you get it home it could look totally different once you get it on the walls.

Because colors are created by mixing shades together, all colors except the primary ones contain multiple tones that mix to create the overall shade you see. For example, a white shade may look white, but it will always have some other shade mixed in to give it the exact hue you see. In-wall colors, this is often green, red, brown, yellow, and pink.

Paint color wheel_undertones

How to identify undertones

In determining the undertone, look at the darkest shade on your paint swatch to see the most saturated version of the color. If the darkest version looks faintly green, for example, the neutral version of the shade will have a green tone as well.

Take a look at Pittsburgh Paint’s silvery moon. The darkest version of that shade is a green-brown, so we can tell that the neutral shade has undertones of green and brown.

Warm or cool tones?

Look at the colors in your home and decide if you use more warm or cool colors. Then, pick a color using the same palette.

If all your furniture is mostly slate grays and whites, a cool toned color would suit your style. A yellow toned white, however, would clash and could look green on your wall. If your furniture is a mix of tones, go for a true neutral that isn’t particularly warm or cool toned.


Get samples

We can’t stress enough how important it is to test a paint color.

Every home’s lighting conditions are different, and a paint color will look much different in your space than it will in the store. Homes with lots of sunlight will impact a color differently than one with less sunlight. You also need to see the impact of reflected color, especially if you’re using a glossy finish. Walls facing green grass will reflect a little green, for example, as opposed to a hallway where light is reflecting only off of the same color.

Get samples to your home and test them out in different lighting conditions. Use the whole sample amount, and be sure you do two coats to mirror the effect of the finished paint job. Hold up your accent colors and, if you can, get a sample near your flooring so you can see the effect.

Good luck!