“All white paint is the same, what’s the big difference?”—if that question has ever passed through your mind, you have come to the right place.
You are looking at a house that needs refurbishing or you’re setting up your new home—no matter what part of the design process you are on, it is important to get the fundamentals straight.
All white paint is absolutely not the same.
If you go into a hardware store and ask for white paint, there will be several follow up questions from the salesperson—“Sure, what type of white paint would you like?”.
They may also present you with a shade card and ask you about the finish of white paint you would like. In other words, white paint is not simply white paint.
It means different things in different settings. But how so? The following sections will delve slightly deeper into these subtle nuances.
- How to Choose the Right White Paint
- Effects of Daylight
- Let’s Look At Daylight Effects For Rooms In The Northern Hemisphere
- Effects of Artificial Light
- Suspended Lights Or Maybe Even A Hanging Chandelier
- Overhead Ceiling Lights
- ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Light Types
- Pure Brilliant White Paint vs White Paint with Undertones
- Influencing the White Color Effect with Furniture, Fixtures and Fittings
- Summary of Why White Paint Can Be the Hardest Call of All
How to Choose the Right White Paint
When it comes to choosing the right white paint, there are several factors that you must keep in mind to choose the right white paint.
The following are some of the things you will need to consider:
Effects of Daylight
Natural light has an impact on any color that you may use in a room. Depending on the intensity of the light and how it falls on the color, the impact of the particular shade may differ.
Also, depending on the location of the room and the source of the natural light, there are going to be variations in how the white paint is affected.
Let’s Look At Daylight Effects For Rooms In The Northern Hemisphere
A north-facing room is likely to get only diffused daylight and also the cooler tones of the light, not bright light. If you choose a dull shade of white for this room, the whole room will become dark.
The warmer tones of white are ideal for a north-facing room.
A south-facing room will have the opposite characteristics than a north-facing room. The daylight in a south-facing room will be bright.
In fact, at around midday, the room can be so bright that all the colors may get flattened out. You need a cooler tone of white paint for this room to balance out the strong light.
East-facing rooms will be bright early in the morning (because the sun rises in the east, remember folks?) and the light will taper out as the day progresses.
If the room has a lot of windows, you can settle for a light or neutral white. If the room has fewer windows, you may want to consider a brighter white.
Since the sun sets in the west, you are likely to get light during the hottest part of the day in a west-facing room.
The sharp light could cause a glare and long shadows. The fiery and warm light of the sun can be balanced out with a neutral light.
The geographical location makes a difference as the length of the day differs depending on where you are. During summers in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are longer so the light will also be around for much longer.
The summer in the Southern Hemisphere often sees much brighter sunlight and the rays can be intense. The days are longer and the daylight will be more intense in the southern hemisphere.
Effects of Artificial Light
Now, not everyone is lucky enough to have a home or rooms that are bathed in natural sunlight. Your home may be west facing or you may not have enough windows in the room to make it brighter.
The obvious option is to invest in good artificial lighting. Different types of artificial light will also impact the white paint, or any other type of paint for that matter, differently. The following are some variations you may want to know about:
Suspended Lights Or Maybe Even A Hanging Chandelier
Suspended lights, and even a hanging chandelier, are types of light fittings that are suspended from the ceiling and disperse their light around the room.
They disperse light both directly and indirectly. Because they are hanging below the ceiling level the light shines directly downwards, sideways and upwards towards the ceiling.
This means that you will receive direct light if you are beneath the light fitting; both direct and reflected light if you are away to the side of the light; as well as reflected light from the ceiling.
Depending on the intensity of the light, together with its color, the light will have a different impact on the room.
For example, a hanging chandelier with many LED white lights will give out a cool tone of light, for which the walls should ideally be of a warmer tone. Soft, yellow lights in a hanging chandelier may give out a diffused warm glow, for which you can pick a neutral white paint.
For suspended lighting the type, color and size of any shades or diffusers around each lamp will also have an impact.
Overhead Ceiling Lights
Overhead ceiling lights , which are fittings directly fixed to the ceiling, can leave sharp shadows on the objects or people they fall on. The lights are concentrated and fall almost like a spotlight, but less sharp.
There are, of course, different types of overhead ceiling lights. You could consider cove lights, recessed lights, flush-mount lights, etc.
Each of these lights throws different types of light and depending on the color and intensity of the light, the white paint you pick will also differ.
Whether you are considering table lamps or floor-mounted lamps, the light you will get out of a lamp is likely to be diffused. Depending on the lampshade you use, the light disperses from the top and bottom of the shade or you may even have a lampshade that has holes in it for the light to pass through.
Either way, the light is likely to be dim. But depending on the tone of the light itself, you should pick the right type of white paint that might go with it.
‘Old’ and ‘New’ Light Types
There are several different types of light types that give out different intensities of light. Some are associated with more traditional forms of lighting while others have closer relations to smart lighting and newer technology. The following are some of the differences in lighting:
An incandescent light bulb is what you will find in most old constructions and is likely the type of lighting you grew up with if you were born before the turn of this century.
These lights have a wire filament inside the bulb which emits light after they heat up. This means that the light becomes brighter the longer it stays on. Wires embedded in the glass of the bulb supply current to the filament.
A fluorescent lamp is a contraption that uses fluorescence to emit light into the area. This is a low-pressure lamp that uses mercury-vapor gas discharge to produce light. The mercury vapor in the lamp triggers the production of short-wave ultraviolet light. The interior of the lamp is coated with a phosphor that glows when the ultraviolet light is produced, emitting light into its surroundings.
Halogen lamps are a type of incandescent lamp that uses a filament, either made of tungsten or quartz. The filament, however, is sealed inside a transparent chamber which is filled with halogens like iodine or bromine, and other types of inert gases.
LEDs are very bright lights that disperse even more light than incandescent or halogen bulbs of the same wattage. These are low wattage bulbs that are becoming popular because of the efficiency and relative benefits to the environment. LED lights are also incorporated into smart lighting systems where you can control the temperature of the light through a remote. However, since they are low wattage bulbs you will need more LED bulbs to replace the brightness of halogen or incandescent bulbs.
Pure Brilliant White Paint vs White Paint with Undertones
When selecting a white, you will have to choose between the pure white paint and various shades of white which has undertones. The pure white paint is one that has minimal undertones and is close to a neutral color. These whites pair well with most other colors and accents and are a versatile form of white. Think of the color of snow or of fine china—that is the color of pure white paint.
You can tell the variations of white apart from the undertones they have. There are two main undertones one will find in white paint—warm and cool.
Examples of warm whites include vanilla, cream, off-white, etc. These are colors that may have warm undertones of pink, red or yellow. Examples of cool whites are grayed whites, which have an undertone of blues, grays, and greens.
Some of the best paint makers in the world include:
- PPG: PPG is an American company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, though it has a presence in more than 70 markets in the world. The pure white option at PPG is called Pure White, PPG Timeless® Out-of-the-Can White.
- Behr: Behr is another company founded in the United States, headquartered in Santa Ana, California. The company is very well known in the DIY markets. The pure white option here is called Ultra Pure White 1850.
- Sherwin-Williams: Sherwin-Williams is a 500 Fortune company headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. The pure white option at Sherwin-Williams is called Pure White SW7005.
- Benjamin Moore: Benjamin Moore is a legacy company that has been around since the end of the 19th century and is headquartered in Montvale, New Jersey. The company’s pure white shade is called Pure White OC-64.
- Valspar: Valspar is a subsidiary of Sherwin-Williams and is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. Valspar The Perfect White® Interior is their cleanest white.
Influencing the White Color Effect with Furniture, Fixtures and Fittings
The color of your wall alone is not what will create the mood of any room. The paint you choose for the wall will also have to complement the furniture in the room and other furnishings. The more you furnish the room, it is likely to take on a warmer hue—especially if you add warm wood furniture and brighter red-undertone colors.
If you want to go for a minimalist setting, more of the wall is likely to show. Pair whatever minimal furniture you have in the room with the tone of the wall.
Pure whites go very well in a minimal setting if you have dark furniture. You can also pick a warmer white to make the room feel cozier since a minimalist room can also feel bare.
Similarly, a bohemian set up is likely to have more going on in the room in terms of patterns, prints and elements.
Pick a white paint according to the main binding color you have chosen for your bohemian decor.
The following are some of the ways in which you can check if the white paint you have in mind goes with the rest of the room.
Always Test a Sample in the Room
When you are out looking for paint options for your room, one of the worst things you can do is buy a paint without trying it out in your room, only to come back and find that it is not the right fit.
Most good paint stores should also have a color sample section from where you can bring the colors you have shortlisted home.
You should try the sample on your wall, not on a board as the impact of the color will not be the same. You may also want to try the paint on different walls in the house as the final effect will differ depending on how the light is falling and what the texture of the wall is like.
Most importantly, you should do two coats of the color to get a real idea of what the paint will look like.
Testing a sample in the room will give you the best idea of how a color is looking with the furniture and look of the rest of your room.
Consider Your Paint Finish
There are also ways you can personalize your space by using different paint finishes. Depending on whether you are looking for paint for your walls, woodwork and trimming or ceilings, you can opt for different paint finishes.
The paint finish is also directly related to practical concerns about maintenance. The higher the gloss in the paint, the easier it will be to keep the paint clean and the more durable the paint coat will be.
So, for example, if you are looking to paint your kitchen you may want to go with a paint finish with a higher sheen as keeping the paint protected will be easier. You can also wipe down any accidental wine splashes.
Accordingly, you can pick the kind of sheen you need depending on where the paint needs to be applied.
Is it an area where a lot of people in the house congregate? Do you have pets or young children?
These are all factors you may want to consider to select your paint finish. The popular types of finish include high or semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, flat or matte.
However, you should also keep in mind that the higher the sheen on a wall will be, the more any imperfections or defects will show. Again, the way out is to make good use of a paint sample.
Summary of Why White Paint Can Be the Hardest Call of All
From the topics that have been covered above, it becomes clear that painting your room white is not as straightforward as it sounds.
People seem to believe that if you are confused about the color of your room, white is the easiest option out. But the color has several variations, intricacies and nuances that you must account for.
Most big brands have variations of white running into double digits, if not triple digits! But as hard as picking the right white for your home may be, it is also a very rewarding process as once you find the right shade, the primary color only enhances your living space.
There is a white shade that is perfect for every individual. It is only a matter of finding the one that works for you.
If you find yourself stumbling or confused about picking the right color, it wouldn’t hurt to rope in a professional or someone with more experience.