When white paint isn’t exactly white

When white paint isn’t exactly white

“I wanted light cream colored walls and white trim in my bedroom,” you said. Even though you chose the colors yourself and picked the whitest of white paint, now that it’s painted that trim looks slightly cream colored–just a few shades lighter than the walls. Sometimes, when the sun is pouring in the window the trim looks like the original crisp white, but only where the sun hits. Unless someone works with paint all the time, like George Borlodan, the Paso Robles house painter, it can be difficult to envision the final results.

Why is this? White paint is white paint, right? Not necessarily. Even snow-white snow doesn’t always appear pure white. Sunlight, shadows, foot tracks, reflections and uneven landscape all play a part in giving white snow hints and tints of other colors. What we see are shades of white and that is what we get with white paint–shades of white. The purest white paint is going to reflect light, shadows and other colors around it. Even white paint with other color undertones might look white in direct light, but will change to show the undertone color when the light changes.

The idea of “white” paint actually covers the spectrum of every color out there starting with crisp basic white to creamy, yellow, gray, blue, green, lavender and rose undertones. The undertones are hints of color blended into a white base to create a desired color effect. Anyone who has spent anytime searching through paint chips at the paint store, or paint section of the hardware store is very familiar with the confusing array of white, off-white, creamy-white, coffee-white, tan-white, yellowish-white, and “don’t you think this white is kind of greenish?”

Basically, unless white paint is free of pigment, there is going to be some kind of an undertone. So, what does that mean when choosing “white-ish” for trim and accents? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep in mind that the whitest of white paint still might vary in hue and tone.
  • Keep in mind that the whitest of white paint may appear to be pure white to light cream at different times of the day depending on light and shadows in the room.
  • Keep in mind that the primary color on the walls might influence how white the white paint appears.

With these thoughts in mind, set about choosing a white paint that is going to give the rooms the best look and feel for the rest of the room’s decor.

  • What is the primary color of the walls? Consider choosing white with a complimentary undertone instead of trying for pure white.
  • Choose a few versions of white, buy some sample cans and paint a couple small areas of trim in different locations in the room. Watch the effect that different times of day and different lighting has.
  • What look and feel are you wanting for the room? Cool undertones like blue and gray can warm up a well-lighted space; pink and yellow can add warmth to a room with cooler colored walls.
  • A complimentary undertone can bring a sense of serenity. A hint of a contrasting color can bring a subtle sense of creative edginess to a space.

Talk to the expert

Avoid disappointment by discussing paint colors for walls and trim with your painter. George Borlodan, of Borlodan Painting, has been painting residences and commercial buildings on the Central Coast since 2011. Paint and paint colors are his specialty and he can suggest colors and color combinations, including hues of white, that will deliver the look and feel you want.

Give Borlodan Painting in Paso Robles a call for help making your color choices a little easier.