White is white, right?

Except it’s not quite as simple as that, with more than 900 shades of white paint available, and five different types in warm, cool, bright, soft and true.

White paint is often white in name only, and it can be the hardest colour to choose with so many options available.

Whites with grey, green, yellow or red undertones will all change according to the light, and you’ll need to buy plenty of tester pots to see which works best in your space. 


So here are some things to consider if you want to get it white (oh, you must have seen that coming...).

  • Consider your room and the way the paint’s coloured undertones will change. A white with a red or yellow base will work with the light in a south-facing room to become warmer and creamier. But if you want to fight the gold of the light, go for a white with a green or grey base, which will keep the space cooler and brighter.
  • The age of the property is also a consideration. Brilliant white might work well in a modern building with straight lines and angles but be too much in a period property with old beams and wonky walls.
  • Make sure you paint really big swatches on different walls in the same room and look at them in the morning and evening to see how they change in the light. Remember to write the names under each swatch in chalk.
  • Look at a paint swatch with lots of shades on it and go straight to the darkest to see the undertone that will make up the lightest shade. Alternatively, choose your favourite piece of coloured furniture that works well in your room. Find that colour on a swatch card, and work back up to the palest on the same card to find the right white.
  • Think about the paint finish. White walls always look better, white – not grimy grey. If your home is filled with children and pets, then a semi-gloss finish will be easier to keep clean. Flatter eggshell and matte are more difficult to wipe down.