Ready for a list of best paint colors (that usually work)?
Picking a paint color isn’t as easy as you may think.
No matter how good you are at color, there’s no one perfect color that will do the trick for everyone’s lighting conditions and existing elements – you have to try several in that color family until you find just the right one.
Color is complicated. The best color for you will depend on how it looks in the actual room, with the actual lighting, at various times of day, what color you are putting it on top of, what other colors are in the room, and even in conjunction with your existing finishes.
I thought I’d share my most common paint color suggestions.
Young House Love did a very similar post in 2009. We have some common suggestions and many different ones. A few of their selections are no longer available since it was a few years back. But, nonetheless, it’s a good additional resource.
Basic Color Rules:
1. Balance bright saturated colors with lots of white.
2. Kids rooms tend to take the more clean and saturated colors best while adult rooms require a slight muddiness to them and lighter tones, as a rule. (Muddy or muted colors have a hint of brown or gray and progress to more of a neutral as they get more muddy.)
3. In general, keep clean colors with clean colors and dirty (or muddy or muted) with other dirty colors. Clean refers to colors that are more saturated and crisp. Dirty colors are more muddy or muted meaning there is a gray or brown tint to it.
4. Wall colors are trending to the lighter tones. They are also trending away from beiges and browns, and more towards grays and greiges (mix of gray and beige).
5. Don’t forget ceilings.
6. When choosing a white, make sure it works with the fixed white in your home – sinks, cabinets, or anything that will not be changed. Is that white crisp, warm, creamy? Does it work with the other neutrals as well – what are their undertones?
7. Compare different shades of one color to begin to see the undertones. Placing them beside white also helps.
8. Use primer if going from light to a dark saturated color. Other tips like this can be found on my Painting 101 post.
Neutrals are listed first, then colors in rainbow order.
For most colors, I included the chip number and a quick description after the paint name, so you can easily plow through the suggestions based on your project. The colors are in alphabetical order under each color, by brand. Enjoy!
Note: SW = Sherwin Williams, BM = Benjamin Moore, * = my most favorite
White (12) - *Behr Swiss Coffee 1812 (Warm Creamy White, swiss coffee is found in most brands though it will vary a tad from brand to brand), Behr Ultra White (crisp white), Behr Cascade White, BM Atrium White INT RM (fairly neutral, slightly creamy), BM Chantilly Lace OC-65 (crisp white), BM Decorators White IN RM (crisp white that is slightly gray), BM Simply White OC-17, BM Swiss Coffee OC-45 (creamy white), SW Alabaster 7008 (warm but crisp), *BM Cloud White 967, BM Collector’s Item AF 45 (warm crisp white), SW Dover White 6385 (creamy), *SW Pure White 7005 (crisp white).
Cream/ Off-White (6)- *BM Cloud Cover 855 (warm, slight gray), BM China White INT RM (creamy, slight greige to it), BM Cocoa Butter 1023 (light beige), BM Muskoka Trail 974 (light beige with gray undertone), SW Creamy 7012 (warm, slight gray), BM Subtle AF 310 (pale creamy beige).
Light Greige (9) Greiges have warm undertones, usually a green undertone is best. - *Behr Sandstone Cliff 750 C-3 (light to medium greige), BM Baby Fawn OC-15 (beige/ gray with gray undertones), BM Gray Mist 962, BM Halo OC-46 (fairly neutral), *BM Hazy Skies OC-48 (light to medium, slight green undertone), BM Jute AF 80 (pale greige), BM Overcast OC-43 (slight green undertone), *BM Pashmina AF-100 (very gray, but still warm), BM Winds Breath 981.
Medium/ Dark Greige (6) - BM Copley Gray HC-104 (darker warm gray), BM Rockport Gray HC 105 (dark moody warm gray), *BM Senora Gray 1530 (warm medium gray with good depth), BM Stingray 1529 (medium greige with slight warm undertone), BM Tapestry Beige OC-32 (medium, a little more brown than most), *Farrow & Ball Hardwick White (wonderful medium greige).
Light Gray (11) There is less brown in grays than greiges. Gray undertones are generally cool, though I mixed some warm ones in below, that are technically on the greige side, but barely. So, most would still see them as very gray. - *BM Apparition 860 (fairly neutral light gray), BM Ashwood OC-47 (light warm gray), BM Classic Gray OC-23 (light gray), BM Edgecomb Gray HC-173 (pale warm gray), BM Gray Wisp 1570 (light gray blue), BM Iced Marble 1578 (blue gray), BM Silver Chain 1472 (fairly neutral light gray), Quiet Moments 1563 (blue undertone, light), *Martha Stewart Zinc (medium charcoal color), SW Agreeable Gray 7029, Valspar Oatlands Subtle Taupe 6005-1B (light to medium warm gray).
Medium to Dark Gray (9) - Behr Ashes (medium to dark gray), BM Flint AF 560 (dark gray), BM Gray Mirage 2142-50 (medium green gray), BM Kendall Charcoal HC-166 (dark gray), BM Light Pewter 1464 (pale gray), *BM Revere Pewter HC-172 (very neutral, very slight warm green undertone), BM Stonington Gray HC-170 (medium blue gray), BM Templeton Gray HC-161 (moody dark blue gray, can read blue), *Valspar Woodlawn Colonial Gray 6004-1B (medium slightly warm gray).
Tan (9) - BM Alexandria Beige HC-77 (medium tan), BM Bleeker Beige HC-80 (soothing tan beige), BM Camouflage 2143-40 (green tan), BM Coriander Seed – AF 110, BM Grant Beige HC 83 (medium tan), BM Hush AF 95 (light tan), *BM Manchester Tan HC-81 (light tan), *Valspar Arid Plains 6007-2A (medium taupe brown), Valspar Oatbran 6006-1B (a hint of gray in it).
Brown (6) - *BM Branchport Brown HC-72 (dark chocolate brown), BM Chocolate Candy Brown 2107-10 (dark chocolate brown), BM Elk Horn – AF 105 (brown tan), BM Plymouth Brown HC-73 (lighter brown), *Farrow and Ball Mouse’s Back (dark chocolate/taupe brown), SW Cobble Brown (dark brown).
Beige (8) – BM Adams Gold HC-18 (creamy light beige), BM Berber White 955 (light beige tan), BM Carrington Beige HC-93 (medium yellow based beige), BM Cream Fleece 233 (light creamy beige with slight yellow undertone), BM Elmira White HC-84 (light beige), BM Flawless AF 320 (light beige), BM Shaker Beige HC-45 (yellow toned beige, light to medium), Valspar Lyndhurst Mushroom 3007-9C (medium beige).
Red (8) Red has either orange or purple undertones. - BM Caliente AF 290 (deep wine red), BM Currant Red 1323 (deep barn red), BM Ladybug Red (a fairly true red), SW Heartthrob 6866 (deep red), BM Poppy 1316 (saturated red with ever so slight pink tint), SW Real Red 6868, BM Moroccan Red 1309 (deep red orange), Valspar Bright Red 1010-2 (very saturate bright red).
Pink/Coral (9)Pink has either purple or red undertones. Coral has either orange or red undertones. - Behr Cream Rose 160A-1 (soft pink), Behr Coral Mantle (medium coral), Behr Silk Sheets 150-A1 (soft pink with slight coral undertone), BM Glamour Pink 2006-40 (rosy muddy pink red), BM Pink Harmony 2013-60 (pale basic pink), BM Starburst Orange 2010-30 (pink orange, nice coral that is a little darker), SW Animated Coral (saturated coral), SW Impatient Pink 6854 (deep hot pink), SW Comical Coral 6876 (pale pink with a coral tint).
Orange (5) Orange has either red or yellow undertones. - BM Beverly Hills 180 (bright yellow orange), BM Fiesta Orange 084 (muted orange), BM Lion Heart 306 (citrus orange), SW Mandarin 6891 (true mandarin), SW Osage Orange 6890 (true orange).
Yellow (4) Yellow has either orange or green undertones. Yellow quickly becomes too bright and overwhelming. Always choose lighter and softer than you think you want. - BM Hawthorne Yellow HC-4 (medium neutral, bit of orange gold tone), BM Lemon Sorbet 219-60 (light yellow, soft not too jarring), BM Weston Flax HC-5 (lighter yellow), BM You Are My Sunshine 302 (pale yellow).
Green (13) Green has either blue or yellow undertones. - BM Central Park 431 (medium green with a hint of yellow), *BM Dune Grass 492 (pale green yellow), *BM Georgian Green HC-115 (muddy muted green that is historical), BM Hillside Green 495 (dark muddy olive green with hint of yellow), BM Rosemary Green 2029-30 (slight yellow undertone, medium, saturated), BM Sullivan Green 560 (vibrant kelly green, great for a cheerful kid’s room), BM Sweet Pear 389 (yellow green), BM Wasabi AF 430 (yellow green), Mythic Autumn Bloom 79-4 (yellow citrus green), SW Springtime 6708 (pale lime), SW Impetuous 6916 (light springy citrus green), *SW Paradise 6720 (dark basic green), SW Direct Green 6924 (true saturated green).
Light to Medium Blue (13) Blue has either green or purple undertones. Check out some of the gray blues as well for a soft blue tone. - BM Azores AF 495 (medium with a smokey tint), BM Bali 702 (grayish blue that is soft but still clearly blue), BM Beach Glass 1564 (soft blue), BM Blue Haze 1667 (slight gray and green undertone, light), BM Blue Ice (soft and subtle, great for ceilings, gray tone), BM Catalina Blue 703 (soft blue, more saturated than bali), BM Gray Wisp 1570 (light gray blue), BM Healing Aloe 1562 (pale soothing blue), BM Iced Green 673 (light blue green), BM Palladian Blue HC-144 (pale blue with green undertone, can seem sea foam green in some lights), *BM Wythe Blue HC-143 (soft blue with slight green undertone), Mythic Adanna Aire 51-2 (green blue good for a child’s room), SW Comfort Gray (grayish blue).
Medium to Dark Blue (10 ) Blue has either green or purple undertones. - Behr Grand Rapids 530-D7 (dark blue with some green in it), BM Calypso Blue 727 (more saturated with a green tint, great for doors and shutters), BM Dark Teal 2053-20 (dark blue with green undertones, very pretty), BM Fiji AF 525 (medium with hint of green), BM Kensington Green 710 (medium green blue that is still soft), BM Silver Pine AC-21 (soft, subtle dark blue gray with a hint of green), BM Varsity Blue 756 (saturated medium blue), BM Wedgewood Gray HC-146 (medium blue with a slight smoke to it), Farrow and Ball Drawing Room Blue (deep saturated indigo which is a purple undertone), Mystic Turquoise Tear Drops 42-5 (medium turquoise with slight gray).
Navy Blue (11) Blue has either green or purple undertones. - BM Champion Cobalt 2061-20 (almost neutral, but slightly on the green side and muddy, a bit like a slightly faded dark denim), *BM Marine Blue 2059-10 (deep true navy, a lot like ink in the sample size, but the gallon size is different in color), BM Lucerne AF 530 (a bit of teal), BM Hale Navy HC-154 (dark gray navy), *SW Indigo 6531 (slight purple tone), *SW Loyal Blue 6510 (subtle hint of green, love this color), SW Naval 6244, SW Regalla 6517 (a slight smoke to it), Valspar Azure Jazz 4011-6 (muddy blue with slight green undertone), Valspar Deep Sea Diving 5001-8C (nice dark blue, slightly muddy), Valspar Indigo Cloth 4009-7 (deep purple blue), Valspar Newport Gray (dark blue with a gray muddy hue).
Purple (6) Purple has either red or blue undertones. - BM Iced Lavender 1410 (light lavender), BM Kasbah AF 640 (muddy medium purple), BM Kalamata AF 630 (medium plum), BM Purple Hyacinth 2073-40 (medium lilac type purple), BM Sanctuary AF 620 (pale lilac), BM Violet Pearl 1451 (soft muddy purple).
Black (3) – BM Blacktop 2135-10 (soft black), BM Graphite 1603, Valspar Dark Kettle Black 4011-2.
Please add to the list in the comments section.
Suggested steps when searching for a paint color:
1. Google the color you are considering and see if you can find it in a room. This is a good starting point.
2. Get a sample of all colors under consideration at your local paint store. One store can usually give samples of other brands, if they have the color on file.
3. If you prefer, start with painting a foam board. Hold it up to see how it looks.
4. Then, if you like the color, paint the samples that you are considering on every wall in the space. I suggest 2 ft by 2 ft squares.
4. Look at the color at different times of the day to see what undertones become dominant. Give it a few days. Hold other colors next to it.
5. Decide on a color.
I hope that helps you get started. I also recommend buying a fan deck from the brands that you prefer. It is a time saver when it comes to trips to the store. That way you can look at any swatch in your home prior to buying a sample.
What are your favorite paint colors? What other color wisdom do you have that you can share with us?