The Trick to Choosing the Right Paint Color + 12 Perfect Neutral Paint Colors

Inside:  Learn how to choose neutral paint colors for your home with the right undertones. Plus 12 perfect neutral wall colors to get you started.

We’ve all been there. You pick paint for your home only to find that once you get it on the wall it’s not what you had in mind. -Ugh! It is too green when we wanted grey, or too grey when we wanted tan.

Where did we go wrong? Isn’t a neutral a neutral?

Not quite.

the trick to choosing the right neutral paint colors

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure. 

The mistake you’re probably making when picking neutral paint colors

Most of the time when we’re picking a neutral paint we’re often picking a shade that’s pretty light. We choose shades that are enough to give us some color on the wall, make our baseboards and moldings pop, and are a perfect backdrop for the other colors we have in our whole home color palette.  All of these things are good.

The problem is that when we’re looking at these really light shades on the paint swatch, it’s really difficult to tell what the undertones of the color are.

Usually we don’t see it until it’s all over our walls, we’ve already spent hours or paid someone to paint, and have to either start all over again, or live with it. -Double Ugh!

In the first few homes I painted I made plenty of mistakes, but I learned some tricks along the way and, not to toot my own horn but, I haven’t made a color mistake in a very long time.

And word on the street is that many of you (my fabulous readers) are stumped when it comes to picking neutral wall colors for your home.

In fact, recently I asked each one of you what your biggest struggles are when it comes to decorating your home, and I would say about 70% of you mentioned color. So I’m here to help!

There are a few key things to look at before you decide on a paint color, especially if you’re going for a light shade. So today I’m going to walk you through the steps and teach you how to choose the right neutral paint color for your home.

To choose the right neutral paint color for you home, you must look at the undertone.

But first…

What are neutral colors?

First things first. Neutral does not mean grey, white, or brown.

In home decor, neutral means light to medium colors that work nicely with other colors.

That means that most neutral wall colors have different colored undertones like grey, blue, yellow, brown, and green. This is why you have to be careful. The last thing you want to choose if you dislike the color green is a neutral paint with a green undertone.

Undertones are sneaky, but I’ll explain how to see the undertone clearly in even the lightest shades.

That said, there are cool neutral colors (that have blue or green undertones) and there are warm neutral colors (that have brown, red, orange, or yellow undertones.)

First Decide: Do you want a cool neutral wall color or a warm neutral wall color?

I myself am a cool color person. My entire house has blues and greys with very few warm colors. So naturally when choosing a greige for my walls, I went with something with a lot of grey in it, but enough brown to give it some warmth. I guess you could call it a perfect greige. 🙂

But if say you decorate with a lot of red and wood tones, you would probably go in the direction of a warm neutral.

You with me?

>>There are a lot of things to consider when deciding between warm neutrals and cool neutrals like your unique lighting situation, the other colors you use (or are stuck with in your home) and which colors you want to highlight and which colors you want to downplay. For a complete step by step way to consider all these components and create a color palette you love, check out my color course, Color Made Clear.

So how do you know what the undertone of a color is when you’re choosing a light shade of paint?

You always look at the darkest shade on the paint swatch.  It’s where the color is the most obvious and it will tell you what undertones are going to show up, even in the lightest shades.

Let’s look at some examples.

how to choose the right neutral paint color

Take your hand and cover the small color tiles at the bottom of the photo so you just see the 3 large color tiles. They’re all pretty similar.

If I asked you which one was the most true grey you could probably spot it pretty quickly right? (Passive Grey)  But if I asked you which one was the most green you wouldn’t be able to answer as quickly.

Now take your hand down and look at the tiles along the bottom. This is similar to what you see on a color strip in a paint store.

The shades go from lightest to darkest. So now, look at the darkest shades of each of the three colors above and tell me which one has the most green.  Aloof Gray right?  Repose Gray has the most brown in it, but also has black so it is a true greige and Passive Gray has a black base so it is a true cool grey.

Make sense?

Using the darkest color on the swatch will help you see the true base of the color!

But there are a ton.of.colors. out there and it can get overwhelming. So I did some research using 2 popular brands and came up with these 12 neutral paint colors that will hopefully get you going in the right direction.

Here are 12 neutral paint colors to get you started

SW= Sherwin Williams and Behr Marq.= Behr Marquee found at Home Depot

best neutral paint colors for your home

You’ll notice that the top row are the cool neutral colors with cool undertones of blue and grey. The middle row are warm neutral colors with warm undertones of brown and red, and the bottom row are cool neutrals with green undertones.

Essential Gray- Sherwin Williams  ||  Silver City- Behr Marquee  ||  Passive Gray– Sherwin Williams  ||  Gray Shimmer– Behr Marquee  ||  Park Avenue- Behr Marquee  ||  Requisite Gray- Sherwin Williams  || Repose Gray– Sherwin Williams  ||  Popular Gray– Sherwin Williams  ||  Sedate Gray– Sherwin Williams  ||  Aloof Gray– Sherwin Williams  ||  Silver Strand– Sherwin Williams  || Looking Glass- Behr Marquee

How to make your final decision…

You’ll want to start by getting a few samples and testing them to see which one you like best. Remember, colors may be different in your home depending on the lighting and the surrounding colors so don’t just start painting without doing your homework. Follow these 8 tips to be sure you’ve chosen the right color.


TIP: If you’re painting a large open living space sometimes it is a good idea to choose a color and then paint one room one or two shades lighter or darker to give some contrast when looking into the room from another room!

The trick to choosing the right paint color

12 of the best neutral paint colors

Hopefully this helps give you a starting point and the confidence to choose a neutral wall color you will love.

For more help on choosing paint color, my Ultimate Guide to Choosing Color page is packed with info and resources!

Thinking about going greige? Get the low-down at How to Choose the Perfect Greige.

And if you’ve ever thought you couldn’t go wrong with choosing white paint, you’ll want to check out these must-read tips for choosing the right white paint for walls, cabinets and trim.

Thanks for stopping by!

email signature no image

About Corey

Corey is the creative behind Hey There, Home where she shares easy-to-follow and beautiful home decor and entertaining ideas. Her mission? To make home decor accessible to everyone, even if you don't consider yourself crafty, and to empower people to decorate their homes in a way that they can actually be lived in, not just looked at.

135 thoughts on “The Trick to Choosing the Right Paint Color + 12 Perfect Neutral Paint Colors

  1. Ali says:

    We are doing our basement with urban grey laminate flooring (looks like a true light grey with some darker graining in areas) and have selected a goodnight light (dark) stain for the cabinets. Any recommendations on cool vs. warm greys for the wall paint colours?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Ali! I can’t recommend specific colors since I can’t see your house in person. Color is definitely tricky which is why I always advise getting samples and painting large squares on each wall because the undertone of a color can definitely read different depending on your lighting situation. I’m hoping that you’ve found my color resource page with the free downloadable paint guide. And if you want to do a deeper dive into choosing and using color, my online color course will give you the confidence to make the right choices!

  2. Theresa says:

    Hi Cory
    Thank you for explaining the undertones. I’m wondering about transitioning from a room with warm greige to a room with a cool greige. My kitchen / dining room have honey oak cabinets with dark green counters. I’d like to brighten it up with a greige and after reading this I think it should have warm undertones. While my living room / hallway has honey oak trim and doors but I’d like to use a cool greige. Would this be complimentary or clash? My original thought was to use a cool greige for all areas but after reading this I’m seconding guessing. I’m usually disappointed in my color choices after painting.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      You’re so right, Theresa.  Picking color can be really hard.  I’ve definitely made my share of color mistakes too but I’ve learned a ton through some trial and error and now I have a system  that works. 
      I can’t recommend specific colors for your house since I can’t see it in person, but I’m hoping that you’ve found my color resource page with the free downloadable paint guide. And if you want to do a deeper dive into choosing and using color, my online color course will give you the confidence to make the right choices!

  3. John says:

    How about opening the picture of the color in Microsoft paint and using the “eyedropper” to match the color, then use “edit color” to see what the hue is? That would give the undertone I think.

  4. Kim Pardo says:

    We built our house in 2006 when everything was warm golds, maple cabinets, cherry wood floors. I now want to lighten up and modernize my home, but I cannot can’t change my floors and cabinets. Cool greys seen too jolting with my warm cabinets and floors. How are homeowners updating without full on remodel? I’m thinking I should stay in the middle row of your suggestions. What do you think?

    1. Kim Pardo says:

      But I really love the grey sage colors!

    2. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Kim, Definitely go with a warmer grey in this case; also, this page is rich with resources for you. Not only does it list all my color tips, but you can download a free guide to choosing the right paint color every time! PLUS you can get in on my free live video training to learn the simple steps from color indecision to color confident. Click here to sign up!

    3. Sarah Clarke says:

      Sherwin Williams Navajo White looks wonderful with warm wood tones and will modernize your space.

    4. Corey Willis says:

      Thanks for the helpful tip Sarah!

  5. janet chambers says:

    Corey, I want to repaint my dining room. I love neutrals but my dining room has high ceilings and northern light. One wall is a fireplace with built in bookshelves from floor to ceiling on either side. The chair rail and allthe trim along with the book cases are very dark almost black and the tiles around the fireplace are orange green and small bits of yellow. The dining room chairs are a greyish maybe dark sage. I had thought about a bright tropical orange on bottom but I am not sure I could live with it. Do you have any suggestions for this room? Thank You

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Janet thanks for your message! Since I can’t see your home in person, I no longer make color recommendations. I’m hoping you’ve already found my interior color resource page and downloaded the how to choose color guide. I’m also creating an interest list for my color scheme workshop; sign up for it here. Best wishes!

  6. nichole says:

    HI, I am looking to bring warm and cool colors together. My furniture would call for a warm look but I would like to brighten the rooms being that its a 900 sq ft condo. I am getting white cabinets in the kitchen and a hermosa (gray/white mix (lighter laminate flooring throughout the first floor which includes the 1st floor bth, kitchen, living area, pantry). I am putting a darker grey and a light grey vanity in each bathroom. Most of my furniture is brown, rustic, yellow colors.. what do you suggest for the walls main floor. however, upstairs, bed silver and white desk.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Nichole, thanks for your message! Since I can’t see your home in person, I no longer make color recommendations. I’m hoping you’ve already found my interior color resource page and downloaded the how to choose color guide. I’m also creating an interest list for my color scheme workshop; sign up for it here. Best wishes!

  7. Jennifer says:

    The problem these days is most paint stores and/ or sellers are moving away from paint strips with a light to dark array. You are just left standing in front of a thousand different individual chips and the offereings on the strips aren’t necessarily near one another on the chip board. You can only get these strips in a “stack” (granted it’s not very expensive) but places like Home Depot that sell Behr don’t have stacks.
    I’m actually curious as to why they are moving away from the strip, I mean if people didn’t understand how to use them it’s not very hard to explain on the kiosk somewhere.

  8. Dee says:

    My living room, dining room, family room and halls are a pale yellow. My bedrooms need to be painted. They are off white. What neutral color should I use? We are wanting to sell our home.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hi Dee, Since I can’t see your home in person, I can’t recommend a specific color. You might find my post helpful about the neutral paint colors I chose for my own home. You definitely want to go with a neutral since you are selling. Best wishes!

  9. Teresa says:

    What color greige would go with a burgundy couch

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Teresa, I can’t give specific color recommendations since I can’t see your couch in person (even a photo may not reflect its true color). A pale gray or greige will bring out the warm red tones of burgundy. You might try putting a few sample streaks of paint on the walls (Home Depot sells samples for a couple bucks) and leave them there for a week in all types of light to see what looks best. Hope this helps!

  10. Suzanne Dacier says:

    I’m having a hard time choosing the right paint color for my family room. I have a multi brown colored tile floor, I wanted to paint one wall a shade of gray and the other 2 walls a different shade. I picked the paint and painted some, what a disaster !! What shades of gray go with a multi colored brown tiled floor !! HELP need advice ASAP.Suzanne

    1. Corey Willis says:

      It really depends on which colors in the the tile you want to enhance Suzanne. It sounds like you want to downplay the brown and bring out the grey tones so go with more black in the darkest hue. Avoid any brown that has an orange undertone.

  11. Susan says:

    I love the warmer colors. My living room, dining room, and kitchen have accents with shades of terra cotta, soft olive green, and soft gold tones. My living room has a huge gray stone fireplace. What color on the walls in a soft neutral that won’t clash with the gray fireplace) Thanks!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Susan, to bring the warm and the cool colors together you’ll want to go with a true greige. The base color will have a lot of brown in it and even though it will look grey in the lighter shades it will not be stark and be the perfect transition between your color palette and the grey fireplace. 🙂

  12. Rebecca says:

    I painted my son’s room silver bullet by behr but now it looks light lavender. How can find a grey that doesn’t look like lavender or light blue?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Rebecca! You’ll want to make sure that there’s no blue undertone. If you want a straight grey go for a black undertone but honestly it’s better if there is a tiny bit of brown too so it doesn’t end up too cold and looking like concrete. This post will help you understand undertones and how to determine them.

  13. Ginger Larrimore says:

    I want to use a green color in my kitchen and mud room because I am going to be using white cabinets. My mud room opens into my kitchen. I want to use a beige in adjoining rooms. All trim will be white. What color in beige or even gray could I use.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Ginger, Since I can’t see your house, it’s really hard for me to give specific paint color advice. Currently I’m creating an interest list for my color scheme workshop which may help you focus on the right colors. Click here for more information on how to get on the list.

  14. kim knox says:

    I do not know how old this post is but hopefully you are still answering questions…
    I pretty much have an open concept. My walls are a greige (i see more beige than grey) its bm pashmina. dining room has an accent wall wainscoting painted bm mysterious a greyish navy blue that you can see from living room… my furniture is all off white/ cream but sectional in living room is a very dark brown. I had the large opening into rooms done in wide wood moulding stained a medium brown. all other moulding white.
    now the question lol
    I had bm thicket an olivey (i believe grey undertone?) in my living room for the past few years but i feel it darkens the room. a small section (a V behind my tv is accented with grey whitewashed shiplap. so i need a color that will blend with the shiplap and the rest if the rooms. i attempted cream and it didnt work so im thinking stick to a green with grey undertones…? but am overwhemled with all the choices.
    sorry for the long post hoping you have some insight
    thanks so much ,

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Kim, I understand the overwhelm. Since I can’t see your house, it’s really hard for me to give specific paint color advice. Currently I’m creating an interest list for my color scheme workshop which may help you focus on the right colors. Click here for more information on how to get on the list.

  15. Tiffany says:

    Hey Corey,
    I have read through your post but am still having issues. Before coming to your site I had tried 15 paint samples. yuck. $ …but with your site I went out and purchased a paint sample of the passive gray but it looks more green in my kitchen. I am looking for something with more cool undertones but maybe more on the blue/gray side vs green. should i try the gray shimmer? I have worldy gray in the living area, it has more blue tones in my living area but is super dark in my kitchen/dinning room. with way to many warm tones 🙁 im struggling. could you help me out?
    oh and my windows are north facing. living area has little natural light and the kitchen has more natural light coming through but w shade.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Tiffany, I can’t give specific color names since I’m not standing in your space and seeing it in person, but I can point you in the right direction!

      Since you’re wanting cooler undertones, go with a grey that has a deep blue/ navy as its darkest shade.

      To give you an idea, Sherwin Williams Rock Candy #6231 has a deep midnight blue as its darkest hue so it has a lot of blue showing up in that lightest shade. That might be a good place to start and you can go more black, more brown, or more blue from there.

      Let me know how it goes!

    2. Janel willis says:

      Light French grey

  16. Marie says:

    Hi.. I’m renovating my condo and would like a Brown/Gray color if that’s even possible. My bathroom is in the gray/beige white now I love the color BEHR sand drift/Arid Landscape/Sandstorm pallet but not sure of which for wall or which for the trim or accent. How do you look at one of these strips and choose this?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hi Marie, check out this post – it’s more in depth for looking at paint strips and the perfect greige which it sounds like you’re looking for.

  17. Kim says:

    I am trying to pick new wood look tile flooring for my beach condo. I see green undertones in one sample and gray in the other (2 different store samples). My walls are BM Pale Almond and as of right now furniture is browns, black and gold. I have a lot of turquoise decorations including area rugs. How can I bring out more of the gray color in the tile? I do not want the look of green at all! Or would it be better to go with the tile that has Browns, tans and creams?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Kim! If you want to highlight more of the grays in the wood tile go with a paint that has more black than brown in the undertones. I wouldn’t go totally black in undertone though or you’ll end up with a cement color which can be really cold feeling. Just barely brown in that darkest shade will steer you in the right direction.

  18. TanaJo says:

    I have a dark room and looking for a paint that is “canvas linen” color, very light beige. I have spent a small fortune on samples and everything that looks perfect on the swatch, turns out looking gray on the wall. What am I doing wrong and any suggestions?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey TanaJo, You’ll want to pick a color that has a lot more brown or even an orange undertone in it’s darkest shade/hue. That will avoid the grey color in even the lightest hue. Hope this helps!

  19. Charlene says:

    Hi Corey. I would like to ask if can I include hue of blue in my neutral minimimalist design? It’s a bacelor’s pad. Thank you😂😄

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Of course, Charlene. Blue would be a beautiful accent color. See my post on choosing neutral and accent colors throughout the entire home.

  20. Sarah L. says:

    Hello! This is an extremely helpful post! 🙂 I have a bathroom where all I can change is the wall color. The fixtures are white (yay!) but the floor is a dirty grey with yellow undertones. Currently the walls are a pastel green 🙁 What color would downplay the yellow in the floor? Thank you for the help!!!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Great question Sarah!
      The overall rule of thumb is to go with a paint color that has undertones that DON’T bring out the color you don’t want to enhance. So in your case, yellow is a warm color. So you’ll want to avoid any paint color that has warm undertones. That means no yellow, orange, red, or even brown undertones. Instead you’ll want to go with a color that has cool undertones like blue. To bring out more of the grey in the floor and make the white fixtures pop I’d go with a light grey paint on the walls. Look for a very light shade of grey that uses black or dark blue as it’s base color (undertones.) Hope that helps! I’d love before and after pics so send ’em my way when you’re done!

  21. Kristen says:

    Here is my dilemma: I have an 1802 New England farmhouse. Until I can tear down and rebuild the old, tired kitchen, I have to try to make it work for now. I’d like a soft, gentle wall paint to go with Benjamin Moore’s Navajo White cabinets/trim, a dark brown indoor/outdoor wall-to-wall carpet (ugh, but covers a multitude of sins), and a neutral Formica countertop. Reds and blues won’t work. Can anyone give me some names of paint colors that might enhance what I have? Many thanks!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hi Kristin, I can’t give specific paint advice since I can’t see your home in person. You might find these tips helpful. I suggest you buy paint samples first. Paint a few brush strokes on the walls (or on boards if you prefer) and look at them at different times of day, under different lighting. Doing samples first lets you see how everything looks together and gives you a better chance at getting it right. Best wishes!

  22. anne-marie charland says:

    Hi Corey, thanks for the wonderful article. It was very enlightening but I’m I’m still confused about how undertones cancel out one another. I understand lighting plays a huge part in changing the neutral color, god know one paint chip can look three different colors within a 24hr period in my home. It would be nice to understand which undertones compliment one another and which cancel. So for example, I have antique white/almond cabinets and gold/black/taupe veined granite. I want my cabinets to pop. the Antique white/almond has some (I think) orange/pink undertones. Obviously I don’t want my cabinets to look either orange OR pink. So if I don’t want to highlight the undertone, should I stick WITH the same undertone or go with a different.. And if different, then how do I know which one? Oh soooo complicated! LOL BTW My house is dark/shadowy. 🙁 Thanks for any clarification you can provide.

    1. Angela says:

      This is my exact question as well–which undertones do you use when you don’t want to bring out a certain undertone in an adjacent paint color.

    2. Corey Willis says:

      Hi Anne-Marie! I’m actually going to be covering this in detail in a color course I’m creating — probably coming out in Late Feb. In the meantime the short answer is that if you want less warm colors then pick an undertone that is more cool. So more black than brown or more blue to contrast with all of the orange. Keep an eye out for that course!

  23. Cindy says:

    Read your piece on picking out the right color. Very hepfull. This is the problem I have, I have sw6364 eggwhite trim throughout the home. Even the kitchen cabinets are eggwhite. So I’m looking for a grieve that will go good with the trim. The bedroom I have alot of antique gold frames. Fabric is gold black some blue green maroon print. Like the griege color just not sure what way to go with sw egg white. Thank you for your time and any info you could send me.

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hey Cindy! In your case I would stay away from any greige that has a lot of yellow in it because you already have a ton of yellow tones going on. Take a look at SW Repose Gray and Essential Gray.

    2. Cindy says:

      Looked at SW Analytical Gray with the egg shell sw6364 trim that I have.

  24. Sara says:

    I am looking for a grey that would go with laminate floors that have lots of red and dark brown in them. What would your suggestion be?

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Hi Sara, I can’t give specific color advice since I can’t see your home in person. You might find these tips helpful. To be sure a color fits in your particular home, I suggest you buy paint samples first. Paint a few brush strokes on the walls (or on boards if you prefer) and look at them at different times of day, under different lighting. Doing samples first lets you see how everything looks together and gives you a better chance at getting it right. Hope this helps, Sara!

  25. This was so helpful! Choosing the wrong paint can be expensive. This is just what I needed. Thank you!!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      You’re so welcome, Camille. So glad you found it helpful!

  26. Anna says:

    Hi I am stumped! Wish I had found this post before I spent $700 at SW buying paint 🙁 I was wanting light light grey… the nice lady suggested Morning Fog/ looked pretty on the little swatch, well when I started painting it looked Dark Lilac! So I took it back, they tried lightening it/ I still didn’t like it so they sold me 2 shade lighter “grey” came home after spending $224 more painted 2 walls and everyone says it looks baby blue!! And it does. Light light baby blue, I don’t see much grey. I can’t spend anymore money, help. Do you thnk after decorating with my beige toned curtains and bed I think would look better? My ceiling is constrasted with white. Weird thing is when I take a photo it comes out gray. I just feel stuck

    1. Corey Willis says:

      I’ve certainly had my share of paint mistakes, too, Anna, so I know how frustrating it feels. While I don’t give specific color advice, you might find my post on creating a whole house color palette helpful. Best wishes!

  27. I never knew that there were both warm and cool neutral colors. My wife and I have been talking about repainting our home, but we haven’t found a color we like yet. Our house is decorated with cool colors, so I will have to mention to her that we should find a neutral color with cool undertones. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Corey Willis says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Burt!

  28. Jenni Langley says:

    I have an open plan living/dining/kitchen. My laundry is also open to the house. I’d love to paint it all, but it’ll take so much paint! Do you have any suggestions for choosing a color that goes with wood? I have tons of woodwork–cabinets, baseboards, door frames, crown moulding, and I have a wood dining table & chairs, and wood-look tile. The granite counters are a marbled black/creamy color. I have a blackish-brown sectional sofa. My outside doors are cream and the paint is a cream color. What I really love is aqua. I’d like to incorporate it in my home without it becoming overwhelming. I only have a couple aqua decorative items above the kitchen cabinets, but I’m planning to paint a cabinet/hutch aqua. We have photos with black frames. Do you know what other color would go well with all this? I’d like to lighten the feel of the room, make it cozy. I need to choose an area rug and entrance runner. I’m not sure where to go from where we are right now. Thanks for any advice you can give!

  29. some awesome ideas here! and I love all the colors!!

  30. Camille says:

    I’m leaning towards Repose Gray for the main areas of my home…what fabric, upholstery, accent colors look good with this paint color?

  31. Betty says:

    If I have lite grey with some dark grey and very light tan and black hardwood floors what color paint would you suggest ? I was thinking the walls a light grey and the fireplace wall a different color but not sure If it should be a darker shade of grey or something totally different . Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated !

  32. Tami says:

    I’m trying to understand this color concept: if say I have a green and blue bedspread and I’m looking for a grey wall color to make it “pop”. Do I look for a grey paint color with green and/or undertones?

    1. Hi Tami. Actually it would be the opposite. If you want the colors to pop you would want to pick a grey with brown or even some black undertones. Picking undertones that are the colors you are already using will make it all blend together.

  33. It’s good to know that you should always look at the darkest shade of paint on the swatch to see what the color undertone is. My husband and I are thinking of upholstering our big sectional, but we’re having some trouble with picking the color. I’ll be sure to get a swatch memo and look directly at the darkest shade first. We think that some warm undertones would be nice, so hopefully this trick will help us get the exact shade we want.

  34. Maryann says:


    I’m struggling finding the right color for my kitchen / dining room. I prefer warm undertones and going by what you said above maybe yellow or orange undertone. My goal is to have a Tuscan decor. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  35. Tina says:

    Loath grey, my bubbling personality goes all quiet if I had to live with it, so sticking to my warm colours and if I need a clean canvas I choose soft whites, creams etc! Thank goodness we are all different eh! It would be a boring world if we all chose the same!

  36. Thanks for the tip for spotting the color undertones on the paint swatch. I never even thought of looking at the darkest color. I normally just get samples and put them up everywhere to make sure I like the color. However it will be much better to eliminate the bad colors without buying the samples.

  37. Joni says:

    Hi Corey,

    I would like to repaint my home with grey neutrals, but am stumped. We have rich Douglas Fir hardwood throughout the main living areas in the home; they are quite the focal point. The floors are very red/yellow, and I’d like to do the kitchen in a medium grey/white/blue scheme. Therefore I’m looking for a light grey for all the walls in the main living area, which includes the kitchen. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Hi Joni. Try Repose Grey (by Sherwin Williams, but you can have it mixed in any hardware store in the brand of your choosing.) I think it will go great with your floors and with the blues you want to bring into the space. Of course get a tester to see how it looks.

    2. Debbie says:

      Hi Corey, I’m wanting to repaint our beach cottage we have a lot of wooden finishes and I’ve gone crazy about painting some of the older furniture pieces white or old white havnt got started yet as I’m not sure if I should be bringing colours with blue or green or just stick to white any suggestions on colour I should be looking at for this project furniture and wall colours thank you in advance

  38. Marla says:

    Hi Corey,

    I found your article really helpful, but am stuck trying to figure out what undertone we should use. We’ll be selling our house so want something neutral. We’re repainting the walls in the living room and kitchen, which are an open space, along with the trim and kitchen cabinets (which we are going to do the same color). I’m stuck because our floors are multi colored Chinese slate with greys, Browns, and oranges. The floors are really beautiful, but I don’t like the color orange in general. Plus people buying in our neighborhood tend to be young and I want to be careful that the colors don’t tend toward to traditional, if that’s possible with the floors we have. Can I find an undertone that will bring out the greys and downplay the oranges?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Marla. Absolutely and I think that if they buyers are young they will want a color scheme that works well with greys. Definitely look for the black/ grey undertone and stay away from any brown with orange in it. The darkest color on the swatch should be so dark brown that it could almost seem black. Hope that helps and good luck with selling!

  39. ellie says:

    I think this is really interesting. The colors in my entire house are mostly shades of gray & blue. I have Repose Gray as the main color in my foyer & hallways (they are North facing rooms) The color reads as a very neutral gray although it can look a bit tan at times. I pretty much HATE yellow or green undertones however I don’t see them in the Repose Gray at all. In my family room I have Passive Gray and I love the color (this color evokes more of a feeling in me where the Repose Gray is sort of blah to me) however it feels much less “neutral” as it sometimes reads a bit purple in my South facing room.

  40. Erica says:

    I am not a creative person to this extent but I am not sure what colors would go together or what. Are you staying the color scheme in your home flows in each room of your house? My husband love earthtone colors as well as myself but not dark but my daughter would like to have a pink and purple room but I am not sure what other colors would flow with that. I have a 2 yr old son who shares a room with us but I would love for his bedding to flow as well. I think I would choose the harmonies colors. I am new to your blog but I am so excited with everything I am seeing so far. Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Erica. I’m so happy to have you here and love that you are finding useful info so far! I don’t really include my kid’s rooms in my “whole home color scheme.” My daughter’s room is purple and girly, which definitely doesn’t go with the rest of my home. But the rest of my home has the same repetition of colors but in different amounts in each space. My front room is mostly monochromatic blues and greys, but my family room (which is more casual) has those colors plus some fun pops of greens and pinks. My guest room is only blue and white. The point is to keep within the same colors scheme but use them in different ways in each space to create a cohesive home. I hope that helps. Definitely let me know if you have more questions!

  41. Erica says:

    Hello Corey,

    I am a renter. I am renting a house. I can not paint any walls in my house. However, Could I use this create a whole home color palette through décor to bring out the color?

    1. Hi Erica! Yes absolutely. In fact the trend now is to have white walls and have the actual color palette be on the furnishings and accessories. Instead of picking a neutral for your walls, use your cabinetry or large pieces of furniture as your neutral base. Great question!

  42. Johnnie Tate says:

    I have a 1940’s house that I am completely renovating. I love grey and plan on using it throughout the house. Any ideas on painting the ceiling with the walls will be light grey?

    Thank you.

  43. Karen says:

    I am painting much of my downstairs rooms. Do you have suggestions for “griege”with dark stained woodwork? also my kitchen ( cherry stained cupboards) opens into the family room. North exposure. Also have chair rail going down the stairway, foyer and into kitchen. Should I use 2 colors or “see” it as a whole wall instead of 2 parts. Want to update look. Thanks

    1. Hi Karen. I would use just one color on both sides of the chair rail. My go to greiges that work with everything are requisite grey and mindful grey (Sherwin Williams) They would both look good with any wood tone which would be perfect for you since you have a few going on in your space. Hope that helps!

  44. Marjie says:

    My home has gray based aquas, some bluer, some greener. The master is the only room I’m not happy with. It’s too dark, too blue. The choice was made with SW Colorsnap based on a picture I have over the bed. We just made selections of flooring and cabinets at a beach condo. The ceiling and walls can be painted one color. I chose SW Passive gray. Glad to see it on your list.

    1. That is one of my faves!

  45. Chaise Cope says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I have a whole house to paint at one time so it’s very hard and stressful to find enough colors I like and that go well with each other without making so many trips to the paint store for more colors that don’t work!! I am looking for a beautiful sage color for my dining room. Not too green. But a pretty neautral. Any ideas for an sw color?

    1. Gina says:

      Not sure how long ago you posted this Chaise, but we love Oyster Bay (Sherwin Williams). It looks different in many lights, but if it helps, you can buy a $5 sample jar from SW and try it out first.

  46. Emily says:

    Hi Corey! Thanks for the great explanation. We recently purchased a home with a lot of oak. Oak trim, oak windows, oak, oak, oak. There is too much to try to change it, so I’m going to work around it with colors like blues, grays, and greens. My first instinct is to pick cool neutrals to downplay the warm colors in the oak. My question is, will the cool undertones of the paint clash with the warm undertones of the oak?

    1. I don’t think so but I would do some samples right up against the trim/ oak to be sure. I think it is a good way to make the space more modern and updated!

  47. jenna says:

    I need your advice! I totally get what your saying here. So, I have a cape cod white house with dormer windows, I painted the front door a Charleston green/black, it has traditional shiny brass door knobs, knocker and lamps. The roof is an a medium brown with “architecture shingles.
    I want to paint the shutters a grayish blueish with black undertones. Would you do a brown undertone since the roof is brown? There is a small stoop with a blueish grey with black undertones, it’s made from that fake plastic decking. The color looks great with the blackish door. So, black or brown undertones and would you go more true grey or blue grey?
    Thanks, I’m so glad you get me….the guy at home depot was without a clue:)

    1. I would definitely go with a grey and you could go either way with the undertones since you have brown and green going on already. I would find one of each undertone that you like and then just pick your favorite from there. Hope that helps! The brass accents sound amazing!

  48. Anne says:

    Hi Corey-

    I just found your blog and love the few articles I have had a chance to read – good stuff!

    Do you have a trick for toning down a bright/darker blue so it’s a little more neutral/toned down? Our dining room is the first room I did – our brand new house was all white so I took a leap! 15 years later and now the other rooms have been painted in the house. Although I still like the basic color of the dining room (the undertone as you might say…), it’s too much color for the rest of the house.

    Any tricks up your sleeve?


    1. Hey Anne. It really depends on the exact color and the formula used to make it. I would go to your paint store and have them look up the color formula and ask them. They can usually mix into your already existing paint if you have some still and fix it for you.

  49. Christine Jolicoeur says:

    I need color ideas for a new front door. My brick is cream colored and my roof is brown with a speck of copper. The exterior window color on the second floor is copper. I have had green and bleu as door colors, but now that I need a whole new front door after 25 years, I am at a loss for options. Beside the obvious chocolate brown, do you have other color optiobns. I can e-mail you a picture of the exterior if need be. Your suggestions would certainly be inspiring.

  50. Malo says:

    Thank you so much with you explanation of the colors, I really enjoyed your post but I’m still struggling with the colors in my house I’m hoping you’ll help me.
    My rooms are to dark , not enough sunlight. I want to paint a light color with some blue undertones if I can, like sky High or Top Sail maybe, but my problem……. My woodwork is all a off white with glaze over it (it looks antiqued) most of my furniture is brown and I have walnut floors and granite with a lot of brown. Can I use a light gray or blue or will my wood work then just look dirty?
    Should I stay with a wall color with brown under tones?
    Any help you give will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you!

  51. Virginia says:

    I’ve read many post on how to determine the color undertones. My eyes and brain always seem to glaze over with the endless long explaination. You’ve made it so simple to understand! Thank you so much, I’ll now have no fears or doubt on my next trip to the paint store.

  52. Marianne says:

    This is great! My husband is a painter and told me always check to see what the color mix is. This will also tell you how the color will show up on the wall. I chose a beautiful taupe color (I thought) for my bedroom but it ended up pink. It was mixed with maroon so that is why it came out pink. Live and learn 🙂

  53. Lisa Ortiz says:

    Continued from last post…I forgot to mention…I dont want a dark griege…more on the lighter side please. I literally have swatches taped all over on a white background to get the truest color…and still feel lost. Ty

  54. Lisa Ortiz says:

    Hi…..I am stumped. I have cream heavily choc glazed cabinets in kitchen with connected den in off whites, burlap, cream and aqua accents with a dark mossy green/gray couch. Very little true white anywhere and wld like to change my cappucino/tan walls to griege. Problem is the griege I tried seemed to be beige enough but once up it looked white/lavenderish. Its called ghost pine. So my question is what griege wld be best with creams, tans, offwhite, aqua and natural linen and some black and my greenish couch. Ineed to mention I dont want to emphasize the green in the couch but want to pull out the gray in it. Thank u in advance…love your advice 🙂

    1. Hi Lisa. It is really hard for me to give you an exact color without seeing your space, but I will say that a true greige will go with all of your colors (which sound beautiful by the way.) My go to greige is the one I used on my walls. It is Requisite grey by Sherwin Williams. If you are wanting something a little bit lighter, just go up a hue or 2 on the swatch. I have a lot of grey, black, blue, and even brown in my home and this color works perfectly. And remember that almost any paint brand/store can color match. I hope that helps!

  55. Angela says:

    My husband and I are in the middle of picking the right color to paint the interior of our house. I have always used beige and I want to move away from that color. My hesitancy is that I have dark brown leather couches. Do you think that a gray tone of paint along with my dark brown couches will look ok?

    1. Hi Angela! Yes I do. Greige is a neutral that will go with anything. We have a dark brown sofa in our loft and greige on the walls and it looks great!

  56. Laura dusard says:

    I want to paint with neutrals. Gray is my favorite. However, one room is all deep red. The trim is all dark wood. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. If the trim is dark wood and you plan to keep it that way, I would go with a light shade of greige or grey. The contrast could be really beautiful. With the red as an accent, you may want to go toward a warmer neutral, but not too orange. Hope that helps! Thanks for stopping by!

  57. Amber George says:


    Thanks for the helpful tips we are repainting our entire home with grey and have multiple samples splattered all over the walls. One question for you, how do you feel about light walls and dark trim? I’m loving the thought of it but thinking that I might hate it after the fact!


    1. Hi Amber. I have to admit, I tend to lean toward bright white trim, but I think dark trim can be done! I would search pinterest for “dark trim” and there are a bunch of examples that might help you decide if it is right for you. I think if I lived in a home with a lot of built in character, I would totally give it a try. Let me know what you decide cause I would sure love to see how it turns out if you go for it!

  58. Clare says:

    Great post. Can you please share how you are creating a paint card with multiple colors from different brands like the one featured in this post? I can’t figure out how to do this even with one brand much less across brands. I’d like to see my whole house selections in one place and am struggling to find the tool that allows this functionality.
    Thanks so much and your advise is super helpful!

    1. Hi Clare. Great question. Before I give you an answer, it is important for me to know what you will be using it for. Are you planning to print it out to use to make other design choices? If you could shoot me an email at tinysidekick{at}gmail{dot}com and let me know we can go from there.

  59. susan says:

    What would you recommend for a warm neutral color that goes best with (honey) oak trim?

  60. Great post! Thank You. I am in the processing of pick colors for my living room and kitchen. They kind of run together. I want something little and relaxing. I was thinking gray/blue for the kitchen. What color plays well with that to do my living room? I was thinking a nice cream or beige color. Any suggestions? My paint colors are really dark right now from the previous owners so I want to ligthen things up.

    1. Amy says:

      Opps just realized I typed little instead of light and relaxing!

  61. Tiffany says:

    Very helpful indeed, good tips.

  62. monica says:

    My husband and I just bought a house and we want to do a wine red color for our living room mixed with another color. What would you recommend and for our kitchen what would you suggest ? We are starting from scratch with paint all over the house

    1. Hi Monica! I think wine red looks really nice with a very subtle green that has a brown undertone. This will help lighten the space and give it a fresh feel too. As for your kitchen, if it is just off of the wine red room, I would go for a neutral. The undertone of the neutral will depend on your cabinet color of course. How exciting that you have a new space to make all your own. I hope this info helps. Let me know!

  63. Evelyn says:

    You have great ideas and information. I like the fact you did this as a stay at home mom after giving up your “paid employment” job! Ha! People don’t understand its harder to stay at home. But wow! What a great thing you are doing here! Love your advice! This really helps for paint color and this is the first time I visited your site. I look forward to getting updates from you! :))

    1. Thanks Evelyn! I’m so happy that you are finding the info. here useful. So glad you are here.

  64. Stephanie says:

    This blog has been super helpful. I’m the worst at picking paint. That being said, I’m about to buy a house that has reddish brown ceramic tile. Suggest matching the tile with paint? Is it possible to still pull off a warm gray?

    1. Stephanie says:

      I should mention I’m normally a cool color person and don’t love the reddish tile. So I’m struggling with this

  65. mia coursen says:

    Thank you for your color advise. My question is I have an Eastern facing room with high ceilings….in the morning it is very sunny and light. My favorite neutrals are light blue green grey….any suggestions….or should I go a different direction than neutral gray blues. I have painted my bathroom Krypton by SW….I have had so many compliments on that color. But it is too dark for my bedroom. My second Bedroom is Palladium Blue BM and so elegant. Thanks again. Look forward to your ideas. I have an open floor plan home so all the colors should blend well together.

  66. Robin says:

    Wonderful and helpful! I just wanted to add that you shouldn’t forget the ceiling… either a shade darker or lighter, depending on your lighting and preferences. The ceiling is considered by many to be the fourth wall of your home!

  67. Dinah says:

    Corey, what is your go-to “white”? I realize that the clors selected might impact that choice, but in general, the same great classics work. I’ve often used Benj Moore Decorator White.

  68. Lisa says:

    I’m fixing to paint the inside of my house., mainly the kitchen, den, hallway, bathroom and master bedroom. I love the greiges but the outside of my house is painted a med taupe.. Is that too much beigey color? I lean toward the Repose color.

    1. I don’t think so. You may consider keeping the main areas that all flow together a neutral with maybe an accent wall in a color and then also give your bathroom and bedroom a color. This post about creating a whole home color palette may help. ( Let me know if you have any more questions. And I love Repose!

  69. […]  (Figuring out undertones when looking at these things is a lot like what we talked about when choosing paint.  You want to look at the color and decide if the base color has red, green, blue, brown, or […]

  70. Kimm says:

    Great post! I think choosing shades of gray is the most difficult, with white a close second. 🙂

  71. TwoPlusCute says:

    This is SO helpful. I swear my eyes play tricks every time I look at swatches.

  72. […] || Forever Ever Pillow Tutorial w/Free Cut File How to Schedule Campaigns on Board Booster  ||  12 Neutral Paint Colors + How to Choose  ||  DIY Glitter Heart Paper Straws  Front Entry Updates || Knit Heart Elbow Patches  DIY […]

  73. willie says:

    What does greige mean ? I liked how you explain the undertones. I got lucky with the paint colors I chose for my bathroom and bedroom. I really like the grey in my bathroom. I have a “Burgundy” bathroom sink counter.

  74. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Again!
    Since you directed me to this, ( no, I didn’t see this before) thank you! You are so helpful, I’m not really sure what I googled to find your site, ( I was searching for many things at the time) but I’m so glad I found it. Thank you also for laying out examples, this helps the most!

    It never ceases to amaze me how much people share so generously online. Thank you, You’re the best!

    1. You are so welcome Elizabeth! I’m so glad you found my little spot on the internet!

  75. I love the way you explained the paint strips Corey. We are trying to find the perfect color for our stairway right now. This will be a huge help. Thank you!


    1. I’m thrilled that it was helpful! Happy painting!!!

  76. Colleen says:

    This is such a good explanation – and added a “Doh!” moment to me for sure. I’m looking to paint our boxy hallway with poor light and this is soooo helpful – especially in deciding what colors I don’t want to use. Thanks Cory!

    1. You are so welcome Colleen. A new coat of paint can make even a dark space feel great. So happy that you had a “doh” moment!!!

  77. This is BRILLIANT Corey! And your timing couldn’t have been better! With a brand new (to us) house to renovate, I’m just starting to think about paint colours. It’s SUCH an overwhelming process, this is going to be such a huge help! Thanks for sharing friend!

    1. How exciting that you have a whole new place to spruce up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *