Whether painting your home or your business, you’ll probably use neutral colors more than any other shade. Choosing the right neutral, though, can be tricky. You likely know the main categories: whites, beiges, grays, and black. What’s difficult is picking the shades and tones of these pure colors that best complement the space. In this post, we explain how to use neutral paint colors.
What Are Neutral Colors?
Neutral colors are shades of white, gray, tan or beige, and black. Of course, as with every other color, there are myriad tints (adding white), shades (adding black), and tones (adding gray) within these pure hues.
What Are Undertones?
In addition to tints, shades, and tones, every color that mixes two or more colors together also has undertones. These aren’t always immediately apparent, particularly when you view the color in isolation. But, if you pair a white with a pure white, for example, you’ll likely see undertones of pink, green, or blue in the non-pure color.
With warm colors, the undertones are red, orange, or yellow. Cool colors have blue, green, or purple undertones. As we explained in our earlier post, Understanding the Color Wheel, use warm colors to create energy and life in a space and cool colors for a calming effect.
Things to Consider Before Painting Walls White
Without a doubt, there are more white walls in American homes than any other color. That’s because no other color makes a space look larger, cleaner, and brighter than white.
White is the ultimate neutral color as it makes other shades “pop” like nothing else can. Even pale yellow contrasts strongly against a white wall. However, even white comes in myriad shades and tones with most paint brands offering dozens of white paint options.
Before painting your walls white, consider the following:
How much natural light does the space get? From which direction? The second question may seem odd, but the light a north-facing room receives varies greatly compared to a south-facing room.
What’s on the other side of the windows? This also plays a role in how natural light entering the room looks – and how much sunlight the room receives. Sunlight filtered through trees looks much different than sunlight reflected off of a lake.
What hangs on the walls? If a stunning painting – or group of paintings – is the focal point of your room, then white walls are the obvious choice. If your walls are more likely to gather crayon marks and shoe scuffs than fine art, though, you may want to consider a more forgiving neutral paint color.
How large is the space? The lighter the color, the larger the space appears. White is a great choice for smaller rooms, but it can make large rooms feel cold, cavernous, and plain uninviting.
You can add interest to white walls with texture, such as a beadboard or wainscoting.
How to Use Gray Paint in the Home
Every few years, you see stories about gray being the new “it” neutral. In reality, it’s never gone away. That’s probably because gray pairs so nicely with so many color palettes. Grays keep pastels from looking too much like a perpetual baby shower, help tone down high-energy palettes, and add a touch of sophistication to bright, cheery colors.
You find grays in shades only a whisper above white all the way to nearly black. In recent years, it’s become an extremely popular shade for kitchens because it works so well with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances.
- Consider a silvery gray for a well-lit space; the same color can appear gloomy in a room with low light
- Mid-level grays look great when paired with bright accent colors such as yellow and turquoise
- Grays with beige undertones help create a warm environment, making them great for workspaces and craft rooms
- Natural grays are popular options for kitchens because they help create a warm, inviting environment
- Pairing saturated grays with vibrant accent colors keeps them from feeling drab or dull
- Grays with blue undertones have a cooling effect on a space
- Use darker grays with purple undertones for a more casual look
- Charcoal and smoky grays have a calming effect, making them a popular choice in the bedroom
As with whites, the lighter the shade, the larger the space will feel. Consider paler grays for smaller rooms and darker grays for larger areas.
Beige Doesn’t Have to be Boring
For a while, beige seemed to get a lot of bad press for being “drab.” And that’s too bad because beige can be beautiful and add a lot of interest to a room when used correctly.
As with all of our other neutral colors, beige allows your accent colors to really shine. But even on its own, beige – and its many tints and tones – helps define a space and adds layers of depth and richness.
- Deeper shades of beige and brown create a rich backdrop – think cappuccino, wood, and chocolate
- Pair beiges with other neutrals to create a sophisticated or minimalist décor
- Use beige to add warmth to a room or make it feel less formal
- Create a calming feeling by adding beige to a high-contrast palette
- Add beige accents to a gray palette to create an extremely calm, soothing environment
- Beige works wonderfully in a room designed using natural materials, such as stone flooring and drapes made of cotton or raw silk
Don’t be Afraid of Black
We tend to forget about black as a neutral paint color when we think about home décor. And that’s too bad, because black packs a powerful punch. Just make sure to use it properly.
If you want to paint walls black, choose a larger room or else one you want to feel close and cozy. Again, the darker the shade, the smaller the room will feel. The room will feel more balanced if you use high-contrast accent colors. In addition to whites, bold hues such as blue, lime green, and yellow really pop against black walls. Add a decorative mirror to increase the amount of natural light in the room and make the space feel more expansive.
You can also use black as an accent color, just note that it will immediately draw the eye. That isn’t a problem if you choose a natural focal point for your black accents, such as a fireplace or interior door.
Let Five Star Help
When it’s time to paint, let the team at Five Star Pro Painting help. We’ll work with you to come up with the perfect palette and paint finish for every room in your home. To get your free estimate, call us at (480) 664-8965 or fill out our online contact form and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.