Urban Road

How to select white paint: Tips on getting the right white paint

Selecting white paint is not as easy as it might sound! And for many, it’s not until you’ve made a costly mistake that you realise just how tricky getting the right shade and tone of white paint can be.

You see, white paint isn’t just white paint… like that ad on TV about milk ‘low fat, no fat, full cream, high calcium, high protein, soy, light, skim, Omega 3…’ the choices available when it comes to selecting white paint can be just as overwhelming!

One of our readers is facing this challenge and asked us to write a tips article on how to select white paint.

Well, turns out we have fallen victim to this problem ourselves — we once got it so wrong that what we thought would be a lovely warm muddy white ended up looking like baby poo. We wish we were kidding! The results were so horrendous it called for an immediate redo.

Painting is one of those jobs that no one loves so we want to save you from ending up in this same situation. That’s why today we’ve invited Erin Hearns, a Haymes Colour Stylist, back with to share her top tips on selecting white paint.

Related article: How to paint walls like a professional
Related article: Amazing home transformation: Before and after renovation of the Bardon home

Haymes Paint colour stylist, Erin Hearns
Erin Hearns

OK Erin, can you tell us what people need to keep in mind when selecting white paint?

“Choosing the right white can be very difficult as there is usually only slight tint variations between different whites and choices are almost endless.

“White reflects light so it is perfect for small spaces but also in larger areas to create a clean and modern look.

“Warm whites will soften the feel in a room creating a calm and welcoming home, while the cool whites will create a greater feeling of openness and a crisp contemporary space.”

We hear people talking about warm whites and cool whites quite a bit, can you explain the difference and tell us when we should select cool or warm whites?

Cooler whites tend to have hints of black, blue or green whereas warm whites have more a brown, red, creamier look.

“Cool whites work well in brightly lit rooms as they can neutralise the brilliance, like a north-facing room.

“Warmer whites are great for south-facing rooms as they are most commonly the dullest rooms, the warm tones in the white will create an inviting space.”

Gina painted the main areas of her home in ‘Greyology 2’ by Haymes

Those are great tips! What other advice to you have for selecting the right white?

“A lot of people will just choose a white in store from a colour chip, buy the paint right there, put it on their walls at home and wonder why it looks completely different to what it did in store — colours change in different light conditions and times of the day.

“You really need a sample pot and paint a large sample either on a big piece of card or on the actual wall in a couple of different areas of the home and live with it for a few days to make sure you are happy with the colour and that it complements the existing furnishings and fixtures.

“A good start would be to head into your nearest Haymes store to pick up the ‘Natural Series’ brochure which covers our popular whites and neutrals. Once you have narrowed your favourites down to one or two options take a sample pot home to paint up in different areas in your home. Make sure you also paint two coats on the samples to get the correct colouring and if you are painting over a strong colour place either a white or neutral grey piece of paper around the sample so the existing colour is not influencing the sample.”

Our reader who requested this tips article has beige floors and wants to know what type of white paint she should use for her walls to minimise the colour of the floors, what would you suggest?

“Beiges are typically a warm neutral colour with a red/yellow undertone, to neutralise this you can go to the opposite side of the colour wheel and choose a cooler colour with a little green to soften the warmer tones in the beige for a more balanced look.”

Painted in Haymes Minimalist 3 How to select white paint
Painted in Haymes Minimalist 3

Many people also have wood features in their home, what should they consider when selecting white paint?

“Warmer whites tend to blend more seamlessly with the warmer timbers but again the complementary cooler greener side also works. If it is a more grey timber you could use a modern white with a slight grey tint for a fresher look.”

Are some whites better suited to certain styles of interiors? For example is there such a thing as a ‘Heritage’ white or a ‘Coastal beach house’ white?

I believe the cooler and brighter whites suit a contemporary home very well, while the creamier whites suit the traditional or older style homes for a cosy feel.

“French Provincial whites tend to be on the milky side like Haymes ‘Nearly white 1’ or ‘Organic 2’.

“A coastal beach house with a lot of light can take the cooler whites for a bright, uplifting feel. Try the Haymes ‘Greyology 2’ or ‘Pale mushroom 1’.

“And a good colour for a heritage style interior on the warm side would be ‘Minimalist 1’ or ‘Whitewash 1’.”

Noa by the beach_dining room post renovation How to select white paint
Noa by the beach coastal home, see the full tour

Do you have an all-time fail safe colour of white paint? Or what is the most popular Haymes white?

“My favourite whites are those with a touch of warmth. ‘Magnolia moonlight’ and ‘Modesty white’ are great in a variety of spaces.

“But one of our most popular whites in the past year has been ‘Whitewash 1’ which is also a fantastic neutral white that can fit most homes.”

Thanks so much Erin for your expert advice! We’ve certainly learnt a lot more about white paints and will use your tips next time to avoid a repeat of our baby poo saga.

We hope these tips have been as useful for you! We’ve summarised them into a handy infographic — why not pin it to your Pinterest account or share it on Facebook so you have a bookmark back to this tips article? If you have even more tips on how to select white paint, share them in the comments below.

More reno advice

How to select white paint infographic

This article was first published in March 2016 and continues to be updated with the latest information and advice.

Gina Beschorner Style Curator

Welcome to Style Curator, your destination for daily interiors inspiration, styling tips, reno advice, home tours and DIY projects!

We're on a mission to help you create a home you love. And with plenty of tips and tricks, tutorials and other home inspo, we give you all the tools to achieve it!

I’m Gina, Founder and Interior Designer, and you can read more about Style Curator here.


Get the best of the blog to your inbox each week PLUS instant access to our free downloads!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.
    Interior style quiz

    Shop our fave online stores

    Aura home
    Koala Eco

    As seen in

    Style Curator in the media



      • Hi Donna, good question! There’s no right or wrong answer for what colour to paint the trim as it comes down to the style you want to achieve and personal preferences. For a modern, clean look it is becoming increasingly popular to paint the trims the same colour as the wall but in a semi gloss rather than low sheen or matte. Some people however prefer to use a half or quarter strength colour on the doors and trimmings – this was ‘the way it was done’ for a long time and still a favourite for many. And some people go a much whiter colour for the trim to contrast against the walls for a more Hamptons look. In my house, I’ve used the same colour on the trims. Hope this helps.

    1. We have chosen Minimalist 1 for our interior paint little bit concerned that I have picked Polar White silk finish for our kitchen cupboards. I was in a rush when choosing my colors to build. Hoping this will all work.

      • Hi Debbie, is it possible to do a large sample paint swatch near the cabinetry to be sure before the painters begin? I’ve used Minimalist 1 before and it is a beautiful bright white so I’m sure it’ll be fab but peace of mind is always good 🙂

    2. Yay! I’m so glad i found your blog! We’re currently building our dream home and choosing the right colour white is giving me sleepness nights!!! Thanks for the guidance and I am please to see that i was leaning into the right direction with a cool white for our North facing, modern home.

      • Hi Ashleigh

        So glad you found the article useful, especially as we wrote it for you 😉 Hopefully you can test out some new colours that are just right for your home based on Erin’s advice. You might also be interested to know that you can ask for paints to be done at full strength, half strength or quarter strength so depending on the size of the room and amount of light you can play around with this technique to get the balance right.

      • Glad we could help Colin! And don’t forget the most important tip to test out the colour on large cards or sections of your apartment before you paint – the same paint colour can look very different depending on the size of the room and how much natural light it gets… so you might find you want to do some rooms at half or quarter strength to balance it out. Happy painting 🙂


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here