27 Expert-Approved Neutral Paint Colors (and How to Use Them)
Livable Gray Paint Colors
Like most neutral colors, all grays aren't alike. The color comes in a wide variety of intensities and shades with subtle nuances that can add a designer approach to any decor. Choosing the right shade is a matter of personal preference. "First, find out what emotion you want your space to play into—airy, earthbound, dramatic—then proceed to choose your color from there," says designer and PPG Pittsburgh Paints color and design adviser Vicente Wolf. This gray color palette combines warm and cool tones for a sophisticated effect.
Rethink Classic Neutral Colors
Extend your love for neutral colors into the middle of the room via furniture, rugs, and home accents. Combine silver, charcoal gray, and white with misty mauve for understated elegance, or rev up that same neutral combo with unexpected pops of gold or teal. Small doses of color throughout the room don't overshadow the mood set by the light gray walls.
Related: Our Favorite Gray Color Schemes
Neutrals as Supporting Players
If you're not looking to create a completely neutral look, think of neutrals as "uncolors" and the supporting players. Dark neutrals, including rich pewter gray, calm other colors and add sophistication. White enlivens a color palette, while black strengthens and stabilizes. In this gray living room, colorful furniture and strong textures are tempered by a deep charcoal accent wall. Gold accessories and the remaining white walls give a crisp edge to the saturated shades.
Black and White Paint Colors
The word "bold" generally doesn't come to mind when you think of neutral paint colors. However, when you play with high-contrast hues and patterns, you end up with a striking, high-impact design. Be daring and choose a modern black and white color scheme. Try it in a bathroom with black and white tiles, or in a hallway for a clean, uniform look.
Contrasting Neutral Colors
This black-and-white kitchen is anything but cookie-cutter. The counter-to-ceiling subway tile backsplash contrasts with cabinets painted a striking black, which are lightened up with brass and wood accents. To take it down a notch, ditch the patterned tile for a more subtle flooring option.
Warm Gray Paint Colors
Gray may be typically considered a cool color, but some shades feature warm undertones that keep this neutral from feeling too cold. Include it with a warm color palette for a cozy, inviting vibe. This versatile neutral grounds color palettes, and, in fact, New York City designer Jenny Wolf considers gray the new white. "It's a nice alternative to white," she says. "It's neutral. It's timeless."
Warm vs. Cool Neutrals
The perfect gray color scheme hinges on selecting the right temperature to pair with the other colors in your palette. Try this trick to help you tell the difference between warm and cool grays. "To figure out if you're choosing a warm gray, put it against a taupe swatch and a blue swatch," Jenny says. "A warm gray will look closer to the taupe; a cool gray will veer toward blue."
All-Neutral Color Scheme
If you're looking to add a little zing to your palette but prefer to stay away from colors, try black. Mixed with other neutrals, black creates a dynamic look, while still sticking to a truly neutral color palette. Here, stark-white kitchen cabinets brighten dark wood flooring, gray walls, and black furniture and fixtures for a neutral scheme that's not too dark.
Cozy White Paint Colors
Whites with golden undertones, like these shades, are a step above basic white, offering a cozy, relaxed vibe. Consider painting ideas that use white in more than just the trim or crown molding. The trick to making white not boring? "Layers of different whites and a variety of different textures are what make a room interesting," says designer and color expert Grant K. Gibson.
Cohesive Neutral Colors
To forge cohesive connections throughout your home, carry the same neutral colors from room to room. Use painted trim, patterned fabrics, and furniture finishes to repeat neutral hues across spaces. In this open living space, the paint color on the kitchen cabinets is the same shade used on the walls throughout the space, as well as the ceiling.
Using Texture with Neutrals
Texture is key to giving neutral colors a boost. Think: beaded board and sisal for cottage style digs and lacquer and metal finishes for modern abodes. To add interest to an all-neutral color palette like this, mix furnishings in a variety of materials, including leather, upholstery, wood, and metal.
Creamy Latte Paint Colors
Just like your favorite coffee drink, these warm neutral paint colors are comforting, yet energizing. Those qualities make them perfect for large gathering spaces in your home. Sometimes getting the right living room colors, like ordering the perfect latte, is a custom job. "I mix colors to get a perfect cream," says Los Angeles designer Mary McGee. Her favorite "recipe" is a 50:50 mix of Benjamin Moore's Marble White (OC-34) with Grant Beige (HC-83). "It cuts the gold, and you end up with this incredible color."
Give Neutral Colors a Boost
Avoid beige boredom by using a variety of finishes and textures in a room. To start, determine if your neutral colors have a warm or cool tone, then plan around that hue. An upholstered headboard, wood photo frames, a glazed ceramic table lamp, and a variety of cozy textiles are a few materials that give a neutral-colored space richness.
Shades of Neutrals
Never underestimate the power of pink. Used sparingly in a room of neutrals, a light blush shade brings life into a space. Incorporate a light dose of the hue with coffee table flowers or a single throw pillow. When used correctly, the touch of color blends in seamlessly with surrounding neutrals.
Choosing Neutral Undertones
Pay attention to the undertone to choose the right neutral paint colors for your home. If a lighter tone is your goal, watch out for green or gold undertones. McGee suggests holding a swatch of the color you're considering against a true-white paint chip to look for a rich cream with a brown base. Here, a pale pink throw plays up the rosy undertones of the neutral walls and furniture.
Colorful Gray Paint Colors
Dark Neutral Colors
Dark neutral walls can create a warm cocoon-like effect, but they can also turn a room into a cave. To avoid overwhelming the space, the trick is to include a respite in your design with planes of white and a variety of surface finishes. Bold splashes of red and yellow brighten these bedroom paint colors and keep the look fun.
Find Your Neutral Color Inspiration
Inspiration for interior paint colors can come from anywhere. To best capture your desired color, first identify the source of your gray obsession, Rachman suggests. Was it a trip to Portland? Your favorite cashmere sweater? Once you identify it, compare the item or a photo to paint chips. Try to match both the color you like and the mood you're going for.
Gray Neutral Colors
A collection of grays doesn't have to be gloomy. When used correctly, several shades of gray working together make a calm and collected space. Paired with natural elements with warm undertones, such as wood shelving or furniture, gray tones come to life. These gray paint colors include hints of cool blue and beige.
Paint Color Samples
Get samples of the paint color you think you want, plus samples of lighter, darker, more saturated, and less saturated shades. The range of samples will help refine your choice, Rachman says. As you test the neutral colors, notice how they change based on the time of day. The natural light coming in through window can change how a color looks, which may affect your decision.
Blending Neutral Colors
When using saturated neutral colors, use materials and patterns to temper the strong hue. In this bathroom, gray-veined marble tile, wainscoting, and flooring unite the supple gray walls with the white fixtures. Chrome accents lend the space a sophisticated vibe.
Pearl White Paint Colors
White isn't just white. This neutral comes in almost as many varieties as its colorful counterparts, and it can be just as interesting and refreshing. White paint colors also let your wall decor and statement furniture pieces stand out. "Painting a room white is like giving it a big, tall glass of water. It's an instant cleansing of the palette," says designer Elaine Griffin.
Avoid Extreme Neutral Colors
White paint colors come in a lot of shades, but it's best to stay away from super whites. "Always look for something with a little gray or cream in it," Griffin says. "You'd be surprised how much color you can add to pure white and still have it read as white on the wall."
Contrast with Neutrals
Even if you want a white-on-white room (with white walls, trim, and millwork), contrast is still a must. Paint the trim and millwork a brighter white than the wall color, Griffin suggests. Consistent bedroom paint colors allow you to get creative with bedding and other textiles in the room.
The New Neutrals
Neutrals aren't all whites, browns, and grays. Paints that have a pinch of color can be considered neutrals in the right setting. Get away with using a sage green or chalky yellow as a neutral by pairing the muted tones with other neutrals, like bright white, cream, or light gray.
Choose a Neutral for Your Space
Always consider the room when selecting a white paint color. If your room is flooded with natural light, go with a darker white or ivory. If sunlight is lacking in a space, choose a brighter, lighter white. Different shades of paint colors can affect the look and feel of a room, so decide on the mood you want to set before buying interior paint colors.