27 Neutral Paint Colors and How to Use Them

These neutral paint color ideas liven up any space. Here's how to use them in your home.

paint lids and pearls
Photo: Adam Albright

From cool gray to warm terra-cotta, neutrals can transform any space. To help you find the right neutral paint colors for your rooms, we've gathered the best advice from designers and color experts. Pick your favorite shades and use these tips to decorate with neutrals.

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Cozy Gray Paint Colors

neutral paint lid colors
Adam Albright Photography, Inc.

Like most neutral paint colors, no two grays are alike. The hue comes in a range of intensities and nuances that add a designer-like finesse 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 Vicente Wolf, designer and PPG Pittsburgh Paints color and design adviser. This gray color palette combines warm and cool tones for a sophisticated effect.

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Black and White Paint Colors

various black and white crafting material and white flowers
Dera Burreson

When you think of neutral paint colors, "bold" doesn't generally come to mind. However, when you play with high-contrast hues, you get a striking, impactful design. Achieve this with a modern black and white color scheme.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.

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Warm Gray Paint Colors

gray paint lids
Greg Scheidemann Pictures

Gray may be typically considered a cooler neutral paint color, but some shades feature warm undertones that keep it from feeling too cold. Include it with a warm color palette for a cozy, inviting feel

#4. 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 timeless."

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Cozy White Paint Colors

creamy white paint lids
Adam Albright Photography, Inc.

Whites with golden undertones, like these shades, offer a warm, relaxed ambience. 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.

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Creamy Latte Paint Colors

warm paint lids
Adam Albright

Just like your favorite coffee drink, these warm neutral paint colors are comforting, yet energizing. This makes them perfect for use in large gathering spaces. 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."

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Romantic Neutrals

paint can lids pink neutrals flowers
Marty Baldwin

Never underestimate the power of pink. Used sparingly in a room of neutral paint colors, a light blush shade brings life into a space. Incorporate a 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.

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Gray Neutral Colors

paint cans grey color
Marty Baldwin

A collection of grays doesn't have to be gloomy. When used correctly, several shades of gray paint colors working together make a calm and collected space. Paired with natural elements that have warm undertones, such as wood shelving or furniture, gray tones come to life. These gray paint colors include hints of cool blue and beige.

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Exciting Gray Paint Colors

neutral paint lids
Adam Albright Photography Inc

Shades of gray can be friendly, warm, and (dare we say it?) lively. The most popular paint colors these days are subtle with a matte finish. Talk to San Francisco designer Jonathan Rachman and it's clear: Grayed colors are here to stay. "I've been in love with them forever," he says.

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Pearl White Paint Colors

paint lids and pearls
Adam Albright

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.

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The New Neutrals

paint can lids mixed wall colors
Adam Albright Photography Inc

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.

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Classic Neutral Colors With a Twist

Living room with geometric table and square light
Kim Cornelison

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.

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Contrasting Neutral Colors

black and white kitchen with island
Edmund Barr Photography

This black-and-white kitchen is anything but cookie-cutter. The counter-to-ceiling subway tile backsplash contrasts with striking black cabinets, which are lightened up with brass and wood accents. To tone it down, swap out the patterned tile for a more subtle flooring option.

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All-Neutral Color Scheme

white and black dining room
Stacey Branford Photgraphy Inc

If you're looking to add a little drama to your palette but prefer to stay away from colors, try black. Mixed with other muted tones, 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.

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Dark Neutral Colors

Bedroom with plush headboard and chandelier
Beall Thomas Photography

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.

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Neutrals as Supporting Players

Living room with blue seating and TV
James Nathan Schroder

If you're not looking to create a completely neutral look, think of neutrals as "uncolors" and the supporting players. Dark neutrals, like rich pewter gray, tone down other colors and increase sophistication. White energizes a color palette, while black strengthens and stabilizes. In this gray living room, a deep charcoal accent wall tempers the colorful furniture and interesting textures. Gold accessories and the remaining white walls give a crisp edge to the saturated shades.

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Monochromatic Neutrals

living room with gold framed artwork
Paul Dyer

Employ varying shades of one neutral paint color to create layers of intrigue. Closely related shades, such as cream, dove gray, and taupe, fashion serene color schemes that shift with the changing light. These calming neutral paint colors are ideal for cozy spaces like living rooms and bedrooms.

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Warm vs. Cool Neutral Tones

dining room with fireplace
Edmund Barr Photography

The perfect gray color scheme hinges on selecting the right tone 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." Mixing tones and temperatures adds interest to a space, but make sure you strike a balance—one shouldn't be overpowering the other.

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Cohesive Neutral Colors

open dining room
Edmund Barr Photography

To establish cohesiveness 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, as well as the ceiling.

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Give Neutral Colors a Boost

beige bedroom savoury beige colored walls
Helen Norman Photography

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.

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Using Texture with Neutrals

corner of white room with dark wood beams and faux fireplace
David Tsay

Texture is key to giving neutral colors a boost. Think: beaded board and sisal for a cottagecore style and lacquer and metal finishes for a modern quality. To add interest to an all-neutral color palette like this, mix furnishings in a variety of materials, including leather, upholstery, wood, and metal.

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Choosing Neutral Undertones

Living room with eye catching rug
Werner Straube Photography

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.

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Find Your Neutral Color Inspiration

Graceful End Cap in Bedroom
Brie Williams Photography Inc

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 with the mood you're going for.

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Paint Color Samples

reading nook with window, neutral textiles and symmetric wall art
Jeff Herr

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.

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Blending Neutral Colors

black white gray small bath
Ed Gohlich Photography Inc

When using saturated neutral paint 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 mood.

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Avoid Extreme Neutral Colors

dining room nook
Emily Followill Photography

White paint colors come in a lot of shades, but it's best to stay away from stark 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."

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Contrast with Neutrals

purple bedroom
Michael Partenio

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.

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Choose a Neutral for Your Space

living room in neutrals
Edmund Barr Photography

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.

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