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How to Choose The Best White Paint

You’re in one of two camps. The first one thinks that all white paint is the same. The second is drowning in samples of about 3 million white paint colours trying to spot the difference...

We’re going to bust both of those myths right now, with our guide on choosing the best white paint for your space. With a few easy questions, and some expert advice from minimalist interiors guru Katie Seidler, you’ll get there - promise.

TL;DR? Get £1 white paint swatches

White Emulsion Wall Paint Pampas by COAT Paints

Pampas by @hello_haus on Insta

Is there a right or wrong shade of white for your space?

You're probably tired of hearing the phrase 'white is just white', right? It's often thought that you can't go wrong with white paint but when you make that trip down to the DIY store it's daunting the amount of options out there. It's no wonder white is the go-to colour as it can make even the smallest of rooms feel spacious and airy but with 'warm-off-white', 'pure white' and 'pale stone' tones, where do you start? Don't worry, we've got you covered, and our colour experts are always here to help if you do have any questions after reading this blog.

What are undertones in white paint?

Pure white, technically, isn’t a colour. It’s the absence of colour. But most white paint colours on the market have a bit of something else in - which are often called the undertones.

Undertones come from blending more than one colour together, like blue with a green tint to create turquoise, or yellow with a red tint to create orange. 

warm White emulsion wall paint pampas by COAT paints

Pampas by @hello_haus on Insta

Most white shades have just a very small amount of colour to create a subtle off-white paint. The overtone (main colour you see) is still white, and the undertones (colour you don’t immediately see) can be anything - which is what makes the range of white paints available pretty huge!

Yeah yeah, got it. Get £1 white paint swatches

How to choose the right white paint

There are two killer questions to ask when it comes to choosing the right white paint...

Firstly, what direction does the room face? Get the compass out on your phone and check. In all cases, North-facing rooms have a cooler and less intense light, and South-facing rooms are naturally brighter and warmer. 

Warm White Pampas Emulsion Wall Paint by COAT Paints

Pampas & Screenshot by @two_men_and_a_semi via Insta

So the best white paint for a north facing room is a white with yellow or brown undertones - a bit creamier or earthier, like ‘Pampas’ - to help neutralise the cooler Northern light. If you’re blessed with a sun-filler South-facing room then you can go bright white if you like, or choose something that’s very slightly grey like ‘Sweatpants’ to knock-out the yellow light and create a more balanced white. 

Warm Grey Emulsion Paint Sweatpants by COAT Paints

Sweatpants by @the_brixton_home_boys via Insta

The second question to ask is how you want to feel in the space. Bright white like ‘Screenshot’ is naturally quite stark unless you soften it with furnishings, whereas creamier whites are warmer but not quite as crisp. A nice mid-point could be a very pale Greige like ‘Mindful’ which has greyish-brown notes that add an earthiness to the white without it feeling magnolia.

Expert designer tips for choosing white paint

We asked Japandi-minimal Katie Seidler of @hello_haus how she approaches white in her own home and for clients.

White Emulsion Wall Paint Screenshot by COAT Paints

Pampas by @hello_haus via Insta

“Firstly, I would always start with a few questions. What feeling are you trying to create? Warm, cosy or bright and airy?” says Katie.

“For North facing rooms you want to balance out the cool, blue/grey light by picking a white with warm yellow or red undertones. My top pick would be Pampas from COAT to create a warmer cosy feel".

Warm White Emulsion Wall paint Pampas by COAT Paints

Pampas by @hello_haus via Insta

For South facing rooms, it's the opposite. You'll typically have warm, sunlight in here all day so it will need pairing back. A white with cooler undertones (blue/grey) will kick out the natural yellow appearance in the room and create a balanced white. Screenshot or Sweatpants from COAT are great options here for creating that minimal and airy look” says Katie.

I'm in. Get £1 white paint swatches

The best ‘all-rounder’ white paints

Pure brilliant white wall paint rarely works well unless you’re in a heavily glazed museum. In very bright rooms at home it can be blinding and a bit yellow-y, and in darker rooms it feels cold and dingy. So ideally stay away from any white paint called “brilliant”.

The most popular white paint shades for COAT are Low Salt, Mindful and Pampas. All beautiful but subtly different, and designed for different spaces. 

 Low Salt White Emulsion Paint by COAT

Low Salt, grey off-white @marciahoganwilliams via Insta

Low Salt has grey undertones, so works perfectly in brighter spaces to balance the rays. Mindful has greige (brown-y beige) undertones, so it’s a really earthy neutral that warms up small or dimly lit rooms. 

Mindful warm off white emulsion paint by COAT paints

Mindful, Greige off-white

And Pampas has a creamy undertone that knocks out the dullness of north facing rooms so they never feel chilly.

Pampas Warm White emulsion wall paint by coat paints

@yas.wyatt.home via Insta, with Pampas

Best white paint for walls

You’ll want to choose a white water-based emulsion paint, probably in a flat matt finish, this is the best white paint for interior walls. White paint is available in big old tubs for not very much money, but avoid this low-quality stuff if you can. It’s bright white and usually used for public spaces or in trade. 

Choose a high-quality white paint for walls to get the coverage and colour nuances that you want. Water-based, low-voc and low-odour are must haves - which naturally all COAT paint can boast.

warm white emulsion wall paint by COAT paints

@charlotteasquith with Pampas

Best white paint for ceilings

Water-based emulsion will work just fine on the ceiling too and it’s the default choice - but how about this. Choose a white Soft Sheen emulsion paint for the ceiling which has a subtle shine to it and can be really effective at bouncing light around the room. It’s not for everyone, but it can look super effective especially in low lit spaces or at night with lamps.

White ceiling emulsion paint by COAT paints

@charlotteasquith via Insta, with Pampas

So what next?

We’ve made it pretty easy to try different white shades at home, with COAT Peel & Stick Swatches. We’ve got 6 whites, not 6,000 so it’s not too tricky. 

Choose a few and stick them in different places around your room. Check at different times of day, and see how the shade changes in different lights. No need to search 'best white paint for walls UK', our curated range was designed to make your life easier, and there's no better test than picking a few swatches to try at home. 

You’ve got this. Get £1 white paint swatches




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