How to Choose the Best Warm White Paint Color

Behr warm white paint colors

Choosing the Best Warm White Paint Color in 6 Simple Steps

If you need help choosing the best warm white paint color, this post is for you! With all the seemingly similar options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

That’s why I’m sharing my effortless process of going from a stack of swatches to one white paint color that is warm and inviting without looking yellow.

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How to Choose a Warm White Paint Colors in 6 Simple Steps

samples of white paint on the wall

Having recently gone through the paint-picking process to find the perfect warm white for my cottage home remodel, I wanted to share the exact steps I followed, hoping it will make your life easier.

Having made all the typical paint mistakes – like picking a way too dark color and a cool gray that literally made me feel cold all the time while in that house, I get how overwhelming picking paint is. 

But, with this cottage home remodel being my third whole home renovation, I’ve learned from my mistakes and now have a tried and true process for finding paint colors.

Go from overwhelmed to loving just one color! Here are the 6 simple steps I use to choose the perfect paint color for your walls.

1: Grab paint swatches

I’ve used Behr Ultra Scuff Defense on all my paint projects for years, so I knew this was the paint I’d use in this house, too. The difference is that I wasn’t messing around with using colors from other brands this time. I was going to use Behr paint and Behr colors.

The reason is that when I used Behr paint and a Sherwin-Williams color in my last home, I always worried that they would mix something up.

Since each brand of paint has its version of the color Alabaster, I’m suspicious that I got the wrong one in the gallon I used in my bathroom. It pulled soooo yellow compared to every single other room in the house. I never checked the container to confirm my suspicion because it dawned on me after the can was long gone in the trash. But ever since then, I’ve been paranoid about making things too complicated and needing paint color matched.

white paint swatches

So, back to step one in the paint-picking process. While grabbing primer at Home Depot, I also picked up white paint swatches.

The trick to this step is to remove all judgment of the color while you’re in the store. Their lighting is so different from any other lighting that I knew the color would be completely different once I left the store. The criteria for what I grabbed was anything in the white-ish family. I basically took every option available.

2: Hang the Swatches

I prefer to paint my house using one color, so the white I go with needs to work in as many rooms as possible and ideally all rooms. 

I started with my house’s darkest room, which is my mudroom. If I liked the color in this room, I’d also like it in the brighter rooms with more natural light. 

Using painter’s tape on the back of the swatch, I hung each on the wall. Spacing them by 4-6 inches. I didn’t want them too close that one would distract from the other, but also not so far apart that the position on the wall could be playing into how I felt about the color.

white paint swatches on the wall
white paint swatches on the wall

3: Round one of cuts

Before making any cuts, I took a minute to remind myself what I wanted for this house’s vibe. I wanted bright but warm, and definitely not any hint of yellow or blue. 

A clear idea of your end goal is key to picking the perfect color. It’s easy to get sidetracked and include other colors just because you like them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that color matches your vision.

Keeping the vibe and vision in mind, I stepped back from the swatches hanging on the wall and removed anything that was not what I was going for. 

Round one of the cuts was an exercise in trusting my gut and knee-jerk reaction. I didn’t overthink it. If the color drew my eye because it was too bright white, stark, or creamy, then bye-bye went that option. This round of cuts left me without half of what I started with.

4: Trial in different lighting

white paint swatches on the wall

I left these samples up for a few days and checked back on them periodically as the light changed throughout the day. If there were any that jumped out at any point as not right, I removed these and also set them aside.

The following day, I then moved the remaining contenders to the brightest room in my house, which is the dining room, and was also already primed. This room is the same size as the mud room but has 3 windows and a large sliding glass door which lets in a tremendous amount of natural light. I then followed the same process by stepping back and removing any colors that were obviously wrong.

paint swatches on the wall

Funny enough, my top choice was the first to go in this bright light! I had loved Chantilly Lace in the mudroom, but in the dining room it was so stark.

Now, you may want to use different colors for different rooms, and that’s totally fine! For myself, I’ve just always used one primary color on the first floor of my homes.

I suggest thinking about your primary paint color as a color palette instead of a color room by room.

5: Paint Samples

My next step is to get a sample size of each contender. I then used scrap shiplap boards and painted two of each option. 

Doing so on the board instead of the wall allowed me to move the samples around more easily. You can also use cardboard, or posterboard to make paint samples. Or, you can even paint right on the wall. But I personally don’t like to do this because then you have to go back and prime over the samples.

Painting samples is a pain because you have to clean your brush between each color to prevent cross-contamination. The slightest mixing of any other color would throw off the whole thing.  

Another option that I love to use when sampling paint colors is Samplize, which is a site where they’ll send you pre-made paint samples that stick on the wall. The best part is you can move them around and there is no messy clean up!

Before judging the paint samples, remember that paint dries darker. So, let your samples dry completely before you start thinking you found the one!

trialing paint samples

6: Make a final decision

After creating my sample boards, I could easily move these around the house and quickly narrowed them down to a final color that I love in every room. 

But not too fast; I once again watched the color as the light changed throughout the day to be totally sure of my choice.

The entire process of going from a stack of swatches to the one takes me about 5-7 days.

Choosing a White Paint Color Tips and Tricks

  • Considering the existing fixtures’ undertones and feel, are they warm or cool? Mixing metals and colors is fine, but it will look off if, for example, you have warm-toned decor and fixtures but a cool paint color on the wall.
  • Remember that the final color may look different in a decorated vs. empty room.
  • If you want a neutral, light wall color, stick to the 1st or 2nd color from the row of swatches. People usually make the mistake of going too dark, so if you’re unsure, going one to two shades lighter is a common benchmark for avoiding this mistake.
  • A quick way to get a good idea of the paint color’s undertone is to check the color family you’re in or what color is at the bottom of the swatch column.
  • Step away from the internet and listen to what your gut says about each color in your home. It may be helpful to get ideas from others on what they like, but you have to try it in your own home to know if it’s the best for you and your vision.
  • The paint sheen you select will affect the color, so make sure you get your samples in the same sheen you’ll use on your walls.
  • Two coats every time! Sometimes even three – not on every wall, but there are a few spots in my home where the light hit in a way that a third coat just looked so much better.

FAQ About Choosing a Warm White Paint Color for Walls

wall of paint swatches

What paint color did you use for you walls?

In my cottage cape home, I used Behr Natural White in Eggshell, which is the equivalent to Benjamin Moore Simply White.

In my previous red cape house I used Sherwin Williams Alabaster.

What type of paint and finish is best for white paint on walls?

Behr Ultra Scuff Defense in Eggshell. It’s the purple can. 

Do I have to prime before I paint?

Always! Even if the paint claims to be a paint and primer in one. It’s a lie and you should still prime your surgace with two coats of primer.

When painting fresh drywall I’ve been very happy with this Kilz 2 Primer. The coverage, ease of application, and low price are all a win in my opinion.

can of kilz 2 primer

Get the 2-gallon container because it’s a steal of a deal – basically, you pay $9 for your second gallon! The 5-gallon container is an even better deal, but I hate working with that size because I can’t lift it, and opening the lid is just as impossible for me.

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you’ll know that I swear by Zinsser 123, which is still true if painting wood or a previously painted surface. This stuff is the best to block stains, wood knots, and previous colors, and I highly recommend it!

Two coats of primer and two coats of paint. Every time! Don’t even think about less 🙂 You’ll thank me later.

So, there you have it! The six simple steps to choosing the best warm white paint color! Another post you will find helpful is this paint color review, where I detail the most popular white paint colors and how I felt that looked in person (COMING SOON!) Go check it out!

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