Do gray paint colors have undertones? You bet your booty they do!
Gray is right up there with white as the SNEAKIEST of paint colors when it comes to undertones. Just when you think you picked the PERFECT gray, you paint your walls and end up with a subtle (or not so subtle) shade of blue, green or violet. OH JOY!
The key to picking the PERFECT gray is to figure out which undertone you want – because you’re gonna get one whether you like it or not.
The 3 Undertones of Gray Paint Colors
Gray has three undertones – blue, violet and green. You might like to think you can avoid them, but you can’t – like taxes, death, and empty wine bottles, they will haunt you. And even the MOST NEUTRAL gray will be susceptible to change based on the exposure of your room, landscaping outside the window, interior furnishings and your OWN perception of how a color looks. Some people are more sensitive to undertones, and while the color itself and ‘what is in it‘, is not subjective, how you SEE the color (vs someone else) IS!
You could have looked at any one of the above blobs (super technical term) under certain circumstances and thought they were pretty darn gray. However, they’re great examples of the many faces that gray can have – and they aren’t ALWAYS that obvious!
Gray Paint Colors with Blue Undertones
Gray with a blue undertone is usually the most popular choice.
- a gray-blue can be either fresh (cool) or stormy (more subdued/earth-toned)
- it can also have a blue undertone that leans slightly violet, making it seem a touch cooler (this can be open to perception)
- a gray with a blue undertone can also pick up a wink o’ the Irish. I won’t say it’s ‘warmer’, but it’s certainly a softer look
Shown above: Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
THE 3 MOST POPULAR GRAY PAINT COLORS WITH BLUE UNDERTONES
1. SHERWIN WILLIAMS BIG CHILL SW 7648
2. BENJAMIN MOORE STONINGTON GRAY HC-170
Stonington Gray is a gorgeous stormy gray-blue with a wink more depth to it. Equally as lovely is the slightly darker Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray and Sherwin Williams Silverplate. Occasionally, all three can flash slightly blue-green, but heavily favor blue.
3. SHERWIN WILLIAMS TINSMITH SW 7657
Click HERE or on the above image to see available packages
GRAY PAINT COLORS WITH VIOLET UNDERTONES
Gray with a violet undertone is the second most popular and is often considered the ‘most gray’.
- gray-violet can appear a bit more fresh-clean or more grounded-stormy
- a cool gray-violet is more likely to pick up a touch of blue
- gray with a violet undertone can also lean a bit warm
Gray with a purple undertone can be suitable for most exposures, but because it’s cooler, is better suited to south and west-facing rooms. The ones with just a touch of brown often do better in north or east-facing rooms as they aren’t quite as cold.
This type of gray is also OFTEN found in many of today’s popular laminate, marble and quartz countertops.
THE 4 MOST POPULAR GRAY PAINT COLORS WITH A VIOLET UNDERTONE
1. SHERWIN WILLIAMS REPOSE GRAY SW 7015
Repose Gray can be a BIT of a chameleon, but it’s a lovely soft, slightly warm gray that does favor a mild violet undertone.
However, in a north-facing entryway like this one (below), look at how much it can shift…
2. BENJAMIN MOORE COLLINGWOOD OC-28
3. BENJAMIN MOORE ABALONE 2108-60
4. BENJAMIN MOORE BALBOA MIST OC-27
Balboa Mist is a soft and gentle approach. It’s lighter than Collingwood but has that same subtle tendency to lean into purple. However, in the odd light, it can flash slightly purple-pink, whereas Collingwood is more likely to hold strong. If you like this look, but want your walls a bit lighter, check out Benjamin Moore Classic Gray.
Let’s take a quick break to talk about paint samples…
Undoubtedly, you’ll be heading out in the near future to grab paint samples – stop right there! I want you to check out SAMPLIZE. Samplize offers peel and stick paint samples that are more AFFORDABLE, EASIER and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY than traditional paint pots. Here are just a FEW reasons why I recommend Samplize to my clients…
- samples arrive ON YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, depending on location
- at $6.99, they’re more affordable than the samples pots/rollers/foam boards that are needed for traditional paint sampling
- if you keep the samples on their white paper, you can move them around the room
Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE
GRAY PAINT COLORS WITH GREEN UNDERTONES
The gray-greens are pretty sneaky…
- a gray-green that’s cool-toned will look more green-blue
- cooler gray-greens risk looking minty if there’s too much green or green-blue
- a gray-green that’s warm, has a green that leans slightly into yellow. This warm gray will turn greige if you add enough warmth while keeping the green subtle (Revere Pewter is a great example of a warm gray-green)
Check out Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter on the wainscoting and trim in this home office…
See the WHOLE HOME HERE
Read more: Paint Color Review of BM Revere Pewter
Gray with a green undertone is pretty, but definitely the least popular of the bunch. When I have clients looking for a gray, this is often the undertone they SAY they’d like to avoid. Why? Because it’s the least likely to look like a ‘traditional gray’.
THE 4 MOST POPULAR GRAY PAINT COLORS WITH GREEN UNDERTONES
1. BENJAMIN MOORE REVERE PEWTER HC-172
Undoubtedly THE BEST gray with a green undertone is Revere Pewter, a warm, muddy gray with an earthy green undertone.
2. BENJAMIN MOORE GRAY OWL OC-52
Oh sure, it has a green undertone, but that’s not all! Gray Owl can also look totally gray or even gray-blue (it’s a ninja)
3. SHERWIN WILLIAMS WORLDLY GRAY SW 7043
To look at Worldly Gray you’d see a soft warm gray or greige paint color. Look a little more and you just might see the wink of green hiding in it! I could also nod towards SW Colonnade Gray, although it’s a bit of a ninja with its undertones!
4. SHERWIN WILLIAMS COLONNADE GRAY SW 7641
I love Colonnade Gray – so much that I painted a lot of our last home in it. Colonnade Gray has a VERY passive warmth which will die down in northern light and perk up with south-facing light. It ALSO has a mild preference for a green undertone, but can easily slip into the others.
And don’t forget, DARKER grays and charcoals have undertones too!
A color like Wolf Gray might look ‘charcoal’ on the paint chip, but paint that big bad wolf on the wall and you’ll see a BEAUTIFUL blue-purple rise up!
THE MOST NEUTRAL GRAY PAINT COLORS WITH NO UNDERTONES
That elusive perfectly neutral gray you’ve been searching for? It might not be as easy to find as you think. In fact, finding a gray with no undertones is like finding a full wine bottle in my fridge (in other words, not bloody likely). HOWEVER, you will learn some helpful tips, color pointers and more in this helpful blog post: What Are The Best TRUE Gray Paint Colors with NO Undertones?
ROUND-UP: THE 3 MOST POPULAR GRAY PAINT COLORS
1. GRAY WITH A BLUE UNDERTONE: Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
2. GRAY WITH A VIOLET UNDERTONE: Benjamin Moore Collingwood
3. GRAY WITH A GREEN UNDERTONE: Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU, THE HOMEOWNER?
It means that when you’re choosing YOUR perfect gray paint color you need to do the following:
1. FIGURE OUT WHICH GRAYS BEST SUIT THE INTERIOR FINISHES IN YOUR HOME! As you know, I have tons of articles on gray paint colors, so use me and abuse me (links at the bottom of this article). And if that doesn’t work, my E-design is fun too!
2. CLARIFY WHICH UNDERTONES YOU NEED TO AVOID. Your exposure, furniture and finishings will dictate which undertones you need to focus on and which ones you WON’T want. And just because YOU love a particular undertone, doesn’t mean your home can handle it.
3. SAMPLE SAMPLE SAMPLE! I can never stress this enough, particularly with wine tastings. And it’s not enough to just slap some paint on your wall and say, ‘it looks too blue’. The key is to order your Samplize sheets (or purchase traditional sample pots) and take a closer look.
Do you want to know what YOUR perfect cool gray paint color is?
Check out my E-design and Virtual Paint Color Consulting packages!