Does gray have undertones? You bet your booty it does!
I ALWAYS twitch involuntarily when my E-design clients request ‘a neutral gray with no undertones’. At which point I think, oy vay – I better top-up.
Gray is right up there with white as the SNEAKIEST of colours regarding 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 purple. OH JOY!
The key to picking the PERFECT gray is to figure out which undertone you want – because you’re gonna get one.
The 3 Undertones of Gray Paint Colours
Gray has three undertones – blue, purple and green. You might like to think you can avoid these, 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 colour looks. Some people are more sensitive to undertones, and while the colour itself and ‘what is in it‘, is not subjective – how you SEE the colour (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 darned gray. However, they’re great examples of the many faces that gray can have – and they aren’t ALWAYS that obvious!
Gray Paint Colours with Blue Undertones
Gray with a blue undertone is usually the most popular choice.
- A gray-blue can be either icy (fresher) or stormy (more subdued/earth-toned)
- It can also have a blue undertone that leans slightly purple, making it seem a touch cooler
- A gray with a blue undertone can also pick up a wink o’ the Irish (green, obviously). I won’t say it’s ‘warmer’, but it’s certainly a softer look
Shown above: BM Stonington Gray
Grays with a blue undertone can be a great choice for a south or west-facing room, but can OFTEN be a bit too cold/flat for a north or east-facing room. Gray with a blue undertone can look great with many tan and greige colours, making it a nice transitional choice.
Top 3 Gray Paint Colours with a Blue Undertone
1. Sherwin Williams Big Chill
2. Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
Stonington Gray is a gorgeous stormy gray/blue with a wink more depth to it. Equally as lovely is the slightly darker BM Coventry Gray. Occasionally, EITHER can flash slightly blue-green, but really do heavily favour blue.
3. Sherwin Williams Tinsmith
Click HERE or on above image to see available packages
Gray Paint Colours with Purple Undertones
Gray with a purple undertone is the second most popular and is often seen as the ‘most gray’.
- A gray-purple can appear a bit more fresh/clean or more grounded/stormy. The grounded, stormy ones have a touch of brown in them
- A gray with a purple undertone can also lean a bit warm (that brown undertone that I mentioned above)
- It can also have a cool cast if it’s a purple that leans slightly blue
Read more: Paint Colour Review of SW Repose Gray
Gray with a purple undertone can be suitable for most exposures, but because it’s cooler, is a bit 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.
Top 3 Gray Paint Colours with a Purple Undertone
1. Sherwin Williams Repose Gray
Repose Gray can be a BIT of a chameleon, but it’s a lovely soft, slightly warm gray that does favour a mild purple undertone.
2. Benjamin Moore Collingwood
Read more: Paint Colour Review: BM Collingwood
3. Benjamin Moore Abalone
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 needing 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 Colours with Green Undertones
The gray-greens are pretty sneaky…
- A gray-green that is cool-toned has a green that leans slightly blue. Cooler gray-greens risk looking minty if there’s too much green or green-blue
- A gray-green that is 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)
Read more: Paint Colour 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’.
Top 3 Gray Paint Colours with a Green Undertone
1. Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter. Undoubtedly THE most popular, Revere Pewter is a warm, muddy gray with an earthy green undertone.
2. Benjamin Moore Gray Owl
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
To look at Worldly Gray you’d see a soft warm gray or greige paint colour. Look a little more and you might just 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!
And don’t forget, DARKER grays and charcoals have undertones too!
A colour 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!
So what does this mean to you?
It means that when you are choosing YOUR perfect gray paint colour you need to do the following:
- Do your research and figure out which grays will work for you and the specific needs of your home! As you know, I have tons of articles on gray paint colours, 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!
- Clarify which undertones you need to avoid. Your exposure, furniture and finishings will dictate which undertones you’ll want and which ones you WON’T want. And just because YOU love a particular undertone, doesn’t mean your home can handle it
- 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
And of course, there are MORE. I could talk more about WARM grays – but I’m going to save that for an upcoming blog post. And there are also greiges and taupes, but you might want to find out the difference between greige and taupe before you commit to any particular colour!
Shown here, BM Pashmina
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