GRAY, GREIGE, TAUPE & WHITE – THEY ALLLL HAVE UNDERTONES!
First of all, what ARE undertones? Undertones are the sneaky ‘colors’ hiding in seemingly neutral shades of paint. However, they’re not limited to neutrals, you’ll find undertones in actual paint COLORS as well.
Almost EVERY paint color has undertones (except for legitimate white, black, and primary hues).
For example, let’s say you paint your walls gray, but they look a bit blue. Or maybe you chose the PERFECT shade of white, only to find it looking a weeeee bit yellow – these are undertones at play (insert kleenex, wine, and a funnel HERE).
When choosing the best paint color for your home, it’s almost ALWAYS about connecting undertones.
The undertones in your FINISHES (i.e. countertop/carpet/tile/ etc…) should have the same undertones as the paint color you choose. Or, if they don’t have the same undertone, they should have undertones that play well together – and this isn’t easily done (insert Kylie M…and wine and Ryan Reynolds movies on repeat HERE).
Sherwin William’s Repose Gray has some of the SNEAKIEST undertones!
Waaaait a hot minute. If your home’s finishes are calling the shots, does this mean you might not love the undertones in your room’s BEST paint color?
However, if you ignore your finishes, you’re more likely to CLASH with them, which isn’t doing you or your home any favors.
WHAT UNDERTONES DO GRAY PAINT COLORS HAVE?
Gray will have blue, green, violet, or a blend of these undertones.
- Many grays can lean into ANY of the three undertones, depending on the exposure of the room and interior conditions/finishes.
- The more COMMITTED a gray is to a particular undertone, the less likely it is to grab the others. So, if you don’t like a gray with, say, violet undertones, grab one that COMMITS to green or blue.
- If your chosen gray is leaning into a particular undertone and it SHOULDN’T, it could be due to your exposure, light bulbs, OR because it’s a more FLEXIBLE shade of gray (that isn’t as committed to an undertone).
- Undertones can be super subtle or super strong, depending on the color you choose and how it sits in your room/responds to its surroundings. If you choose an undertone that’s opposite to that of your interior finish, they could enhance each other.
LEFT: BLUE UNDERTONES / MIDDLE: VIOLET UNDERTONES / RIGHT: FLEXIBLE UNDERTONES
WHAT UNDERTONES DO GREIGE PAINT COLORS HAVE?
Greige is a warm paint color that caters to a green undertone.
- Greige sits in between gray and beige – not as cool as gray or as warm as beige.
- The more COMMITTED a greige is to its green undertone, the less likely it is to grab violet (or blue).
- WARMER greiges lean closer to beige than gray. COOLER greiges lean closer to gray than beige. HOWEVER, both are considered to be ‘warm paint colors’.
While it’s subtle, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray CAN grab a touch of green!
YOU CAN’T AVOID UNDERTONES – figure out which ones best suit the finishes in your home! If things aren’t working, listen to your home – it will tell you what it really wants.
WHAT UNDERTONES DOES TAUPE HAVE?
Taupe is a warm paint color that caters to a violet (violet-pink) undertone.
- Taupe sits in between gray and beige.
- The more COMMITTED a taupe is to violet/purple, the less likely it is to grab green.
- WARMER taupes lean closer to beige and can also look a bit pinker with their undertones. COOLER taupes lean closer to gray than beige and heavily favor violet. HOWEVER, both versions are considered to be warm paint colors.
- This violet-pink undertone can be super subtle or strong, depending on the color you choose and how it sits in your room/responds to its surroundings.
While they ebb and flow, ALL of these colors share a violet-pink undertone (warm grays and taupes)
WHAT UNDERTONES DOES BEIGE HAVE?
ORANGE is the main undertone in BEIGE – you can’t make beige without it!
- Beige’s orange undertone can lean either orange-pink (most commonly found in today’s finishes) or orange-yellow.
- These undertones can be super SUBTLE or super STRONG, depending on the color you choose and how it sits in your room/responds to its surroundings.
- Today’s MODERN beiges tend to be lighter and have more muted undertones than those from the early 2000s.
All of these samples share an orange (mostly orange-pink) undertone, although Accessible Beige does try to do its own thing!
WHAT UNDERTONES DO TAN PAINT COLORS HAVE?
When it comes to tan paint colors, you’re dealing with a YELLOW undertone.
- Tan’s yellow undertone can lean either yellow-green or yellow-orange.
- The most modern shades of tan are a bit more grayed-out and less obvious with their undertones.
- Tan isn’t as commonly found in today’s hard finishes (countertops/tiles). The average home is more likely to suit shades of beige.
Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan leans into a subtle yellow with a VERY vague green hue
By the way, one of the BEST ways to find your paint color’s undertone is to compare it to another, SIMILAR color…
WHAT UNDERTONES DO CREAM PAINT COLORS HAVE?
Cream paint colors have yellow undertones. In fact, you can’t even MAKE cream without yellow.
- Cream’s yellow undertone can also pick up orange, red (pink) or green. However, as long as YELLOW is the dominant hue, you’ve got cream!
- Cream’s undertones can be super SUBTLE or super STRONG, depending on the color you choose and how it sits in your room/responds to its surroundings.
- If you love cream paint colors but DON’T love yellow, you likely lean toward the more muted end of the cream world.
Benjamin Moore Navajo White is a yellow-orange shade of cream
While you might have color ‘wants’, your home has color ‘needs’.
Let’s take a quick break to talk about paint samples…
Undoubtedly, you’ll be heading out shortly 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 the location
- 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
WHAT UNDERTONES DO WHITE PAINT COLORS HAVE?
White paint colors can pick up any undertone from their environment but USUALLY cater to yellow, blue or violet.
- The most common/popular white paint colors have no undertone or a subtle yellow/cream undertone.
- Whites with cool undertones can be more challenging and not as flexible as true or warm shades of white.
- There are 5 types of white paint colors.
- Having the highest LRVs, white paint colors pick up the most colors from their environment, including colors reflecting onto them, as well as exposures.
Sherwin Williams Pure White is the most MUTED warm white on the market, but it can look a touch yellow!
WHAT UNDERTONES DOES BLACK HAVE?
Just like white, not all shades of black are created equal and you’ll find a wide range of undertones, including blue, violet, and even brown!
- Black paint colors have LRVs lower than seven.
- There are some colors that have LRVs lower than seven, but this is due to their color saturation – not because they’re black.
- Warm black paint colors have a brown or sometimes a warm violet or green undertone. Sherwin Williams Greenblack is just what you’d think it is – a green-black!
- Cool black paint colors can have a blue, green or violet undertone. Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron is a soft black with a blue undertone. Benjamin Moore Black Jack has a violet/purple undertone.
Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black is a pretty standard, simple shade of black.
And as mentioned earlier, undertones aren’t limited to NEUTRALS. Hues such as blue, green and violet have undertones too, so let’s take a boo…
WHAT UNDERTONES DOES BLUE HAVE?
While some shades of blue can appear TRUE, most often they lean either blue-green or blue-violet.
- The most popular shades of blue are either navy blue or blues with a good dose of gray and green added to them
- Blue-greens are more popular than blue-violets in the average home.
- Blue-greens can seem warmer compared to blue-violets (but this is open to perception).
- Blues with green undertones are usually better choices for cool, north-facing rooms.
- Both blue-green and blue-violet can balance the warm light of a south or west-facing room.
Benjamin Moore Van Courtland Blue is a blue-green
WHAT UNDERTONES DOES GREEN HAVE?
Green paint colors can lean green-yellow (warm) or green-blue (cool). Of course, you’ll find some greens that seem to sit smack-dab in the middle, but they’re few and far between!
- Green-blues in the lighter ranges are often seen as being ‘minty’.
- Green-yellow is closely related to greige (as greige has a green-yellow undertone).
- Dark green-blues (teals) are popular for front doors.
- Dark green-yellow are popular on some kitchen islands, especially those that dip into the greige range.
Benjamin Moore Fernwood Green is a warm green, meaning it’s green-yellow
WHAT UNDERTONES DOES VIOLET/PURPLE HAVE?
Some of the most popular shades of purple lean warmer, or violet-pink (especially as it relates to undertones). However, you’ll also find COOL violets that lean into blue.
- As it relates to cool paint ‘colors’, violet is the least popular. However, in the undertone world, violet is the MOST common/popular.
- while Barney gave purple a bad rap, it’s seen as a classic color, especially in its violet-blue form.
See the BEST violet paint colors HERE
WHAT UNDERTONES DOES YELLOW HAVE?
Yellow is the base color of cream, so just like cream paint colors, it can lean yellow-green or yellow-orange.
- Yellow-orange is more commonly found in interiors.
- Yellow with a green undertone isn’t as common a color in today’s homes.
- While yellow can look pretty in a room, it’s not found often in hard finishes such as countertops and tile (you might find cream, but rarely ‘yellow’).
- For the exterior of a home, yellow-orange is more popular and flexible than yellow-green.
Benjamin Moore Suntan Yellow is a yellow-orange
WHAT UNDERTONES DOES ORANGE HAVE?
Orange is closely related to beige, being its main undertone. And just like beige, orange can lean orange-yellow or orange-pink.
- Orange-pink is often referred to as CORAL or PEACH.
- Orange-yellow and orange-pink can appear equally as warm.
However, VERY FEW of my Online Paint Color Consulting clients ask for orange. But luckily, I have a stunning orange front door to share with you…
Sherwin Williams Knockout Orange is a REAL knockout!
WHAT UNDERTONES DOES RED OR PINK HAVE?
Pink and red share the same undertones, being lighter and darker versions of each other. Red-violet is considered a COOLER red hue, whereas red-orange is a warmer shade of red.
- Medium-depth or darker red-oranges can be more organic or earth-toned looking (often referred to as ‘rust’).
- Red-violet can be seen as a bit more traditional. It’s also referred to as burgundy, especially when there’s a good degree of violet mixed in.
Benjamin Moore California Redwood is a shade of red with a good dose of orange in it!
PEOPLE ALSO ASK…
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF A PAINT COLOR HAS WARM OR COOL UNDERTONES?
Comparison is often a great way to see which color is warmer or cooler. Generally speaking, you can also expect warm colors to have yellow, orange, or red/pink undertones. Cool colors tend to have blue, green, or violet undertones. HOWEVER, there are some warm colors with green or violet undertones.
SHOULD YOU MATCH YOUR PAINT COLOR’S UNDERTONES?
While this can be an effective way to create ONE type of palette, it’s not always the best way. Some of the most beautiful paint color palettes are created by pairing up colors that have contrasting or complimentary undertones.
HOW DO I CHOOSE MY UNDERTONE?
Quite often, it’s not your personal tastes that choose the undertones, it’s your interior finishes. Bring paint samples home and place them with your bossiest finishes. See which ones blend or connect a bit more and which ones contrast.
For example, if your countertop has a violet undertone, you could look at a gray with a violet undertone. On the other hand, you can create a dynamic pattern by partnering it with color with a more noticeable blue-green undertone – it just depends on the look you’re going for!
CHECK OUT MY ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING!