What’s the best color to paint the ceiling?
Ceilings are often referred to as the ‘fifth wall.’ However, in many cases, the ceiling doesn’t need to be treated special; it just needs to be considered.
In other words, don’t go slappin’ any ole shade of white on it. In fact, you don’t even HAVE to paint your ceiling white as there are SO MANY GLORIOUS COLORS to consider – the options are endless, and white is just the beginning!
However, if you’re unsure whether your ceiling should be white, the same color as your walls, or another color entirely, I have some helpful blog posts you might want to read first.
While this blog post talks about actual COLORS, the following blog posts cover WHAT COLOR GOES WHERE.
- Should Your Ceiling Match Your Trim or Walls? For those with pretty standard ceilings.
- Angled or Vaulted Ceilings: What Color Should They Be?
- TRAY CEILINGS: What Color Goes Where?
- What Colour Should You Paint a High Ceiling?
- The Best Paint Colors For Rooms With High Ceilings & Tall Walls (wall colors, not ceiling colors)
On the other hand, if you know which direction you’re heading, you need to know the right COLOR to choose…this blog post is for you, boo.
FUN FACTS ABOUT CEILINGS & PAINT COLORS
- Depending on how much natural light your ceiling gets, even if your ceiling is the same color as your walls, it can look lighter or darker depending on the time of day.
- Ceilings look best painted with a flat finish. Sheen exposes imperfections and can look awkward on a ceiling (not including tongue and groove ceilings, which can look great in eggshell or satin).
- If you have a popcorn ceiling, it’s usually best painted white. While there are a few exceptions, anything beyond a white or a gentle off-white can look tacky.
- If you have a sloped or tricky ceiling, you might pick up some good tips in THIS BLOG POST (but finish reading this one first).
- White ceilings are prone to picking up REFLECTION from surrounding wall colors, especially those with a stronger hue.
In this office, look at how much the blue walls (Sherwin Williams Upward) reflect onto the ceiling…
But enough about that – LET’S RAISE THE ROOF ON THIS BAD BOY!
THE 4 MOST POPULAR WHITE PAINT COLORS FOR CEILINGS
White is the top choice for ceilings for a good reason – IT’S FLEXIBLE. As soon as you step outside of white, you’ll have challenges if you want to change your wall color or interior finishes down the road.
While the shades of white listed below are suggested for your ceiling (as per the blog post title), I recommend painting your ceilings, trims, and doors the SAME COLOR (and cabinets, too, should they be white). This means these multi-faceted, multi-use whites can be great for ANY white surface in your home, as long as they suit your finishes and exposure!
1. SHERWIN WILLIAMS PURE WHITE
If I’m picking a shade of white from scratch (have no existing whites to repeat/coordinate with), and I want a FLEXIBLE, versatile shade, I’m choosing Pure White.
Pure White is a soft white paint color. However, thanks to its SUPER passive warmth, it acts like a pretty legit, O.G. shade of white. Pure White’s subtle warmth is more noticeable when partnered with a considerably whiter surface (i.e., white appliances, including GE Cafe White).
Another reason it’s one of my favorite white ceiling colors is because it suits a WIDE range of paint colors. While a few outliers won’t work, Pure White is pretty flexibl regarding its paint palette partners.
2. BENJAMIN MOORE CHANTILLY LACE
Chantilly Lace is the brightest white on this page and one of the best ceiling paint colors if you’re more of a traditionalist.
Traditional white ceiling colors (the ones that many contractors toss on without a second thought) are whiter than my butt cheeks at the height of winter (not that they see much sun in the summer, but still). This type of ‘standard ceiling white’ can be stark and come off cold if you don’t have the right finishes to support it.
I mean, sure, you can go to Sherwin Williams High Reflective White, which has a higher LRV, but Chantilly Lace does the job of LOOKING like a bright, lovely white without as much starkness.
In all, Chantilly Lace is one PERFECT shade of white when you want a more legit approach to white and minimal warmth and softness. However, it also doesn’t swing COOL, making it an easier color to coordinate paint colors and interior finishes with.
While it’s well-known for its lackluster coverage, many whites struggle with this – Chantilly Lace isn’t unique. However, using quality paint makes a difference, as does asking the paint store to top up your gallon with white tint. Benjamin Moore has Titanium White, which is known for its coverage.
Now, if you’re looking for a little more warmth in your life, check out these next bad boys…
3. BENJAMIN MOORE WHITE DOVE
White Dove is my PERSONAL fave, as it relates to warm whites.
Why does this matter?
The more yellow a white or soft white has, the harder it can be to coordinate colors. Impossible? No, but it is more challenging than shades like White Dove, Pure White, and Chantilly Lace.
While White Dove can undoubtedly classify as a creamy white, it’s on the very muted side of that world and a great happy medium between the clean, cool, and yellow worlds of white. Many people opt for a similar shade, Swiss Coffee. However, of the two, Swiss Coffee is slightly more likely to flash a wee wink o’ green, making it a hard no for me.
4. SHERWIN WILLIAMS ALABASTER
Alabaster has an LRV of 82, so it’s at the lowest, darkest end of the white range before you get into off-whites. If you LOVE warm colors and don’t ever plan on changing, Alabaster is gorgeous – no doubt about it.
However, if you’re entertaining cooler, muddy, or light beige colors, I suggest checking out the previously suggested shades. The yellow undertone in Alabaster also makes it fussy with some of the newer white quartz countertops and MOST off-white paint colors.
A FEW OTHER COLORS & THEIR QUIRKS
While the four shades listed above are my faves, there are a few runner-ups. The reason they didn’t make the cut is because they have a few more conditions or considerations…
SHERWIN WILLIAMS EXTRA WHITE
I was SO close to choosing this as one of my top shades, but here’s the deal. Extra White appears differently in cabinet/trim paint than on wall/ceiling paint (because of how the different types of paint are made). Your trims and cabinets could look a touch warmer than your walls and ceilings. There’s certainly a degree of forgiveness, seeing as white ceiling paint gets so skewed already via the change in shadows.
However, for MY home, it makes me twitchy. This being said, not everyone is as weird as me. And even I can say that this hallway with Extra White trims, doors, and ceilings looks fabulous. Again, the natural shading of many ceilings offers some flexibility…
BENJAMIN MOORE SIMPLY WHITE
Simply White is a beautiful white, up there with Chantilly Lace in LRV. However, it has a yellow undertone that can show up (sometimes a lot), especially if you partner it with finishes that are whiter/cooler than it or have southern exposure. This doesn’t make it a hard no; it just makes it a ‘sample carefully with your home’s finishes and natural lighting.’
We’ll get into DARKER ceiling colors shortly, but first, let’s hit the medium end of things…
THE TOP 5 LIGHT TO MEDIUM-DEPTH CEILING PAINT COLORS
If you’re a ‘middle of the road’ kinda person, you might be looking for a moderate shade for your ceiling – not white, but not too dark.
As shown in this next dining room, a non-white ceiling adds personality and charm (to what is already a fabulous space!)…
A FEW POINTS TO PONDER FOR NON-WHITE CEILINGS
- Crown molding is a great way to separate your wall and ceiling colors and let each be in its glory.
- Your chosen color is ENTIRELY DEPENDENT on the existing wall and trim colors. I’ll show you colors to get you started, but you may need to tweak things to make them suit your palette.
While I don’t have photos of ALL the following colors (I only use photos from my Online Paint Color Consulting clients), I have great info and comparables for you to explore.
I’ve also tried to cover various (popular) neutral color groups so you can find a little of everything!
1. SHERWIN WILLIAMS MEGA GREIGE SW 7031
Mega Greige is awesome for walls, cabinets, AND ceilings. This soft, medium-depth shade of greige-taupe has a minimal undertone. Colors like Mega Greige tend to cater to a green or purple undertone. While Mega Greige is SLIGHTLY more inclined towards green, that’s a massive overstatement as most times, it looks pretty dang neutral. If you want a bit more depth, I also love the slightly darker look of Keystone Gray (SO PRETTY…and a bit warmer).
Here’s Mega Greige on a porch ceiling with a gorgeous brick facade…
You’ll see the beauty of Mega Greige more with lighter, more muted walls as they offer CONTRAST. And while this next photo is a bit dark (I take what I can get!), this hallway gives you the general idea…
THANK YOU to my E-Design clients and readers for sending in their photos!
And because you should NEVER pick a paint color without comparing it to similar shades, I recommend sampling Sherwin Williams Anew Gray (like a lighter Mega Greige) and Perfect Greige (warmer and more taupe – no green). If you’re a fan of Benjamin Moore, check out Plymouth Rock, which has a similar moody look and a touch more gray.
2. BENJAMIN MOORE SILVER SPRING 2120-50
If you have light gray walls (with no green undertones), a color like Silver Spring can be gorgeous on your flat ceiling.
Silver Spring is a medium-depth shade of stormy gray. It has subtle, moody, blue-violet undertones and an LRV of almost 40. This makes it a great depth for those who want interest on their ceilings without looking too dramatic.
Again, I recommend comparing similar shades, as often, the wee adjustments make a color perfect (or not) for your room!
Benjamin Moore Gull Wing Gray 2134-50 has a touch more gray and less blue than Silver Spring. It also has a more flexible blue undertone that doesn’t hit violet so hard (and can sometimes look a touch green!). Sherwin Williams Network Gray is awesome and a bit more like Gull Wing Gray in its flexibility – not catering so much to blue-violet.
3. BENJAMIN MOORE PASHMINA AF-100
Pashmina is a soft, warm, neutral (greige) paint color that leans more into beige than gray. With a minor green undertone, it can be a great partner to a wide range of warm wall colors. Pashmina has an LRV of 44, putting it in the light-medium range but on the HEAVY end of it.
While Pashmina is WICKED pretty, it’s important to compare similar colors – often, you end up with a different color than you started with! The tricky thing is that Pashmina is a creature unto itself – Benjamin Moore doesn’t have a great comparable. There is Stone Hearth, which has similar INTENTIONS but is lighter, with a bit more beige-taupe.
I don’t have a photo of Pashmina on a ceiling (I wish I did), but here’s Stone Hearth…
It’s SHOCKING how much green reflection it’s picking up from the walls (I’m obviously easily shocked). However, looking at the bottom right corner of the sloped ceiling, it’s easier to see more of its warmth…
As for Sherwin Williams, I would suggest Loggia. Although it’s not as complex as Pashmina (which isn’t necessarily bad, depending on your room), Loggia is an interesting choice if your walls need a slightly warmer, more beige-tan color (without hitting the golden end). If Pashmina is too warm for your space, pop back to Mega Greige or Anew Gray.
4. BENJAMIN MOORE COVENTRY GRAY HC-169
I have MAD LOVE for Coventry Gray and am dying for more clients (or readers, wink wink) to send in photos! Coventry Gray has an LRV of 48, putting it in the light-medium depths. However, thanks to its stormy attitude and subtle undertones, it usually looks moodier on a ceiling. As for undertones, expect a wink of blue (a blue that leans into blue-green over blue-violet).
Again, I take what I can get with photos, and as long as they’re not blurry and show a reasonable shot of the color – I’m in. Coventry Gray is on the super high ceiling in this hallway (below) with Benjamin Moore Ballet White walls…
The walls in the above photo are a depth that MANY of these ceiling colors respond to, as they offer contrast. Of course, you’ll get more contrast with white walls or DARKER walls, but sometimes, a pretty shade of off-white is a great place to start.
And, of COURSE, you want some comparables. Sherwin Williams Gray Clouds is amazeballs. It’s similar to Coventry Gray’s approach and moody ‘tude, but it can pick up a TOUCH more green along with the same blue undertone. You can also add a more color/undertone with the likes of Sherwin Williams Mineral Deposit, which has a beautiful gray base and a slightly more noticeable blue-green hue (along with a bit more depth).
As for Benjamin Moore, you might check out Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray. This gentle shade of gray is lighter than Coventry Gray with a similar undertone profile. However, it’s MORE inclined toward white (or DARKER shades) regarding its wall color partners.
5. SHERWIN WILLIAMS INTELLECTUAL GRAY SW 7045
While some muddy, warm grays and greiges can fall flat on a ceiling, Intellectual Gray has just what it takes to add interest without looking flat OR overly colorful.
Intellectual Gray is a medium-toned shade of greige with an LRV of 36. Stuck between the beige and gray worlds, this glorious greige has just the right amount of green undertone, making it a great partner to muted, subtly warm wall colors, AS WELL as some softened navy blues (ones with gray).
I don’t have a great shot of Intellectual Gray on a ceiling, but here’s its Samplize peel-and-stick paint color swatch…
If you want a bit more depth and interest, I highly recommend Sherwin Williams Felted Wool. If you want more green and a more noticeable warmth, compare it to Sherwin Williams Gray Area. For you Benjamin Moore fans, and even if you’re not, compare Intellectual Gray to Northern Cliffs for a lighter look.
THE 5 BEST DARK CEILING PAINT COLORS
Oooo, you moody little thing, you! I LOVE it when a homeowner is open to a dark color on their ceiling, and their room is just BEGGING for it!
Here are a few things to consider before jumping into the deep end…
- It’s best if your ceiling is flat – dark colors don’t look great on textured or popcorn ceilings.
- Dark ceilings create a more intimate look in many rooms, particularly bedrooms, dining rooms, and media rooms.
- If you paint your walls and ceilings the same color, it creates a seamless look and can make a room look larger (open to perception) as you don’t have a defined line between ceiling and wall.
- Ceilings best suit flat paint as sheen can enhance any flaws or inconsistencies in the drywall.
- While these colors below are versatile and STUNNING, they won’t necessarily work with EVERY wall color – I’m good, but I’m not so good that I know exactly what will suit your room. I can just give you the guidance to get you on your way!
I only use photos from my Online Color Consulting clients – REAL HOMES, REAL BUDGETS, BABY! This means I don’t ‘borrow’ from other Creators and don’t always have the exact image I need – ESPECIALLY regarding ceilings. However, these are colors that I’m always suggesting, and hopefully, my clients send me their after photos!
1. SHERWIN WILLIAMS GAUNTLET GRAY
Gauntlet Gray is wicked pretty, whether for an accent wall, front door, or ceiling. This dark shade of warm gray is one of the FEW with minimal undertones. Warm grays tend to have violet or green undertones. And while it can be subject to its surrounding environment, Gauntlet Gray doesn’t really commit to either!
As for its ACTUAL depth, Gauntlet Gray has an LRV of 17. This medium-dark gray offers a moody look for a ceiling without the visual weight of some of the darker shades on this page (it just depends on the look you’re going for).
2. SHERWIN WILLIAMS URBANE BRONZE
Oooo, this baddy looks gorgeous on the ceiling (thank you to my teenage girls for keeping me in the loop on today’s slang). Just remember, ceilings often look DARKER than walls due to their upside-downness (super technical word, I know). With Urbane Bronze having an LRV of 8 and an undertone of green, it’s not messing around and will add a muddy, moody vibe to almost any space.
Now, having such a low LRV means that on some ceilings, especially in low-light rooms, it can look quite dark. Maybe not BLACK, but definitely skookum. Make sure you have soft lighting on, enhancing its earthy warmth and undertones, helping them shine through the shadows!
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE OF URBANE BRONZE
If Urbane Bronze is a bit too dark for the look you want, check out Porpoise, which is like a lighter version with the same glorious green undertone. Want a great Benjamin Moore comparable? Check out this blog post: The Best Dark Greige & Taupe Paint Colors from Benjamin Moore.
3. BENJAMIN MOORE AMHERST GRAY
Amherst Gray is a different approach to dark gray compared to Gauntlet Gray. While Amherst Gray has a vague warmth, you wouldn’t know it. It also has a green undertone that’s not overwhelming, but is usually noticeable. If you’re looking for a charcoal gray for your ceiling, compare Amherst Gray and Gauntlet Gray, and it should be clear which one your wall color caters to.
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE OF AMHERST GRAY
As for depth, Amherst Gray has an LRV of 19, putting it on the lighter end of the medium-dark range. If you want a lighter shade, Chelsea Gray is a beaut. If you want to go darker, Kendall Charcoal could hit the spot.
4. BENJAMIN MOORE CHARCOAL SLATE
While slapping a navy blue hue on your ceiling can be tempting, blue can be overwhelming on a large scale. For this reason, let me introduce you to Charcoal Slate.
To say this is navy would be a lie – it ain’t. Charcoal Slate is more of a hybrid between the navy blue and gray worlds.
With an LRV of 15, Charcoal Slate is medium-dark. This means that it won’t act like black in a lower-light room. Instead, it offers a kind of dusky approach to blue. By the way, it’s WAY more stunning in real life than it looks on this wee swatch…
But not all blues are created equal. You’ll most often see either blue-green or blue-violet. Even as an undertone, blue plays favorites, and in this case, Charcoal Slate is a blue-violet.
If you want a gray-blue that’s a touch more flexible without being OVERTLY blue-green, check out Sherwin Williams Web Gray. As with all of these colors, it’s amazing on accent walls, front doors, and ceilings.
5. SHERWIN WILLIAMS DOVETAIL SW 7018
If you love the look of Gauntlet Gray, but want a lighter approach, Dovetail should do the trick. Dovetail has an LRV of 26, so it’s a medium-depth shade of gray. Like Gauntlet Gray, it doesn’t cater to a strong undertone and has a passive, pretty warmth while still reading as ‘gray.’
Dovetail is a great option if you like darker colors but are worried about them looking too heavy on your ceiling. Dovetail is ALSO fantastic if your walls are already painted a dark color (LRV lower than 12 or so), and you want an overall moody look.
You’ll notice that ALL of these colors have a neutral base. This is because actual COLORS are a tough sell for the average home. Doable? Aren’t we all (wink wink)? But yes, colors are doable, but the actual color will need to be chosen quite specifically for the walls and finishes in the room.
Sure, a colored ceiling, like navy blue or green, is trendy in color-washed rooms, such as this glorious green room below…
And while colored ceilings can be tempting, choosing your room’s best color isn’t for the faint of heart or an amateur color picker. On the other hand, neutrals, even those with serious undertones, can be more flexible for the average room. And of course, if you need help – YOU KNOW WHO TO CALL (actually, email is better, just sayin’).
CHECK OUT MY ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING