The Top Gray Paint Colors Have This ONE THING in Common
Are you looking for a gray paint color that’s FLEXIBLE? One that suits a wide variety of exposures, tiles, countertops and finishes? Then you’re likely looking for grays with one BIG THING in common – a purple undertone.
Whether you like undertones or not, EVERY gray paint color has them. And when coordinating with most interior finishes, violet is HANDS-DOWN, the most versatile and COMMON undertone. Sure, there are some gorgeous blue or green-grays out there, but just because they get chosen often doesn’t necessarily make them the BEST choice, if you get what I’m sayin’.
So, if you’re looking for that PERFECT gray paint color, it might just be one of these…
1. BENJAMIN MOORE COLLINGWOOD OC 28
If you follow my blog or Instagram (drink the Kool-Aid, it’s goooood), you’re no stranger to Collingwood – I’ve been spouting about it for YEARS. Aside from its gorgeous violet undertone, another reason Collingwood is such a popular shade of gray is because of its LRV of 62, which sits RIGHT in my happy place.
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Collingwood
2. BENJAMIN MOORE BALBOA MIST OC 27
Balboa Mist is a WARM shade of gray. If you want an approach that’s a bit lighter than Collingwood, this one could hit the spot (don’t tell your hubby, though; he’s been looking for that spot for years). And with trends leaning warmer, warm grays like Balboa Mist will be more timeless (relatively speaking) than a traditional cool gray (for the average home).
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Balboa Mist
3. SHERWIN WILLIAMS ON THE ROCKS 7671
While Collingwood and Balboa Mist are more noticeably warm, On the Rocks seems to lean COOLER. However, while On the Rocks may look colder than its peers, it has a slightly more STORMY look and isn’t considered an icy cold gray.
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of On the Rocks
4. SHERWIN WILLIAMS CITY LOFT 7631
While I’ve yet to have many clients use City Loft (or send in their ‘after’ photos), it often comes up in my recommendations.
The ONLY photo I have is this next one, where my client sampled it with her maple cabinets (which have a subtle pink undertone). The subtle taupe warmth of City Loft does a great job of nodding towards this warmth without looking overly pink.
City Loft is a very gentle approach to gray and can even look a weeee wink taupe with its warmth. And while it certainly has undertones (all grays do), they’re pretty, gentle, and WELL-suited to many interior finishes. City Loft’s LRV is 70, parking it in the perfect place between off-white and light. As the Late Great Goldilocks once said…it’s juuuuust right.
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of City Loft
5. BENJAMIN MOORE NIMBUS 1465
Nimbus is a great gray for those who don’t know whether they want a warm or cool shade. While Nimbus IS a warm gray, it’s super passive and less noticeable than in Collingwood and Balboa Mist, making it appear a bit cooler in comparison.
Nimbus is a gorgeous choice for the above bathroom with its marble-look flooring and navy blue vanity.
Remember, EVERY gray paint color has undertones – find the one that BEST suits your interior finishes (I bet it’s purple/violet).
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Nimbus
6. SHERWIN WILLIAMS ALPACA 7022
Alpaca is on the HEAVIER side of the light range and has a purple undertone. This is for those whose finishes (or personal preferences) lean into a more noticeable violet undertone without going over the top.
By the way, has anyone ever even SEEN an Alpaca with gray-purple hair? I know I haven’t.
Alpaca and Nimbus are reasonably similar, but Nimbus has a touch more warmth and a touch less undertone.
OH, WE AREN’T DONE YET! I’m just getting started.
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Alpaca
7. BENJAMIN MOORE SMOKE EMBERS 1466
Again, another Barney-inspired beauty. And thanks to that big purple dinosaur, purple/violet has a bad rap. HUMOUR me when I say that gray with a violet undertone could be the best thing that’s ever happened to you and your home (other than me – wink wink).
Smoke Embers is stunning. Coming in darker and cooler than Alpaca, Smoke Embers has an LRV of 51.44, meaning it has a bit more meat on its bones than the average popular gray paint color. This depth means that this slightly moodier shade of gray more meat on its bones compared to the average popular gray paint color. This depth makes Smoke Embers a great option for the exterior of a home, walls, and even kitchen cabinets.
FAR LEFT – Smoke Embers
And while Smoke Embers is positioned underneath Nimbus in the fan deck, you’ll see that along with its increased depth; Smoke Embers can look a touch cooler and more purple.
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Smoke Embers
8. SHERWIN WILLIAMS KNITTING NEEDLES 7672
When it comes to gray exteriors (and some interiors), Knitting Needless can be a GORGEOUS choice. With its subtle purple/violet hue and ability to flex with varying exposures, Knitting Needles is one of my go-to’s when doing Color Consulting.
Sure, it looks cooler than most of the other gray shades on this page, but as shown on this exterior (above and below), it can pick up a BEAUTIFUL softness.
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Knitting Needles
9. SHERWIN WILLIAMS LIGHT FRENCH GRAY 0055
Why doesn’t Light French Gray get as much attention as the others?
If you ask me, it’s because of its placement in the fan deck. Many of the more POPULAR shades of gray are closer together, around pages 235-245. Light French Gray is jammed way in the front, near the bottom of page 205. Wait a minute; you didn’t actually ask me this question; I only answered it for myself. Is it just me that wonders about these things?
Light French Gray shiplap/Pure White walls/pre-fab vanity
Light French Gray is friggin’ FABULOUS. Sure, it humors a mild violet undertone, but it’s fractional at best. HOWEVER, whereas some grays like this pick up a blue or green undertone – Light French Gray stays pretty darn neutral. Its depth/LRV sits in the high end of the light-medium range, making Light French Gray great for many applications, including cabinets, walls and exteriors.
Thank you to all of my clients who send in their photos!
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Light French 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 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
10. BENJAMIN MOORE SILVER SATIN OC-26
In this next photo, it’s tough to get a read on Silver Satin (in the dining area) due to the amount of natural light. Remember, colors with higher LRVs (like Silver Satin’s 74.9) can wash out with too much natural light.
Comparing Silver Satin to the white of the table in this next photo is a great way to get a feel for its approach…
Silver Satin is an off-white WARM gray paint color. While it’s not as warm as Classic Gray, they share a mild tendency towards a violet undertone.
And because I can’t even stop myself, here’s a good shot of Classic Gray in action – IT’S SO STINKIN’ PRETTY…
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Silver Satin
THE BEST DARK GRAY PAINT COLORS WITH VIOLET/PURPLE UNDERTONES
While the top eight colors focus on the lighter end of things, there’s a great demand for darker grays, especially on cabinets, feature walls and exteriors.
Check out how this next home is updated with a BEAUTIFUL shade of gray-violet…
Remember, EVERY gray has undertones of blue, violet or green (or a blend). And while in the darker end, there’s often more demand for grays with a blue-violet undertone, this doesn’t mean gray-violets don’t have a solid place.
11. SHERWIN WILLIAMS DOVETAIL 7018
Like my ability to burp my friends’ full names, I bring Dovetail up with much joy.
Dovetail filled a spot that was previously unfilled. Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray can go green, Metropolis (coming up next) is sometimes TOO warm, and well, as far as ‘reasonably neutral darker warm grays go’, Dovetail is the best.
HOWEVER, While it certainly nods at the ‘gray-purple’ category and often does the job, I wouldn’t say it’s SUUUUUPER committed to purple. I can’t say that Dovetail commits HARD one way or another, but it’s worth mentioning as I often recommend it alongside Metropolis.
My next client did a great job updating this fireplace surround with Dovetail, updating the look of her beige tile surround and brown hearth…
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Dovetail
12. BENJAMIN MOORE METROPOLIS CC 546
Metropolis is one of my LONG-TIME faves. Its violet undertone suits a MUCH wider range of countertops (compare to many other dark grays), especially those from the early 2000s. And while it might not as popular as Dovetail, it’s perfect if your space needs a bit more warmth and commitment to violet.
While this next bathroom doesn’t have older granite countertops, it still shows what a stunner Metropolis is…
With its moody plum-inspired hues, Metropolis is also great for exterior palettes…
Here’s another shot in a bit more natural-looking light. It’s LOVIN’ on that beige brick and helping it look way more updated in partnership with the stonework…
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Metropolis
13. SHERWIN WILLIAMS POLISHED CONCRETE 9167
If your home’s finishes call for a more noticeable violet undertone, Sherwin Williams Polished Concrete could hit the sweet spot.
This next photo is a close-up of the before and after shown earlier…
Polished Concrete is a medium-depth WARM gray with a violet undertone. Compared to Metropolis, Polished Concrete is lighter and flashes a little more violet.
You’ll see an even more noticeable difference between Polished Concrete and Dovetail. In comparison, Polished Concrete shows how neutral Dovetail can look (along with a lower LRV).
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE of Polished Concrete
And while there is a HECK of a lot more beautiful gray-violets out there, at some point, I have to stop talking/typing.
POPULAR GRAY-PURPLE-RELATED QUESTIONS
WHY DOES MY GRAY PAINT COLOR LOOK PURPLE?
Because it has purple undertones – there is no TOTALLY neutral gray. And while some grays are more neutral than others, a soft purple or violet undertone is one of the most complimentary colors to a wide range of interior finishes!
WHAT’S THE MOST POPULAR GRAY WITH PURPLE UNDERTONES?
Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist and Classic Gray are two of the most popular gray-violets. Sherwin Williams Repose Gray and Agreeable Gray are also popular, but neither are very COMMITTED to violet, meaning they can also pick up a wink of green undertone.
IS A GRAY WITH A VIOLET OR PURPLE UNDERTONE THE SAME AS A LAVENDER UNDERTONE?
While these three words are often seen as interchangeable, lavender is more often a slightly cooler violet/purple hue, one that leans slightly into blue (violet-blue). MOST of the popular gray-purples lean into a warm violet (violet-pink) undertone.
WHICH GRAY HAS THE LEAST PURPLE UNDERTONE?
If you’re looking for a gray with only a WEE wink of violet, Sherwin Williams Light French Gray could be a great option.
CHECK OUT MY ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING!