Picking White Paint

Paint my chicken coop!!!!!

– Abe Simpson

As the loft progressed, we decided to try soft white walls in the bedroom and reading room. I want to bask in all the fresh light.

But white paint is tricksy. What if it comes out too yellow? What if it’s too sterile? What if thinking about minor differences in paint colors is a control mechanism engineered by our insect overlords to distract us from impending doom? What if it looks dingy?!

seal in a dinghy

Dingy dinghy

I spent some quality time with Google, and found a gajillion opinions on white paint. Some articles list considerations for picking the right one:

And various interior decor blogs provide some good, brand-specific recommendations for different situations:

  • The Best White Paint Colors (from Kelly & Olive: “moonlight white OC-125 [Benjamin Moore] – a great white for more traditional homes where you may want the clean fresh feel of white walls [with] natural green undertones.”)
  • Ten Tried and True Decorating Rules (in Southern Living; Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Bierman: “When you just want a room to be “warm white,” meaning not too yellow or too peachy or too anything else, then go with Benjamin Moore Ivory White (925). . . . I’ve already done enough agonizing for everyone.”)
  • My Favorite White Paints (from The Hunted Interior; mainly warm-white faves including Moore’s White Dove, F&B Pointing, and SW’s Dover White and Alabaster)

The research helped–soon, I was down to either Benjamin Moore’s Moonlight White…

Benjamin Moore OC-125 Moonlight White

Benjamin Moore OC-125 Moonlight White

or Sherwin Williams’ Alabaster.

Alabaster (Sherwin Williams 7008)

Alabaster (Sherwin Williams 7008)

I also grabbed SW Dover White because everyone swears it’s delightful.

wpc dover white sw 6385

Dover White (Sherwin Williams 6385)

You can’t tell much from blobs on a monitor. Typically, I would buy several samples and paint them on boards or walls to compare (Kev calls this “when you paint stuff the same color and ask me to choose”). This time, though, I picked up (with paint shop permission) several chips of each white and taped them together into approximately s 7″ x 9″ sheet. This method is not the same as a fresh sample, but it’s close enough, especially since designers love these colors for being bullet-proof.

Kev held his tongue, but I agree that the samples looked pretty dang close, regardless of location or light. The camera did not capture the samples well, but here’s the Dover White:


It’s just a little too yellow. With all the shadows and skylight angles, it has dinginess potential in our space.

To choose between the others, I went to EasyRGB.com. They have a “similar colors” page that allows you to pull up any shade and compare it against other brands the site covers.

easyrgb screen

The site shows the closest comparables on a grid. I started with Moonlight White, and…

easyrgb comparison

…it’s not just me — they really are very similar. I flipped a coin and picked Alabaster, which I bought in SW’s “Cashmere” paint. Cashmere self-levels for a nice finish (they say). Four gallons of that, and one gallon of the regular Super Paint in semi-gloss for the trim.

Totally too fancypants for us, but that's SW Alabaster on the walls. Looks good! (via)
Too fancypants for us, but that’s Alabaster on the walls. (via)

Now we just need to find time to paint (and to report back)!

If you are shopping Sherwin Williams, remember that they are always offering a coupon or having a sale. They had a 35% anniversary sale when I bought most of the paint; when I went back for more, they were having a 30% event. Don’t pay full price!

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5 Responses to Picking White Paint

  1. Su Fox says:

    Who knew there’s no such thing as White paint??? It’s alabaster, white of the eye, second cumulus cloud on the right or grandmother’s wash day sheets! Selecting a white paint is a daunting task these days!! Wow.

  2. marie says:

    you are a braver person than I! not sure if this is common for all lab-friendly households (definitely common in my coworker pool), but there’s this dog-high smear that emerges over time…. Can’t wait to see the reveal – at least I can fantasize about crisp white spaces!

    also, I find that the coverage estimates on the SW can are a little low for new, primed, drywall. what’s your experience?

    • Stacey says:

      I do always seem to need more paint, but I’m not far enough along yet to tell if that will be the case this time. Probably, though — I’m a messy painter!

      I hope you see this (I’m really behind on comments and, well, EVERYTHING), because I completely misunderstood your comment about lab-friendly households at first — I thought you meant people who work in labs, and I thought, “But they keep white coats clean, so….?” I love labs — if we had a dog, that’s definitely the direction we would go breed-wise. The cats are more of a menace to upholstery than walls.

  3. I spend MANY moons agonizing over white paint samples (months, years?) and the opinions of the people of the internet before settling on BM “Swiss Coffee”. Mind you I bought 2 gallons no less than 2 days before BM picked Simply White as the 2016 color of the year. I swiftly broke into a panic and hysteria thinking that just maybe I should have picked Simply White instead. I just got coat one on the hallway and so far I think I made the right choice (it helps having all the other sample covered over as so I do not recall what they even looked like, thus putting me slightly as ease). I just want to put this whole thing out of my mind and never think of it again. Also, I do agree that photographing white paint samples is clearly impossible.

    • Stacey says:

      I looove Swiss Coffee and it always looks wonderful in photos. I bet it will look fabulous. I know what you mean about Simply White and paint color forecasts generally. Shut up, paint companies! I figure those forecasts are based as much on what raw materials for tints they purchased too much of as anything. Or at least that’s my rationalization!

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