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White Paint Undertones – White and Neutral Spectrum Paint Colours Explained

Paint Undertones, Neutral Tones

Updated 2020

It’s time to do the great 2021 home refresh.  The colours may have changed but the plan is the same.  Stick with neutrals and white paint for the main areas.  But why does your current white paint feel…dated?  Surely white is white, right?  Hahahaha.  Anyone who has ever stood in front of a Dulux chart trying to pick white paint knows that there are eleventy billion shades of white and they all make a different impact on the final design.  The neutral spectrum is a complex painting beast.  Every undertone changes the “feel” of the room and getting it right can make a big difference to your finished product.


Know your Neutral Spectrum Undertones

All white is white?  Nope.  Your neutral colour determines how a room is sensed.  When you enter a room, consciously or not, you get a “sense” of how the room feels.  Does it feel comfortable?  Is it strikingly elegant?  Is it warm and inviting or cool and crisp?  You don’t consciously ask yourself these questions every time you enter a room (how tiring would that be!) instead, you sense it.  You feel it.  It alters your mood, just a touch – you mentally adjust to your surroundings without even knowing it.  And that… all starts with your choice of neutrals.


Red/pink undertones

PInk Undertoned Neutral Paint - Parchment Paper Colour in high demand

Red undertones give out a warm feel and in very bright light can show a faint pink tinge to the walls. White and beige paint often have these undertones.  Right now you’ll see the Dulux colour Parchment Paper popping up everywhere.  Clay Pipe is another big seller.  These are warm and mildly “pinky” colours that are perfect for a warm cosy nook by the fire or to add a little warmth to a brightly lit room.  Pink is one of those colours that really, really pop when on the walls so don’t be tempted to go “pinker” if you’re after a neutral feel to a room.  A little pink goes a very, very long way.

Yellow/ochre underones

Boho Chic Paint Colours - Warm Yellow and Ochre Tints Making a big Come Back in 2021

A cream or ivory ‘theme’ will be the result when yellow/ochre is added. Soft and warm, this delicate shade will welcome you into a room.  Yellow tones are popular with the Boho set right now and also pop up in antique and mid-century design.  Warm, aged, retro colours never really go out of style and with designers falling in love with timber furniture once again, there’s plenty of room for yellow and ochre toned paints in 2021.

Blue/grey undertones

Blue Grey Neutral Spectrum Undertones

Blue/grey undertones radiate a cool and an elegant feel; they are often used in grey and white paint. Depending on the actual undertone colour used in grey, don’t just add white paint to ‘water it down’ is it is a darker shade than you want. If blue has been used as an undertone your paint will end up more blue than grey.  Blue and grey have enjoyed a very good decade with the whole Hamptons craze that has been persistent in design circles.  As Hamptons begins to disappear as a design trend, we’re seeing blue and grey undertones hold their place in contemporary design, supporting heavier greys and dark features walls.  We’re even seeing some “play” with these cooler neutral colours on the walls, accented by warm browns and pink undertoned colours.  Like everything else on the planet, paint colours are in for a wild ride in the 2020s!

Purple/mauve undertones to neutral paint

Purple Undertoned Paint for Industrial Design

Purple paint on walls sounds counter-intuitive, right?  Actually purple undertones are the secret weapons of interior decorators going for that New York Loft chic look or the glass and steel industrial feel.  Purple undertones have both warm and cool colour options.  Unlike pinks that make for a warm feel in the room, purple can spark a “cool” feeling when used with glass and metal or you can go slightly warmer on the spectrum to create a warm, elegant grey tone.   Like other undertones, the answer is always, less is more.  Too much purple undertone and you may end up with regrets.


Green undertones


Green Trends in Paint - Green Undertones for crisp bright homes

A neutral colour with green undertone can be either warm or cool – it just depends on the mix that is used.  And it can give you that light bright, natural feel, or it can make you feel like you’re walking down a hospital corridor (remember the “landlord green” trend of the 90s… never go back!)  Green undertones are as diverse as green iteslf.  There’s the fab 70s, yellow-heavy lime green, right through to the deep blue-green that accompanied maroon in every 90s paint scheme.  Avocado variations have been the go-to in green undertoned paint for the past few years.  Natural is on point for 2021.  House plants, browns and greens, fresh summer colours – designers are flocking to green feature walls and neutrals to give homes that “in touch with nature” feeling.


Navigating the White and Neutral Spectrum


Swatches swatches swatches.  Swatches have the benefit of laying it all out, side by side so you can see the subtle differences in undertones.  Once you’ve got yourself a shortlist, it’s on to sample pots.  The biggest mistake novice painters make with neutrals is failing to underestimate just how powerful they are on the wall.  Despite being, well neutral, they make up most of your design motif.  They become the “subconscious feeling” that you sense when you walk into a room.  Neutrals, sample pots – and, our own secret weapon – interior decorator advice.  Yes, Interior Decorators in Perth cost more than your first home… but AJ Cochrane has a certified colour consultant on hand to help you make the right choice.   It’s all part of our service, a service we’ve provided for generations.

Talk to professional Perth painters like us about your neutrals, your bolds, your ceilings, you know, we’re even happy to talk about your mould prevention… we’re just chatty like that.

Contact AJ Cochrane & Sons for some friendly painting advice.


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