Choosing The Right Neutral - Neutral Paint Colors

DIY Blogger Kate Riley of Centsational Girl tells Glidden® how identifying the undertones of your neutral can help you make the right selection that will coordinate with your room.

People choose neutrals on their walls for several reasons- sometimes to create a sense of serenity, other times to allow the furnishings and accessories to take the spotlight. Whatever your reason for choosing neutrals, the task of picking just the right one is not as simple as picking up what looks like beige, gray, or taupe on a swatch. Every neutral has an identifiable undertone. It may not be readily apparent when you look at the chip alone, it may be obvious, but the trick is to choose the best neutral with the right undertone for your space. 



In design, neutrals typically mean shades of beige, gray and taupe. All neutrals have undertones which can include shades of blue, yellow, green, red and violet—and sometimes they’re incompatible with other colors or decor. Knowing the formula for the color can often tell you the undertone, and how your neutral will look against other furnishings in your space. The best way to properly determine the undertones in your selection is to compare your top color choices to one another in both the natural and artificial light of the space in which you plan to paint the walls.  It is only after comparing your samples next to each other that you can determine the presence of undertones. 

In a recent playroom makeover, the design included bright pops of green and blue in the furnishings and fabrics. With those cool colors in mind, the task was to find a neutral beige that didn’t lean towards yellow or red, but rather one that translated as more gray, like a pale taupe—one that would be the perfect neutral to play backdrop to the fresh layers of color intended for the playful space. By testing various samples of Glidden® paint on the walls. I determined the perfect beige- not too yellow and not too red brown. It’s amazing how different seemingly similar colors look when you put them next to each other like this.

Once you’ve identified the colors’ undertones, it’s important to then compare the choices against the fixed elements in the space, such as the carpet, flooring, or larger furnishings to ensure you don’t pick a neutral that will read as “off” against the other choices for the room. A yellow beige will not look right when placed against a red beige, so always compare the undertones against each other before deciding on wall color to complement the fixed furnishings or flooring.

The same concept was used in the choice of Sand White in this playroom space. The neutral beige was chosen after comparison to the similar shade in the sofa. Plus, up on the wall the beige pairs well with the cool blues and greens in the wall map, and plays nicely with the tan leather sofa.



The next time you’re choosing a neutral for your walls be sure to:
1) compare it with similar samples to identify the undertones and
2) make sure the furnishings and fixed elements complement rather than compete with your chosen neutral for the wall. You’ll be well on your way to choosing the perfect neutral for your home!

Kate Riley

Kate Riley writes daily about her adventures in decorating and DIY projects on her blog Centsational Girl. Kate’s designs have been featured in Better Homes & Gardens and on The Nate Berkus Show.