How to Choose the Perfect White Paint

  • Jul 11, 2023

I recently had the opportunity to pick out some white paint for my home and I was mind-boggled by the choices available in the paint catalogue, to say the least. I mean, why are there so many options? Isn’t white paint just well, white? WRONG.

To brush up on my knowledge of paints and specifically on white paints, I reached out to Shelly Chan, marketing manager at Nippon Paint Singapore for help. Being part of one of the most prominent paint brands in Singapore, there’s really no better choice to ask for paint assistance.

From choosing the appropriate undertone to selecting the best white paint finish, she shares with us all the necessary things you need to know right here. 

Natural light and your home’s lighting are most definitely going to affect how your white paints appear

A cool white will not stay as a cool colour under warm lighting, asserts Ms Chan. So it’s really important to decide if you are going to use warm or cool lighting in your home first before choosing white paints.

View the paint in a specific room under different lighting conditions before deciding. Below, we show how six of Nippon Paint's white shades appear under the different lights:

The paints under cool light.

The paints under warm light.

Notice how different the white paints look under a cool light and a warm light? Simply White, Ash White and Mobe Pearl are considered cool tones, whereas Cotton White, Whispering White and Tender Loving are considered warm tones. (More on that later.)

For natural light, observe how the white paint looks at different times of the day and see how the colour transforms. Decide if you like how the colour looks no matter what time you are looking at it.

Make sure you are testing in the room you are planning to paint in, as the amount of daylight coming through can differ depending on the room and the sun's direction.

How the shades look in the morning.

The same shades in the same area in the late afternoon.

When there is ample natural daylight in a room, Ms Chan recommends opting for a more robust and striking white shade to avoid it looking too washed out.

Learn the differences between warm and cool tones

When we talk about warm and cool tones for white paint, we are referring to the undertones present in the paint. Warm whites tend to have subtle tinges of yellow, cream, or beige, giving a cosy and inviting feel, while cool whites have hints of blue, grey, or green, which lend a fresh and crisp look to a space.

Simply White is a cool tone, whereas Tender Loving is a warm tone.

While it ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the mood you wish to create in your home, Ms Chan shares a few handy tips to keep in mind as you make your decision on what type of paint to go for:

  1. The existing elements in the room (e.g. flooring, furniture, and decor pieces): If you have warm-toned elements like wooden furniture, warm white paint serves as a great complement.
  2. Lighting in the room (as mentioned earlier): Notice how they look against different light conditions.
  3. Purpose of the room: For areas where you want to relax and unwind, such as bedrooms, warm white tones can create a soothing and inviting atmosphere. Cool white tones are often favoured for spaces like kitchens and bathrooms, as they can provide a clean and refreshing vibe.

Design: Apex Studios

How to identify the undertones of a white paint

Undertones are subtle hints of colour that can influence the overall look and feel of a room. To identify the undertone of paint, compare paint samples with a true white reference point e.g. a piece of white paper. This side-by-side comparison will help spot any subtle hints in colour.

See how the yellowish undertones of the Whispering White shade become more pronounced when a white sheet of paper is placed next to it.

Paint colours can be mixed using various colorants though so some white paints may not have a single undertone colour. What’s more important is to view the colour in the ambient light you’ll be using and ask yourself if it’s an acceptable and comfortable colour.

Design: Goodman Interior

Pay attention to the paint sheen

Matte finishes tend to be flat and non-reflective, offering a velvety look that can soften the overall appearance of white paint. It also exudes a more subtle and elegant aesthetic, perfect for interior design styles such as modern Victorian.

Design: Ovon Design

Glossy finishes offer a sleek and reflective surface and can make your white paint pop with vibrancy. It creates a smooth and polished look that would do well in highlighting architectural details. The downside to glossy surfaces though is that can also call attention to imperfections, so you'll want to prep your surface really well before using them.

Tips on painting white in a small space

Most people would know that white paint is great for small spaces as it can create an illusion of openness and make the space bigger than it actually is. Opting for white paint with a hint of warmth can also add some depth.

Design: Lemonfridge Studio

Another trick Ms Chan advocates for is to use the same white paint colour on both the walls and the ceiling. By eliminating visual boundaries and creating a seamless transition between surfaces, this technique can give the impression of a larger, more continuous space.

Should you use the same white paint throughout?

Design: Ultra Space Design

Use the same white paint throughout the home if you are planning to adopt an open floor plan, says Ms Chan. This can give your home the sense of flow and unity it needs in the absence of walls as dividers. However, using different white shades can create additional depth and interest, and it’s a good choice to use different whites for different purposes, or even to highlight certain architectural features in the home.

Testing paints out before committing

With Nippon Paint, you can use their paint catalogue or thousand-colour fan deck (available at some hardware stores) and bring it to their stores to hold up the different paint swatches against different lighting. Nippon Paint’s latest Colour My World paint catalogue is available for download here.

Alternatively, you can download the Nippon Paint Colour Visualizer app where you can select, paint and visualise the colours on your home pictures from your smartphone.

If you are really unsure of a particular paint though, we would recommend purchasing their smaller 1-litre tins to test things out on your walls first.

On maintenance and keeping white walls looking clean and fresh

Dust: Create a regular cleaning routine of using a soft cloth or a microfibre duster to remove dust from the walls. To avoid damaging your paint, steer clear of using abrasive materials or harsh cleaning solutions.

Use Soap: For dirtier walls, consider a cleaner like Selleys Sugar Soap. Recipe: Add 1/2 cup of Sugar Soap to 5L of water and using a clean cloth, soak in the solution, wring off excess and clean the walls. 

Good Ventilation: Want pristine white walls forever? Proper ventilation is key, says Ms Chan. “Good airflow helps prevent the build-up of moisture, which can lead to the growth of mould or mildew on your walls.”

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