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What Nobody Tells You About White Paint Colors

Reader input continues to pour in regarding the Benjamin Moore colors mentioned in the blog post about BenM incorporating hue/value/chroma.

I didn’t realize how much confusion was out there swirling around about different colors of white. Some of the links readers provided go back several years. Most of the links are to blogs written by interior designers, DIY enthusiasts, How-To Handy Persons, folks like that. In addition, a link to another Benjamin Moore “The Right White” video from 2012 (that’s since been deleted) was included.

All of the reader questions and the examples they sent have one thing in common. Which is opinions about different colors of white are all over the place. One reader was particularly frustrated with the advice she found on the interwebs about Chantilly Lace.

I’ll use Chantilly Lace OC-65 as the example for the rest of this blog post.

After checking out the links she sent, I understand why. The 2012 BenM Video mentioned above says Chantilly Lace is pink. An interior designer blogger says it has gray in it making it “perfectly neutral” while another blogger puts it definitively in the green category. Those are just three examples.

What we’re dealing with in each example is subjective color opinion.

We have no idea WHY these different sources are labeling Chantilly Lace the way they’re labeling it. WHY does the lady in the BenM video think it’s pink? WHY does the interior designer blogger think it has gray in it? WHY does the other blogger think it has “green undertones”?

Why? None of them qualifies how they arrived at their conclusions about Chantilly Lace.

We’re left to assume, and it’s a safe assumption, that’s just what Chantilly Lace looks like according to their eyeballs.

Here’s why that’s a problem A really, really BIG problem.

Color acuity.

This brings a bunch more questions to the table. How old are these eyeballs making these color calls — 20, 30, 40 years old? What are the conditions in which they’re viewing these colors? Inside their house, out on their porch, in light box? Where do they live geographically and what’s the quality of light at their latitude? I could go on but I’ll stop because I think you get the gist.

Somebody else’s opinion about a paint color isn’t worth a damn thing. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Because it is subjective and totally hinged on individual color acuity. Color acuity, which may or may not qualify as accurate.

Here’s the color notation for Chantilly Lace, 2.44 GY/9.43/0.27. The Green-Yellow hue family and its chroma is super low at 0.27. Super low chroma means it’s not very colorful. However, just because it’s not very colorful doesn’t mean it’s neutral, doesn’t mean it’s “white”. This image from a previous blog post about color systems shows a range of whites from different hue families. (color notations are from The Master Palette)

Whites from Different Hue Families

You may be wondering how I arrive at my conclusions about white paint colors. Primarily, I rely on the color notations that we do ourselves here at The Land of Color and whiteness standards. Standard ASTM E-313, for example, is particularly helpful in defining whiteness, near-whites, and off-whites.

We’ll be offering modules about whiteness over at Camp Chroma in the near future that will go in to greater detail about how color notations and standards are used together to qualify and quantify colors of white.

Awareness of color notations and a whiteness standard isn’t something your regular, every day blogger would know about. So, it makes sense to cut them a little slack and show some understanding that they’re doing the best they can with what they have to work with. Because after all it’s not like bloggers are color experts and it’s not fair to expect them to be. They’re just writing about their own personal color experiences.

My response to all the reader questions about the inconsistent color advice they find out there in blogosphere is to think about the source of the information. You have to take responsibility for the content you consume and make the distinction between expert color inputs and well-meaning but random color opinion. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t depend on the paint industry either. Anybody can use the title of color expert and the paint industry, as well as others, don’t have the wherewithal to qualify what is or is not a color expert; their approach is heavily slanted towards color marketing and spokesperson-type entertainers/presenters.

Our focus every single day is to ensure what we offer here at The LoC is accurate and as extraordinary as it is useful.

We appreciate all the color freaks that choose to hang out with us. Be sure to check out The Color DNA table subscription where you can get access to a sortable table with all the key color attribute information (Hue/Value/Chroma/LRV) for all the colors of white from all major paint brands.

Also, if you sign up for our mailing list (look for the widget) we’ll send you bulletins when new stuff goes up here at The LoC and Camp Chroma.

You really can do this! Read these other blog posts and add to your color skill set.

  1. Bringing Perspective to Undertones
  2. Color Order Systems are Like…
  3. Learn How to Use a Paint Color Order System Now
  4. How To Master Overtones
  5. Etymology of the Term Overtone
  6. Color Overtones Review
  7. Does Color Math Scare You?

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