The Whitest White Paint Color is . . .
White walls, trim, doors, cabinets, ceilings – basically everything white is having quite a moment. Don’t know that I’d call it a trend because it’s not like white ever goes away.
It’s a timeless neutral that embeds easily into a range of diverse color schemes – because it’s white.
Some iteration of white is always relevant.
But in this moment, white as a wall color has escalated to more than just paint. Recalibrated by the most popular images on social media the expectation for what white is suppose to look like has been set to an extreme.
And that’s why so many are searching for the cleanest, most white white paint color.
Here’s the problem
I can tell you what white is the whitest out of all the major paint brands – and why – but it would take less than a minute.
The process is THAT simple, fast, and easy. No joke.
But Google and its SEO algorithms don’t like short posts. Which means I should milk this burning question for all it’s worth.
I promise to make this blog post as interesting as possible by interjecting some paint color insider info that maybe you didn’t know.
My point of view is it’s common sense to specify paint colors using the SAME COLOR SYSTEM that was used to make them in the first place.
We measure everything else in the built environment and color is no exception. It’s actually where paint colors come from.
Many think the formula, a list of colorants, is the genesis of paint colors. The fact is, all paint colors are born in theoretical color space.
Think about it – where does the formula come from? How do they know which colorants and how much of each? And how is it possible to size up from a quart to a gallon with the click of a button?
Those are questions many don’t think to ask but the answer is it’s all possible because of the magic of color science. Colorimetry.
Finding the Whitest White: What NOT To Do
Let’s discuss in detail the #1 thing NOT to do when trying to find the whitest white paint color and why.
Do you know what LRV is?
Not my dog.
After searching all of the interwebs, and maybe even skimming a couple color books or training manuals, perhaps you finally found my article and watched the video.
Both explained LRV simply and clearly.
LRV is actually just one data value out of several. There are more that are arguably more useful than LRV. In this post, we’ll use a set of those alternative numbers to find the whitest white paint color.
Knowing what NOT to do is as important as knowing what TO do. So, maybe it’s serendipitous that I need to write a longer post for Google and SEO.
The #1 Thing Not to do When Looking for the Whitest White Paint Color
Do not look at the list of colorants to try to determine anything about a paint color’s characteristics. This is especially true when trying to find the whitest white.
Using paint color formulas to determine how a color will behave is like trying to smell the color 9.
The chemistry involved, the consideration of the color of the paint base, the make-up of each colorant and how they all mix and interact is not only boring as hell, it’s also an exercise in futility.
It’s futile because of what Bruce MacEvoy over at handprint.com calls substance uncertainty.
“Unfortunately, the color mixture “predictions” made by subtractive color theory are often inaccurate, because the light absorbing properties of a colorant are affected by its physical state — its particle size, transparency, density, dispersion or medium, the color of the substrate, the other colorants it is mixed with, the thickness of the color layer, and so on. I call these problems substance uncertainty: because of them, the color of ingredient substances does not determine the color of their mixtures. Often, colorants must be physically mixed in order to find out what their mixture color will be.”
Chemistry Doesn’t Discriminate
What Bruce said applies to artist’s paints and architectural bases and colorants. Chemistry does not discriminate whether the mixture is for a can of architectural paint or an artist’s palette.
I learned a long time ago that characteristics of architectural colorants are not uniform and neither are cans of base paint.
Whiteness of paint bases varies brand to brand. Particle sizes within colorants also vary and some are more transparent than others.
Some colorants are simply stronger than others and will dominate in the mix.
There’s no way to predict which colorant – or what part of which colorant – will end up dominant or what will be completely overpowered and neutralized until you mix the color, let it dry, and look at it (or measure it).
Didn’t take me long to realize that the only thing that matters in architectural color is what the color *is* when it’s dry.
Time is Money
Repeat the paint color mixing process with the SAME substances eleventy-million times, and -sure- you might get to a point where you can predict what’s going to happen with the SAME set of bases and colorants you’ve been working with.
Anything is possible but it’s going to be long, drawn out, messy, and extremely fussy and for me, it was impossibly boring.
Which is yet another reason why I love colorimetry, it’s clean and simple. I don’t even break out paint chips until the end of my color workflow process.
There is zero fuss, zero mess and it’s fast which means I have more time to spend on my business. My clients, marketing, networking, social media, admin work.
To be honest, I’m just not the crafty type. Going to Home Goods, Michael’s or Hobby Lobby makes my teeth itch, the massive visual chaos of cheap tchotchkes is not my thing.
Delegating color mixing tasks to professionals who do it every day works better for me and my bottom line.
In order to stay profitable as an architectural color consultant, I think it’s smarter to leverage the tens of thousands of paint colors already mixed, measured for spectral data, tested for lightfastness, and weather.
No Jedi Mind Tricks
With all that said (you’re welcome Google algorithms), I will never tell you that you don’t need to learn something.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Mom to two boys, I dunno, but influencing you not to pursue something just because it’s not my thing isn’t on the agenda.
The Mom in me says your horizons are limitless! No boundaries! Go for it!
If I wasn’t confident in my color expertise and secure with what I have to share, it might not be so easy to encourage you in that direction.
So if mixing your own colors and learning about paint color formulas makes you happy, then you should do it.
Read as many books and take as many courses about color from as many different trainers as you as you can.
Time to Find the Whitest White
Of all the color training courses you could take, none of them would approach finding the whitest white paint color – or color in general – the way I’m about to show you.
Because color science, colorimetry, on its face appears super intimidating so it scares a lot of people. Even the word colorimetry sounds a little deep.
But it’s a lot less complicated than it looks.
LRV, for example, is easy to understand and use, we established that.
The good news is so are CIE L*a*b* values. The easiest is a Munsell hue, value and chroma notation because its simplicity makes it possible to paint colors in your head.
Color data values and Munsell notations are just numeric definitions and descriptions of a color’s DNA or fingerprint – if you’ve read previous blog posts, you’ve heard this before.
The color data values we need to search for the whitest white paint color are CIE L*a*b.
CIE L*a*b* is a color space that includes all the colors we can see plus colors that can’t be seen or made (yet). It includes a lot of colors and it’s often referred to as The Human Gamut of color.
Next, we need a massive color library of paint brands to search for the whitest white paint color.
My favorite is EasyRGB. No affiliation, they are simply a free online color resource that I trust and teach you how to use in Camp Chroma Online Training.
All I had to do on EasyRGB was enter the following CIE L*a*b* values to look for a color with a maximum L (lightness) value of 100 and no color. You can see the value entries in the screen capture below.
There are other ways to define white and whitest white. The “right way” depends on the application – what are you doing that you need to find the whitest white?
I chose to use Lab values because it’s the most relevant approach to architectural coatings and it’s also the quickest to understand.
Additionally, it’s easy to prove out by lining up white paint chips and seeing it for yourself. It’s a good idea to get chips any way because colors online aren’t accurate — especially true with white.
Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for….. (drum roll)
The result of my search for the whitest white paint color in easy-to-acquire paint brands is Behr’s Ultra Pure White #PP100.
You can get a sample pot of BEHR’s Ultra Pure White shipped to your door from The Home Depot.
That’s all there is to it. Told ya it was quick. Only thing left to do is summarize what we’ve discussed.
- Behr’s Ultra Pure White is the whitest white paint color out of all the brands included in the EasyRGB library. (D65 Illuminant, 2° observer)
- Color science, colorimetry, color data, color math whatever you choose to call it is no more difficult to understand and apply than LRV, light reflectance value.
- Google’s SEO algorithms can be a pain but are perhaps serendipitous after all. Suppose that depends on what you think of this post. (FYI, I have never once typed the word, “algorithms” without misspelling it.)
Why do you want to know what the whitest white paint color is? I’m curious, so do share.
Have you ever asked your paint store what the whitest white paint color is? What’d they tell ya?
What about reading paint color formulas to assess a color when it’s wet, not dry – brilliant strategy or am I totally out of line saying that it’s a tragic waste of time?
16 thoughts on “What is the Whitest White Paint Color”
Great article. I’m happy to learn that the color I have described to customers for several years now as “the whitest white” paint was indeed confirmed. I don’t have occasion to use it too often, but it is a great visual aid to show people if you need to explain how some really light Behr colors can have tint added to them, and still have the same or lower LRV as someone else’s plain white base.
I also find it useful if someone is doing white walls, but wants at least a slight contrast on their trim. Then it’s just Behr Ultra Pure White, straight out of the bucket.
What’s amazing though, in their ultra plus premium and marquee line, the colors can hold some serious chroma, and still cover pretty much in one coat. Not sure how they manage that, but I am in awe of the chemists who figure all that out!
Love this, no bias and very informative!
omg. I have asked at a paint store for their whitest white, and they said “this is our most popular white” and I said okay, great! Painted on the walls? CREAM. Why is getting a white white so difficult? I know there’s tones and it is all a light play, but still. If I ask for white I expect a white. Anyway – thank-you! I’m going Behr Hunting…
Can you tell me why the whitest white at Benjamin Moore is?
The top three whitest whites from Benjamin Moore are OC-68 Distant Gray, OC-66 Snow White, and OC-65 Chantilly Lace.
(CIELAB 100,0,0 – D65 Illuminant 2° Observer.)
What would you say is the whitest white at Sherwin Williams? Thanks
7757 High Reflective White. But it doesn’t come in all SW product so before you choose HRW, you need to verify if it’s available in the product you want to use.
7006 Extra White is the second most white and probably the easiest to get across SW products.
CIELAB 100, 0, 0 | D65 2°
Thanks for the information, I found it all very useful. I was searching for the brightest white to paint a sheet of wainscotting to use as a backsplash in my kitchen. I really want a bright glossy white so it stands out 🙂 I usually use Benjamin Moore paints but will check out Behr. Thanks again!
Benjamin Moore can match Behr and Sherwin Williams colors.
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We are debating the three whitest whites from BM, and I said that by the numbers, Distant Gray is the whitest, then Snow White, then Chantilly Lace. But when my boyfriend looked in the BM fandeck, Chantilly Lace looks the whitest, and the others look gray/blueish. They are all on the same strip.
Is this just because of the white background on the fandeck? Our lighting? I mean, how do I explain to someone that the samples they are seeing aren’t really the real numbers…? Wouldn’t they look the same on the walls if we painted all three on the wall? Why the difference?
Distant Gray and Chantilly Lace are similar.
CL’s hue family leans a little more over towards the Yellow Hue Family than Distant Gray. It also has a smidge more Chroma – which is yellowness – and Distant Gray doesn’t have it so CL looks brighter.
That brightness can translate to being perceived as more white – depending on the context.
Also we’re at 9.44/3 on the neutral Value pole. Not at the very top of it which is 10 pure white. Distant Gray is closer to that pole which is why it is grayer and Chantilly is farther away with more Chroma.
So Distant Gray is more neutral but Chantilly Lace looks more white because of its hue family and chroma.
LAB values work well to find the brightest colors with the least amount of color. But like I always say, you can’t color by numbers alone. Oftentimes there are things you need to unpack.
I ask for whitest white at local SW the response was ultra white base with no colorant added. Bought it and painted all my doors and trim. Now 3 years later we’re selling our house, we cleaned and touched up all of the white with new paint it matched perfectly with old.
There is an advantage to choosing an out-of-the-can color!
Please help! I have BM Oxford White painted in my main living areas. I also have southwest facing massive windows and honey oak wood floors. For a large part of the day the sun reflects off the floor and causing a cream and almost pink tone to the walls …. I can’t stand it! Would using a more true white help or do I need to use something with even more color to hide the reflection? I have no idea which way to go.
Wanted the whitest white since Purdue white is not available, I can’t find it. I have a white house so wanting to use a white, white paint.