Gray has quickly overtaken both white and beige as the most popular neutral color - and for good reason. Many people find white to be a tad bit too sterile (as in boring). And although beige is a warm and beautiful color, consumers have used it so much that they’re experiencing “beige fatigue.”
Gray, on the other hand, is like a breath of fresh air, and works well with any design style. Warm grays, cool grays, neutral grays, light grays, dark grays – they’re all currently in vogue.
However, it can be overwhelming trying to choose just the right shade of gray for your projects, whether you're painting a room, or looking for the best paint for a furniture flip. We enlisted color experts from three of the largest paint colors in the world to help explain how to select just the right gray color – and they also agreed to provide a few recommendations.
The best warm gray paint colors
Warm gray paints have undertones of brown, taupe, or pink and typically have a more traditional feel to them. Here, the color experts we talked to each shared a favorite shade.
HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams Agreeable Gray
The right warm gray color is both soft and neutral. Ashley Banbury, senior color designer for HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams, tell us that one of the company’s most warm gray shades is Agreeable Gray HGSW3467. “It’s perfect when you want a shade with lots of versatility to work with various color schemes or you just want to keep things clean and simple.”
Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray
According to Hannah Yeo, color marketing and development manager at Benjamin Moore, Edgecomb Gray HC-173 is one of her favorite warm grays. “Richer than most off-white colors, this easy-to-use neutral color creates a soft backdrop without looking too stark or cold,” she tells us.
PPG Hiker’s Paradise
Amy Donato, PPG senior color marketing manager, recommends PPG’s Hiker’s Paradise (PPG0998-2). “It is a modern, warm greige that looks elegant on the walls of a bedroom, kitchen or living room,” she tells us. Donato also recommends paring Hikers Paradise with an even lighter, softer gray like PPG’s Rabbit Ear (PPG0999-2).
The best cool gray paint colors
Cool gray paint colors, on the other hand, have a more modern vibe thanks to steelier tones. These three picks are a perfect jumping off point.
PPG Fresh Granite
A cool gray can help to create a peaceful and calming environment. Donato recommends PPG’s Fresh Granite (PPG0997-3), which she calls a stormy gray that is reminiscent of cool concrete. “It is an impeccable paint color for living room walls, an accent wall, in hallways, among other spaces,” she explains. “If you want to make a marvelous first impression with guests, paint your fireplace PPG’s Fresh Granite and then paint the mantle and/or the main walls PPG’s Delicate White (PPG1001-1).”
Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
For Yeo, Stonington Gray HC-170 is the perfect cool gray paint color and she says it’s one of Benjamin Moore’s most popular neutral paint colors. “Traditional yet modern, Stonington Gray is a cool gray with a slight hint of blue undertone.” Also, Yeo says cool grays are popular for exteriors as well.
HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ Passive
To create a comfortable and calming environment, Banbury recommends HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ Passive HGSW1487. “Use this sophisticated cool gray when you are looking for a neutral that complements other gray shades, blues or greens.”
The best gray trim colors
Highlighting architectural details is a good use for gray trim. “Create contrast with your wall color with a darker shade of gray to bring out molding or millwork,” Yeo say. “For the best result, select a gray that shares similar undertone as your wall color.”
HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ Pussywillow
If you want to paint your trim gray, Banbury recommends a shade that can create contrast while remaining a nice neutral. “HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ Pussywillow HGSW1494 is a perfect option since it’s a shade that can create a soft contrast with enough neutral undertones to complement the wall color.”
PPG’s Shining Scale
Donato says you could painting the trim, doors and ceiling with an off-white or white color and then use PPG’s Shining Scale, a very pale gray-white, for the main walls for additional visual interest in the space.
The best gray paint colors for small spaces
Landing on the right gray is even more important in a small space, since the color will make a bigger impact. Plus, the shade you choose can actually make a room feel larger (or smaller) than it really is. These picks are great bets.
Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray
If you plan on painting a small space gray, Yeo warns that cooler colors are known to recede. “Consider light and cool grays such as Benjamin Moore’s Wickham Gray HC-171 or Bunny Gray 2124-50.” Lighter colors can make a small space appear to be larger and also taller, even if the ceiling is lower.
PPG’s Shining Scale
Donato again recommends PPG’s Shining Scale (PPG0996-1) to help create the illusion that a room is larger than it really is. “It is a perfect paint color for a main interior wall and looks gorgeous with off-white and white trim.”
HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ Gray Screen
Banbury agrees that a light color can make a room feel open and airy. HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ Gray Screen HGSW1467 is a light gray that can reflect enough light to make a room feel more open and larger."
The best gray paint colors for faking natural light
If you need to paint a room that doesn’t get a lot (or even any) natural light, you’ll want a gray color that can brighten the space, like these picks.
HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams Olympus White
“Don’t be deceived by its name, Olympus White HGSW1447 by HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams is a cool gray with a white undertone,” Banbury explains. And since it has a high reflectance quality, she says it can create illusion of more natural light in space – and this makes the room feel lighter and brighter.
Donato recommends PPG’s Shark (PPG1006-2), which is a veiled gray that she says can help lighten up a room.
Benjamin Moore Classic Gray
What about the best neutral gray paint colors?
There’s a dizzying array of gray colors, so Yeo recommends narrowing your choices to warm and cool grays, since gray changes hues depending on the light in that environment. “As a result, one gray may look perfectly neutral in one room but quickly turns warm/cool in another,” Yeo explains. “I like to recommend starting with Edgecomb Gray HC-173 and Stonington Gray HC-170 to see which color looks closer to the perfect gray, then adjust from there.” She uses Collingwood OC-28 in her own home.
And don’t forget that grays can sway warm or cool. “A room with northern light tends to reveal more of a paint colors’ blue and green undertones, so many homeowners opt for a warmer gray in those spaces,” Yeo says. “Southern facing light is typically more flattering, opening the door for a wider range of grays in your space.”
Banbury agrees that neutral gray colors can have many personalities. “HGTV Home by Sherwin-Willams’ Repose Gray HGSW3477 is a great option if you are looking for a neutral gray,” she says. “ It can appear warm or cool depending on the colors it is paired with and lighting – great for those who like to change up the décor throughout your home since this hue will work with any color scheme.”
And since gray can change both temperature and tone depending on the lighting or other shades in the room, Banbury offers this suggestion: “Make sure to paint a swatch of the shade on the surface before you make a selection to ensure you are happy with the qualities it takes on in a space.”
Decorating with gray paint
So, what works with with gray paint, and how do you bring everything together? “Gray paint harmonizes well with gold and bronze accents, such as lamps, picture frames or vases,” Donato says. In addition, she explains that it can effortlessly complement white furniture, like a plush boucle or linen couch. “Grays tend to quiet the space, so adding small pops of color is easy - bright flowers and a vibrant throw blanket in the room can make the space more playful.”
Another idea is to take advantage of the fact that gray is a sophisticated color. “Neutral colors, including whites and off-whites, are timeless and extremely versatile,” Yeo explains. “From bright and energetic hues to dark, jewel tones, gray provides a sleek backdrop and balance, allowing other colors pop.” In addition, she notes that gray pairs well with a variety of materials, such as natural wood, brass, and white marble.
Banbury also likes the versatility of gray, since it comes in so many shades and tones. “It is often used as a backdrop color or grounding neutral, it is the foundational color to a space.” She recommends using darker charcoal shades as focal points in a space like built-ins or kitchen islands. “Lighter neutral shades of gray should be use as an all over color to complement the overall color palette of a space.”
Prepping before you paint
Preparation is the key to a quality paint job. “Before picking up a brush, you should ensure your walls are clean, and consider gently sanding down any portions of a wall that were recently patched or feel uneven,” Donato says. If your walls and clean and smooth, the paint process will be a lot easier.
“If your previous paint color was dark, you should purchase a white or neutral primer, and select a gray colored primer when going from light paint to dark paint,” she explains. “Keep in mind that you may need to use a couple coats of primer and then paint to cover up a particularly dark paint color.”