Know Your Neutrals

You thought picking a neutral would be a cake walk, but curiously you find yourself staring at a purple wall, when you are sure you bought a gray.  Perhaps you are questioning why this is when neutrals are the recommended, no fail, go with anything and everything colors.  Here is a little insight to why neutrals can be fickle and some tricks for zeroing on the right ones for your home. 

I’m going to deliver some truths here, so brace yourself. I’m sorry to break it to you, but you’ve been lied to all this time regarding neutrals.

Neutral truth 1: Neutrals are not simple, in any respect.  

Neutrals are exceptionally complex colors that belong to color families. They are colors that have been mixed, muddied and toned down to the point where they can appear to have no color. The more colors we mix into a color the lower the chroma, and the more complex it becomes.

Take a look at the chroma scale below:

A color’s chroma is how bright or intense it is.  High chroma colors are what we would consider clean, bright and free of any kind of muddying. Low chroma colors are the opposite; they are not clean or pure and what we consider neutrals or neutralized colors.  Low chroma colors can be muddied to the point they are difficult to discern for what they are.  Recognizing their color family takes a little practice in undertone identification.

Neutral Truth 2: Neutrals can be warm or cool

All six color families have neutrals.  The neutrals of each family will retain thier color family attributes, though with diminished impact. Cool color families (green, blue, purple) will have cool toned neutrals with cool color properties. Warm color families (red, orange, yellow) will have warm toned neutrals with warm color properties.

Let’s compare a blue and red chroma scale,

and take a closer look at the two on the end.

The red family neutral, left, feels warmer than the blue neutral on the right.  A big step in the right direction for selecting neutrals is to acknowledge this and chose a neutral as you would a higher chroma color. For example, you want a neutral wall color, but you’d prefer a cozier feel over a spacious one.  If you were selecting a higher chroma color you might select an orange or yellow color to suit this need. The best place to select neutrals then would be from the yellow or orange family.

What about gray? Grays are achromatic right?

Neutral Truth 3: Grays are not achromatic

Colors can be so muted, washed out and neutralized that they don’t register as colors remember?  When a color reaches that point, we call it a gray. True, achromatic gray is the end of the road for the chroma of a color, and a last point that all color families will share.  However, before you reach that point, there are thousands of grayed colors.

I’ve pulled some examples of grays from each color family for comparison.

Greaceful Gray PPU18-12, Burnished Clay PPU18-09, Creek Bend 790F-4, Falcon Gray PPU26-04, Gentle Rain 790E-2

Red toned grays feel very complex.  Some lighting can make theses grays appear as mauves or to have a subtle pink tint.

Smokestack N220-3, Sculptor Clay PPU5-8, Eiffel For You MQ2-37, Elephant Skin PPU18-16, Griege PPU24-11

Orange toned neutrals make up the greige (beige + gray), and taupe families.  These tones, in warmer lighting conditions, can appear as browns.

Whitewash Oak PPU24-12, Arid Plains PPU25-07, Silver Drop 790C-2, Tanglewood N320-3, Silver City MQ2-59

The yellow family is, by far, the most forgiving and versatile as far as grays go.  In warm lighting conditions these grays can appear like tans or off whites.

Battleship Gray N360-4, Pumice MQ6-23, Old Celadon PPU25-05, Granite Boulder 790D-4, Brampton Gray PPU11-16

These grays can appear as sages or spruces depending on the temperature of the lighting.  Green undertoned grays are popular choices for exterior use.

Tin Foil N500-3, Dark Pewter PPU18-4, Rainmaster MQ5-22, Ocean Swell PPU25-19, Sterling 780E-3

These tones will impart a cooler feel to a room and can appear blue in darker conditions. Like the green family, blue toned grays are popular choices for exteriors.

Classy MQ5-4, Natural Gray PPU18-10, Silver Bullet N520-2, Smokey Wings PPU26-07, Suede Gray PPU18-17

Purple undertoned hues are probably the most challenging of the gray tones.  Not only can it be difficult to recognize the undertone, but their murky, complex nature reveals itself in a color that changes its appearance throughout the day.

Neutral Truth 4: Lighting will make or break your neutral

The color complexity of neutrals means they are very susceptible to the influence of lighting. Light is color, and different sources of lighting, natural or artificial, will effect how the neutrals appear.

Take this light gray room with standard midday light.

In the early morning with the bright warm morning sun it might look more like this:

In a home with the blue light of a north facing window it might look like this:

The only thing that has changed in the room is the light temperature.  You can see now how the percieved wall color is dependent on the light source.

You should have an idea now why the color you selected may appear so different than what you thought you picked out.  Let’s review some of the key takeaways about neutrals to help you choose the perfect shade for your home.

#1.) Neutrals retain the color attributes of their parent families, just on a softer scale.  For example yellow based neutrals will impart a warm feeling, blue based neutrals a cool feeling.

#2.) Neutrals have more color nuance than brighter, clean shades.  You’ll want to pay close attention to undertone when selecting shades.

#3.) Lighting plays a huge role in the perception of colors, and neutrals are particularly sensitive.  Be sure to test your color in your space to see how it will appear throughout the day.

We strongly recommend sampling colors on your walls before committing to a color.  This is especially true for neutrals whose appearance can be quite transitional throughout the day.

For more information, ideas, and inspiration on color visit our Color Studio at behr.com.  Our Paint Your Place tool is a great starting point for exploring, comparing and contrasting color within your own space.

Colorfully yours,




by Quinn Larson


Adding a little curb appeal to your home’s exterior is easier than you think! Small upgrades in splashes of color, fixtures and accessories can pay off big in your home’s value and neighborhood standing.

There is no hiding your home’s exterior. No matter how clean and coordinated your interior is, if your exterior isn’t, you run the risk of being, “that” house on the block. “But, exterior upgrades are expensive!” you say, and you are not wrong. Depending on the size of your home, exterior paint jobs can be an investment in the thousands.

The good news is, small scale upgrades can go along way to improve your home’s look, and with minimal financial investment. I will share some update suggestions along with three easy looks you can do yourself without breaking the bank.

Suggestion #1: Clean your home’s exterior

Your home’s exterior may be in good shape, but perhaps, appears a little dingy under all the dirt. An easy fix for that is a little soap, water and elbow grease. Pressure washers can be purchased or rented from your local hardware store, sponges, scrub brushes and buckets are inexpensive investments. Giving your home a once over, even lightly, can have a big impact on its appearance.

Suggestion #2: Paint an accent color

Freshen the look of your exterior by painting your front door a new color. Whether your color selection is subtle, or bold, nothing achieves refresh wonders like a fresh coat of paint. I recommend a quart of our Premium Plus Ultra Exterior Satin Enamel for color richness and durability.

Suggestion #3: The difference is in the details

Last, but not least, updating your entry hardware, fixtures, plants and colorful entry mats will add that extra bit of polish. For a unified look try to coordinate the finish and style of the hardware you select. Placing flowers or shrubbery on either side of the door will add classy color and interest.

Now that you have the quick and cost effective updating tips take a look at the three looks we’ve put together below.

Look 1: Clean and Classic

Delicate hues in soft aqua and white subtly update this traditional home. Gold accents elevate the look adding warmth and elegance.

Body: White 52, Door: Nature’s Reflections N430-2, Trim: ULTRA PURE WHITE

Look 2: Contemporary Character

Give your entryway a fresh, modern look with a vivid pop of color and streamlined fixtures.

Body: Close Knit T17-01, Door: Fired Up T17-19, Trim: ULTRA PURE WHITE

Look 3: Free and Easy Farmstead

Soft blue grays and sage toned greens make for an inviting farmhouse entrance.

Body: Coney Island N440-5, Door: Weathered Moss N380-3, Trim: ULTRA PURE WHITE

Colorfully yours,


by Quinn Larson


New Beginnings

For most Canadians, I’m willing to bet the beginning of September is thought of as a “New Year” as such – more so than New Year’s Day itself. Even though summer isn’t officially over until later in the month, we still tend to think Labour Day marks the end of summer, taking us to a new place and a new frame of mind, with change on the forefront. There are those who have taken the summer off to relax and enjoy to get away from schedules and routines, except if you consider regular lounging a routine! Reading a book, sitting on the dock, gardening and just enjoying outdoor weather become activities high on our priority list during this treasured season.

by Nancy Bollefer

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