What are the best cool grays for painting walls?

When it comes to painting, gray is by far the most popular paint color – whether it’s for walls or cabinets. It adds depth and dimension to room (especially when compared to white).  It’s stylish, soft and neutral…the perfect combo.

11 Awesome Cool Gray Paint Shades from Sherwin Williams

 

Gray works so well with dark hardwood floors (the most popular) and it also does well with light hardwood floors.  It’s a cool color and cool tones are in – whether it’s for the walls, floors, area rugs and other fabrics as well as cabinets.   It just seems to work everywhere.

 

11 awesome cool gray paint shades from Sherwin WilliamsGone are the days of Builders’ Beige.  Beige and other warm colors (e.g. yellows) are so dated…even linen white dates your home.  Gray is super neutral and versatile.

 

But did you know that Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore make over 100 shades of gray?  Yes, that’s enough to overwhelm most homeowners…and many just get confused and overwhelmed when they go to the paint store.

 

So, I’m going to simplify the process and make it much easier for you.

 

 

best shades of cool gray paintGray is a complicated color and you’ll see that there are many undertones.  So, first, you’ll want to decide if you want a cool gray or a warm gray.  Cool grays have blue undertones and give off a cooler vibe.  This is a great option if you’re going for a super modern look.  They tend to work well with very dark floors, white cabinets, white marbles (or quartz) and other cool grays.

 

Cool Gray Paint Shades from Sherwin Williams  Warm grays have green, taupe, beige and brown undertones.  Most of these undertones are subtle.  They just give off a warmer tone, so that your room doesn’t feel too cold.  If you’re looking for warm grays or greiges (combo of gray and beige), check out this article:  9 Warm Grays and Greiges.

 

In this article, I’m going to discuss my top picks for cool gray paint shades.

 

Please note that this article contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.

 

Cool Gray Paint Shades from Sherwin Williams

cool grey paint shadesWhile having a multitude of grays is in some ways a good thing, it can also make the task of choosing the best gray a bit overwhelming. So, I’m going to help you focus your time and make the process much easier. I’ve narrowed this down to my favorite 11 cool grays.

 

While 11 may still sound like a high number, you’ll quickly see that there are really only 4 choices.  There are 4 base lighter colors, and then some darker coordinating colors that can be used as accent walls, or for some variation in some rooms.

 

These are my favorite cool gray shades from Sherwin Williams. They are popular and tend to go well with most floors and most furniture. My customers seem to love them, and they just work. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.

 

cooler and bluer gray paint shadesWhen it comes to choosing a base color for your walls, I prefer to go lighter.  It just makes your space look larger and allows you to go deeper on accent walls.

 

While these colors do work for most homes, I always encourage my customers to get testers and see the color for themselves in their own homes…in their own lighting.  It’s especially important with grays with tend to reflect light and take on other colors from the room.

 

cool gray paint tonesIt’s ideal to test on all 4 walls as the lighting is different on all 4 walls. Look at the samples during the day, early evening and night time, and make sure you love it. (Learn more here: 5 tips when using paint testers).

 

Do you need any paint shade fan decks?

Amazon can help with that. It’s so much easier when you have the full color wheels and can see all of these in your own home (vs. going back and forth to the store MULTIPLE times).

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What is LRV? (And, why should you care?)

choosing the best cool gray for your homeA quick note about LRV, before I get started.  LRV stands for Light Reflective Value and it’s a scale from 0 to 100 with higher numbers reflecting more light…and these look lighter (obviously).  Basically, it’s a measures of the lightness or brightness of a color.

 

For perspective, the average blackest black has an LRV around 5% meaning that it absorbs almost all the light, while the whitest whites are in the range of 85-95%.  As a rule of thumb, most decorators recommend that your base color be a 50% LRV or higher meaning that it reflects more light than it absorbs.

 

Now this is only part of the story.

 

amazing grays for painting your wallsThis can impact your room depending on how much natural or artificial light you have.  The more light you get, the more light will be reflected.  And, conversely, the less light you have, the less light there will be to reflect.

 

On a separate note, if you don’t have enough natural (or artificial light), no paint will save your room.  Paint shades don’t give you light; they only reflect it.  You need to address the root of the issue…get more light.  (e.g. get lighting, remove dark colored window treatments/open them, etc.)

 

You need the light to bring the paint color to life.  While a higher LRV may help, it won’t solve the real issue.

 

cool shades of grays for paintingIn a well lit room, even a dark color will appear lighter, and you will notice the true color and its undertones more.  Conversely, in a poorly lit room, the color will look darker and duller.

 

Low LRV colors are 0-35.  These colors absorb most of the light.  A medium LRV paint is in the 35-55 range.  These colors reflect a medium amount of light, but not an excessive amount.  60+ is considered a high LRV, and these colors reflect a lot of light.

 

9 Awesome cool gray shades from Sherwin Williams:

These first 5 grays coordinate well together. So, if you use for you base Gray Screen for the base color, you can use the darker grays for accent walls (or other rooms).  Or, you if you a chair rail, you can do the lighter color on top and a darker one on the bottom

 

1. Gray Screen (SW7071) – LRV = 59

Sherwin Williams Gray Screen SW7071 - cool gray paint shadesGray screen is a true gray…and is often the shade that looks the most “gray” to people.  It has blue undertones, so it’s a cool gray.  It’s currently THE MOST POPULAR paint shade in Sherwin Williams entire collection.

 

The LRV (Light Reflective Value) is 59, so it reflects more than half of the light and is light enough for most rooms.  While I consider it a light gray, it is the darkest light gray of the bunch.

 

Because it’s a cooler gray, it pairs well with very dark floors and mid toned brown floors, most white marbles and other cool grays you may have in the home (e.g. stainless steel appliances, gray tiles, dark gray cabinets, brushed nickel hardware and many area rugs).

 

For accent walls, I’d suggest Sherwin Williams Online, Network Gray or African Gray (see below).

 

2. Online (SW7072) LRV = 45

Sherwin Williams Online SW7072 - Cool gray shades of paintOnline is a mid-toned gray in the same color line.  It’s a bit deeper than Gray Screen.

 

It also coordinates well with African Gray (SW9162) and Software (SW7074) for accent colors.

 

3. Network Gray (SW7073) LRV = 37

Sherwin Williams Network Gray SW7073 - gray paint shades that are coolNetwork gray is a medium to darker gray with definite blue undertones.  It has more depth and drama, so if you’re looking for a deeper cool gray, it’s a great option.

 

Or, it can be used as an accent wall to offset Gray Screen (if that’s your base color).  It work well in southern exposure or well lit rooms.  In dark rooms, it can look too heavy.

 

Also, if you choose Network Gray as your base color, then Software (SW7074) or Web Gray (SW7075) can work well for a deep rich accent wall.

 

4. African Gray (SW9162) LRV = 31

Sherwin Willilams African Gray SW9162 - gray accent wall shades that are cool tonedThis is darker gray on the same color strip.  It can work well if you want a deep and peaceful color for your bedroom (blues and darker grays tend to lead to a better night’s sleep).

 

Or, African gray can be used as an accent wall for Gray Screen or Online.  It’s a darker gray that isn’t too dark if it’s used in moderation.

 

5. Software (SW7074) LRV = 23

Sherwin Williams Software SW7074 - cool toned gray paintsThis is the deepest color in the series.  As you can see, it’s just a bit lighter than charcoal.

 

It’s blue undertones give it a super cool look.  If you’re going for a deep darker room (e.g. for a media room or man cave), it may be perfect.  But more often, it’s used as an accent wall with a lighter gray or a mid-toned blue or aqua.

 

 

These next 3 shades all coordinate together.  I would usually recommend Olympus White for the base color as it’s the lightest.  Morning Fog and Serious Gray coordinate well with each other for contrasting accent walls.

6. Olympus White (SW6253) LRV = 68

Sherwin Williams Olympus White SW6253 - grey shades of paint that are cool neutralsThis is the lightest of the bunch and if you want a lighter and more subtle gray, this is a great choice.  It’s still dark enough to contrast well with the white base molding and will give you a fresh and crisp look.

 

If you want to do an accent wall, my top recommendation would be Morning Fog (see below).  While Serious Gray is on the same color strip, it’s usually too much of a contrast with Olympus White.  But, if you use all 3 gradations, it can work well.

 

7. Morning Fog (SW6255) LRV = 42

Sherwin Williams Morning Fog - SW6255 - cool toned greysMorning Fog is a bit deeper than Olympus White.  It definitely has blue undertones, but it also has a hint of a lavender undertone for a unique look.

 

This color coordinates well with Olympus White (SW6255) as well as Serious Gray (SW6256).  So, it can be used as a darker accent wall for Olympus White.  Or, it can be used as the base color and coordinated with Serious Gray as the accent wall.

 

8. Serious Gray (SW6256) LRV = 23

Sherwin Williams Serious Gray SW6256 - cool toned grays and greys for paintingThis is a deeper gray that has both blue and a slight purple undertone.  It’s very cool and sophisticated.

 

Serious Gray is a great accent color choice for Morning Fog (SW6255).

 

These next 2 colors coordinate well together

9. Reflection (SW7661) LRV = 66

Sherwin Williams Reflection SW7661 - cool gray and grey tones for paintingThis is a light cool gray with blue undertones (without any purple undertones).  In some lights it looks more bluish; in others, it’s a soft gray.

 

It’s calm, neutral and reflective…so it’s a perfect name.  It works well with true white trim (see best whites for trim and base molding).  If it’s paired with a warm white or off-white, it tends to make the walls look more blue.

 

10. Steely Gray (SW7664) LRV = 30

cool tones of grey paintThis is a deeper cool gray. It’s often too dark as a stand alone color (unless you’re really going for a dark look), but it is an excellent choice for an accent wall when it’s paired with Sherwin Williams Reflection (SW7661).

 

As the name implies, it’s a deep steely gray with blue undertones.

 

11. Passive (SW7064) LRV = 60

Sherwin Williams Passive SW7064 - cool and neutral gray paint shadesThis is a light cool and neutral gray.  In fact, it’s borderline towards the warm grays.  For that reason, it tends to blend in and complement almost everything.

 

Because it’s so neutral, even if the gray trend becomes a thing of the past, I predict that this cool neutral gray is here to stay and will outlast the trend.

 

Passive Gray from Sherwin Williams - cool neutral gray toneIt’s less cool than gray screen and just a tad lighter.  If you’re looking for an accent color for Passive, try Gray Matters (SW7066).  If you go much darker on the color strip, you’ll start going into dark gray/brown undertone range.

 

Is it gray or grey?

best painting tools on Amazon to make the job easierWell the answer is that both spellings are acceptable. American English uses “gray” and British English uses “grey.” So, you will see Canadians and those from UK using “grey” and most Americans use “gray.”

 

You will find that most American manufacturers, such as Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore, use “gray” for their color choices in the US.  They will sometimes have an alternate spelling for Canada. But, either way, the meaning is the same.

 

Conclusion:

I hope you love these cool grays as much as I do. These colors tend to be very neutral and forgiving. Do not stress about the nuances among them. Just choose one that you love. And, be sure to test the colors in you own home so you can see these grays in your own lighting.

 

Color consultation for Westchester County

Note: Due to popular demand, I’ve also started to offer phone consultations.

 

Helpful tools if you are going to paint yourself

Here are some painting tools that may come in handy if you’re going to do the painting yourself. Also, be sure to check out my article on the Top 10 DIY Painting mistakes and how to avoid them. The products below can be found on Amazon and delivered straight to your door.

  • Painting brush – this one costs a bit more, but it’s totally worth it. It will help you paint faster and more accurately. If you’re going to paint yourself, don’t skimp here. Incidentally, this is Amazon’s Choice as well.
  • Painter’s tape – a must have. Use for all the trim as well as ceiling area
  • Paint roller kit – this includes a tray. Use the brush for the edges and the roller for main areas of the wall (and ceiling).
  • Drop cloths – Yes, you’ll need them for sure. Some people have some on hand, but often not enough if you are doing many rooms.

 

Do you need any paint shade fan decks?

Amazon can help with that. It’s so much easier when you have the full color wheels and can see all of these in your own home (vs. going back and forth to the store MULTIPLE times).

Sherwin Williams Benjamin Moore

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11 Awesome Cool Gray Paint Shades from Sherwin Williams