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From the Resene colour choices booklet

White is white is white – right? Wrong.

White/neutral colour schemes


When you’re decorating, there’s white (which you can buy as Resene White), and there are a slew of other ‘whites’ or off-whites, with touches of yellow, green, brown or grey turning them to alabaster, chalk, ivory, cream.

Our search for just the right white is what makes the Resene The Range Whites & Neutrals collection so popular. With their yellow base, Resene Spanish White and Resene Pearl Lusta have the ability to lift a room and warm it visually. They and their varying strengths still take out many of the top places in the Resene’s most popular paint colours each year. Conversely, colours like Resene Sea Fog and Resene Alabaster have a cooling effect.

Using white

Whites and off-whites pick up on other elements in the room. If you have lots of greenery out the window, expect your walls to take on a green look. Use a strong blue rug or furniture, and your walls will pick up on that.

Different parts of the room also reflect light differently. An off-white used under a window will look darker than the same colour used on the opposite wall. An off-white used on the ceiling will look much darker than the same colour on a wall because there is less light reflected. Use a half strength of your wall colour on your ceiling for balance.

The paint sheen level can also affect the way the colour looks. A flat paint will make the colour look muddier and denser, while a gloss finish will make it look cleaner and brighter.

Using shades of white in a a lving room
Walls in Resene Ecru White.

Deciphering whites

On the Resene Whites & Neutrals fandeck, beneath each paint swatch is the name and a code. Codes that start with Y for yellow or B for brown describe warmer whites, good for cool, south-facing rooms. Cool whites have G for green and N for neutral (which means black, or rather grey once you put it with white). Use cooler whites to take the visual heat out of north-facing rooms.

Top tip

It can be tricky to see the undertones in white. To help you see the differences, view the large A4 drawdown swatches at your local Resene ColorShop and slip a piece of printer paper under each sample. This will help you compare how the sample looks vs white, and will highlight the undertones in the paint colour.

Positive – Visually, white heightens our perception of space, so it’s ideal for small rooms. Representing hygiene and cleanliness, it’s also a popular choice for kitchens and bathrooms. Other traits include purity, simplicity, sophistication and efficiency.

Negative – Can indicate sterility, coldness, barriers, unfriendliness and elitism, and can make warm colours look garish.


Download a PDF of this article

Resene colour choices booklet
Choose colour with confidence and creativity


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Colours shown on this website are a representation only. Please refer to the actual paint or product sample. Resene colour charts, testpots and samples are available for ordering online.   See measurements/conversions for more details on how electronic colour values are achieved.