Using Warm & Cool Paint Colors

Two-tone wall painted in Subtle AF-310 and Sea Life 2118-40 framed by a black fireplace. Two-tone wall painted in Subtle AF-310 and Sea Life 2118-40 framed by a black fireplace.

Using Warm & Cool Paint Colors

Learn the basics about warm and cool paint colors, see some of our favorites, and learn how your choice of warm or cool color influences your home’s style.

Every color can be categorized as either a warm color, or a cool color. Discover the notes and nuances of both, and use their distinct characteristics to get the look you want.
A white vertical line divides a color wheel in half, with the cool hues shaded in light blue and the warm hues shaded in tan.

Warm & Cool 101

Warm colors—yellow, orange, red and combinations therein—breathe energy, positivity and a sense of sunshine into any room. Cool colors—green, blue and purple—evoke relaxation and calm.

Neutrals like white and gray can also lean warmer or cooler depending on their undertones.

Favorite Warm Interior Paint Colors for Homeowners

Check out these gorgeous examples of warm paint colors we get asked about the most.

Favorite Cool Interior Paint Colors for Homeowners

We recommend these paint colors for homeowners looking for cool interior hues.

Using Warm & Cool Colors In Your Home: A Guide

Warm Colors

Cool Colors

Combining Warm and Cool Paint Colors?
Many homeowners use both warm and cool colors in the same room. The dominant color—whether it is warm or cool—is the one that influences the room's personality the most.
Comparison of a room corner in direct sunlight, indirect light and artificial light.

Lighting is Always a Factor

Both natural and artificial lighting can affect how the undertones of a paint color cast, causing them to lean more warm or cool. For rooms that receive a lot of natural lighting, the direction towards which the room faces should be taken into consideration.

In rooms that do not receive a lot of natural light, artificial lighting will play a role in how the paint color casts. Be sure to check your lightbulb temperature: Lightbulbs with a temperature over 3500K tend to cast cooler. The lower the temperature, the warmer and cozier the light it emits.

Brushing on a paint sample and observing it in every lighting condition is the best way to ensure a “no surprises” paint color choice.
Sunny corner alcove with painting easel.

Compare Warm & Cool Neutrals: Find the Undertones

Identifying warm and cool white, gray and neutral paint colors is notoriously challenging. One easy trick when evaluating these hues is to always compare–versus look at any one color in isolation.

For example, when you place a white paint color with a yellow undertone next to a white one with a blue undertone, the difference between warm and cool becomes instantly, and strikingly, evident!

Here, the soft back wall is painted in warm Ballet White OC-9, while the front wall ins painted in cool Paper White OC-55.
Warm green entryway with chandelier above wood circle table with a bouquet of flowers.

Best White Trim for Warm and Cool Colors

White-painted trim is always classic and dependable. If you choose to paint your walls in a cool color, Decorator’s White OC-149 offers a clean, bright look that pairs beautifully with blues, greens and purples.

For warm-painted walls, White Dove OC-17 offers less contrast and a slightly more muted approach to white; it also pairs elegantly with reds, yellows and oranges.

If you have a mix of both warm and cool colors in a room, Chantilly Lace OC-65, is a great white paint choice for trim.
Bright living room with walls painted in Sharkskin 2139-30.

Create a Complementary Color Scheme

Two colors opposite one another on the color wheel are considered complementary colors. In simplest terms, they are red and green, purple and yellow, and blue and orange.

The bold contrast found in complementary color schemes differentiates any room.  Here, the muted green of Sharkskin 2139-30 on the wall creates design interest when paired with red chairs and a red-striped pillow.

Other complementary color schemes include a deep purple wall in Shadow 2117-30, set off by soft, pale yellow curtain. Or a playful bright wall in Autumn Cover 2170-30, grounded by comfy chairs upholstered in a navy blue fabric.

Ready to play with complementary color schemes? First, discern whether your wall’s paint color is warm or cool. Then use the color wheel on this page to see what its complementary color is…and have fun!

Woman inspecting various paint swatches.

How to Choose Interior Paint Color

Learn from the experts on how to select colors you'll love.

Red and blue living room with gray couch.

Psychology of Color

See how color and color combinations influence the mood of a home.