ask the experts5 min read

Colour explained: everything you need to know about white paint

Hallway decorated in Lick White 03 paint shade
Lick White 03

WordsFrankie Marqueé


You know how the saying goes – two’s company, five’s a party… so naturally, we picked five whites to make up our edit.

Here’s how to get clued up on your undertones, learn what white best suits a north-facing room (and south for that matter), and find meant-to-be-together, ready-made room palettes from White 01 all the way down to chalky White 06 paint

Let's talk undertones

Colours are more complicated recipes than we give them credit for. There’s a whole load bubbling away beneath the surface that deserves proper attention because that end shade you’re looking at on the tin is anything but one-dimensional.

Cue the undertones.

If you’re going to get this colour thing right, you’ve got to, got to, bear in mind the undertones. Think of them as the base notes in the wine, that, once you’ve got them all figured out will help you appreciate the taste ten times more and give you a banging palate (or palette in this case). 

Undertones are what will change up the temperature of a colour. At Lick, we use three for our whites, and you can expect them to do a little something like this to your room: 

  • Grey: in the paint industry adding grey is actually called adding a tone, so you can imagine the impact that it has on every colour. This undertone is going to make your room feel a bit more contemporary and a bit crisper (depending on how much you add);
  • Yellow: get ready, things are about to get cosy and creamy;
  • Cream: a biscuit-y, oat-y sort of cream that’s still warm but more muted than yellow.

Drop a tint. Throw some shade.

Next up in this quick-fire colour theory class are (surprise) tints and shades. 

Once you’ve got your head around the undertones, remember that there’s also the intensity of colour to wrestle with. In other words, do you want the lighter shade of pale or to head over to the dark side?

Add white (yep, you can add more white to get a different kind of white) – colour buffs call that a tint. Add black, and they’ll say – now that’s a shade. So next time your protesting husband/wife/housemate/guinea pig claims that there’s no such thing as different shades of white, gladly refer them here as you prepare your best smug face and pick up a paintbrush.

Learn more about colour theory.

Colour compatibility and room direction

Okay, so my room is north-facing and gets buckets of natural light. So that obviously means I need a god-knows-what sort of white.

Sound familiar?

People throw around room direction statements rarely with a clear conclusion as to what compass point suits what sort of colour. 

Until now that is:

Here's what white paint we recommend for rooms with different directions...

North-facing rooms: warm and yellow white paint

North-facing rooms: northern light is the coolest of the lot. It casts a blue hue, so try to avoid cool whites like White 01 and white grey wall paint White 02 (you could just about get away with linen white paint, White 04) and look more to White 03 and White 05 paint whose creamy undertones will warm it up nicely. Or for a dose more depth, try taupe Greige 02 paint.

East-facing rooms: pure and chalky white paint

East-facing rooms: you’ll see a lot of change in them. Whatever white you choose will look very different whether it’s sunset or sunrise. But easterly spaces have a tendency to look a bit bluer, so undertones of blue, green and violet are a good shout on the whole. Take our chalky White 06 paint with its touch of pink, or translate that tone talk to our white palette, and we’d suggest the coolest white of them all – White 01.

South-facing rooms: linen and off white paint

South-facing rooms: they have a golden glow going on and the good news is, they pretty much suit all whites. Make a southern room stay on the right side of light and breezy with white that has a soft grey base like See our linen-soft White 04 paint or our off White 02. You don’t want to need sunglasses whenever you’re in the room so it’s wise to temper it a tad.