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What is cool vs warm gray paint?

What is cool vs warm gray paint?

Gray paints are a popular choice for home interiors thanks to their versatility and ability to complement a wide range of decor styles. However, not all grays are the same. Gray paint colors can be categorized into two main types: cool grays and warm grays.

Cool Gray Paint

Cool grays have a blue, green, or purple undertone. They are soothing and relaxing colors that remind us of cool nature elements like stone, water, and blue skies. Some examples of popular cool gray paint colors include:

  • Benjamin Moore Gray Owl
  • Sherwin-Williams Repose Gray
  • Behr Pewter Tankard
  • Valspar Kettle Gray

Cool grays work beautifully in bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, and other areas where you want to cultivate a calm, tranquil mood. The cool undertones provide a refreshing contrast to warm woods, metallics, and other materials.

Warm Gray Paint

Warm grays have a red, orange, yellow, or brown undertone. They are cozy and inviting colors that remind us of things like stones, wood, and sunsets. Some popular warm gray paint choices include:

  • Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter
  • Sherwin-Williams Accessible Beige
  • Behr Gray Cashmere
  • Valspar Rocky River

Warm grays work well in dining rooms, bedrooms, living rooms, and offices – anywhere you want to cultivate a cozy feeling. The warm undertones pair beautifully with woods, leathers, and earthy accent colors.

Comparing Cool vs Warm Grays

When comparing cool and warm grays side by side, the differences become more apparent:

Cool Grays Warm Grays
Give off a blue, green, or purple tone Give off a red, orange, yellow, or brown tone
Create a relaxing, calming effect Create a cozy, welcoming effect
Reminiscent of cool nature elements Reminiscent of warm natural elements
Pair well with warm metals, woods, and leathers Pair well with cool metals, stones, and fabrics

While warm and cool grays may seem similar at first glance, their subtle undertones make a big impact on the overall look and feel of a room. Cool grays tend to make spaces feel more airy and open, while warm grays create a snug, intimate effect.

Tips for Choosing Cool vs Warm Gray Paint

When trying to decide between cool and warm gray paint, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Look at undertones – examine swatches in natural light to see subtle undertones
  • Test samples on walls – paint large swatches to see effects
  • Consider light exposure – north-facing rooms may suit cool grays, while south-facing rooms are ideal for warm grays
  • Factor in room use – cool grays for relaxation, warm grays to add coziness
  • Complement other colors – pair cool grays with warm accents and vice versa
  • Match your decor – cool grays suit modern styles, warm grays for traditional

Visit your local paint store to compare swatches. Bring home a few samples in both cool and warm shades to test. Pay attention to how the grays interact with light at different times of day before making a final decision.

Cool Gray Paint Ideas

Here are some inspiring ways to use cool gray paints in your home:

  • Light gray dining room – Add interest with charcoal trim and warm wood table
  • Gray green bedroom – Soothing tone alongside natural fabrics and wood nightstands
  • Gray blue office – Crisp, focused feel with minimalist white desk
  • Gray lavender living room – Soft, elegant shade with brass accents and velvet sofa
  • Gray kitchen cabinets – Timeless look against white marble counters and subway tile

Cool grays work beautifully as an all-over color in small spaces like bathrooms and bedrooms. In larger rooms, use them creatively on accent walls, cabinets, front doors, or trim for an invigorating pop of color.

Warm Gray Paint Ideas

Use warm, cozy grays to make a design statement in your home:

  • Gray with beige undertones – Earthy and natural background for a sunroom
  • Gray taupe dining room – Sophisticated look with black dining chairs
  • Mushroom gray office – Comforting shade for a home workspace
  • Gray brown living room – Especially stunning with dark wood furniture
  • Greige kitchen – Versatile soft gray beige on cabinets and walls

Warm grays are especially stunning on accent walls in living spaces and bedrooms. Or, use them all over in smaller rooms to create a cocooning effect. Wood furnishings, textured rugs, and brass accents all complement these cozy hues.

Light vs Dark Cool and Warm Grays

Most gray paint colors are available in different tints and shades ranging from very pale gray to dark charcoal gray. Lighter cool and warm grays work beautifully in rooms with ample natural light. Darker shades tend to feel cozier and pair well with lots of lighting and other contrasting bright elements like white trim.

Light Cool Grays Dark Cool Grays
Airiness, reflects light Dramatic, bold
Feels larger, expansive Feels intimate, enveloping
Light Warm Grays Dark Warm Grays
Bright, cheerful Mysterious, elegant
Casual and relaxed Polished and refined

In general, save darker shades of gray for smaller spaces like bathrooms and bedrooms. Use lighter tints in open concept areas or rooms with little natural light.

Paint Sheen for Cool vs Warm Grays

Most gray paint colors are available in different paint sheens ranging from flat to high-gloss. Here are some tips for choosing sheen with cool vs warm grays:

  • Flat: Works for any gray in low-traffic areas. Provides a matte, velvety look.
  • Eggshell: Ideal mid-sheen for cool and warm grays throughout the home. Washable and subtle luster.
  • Satin: Slightly more lustrous than eggshell. Good for living rooms, bedrooms, hallways.
  • Semi-gloss: Shiny and easy to clean. Best for trim, cabinets, bathrooms.
  • High-gloss: Ultra-reflective sheen. Use sparingly on accent walls, cabinetry.

Generally, cooler grays look best in eggshell or satin to add depth. Warm grays stand out beautifully in a semi-gloss sheen. Consider the location and your needs for washability when choosing a finish.

Best Paint Brands for Cool and Warm Grays

Today most leading paint manufacturers offer extensive gray palette choices. Here are some top brands to consider:

  • Benjamin Moore – Known for its trend-setting gray hues. Choices like Chelsea Gray, Gray Owl, and Coventry Gray.
  • Sherwin-Williams – Classic grays like Repose Gray, Urbane Bronze, and Greige. Sophisticated selection.
  • Behr – Budget-friendly. Options like Moon Dust, Cinder block, and Shoreline Gray.
  • Valspar – Diverse palette for all budgets. Colors like Silhouette, Rockport Gray, and Dovetail.

Consider getting sample sizes to test colors before committing to a full gallon. Be sure to view swatches at different times of day to see how light changes the look.

Cool and Warm Gray Color Combinations

One fun way to use gray paint is by pairing it with accent colors throughout a room. Here are some stylish combinations:

  • Cool grays + coral: Try Benjamin Moore Crystalline with bright orange-reds.
  • Warm grays + sage green: Earthy and relaxing, like Valspar Rocky River and Jojoba green.
  • Cool grays + yellow: Modern and cheerful, such as Sherwin-Williams Mindful Gray + mustard tones.
  • Warm grays + navy blue: Sophisticated combo like Behr Gray Cashmere and Hale Navy.

Whether you want a bold contrast or subtle coordination, gray paints pair beautifully with almost any color. Consider accent walls, furniture pieces, decor items, and textiles to make the colors pop.


When trying to decide between cool vs warm gray paint, it helps to understand the subtle differences. Cool grays have blue, green or purple undertones and create a relaxing vibe. Warm grays have red, orange, yellow or brown undertones and make spaces cozy. Light grays feel airy and bright, while darker charcoal grays have dramatic allure. Consider the room location, use, and existing decor when choosing your perfect shade of gray.

With so many options for finishes and color combinations, gray paint offers endless possibilities. The next time you repaint the living room or give the home office a makeover, think beyond basic white and consider the stylish sophistication of cool or warm gray!