White and off-white are two popular neutral paint colors that are often used in home interiors. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are some key differences between pure white and off-white shades.
What is Off-White?
Off-white refers to any color that is nearly white but has a slightly warm, cool, or gray undertone. Some common off-white paint colors include:
- Ivory – A warm, creamy off-white with yellow undertones
- Eggshell – A warm, soft white with a very subtle yellow/beige tint
- Cream – A slightly warm off-white
- Champagne – A warm, golden version of off-white
- Linen – A light tan or beige-tinged off-white
- Oyster – A soft, warm grayish off-white
- Dove – A muted, grayish off-white
- Pearl – A cool, icy off-white with blue/gray undertones
The subtle undertones in these off-white shades add depth, character, and visual interest. Off-whites are softer, gentler, and often more welcoming than stark bright white.
How Does Off-White Differ From White?
There are a few key ways that off-white paint colors differ from pure white:
- Undertones – Off-whites have subtle warm or cool undertones, whereas white is pure with no undertones.
- Brightness – White reflects the most light and appears brighter than off-white shades.
- Softness – Off-whites are generally softer and less stark than white.
- Mood – White can feel crisp and clinical, while off-whites are often perceived as more soothing.
Comparing White and Off-White Paint
Here is a comparison of some popular white and off-white paint colors:
|White||None||Very bright||Crisp||Clean, stark|
|Ivory||Warm yellow||Duller than white||Soft, creamy||Warm, welcoming|
|Eggshell||Subtle warm yellow||Less bright than white||Smooth, subtle||Soothing, relaxed|
|Linen||Beige||Significantly duller||Muted, hazy||Casual, earthy|
|Pearl||Cool blue-gray||Less bright than white||Smooth, even||Cool, serene|
|Dove||Warm gray||Duller than white||Velvety||Calm, gentle|
As you can see, white paint has no undertones, reflects the most light, and has a crisp, stark look. Off-whites like ivory or eggshell have warm yellow undertones, reflect less light, and have a softer, more welcoming appearance.
Interior Paint Colors
Both white and off-white paint colors work beautifully in home interiors. Here are some tips for choosing between them:
- White is ideal for modern, crisp, clean spaces like bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
- Off-whites complement farmhouse, cottage, or traditional decor and add coziness.
- Small rooms can feel cramped with bright white but appear larger with an off-white.
- North-facing rooms benefit from warm off-whites like ivory or cream rather than white.
- Cool off-whites like pearl or oyster gray work well in south-facing spaces.
Determine the mood you want to create and choose white or off-white paint accordingly. Off-whites are generally more versatile since they add softness, depth, and visual interest to any room.
Exterior Paint Colors
For home exteriors, white and off-white paint colors are both classic choices that showcase architectural details beautifully. Consider these factors when selecting white vs. off-white exterior paint:
- White stands out on exteriors and creates a striking, elegant look.
- Off-whites blend into landscaping and are less stark against the skyline.
- North-facing exteriors can benefit from warm off-whites like cream or eggshell.
- South-facing exteriors suit cool off-whites like pearl or oyster gray.
- Victorian, cottage, or craftsman homes often suit soft off-white exteriors.
- Modern, colonial, tudor, and other traditional home styles highlight crisp white.
For window trims, doors, shutters, and accent details, bright white is the classic choice to really make architectural elements pop against off-white siding.
Which Grabs Attention?
When directly compared, white grabs more attention and appears brighter and bolder than off-white shades. Think of a crisp white t-shirt versus an off-white or ivory top – the white shirt catches the eye more. This is because white reflects the entire spectrum of visible light, while off-whites absorb some wavelengths of light rather than reflecting them all.
This makes white an optimal choice when you want an element like trim, molding, or furnishings to pop against off-white walls or stand out within a space. Off-whites blend in more seamlessly and create softness.
Light Reflectance Values
Light reflectance value (LRV) measures how much light a paint color reflects, from 0 (black) to 100 (white). Here are the typical LRVs for white vs. off-white paint colors:
- White: LRV of 80 to 90+
- Ivory: LRV of 80 to 84
- Cream: LRV of 85 to 89
- Eggshell: LRV of 86 to 90
- Champagne: LRV of 74 to 78
- Linen: LRV of 70 to 83
- Oyster Gray: LRV of 67 to 74
- Dove Gray: LRV of 58 to 62
This demonstrates that white reflects the most light. Light, bright off-whites like ivory and cream also have high LRVs, while deeper off-whites reflect less light. Darker off-white shades can make rooms feel smaller and more enclosed due to lower light reflection.
Color temperature indicates whether a color has warm orange/red undertones or cool blue undertones:
- Warm colors have lower color temperatures (2400K – 4100K).
- Cool colors have higher color temperatures (4100K – 6500K).
Pure white is neutral at around 4000K. Off-whites span the warm and cool color temperature spectrum:
|Off-White Color||Color Temperature|
|Ivory||Warm – around 3600K|
|Cream||Slightly warm – 3800K|
|Eggshell||Slightly warm – 3900K|
|Champagne||Warm – 3600K|
|Linen||Neutral to warm – 3800K to 4000K|
|Oyster Gray||Slightly cool – 4500K|
|Dove Gray||Neutral to cool – 4100K to 4700K|
|Pearl||Cool – 5000K to 5500K|
Warm off-whites like ivory and cream have lower color temperatures, while cool off-whites like pearl gray are higher. Neutral white falls in the middle at 4000K.
Certain colors go especially well with white and off-white paints. Here are some complementary colors:
- White: Gray, black, navy, red, light blue, metallics
- Ivory: Sage green, mossy green, terra cotta, warm wood tones
- Cream: Sienna, camel, chocolate brown, rose pink
- Eggshell: Taupe, light brown, sky blue, peach
- Linen: Olive green, coral, burnt orange, brown
- Oyster Gray: Denim blue, soft purple, robin’s egg blue
- Dove Gray: Pink, mauve, light sage green, tan
- Pearl: Royal blue, emerald green, bright white
The undertones in off-white paints help determine which accent colors coordinate well together. Warm off-whites suit other warm colors like terra cotta, while cool off-whites match colors like robin’s egg blue.
There is very little price difference between white and off-white paint colors. They are among the most affordable paint choices. Here are typical sample prices for white and off-white interior latex paint:
|Paint Color||Price Per Gallon|
Standard white and off-white paints cost around $25-$45 per gallon from most major brands. Premium paint lines in white and off-white may range from $45-$65 per gallon.
Ease of Touch-Ups
One advantage of white and off-white paint colors is that touch-ups are easy. Since the paints are light and neutral in tone, it is simple to spot touch up areas and feather in new paint so that touch-ups blend seamlessly.
Darker paint colors show touch-ups and repairs much more noticeably since it is harder to match the color and sheen when making paint repairs. With white or off-white paint, flaws practically become invisible after repainting.
Durability & Cleanability
Both white and off-white paints are quite durable and scrubbable, making them suitable even for high-traffic areas. However, very flat sheens like flat or matte paint may be prone to scuffing and staining in busy spaces.
Opt for an eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss sheen to get good durability and stain resistance. Flat paint works for less used spaces like master bedrooms. Just avoid glossy sheens which show imperfections in application.
With a durable sheen, white and off-white paints stand up well to cleaning and frequent contact without losing their fresh appearance. They can last years before needing repainting.
Living Room Colors
White and off-white paint colors work beautifully in living rooms, creating a clean backdrop for furnishings and decor. Consider the following:
- White makes a small living room appear larger and airier.
- Creamy off-whites like eggshell or ivory are soothing and welcoming.
- Cool off-whites complement bold accent walls or warm wood tones.
- Pair white walls with colorful artwork, pillows, and accessories.
- Trim and crown moldings pop against white or off-white walls.
Whether you prefer a crisp white living room or a cozy off-white space, keep the furnishings lighter in color so as not to overwhelm the neutral base. Bold and colorful accents will really stand out.
For kitchens, white is the quintessential color choice. Off-whites can also create stunning kitchens with warmth and personality. Consider the following:
- White makes small kitchens appear clean, bright, and spacious.
- Crisp white open shelving pops against white walls.
- Ivory backsplashes pair beautifully with granite or quartz counters.
- Creamy off-whites complement oak floors and cabinets.
- Soft off-whites like linen reduce glare in sun-filled kitchens.
White kitchens suit contemporary spaces with sleek lines, while off-whites complement cottage kitchens. Glass pendant lights, mirrors, and backsplashes enhance light and brightness.
For bathrooms, white is the classic choice favored for its clean, bright, spa-like look. Here are bathroom color ideas:
- White makes small bathrooms appear larger and airier.
- Glossy white subway tile and white grout keep bathrooms looking pristine.
- Ivory walls with white trims and accessories prevents glare.
- Soft off-whites complement natural materials like stone and wood.
- Use pearl or oyster gray off-whites to combat yellow lighting.
White bathrooms suit modern and contemporary spaces, while off-whites complement traditional charm. Keep accents crisp and clean against white or off-white backdrops.
In bedrooms, off-white paint often creates a warmer, more relaxing look than white walls. Consider these tips:
- White makes small bedrooms appear larger and brighter.
- Ivory and other off-whites are soothing, peaceful colors.
- Warm off-whites complement floral bedding and wooden furniture.
- Cool off-whites are energizing yet still