We pick exterior paint colors several times a day, and white exterior trim colors are the most common. The most important tip for an exterior white paint color: pick a white that is darker than you think. Some of these “white” colors will be a HUGE surprise!
The best colors are those that work well with exterior lighting conditions. The closer you get to the sun; the more paint colors get washed out. For example, when we pick a white for the Southern US, or high-altitude cities such as Denver, we pick warmer and darker whites. Lighter and brighter whites are for light siding colors, shady areas, or more Northern latitudes. Directions such as North, South, East, or West aren’t as important as how much sunshine is on the house.
The trim color (light or dark) is a supporting element, not the star of the show. It highlights in some cases and helps other features recede.
The best white trim colors may not necessarily be the same whites for an exterior body color.
For more information about exterior white siding colors, link here.
NOTE: All photos are Color Concierge projects (unless shown). All photos of the blog are taken by us or our customers. We don’t color correct photos, so you see the color you get! No photoshops so you can see how these houses react with the light. These are all real-life photos of people’s homes.
What is the biggest mistake homeowners make with white trim colors?
When I started as a color consultant, my Sherwin-Williams representative said the most common mistake homeowners make is to pick colors that are too light.
The bright sunshine washes out paint colors so that they look 5-10 times brighter outside than they do inside, and that is always true with white trim colors.
We rarely use the same white as a trim for an exterior that was perfect as an interior trim because it will look STARK outside (though there are exceptions).
Here is an example of a stark white that was used for trim in a Colorado apartment complex. The white trim color was too bright to begin with- and even worse with warm red brick. DON’T PIN!
What is the best LRV for exterior white trim colors?
With my engineering background, I always look for patterns and formulas. But in this case, it’s more of a guideline than a rule. You should always test your paint colors.
The friendliest and most flexible “white” trim colors are in a range with an LRV between 70 and 75.
Use darker LRV’s between 60 and 70 for darker body colors, Southern Latitudes and sunny exposures without shade.
The lighter and higher LRVs should be saved to pair with very light body paint colors, yellow paint colors, Northern latitudes and very shady locations. I would avoid trim colors with LRVs over 85.
Should I always use white trim with white vinyl windows?
We almost always recommend some version of a white window trim color with white vinyl windows. Even a cream or light greige will make the white vinyl recede. If you use a dark color for window trim it makes the white vinyl windows look stark next to the dark trim. A white trim color makes the white vinyl windows look intentional and more high-end.
Specify a darker trim white trim than the white vinyl windows.
If we picked a white trim that was exactly matched to the windows, the color would be too stark. This house has warm white trim that is dark enough to pair with the earthy green, purple, and brown roof. The windows were white and vinyl. It looks bright in contrast with the dark colors and earthy finishes, but it is a very creamy white.
Can we use a dark color trim with white vinyl windows?
In most cases, we don’t recommend it. Of course, there are exceptions, such as complex Victorian schemes, or when the body of the house is white, and the trim isn’t too thick. The white windows will relate to the white body color. See the house below. It was a drive-by photo (not one of our projects), but I loved it!
Which types of whites should I pick for white trim?
At The Color Concierge, we are always very careful about using exterior white paint colors that are too stark. When we need to pick a darker white, we don’t look at cream colors because they lean toward yellow. Instead, we pick light greige colors that might look like light grays inside. This prevents an unwanted yellow edge from some creamy whites.
Where should I place the white trim color?
The cultural convention is that white trim should be painted on window trim, garage door trim, front and side door trim, and the roofline (fascia, soffits, and gutters). Keep the roofline color the same throughout the house to unify the color scheme. Often builders paint the soffits the body color because the labor is less expensive, and homeowners carry that through.
We love the look of a white roofline with white soffits. It is light and lovely!
Best White Trim Colors
There are many white trim colors that look great, but we list those we use most often.
Sherwin-Williams Exterior White Trim Colors
We love SW Natural Choice (LRV=72) as a “white” trim color. It contrasts well with mid-toned to darker siding colors, earthy brick and stone, and warm gray paint colors such as SW Fawn Brindle and Grizzle Gray. In this photo, we paired it with red brick and SW Iron Ore siding. Learn More about Sherwin-Williams Iron Ore here.
Another flexible white is Egret White (LRV=70). It has taupe undertones, which means it’s a warm color. We like to use it where there is a lot of foliage because it will counteract the green with the warm undertones.
This photo was taken in Southern California. The siding is painted Intellectual Gray with Tricorn Black front door and shutters. Intellectual Gray is a mid-toned warm gray. Egret looks soft and forgiving in the sun.
Sea Serpent steals the show with this beautiful blue exterior and SW Egret White still looks soft and white in the shade. Learn more about this project in the Sea Serpent Color Review post here.
The biggest surprise on our list might be Gossamer Veil (LRV=62) . Use Gossamer with a bright light condition for a soft white trim color that won’t look harsh. These conditions include no shade, high altitude, or southern latitudes. We love to use this greige color with darker body colors as a white trim color.
This paint color (LRV=72) is FABULOUS as an exterior white trim color, especially with dark and mid-toned colors. I would not use Oyster White with very light siding colors such as yellows. It looks great with earthier siding colors, warm stone, and red or orange brick. Learn more about Oyster White in the color review here.
This is a photo of an apartment building in Colorado with Oyster White trim taken during a snowstorm with low light conditions. It still looks lovely. In the sunshine it will look like a crisp white. We paired Oyster white with SW Retreat and SW Universal Khaki as the accent. When you can see the mountains, it is harmonious and perfect.
One of the lighter “white” greige colors on this list is White Duck (LRV=74). It is crisp and clean and lovely. Use it with light or mid-toned colors.
This is a photo of my house when it was a fresh new build. I was STUNNED that Agreeable Gray (LRV=60) was the “white” trim color. We live in a new neighborhood, and many houses are painted with this palette. Learn more about Agreeable Gray in this blog post.
Believe it or not, City Loft is one of the darker colors in this collection, but it looks crisp and white because the undertones are cool. If you look up close, the window frames are darker, but it still looks great. This house is painted with City Loft white trim and SW Charcoal Blue siding.
This is the last Sherwin-Williams example with Greek Villa (LRV=84) trim. As you can see the trim is very light. We picked it because the color was bright (and yellow), and Greek Villa matched the fence. A darker warmer white would have looked dirty in this palette. Learn more about Greek Villa in this color review post.
Benjamin Moore Exterior White Trim Colors
We LOVE this house. The trim color, Edgecomb Gray (LRV=64) looks brighter than we would expect. The body is painted with Benjamin Moore Flint, a color that is impossible to duplicate. The front door is BM Greyhound. This view was in the full sunshine in a New England state. It looks more like a creamy color in the shade.
Even the painters were amazed at how bright this trim color looked. Classic Gray is one of our favorite white trim colors. It is crisp and soft and lovely. Learn more about Classic Gray in our Color Review here.
This house with BM Newburg Green also has Classic Gray trim. For more information on Newburg Green, link here.
This was one of our first projects, and our color tests showed that Pale Oak (LRV=70) was a perfect white trim color with Hale Navy siding. Pale Oak is a light taupe greige that counteracts the foliage green in a heavily wooded lot. I was so concerned it would work that I watched the painters for about an hour. Sure enough, it looked just lovely when done. Even I couldn’t believe it. Pale Oak is the Benjamin Moore counterpart to SW Egret White. It is lovely, friendly and flexible.
Learn more about his beautiful Mid-Century Modern transformation in the post here.
Benjamin Moore Seashell (LRV=82) is one of the light LRV colors that works well because it has a high level of pigment. It worked well because the lot is heavily wooded with lots of shade. Warner darker colors looked dingy in these conditions, even though the siding color is dark.
This white paint color is commonly recommended as a trim color, but we don’t normally recommend White Dove (LRV=85) because it is so light. The conditions need to be perfect so that the color doesn’t look overly bright and harsh. Use in Northern latitudes where the light is low. It can work well in a heavily wooded are with lots of shade.
We most often use White Dove as an interior wall, trim or cabinet color. Learn more about White Dove in our color review here.
White Dove worked well for this house because it is near the Great Lakes in the Northern United States, and the lot was wooded.
Always Test Your Paint Colors!
No matter what, don’t forget to test your paint colors. It’s a standard best practice. Whenever I test my paint colors, they are perfect, and when I don’t test they turn out wrong. We love to test with SAMPLIZE peel-and-stick samples. Check out the SAMPLIZE website HERE.
NEVER, EVER use paint matches from a different brand than the one specified. Results are poor and there are no standards for the sheens. Even though your painter may truly believe it can be done, don’t do it. See results from paint matching here.
For white trim, consider warmer whites or light greige colors instead of crisp whites that would be used for interior paint colors.
The biggest mistake homeowners make when they pick exterior paint colors is to use colors that are too light. This is the best reason to use a professional color consultant to help you pick the paint colors for your home. An experienced color designer understands how colors react in different types of light and can save you thousands of dollars in paint and labor if you get it wrong.
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We love your comments! Please note that the blog is meant as general advice, and it is not possible to give out specific answers to your paint questions. If you want more specific advice, please consider purchasing a color consultation. Thank you for your understanding.