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More Than 50 Shades of Gray

The number one request I get right now is: “I’m looking for a gray…”  Truth be told there is no pure gray, that’s why there are more than 50 shades of gray!  The movie got one thing right! However, there is a perfect gray.  With any colour, its true form is in the eye of the beholder.  Benjamin Moore’s truest gray is 2121-10 Gray – a very original name right? – However, most people looking to paint gray are thinking of a lighter hue.

Gray is a great alternative to white or beige walls.  Unlike white, gray naturally hides imperfections, where as white emphasizes smudges and blemishes.  Let’s face it, as much as we like white, it’s hard to keep clean!

Gray is still considered a neutral, so it innately goes great with most colours; and it’s a modern twist on the commonly used and trite beige.  Gray can act as a neutral backdrop to your collection of furniture and art, or conversely, be the statement colour of the room.  A dark charcoal gray, for example, introduces drama yet still feels elegant.  Benjamin Moore’s HC-167 Amherst Gray & AF- 710 Secret is a great place to start, when looking for darker shades of gray.

2121-10 Gray – A softer alternative to black, this rich charcoal offers the slightest hint of warmth.

  • LRV: 11.51
  • Collection: Colour Preview

HC-167 Amherst Gray – A versatile dark gray that recalls both stately manors and sleek, modern architecture.

  • LRV: 18.8
  • Collection: Arborcoat Stain Colours • Historical Colours • Colours for Vinyl

AF-710 Secret – A grounded gray that can reveal new depths depending on what it’s paired with.

  • LRV: 25.88
  • Collection: Affinity® Colour Collection

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White-Gray’s with Different Undertones.


Alternatively an all gray palate can have a similar effect to a pure white palate.  A palate of exclusively grays can be just as interesting as greys paired with colour.  A grey palate emanates sophistication and luxury. When working with a monochromatic colour scheme, shades of gray for example, it’s important to layer materials, such as using different textures to provide depth.

The temperature of the gray you select is influential to the overall atmosphere of a space as well.  The temperature refers to the coolness or darkness a colour can have on a room, and correlates strongly with the direction a room is facing and therefore the amount of light the area receives.  Although the hue and depth of a gray is important, the temperature of a gray colour can have a big impact on how the space feels.  For example, OC-26 Silver Satin, an immensely versatile colour, conveys an iridescent quality yet feels warm.  On the flip side, 2121-50 Ice Cube Silver is light and airy as well, but has a much cooler temperature.  Be sure to reflect on the colour, depth and temperature of gray to attain the perfect hue.

OC-26 Silver Satin – Crisp lavender-gray undertones define this sleek shade of white.

  • LRV:74.9
  • Collection: Off White Colours
  • Also Known As: 856

2121-50 Iced Cube Silver – With its crisp blue cast, this light-as-air gray brings almost an icy sparkle to the room.

  • LRV: 73.74
  • Collection: Colour Preview®

Gray’s with a Blue Undertone


Currently, grays are used in almost any location in the house.  Because gray is regarded as a neutral, it makes for a great colour option for throughout the house.  Even though it may be easier to choose one shade of gray for throughout the house, I’d suggest adding other hues to your colour palate by implementing more than one colour throughout your home.  It will make it appear more complete, by adding depth and flow from one room to another.  Popular architecture today embraces open concept floorplans, and one colour throughout the space is ideal to make it feel larger and more spacious.  On the other hand, utilize your home’s natural architectural separation, like a bulkhead or doorway for instance, to create an opportunity to use other shades or colours.

Similarly to white, pure gray is limited.  Tinted paint is always comprised of, however small the amount may be, a colorant to achieve the colour hue you’re looking for.  Each gray is made up of different undertones.  Fundamentally, grays can be made up of an undertone of blue, red and yellow, but can also be a combination of these.

Here’s a breakdown of what each undertone could signify:

Everyone tends to gravitate toward to, what they consider, is the truest gray.  I’d say the majority associate ‘gray’ with a blue-undertone gray.  Colours such as HC-169 Coventry Gray and 2121-40 Silver Half Dollar are some of the most popular grays for this reason.  A blue-undertone gray can cool off a south facing room, or similarly a room with a lot of sun exposure.  A cool tone gray in a warm room will hold its value and won’t look dull or dreary.  While blue-undertone grays may feel like a true gray, these can also feel cold.  North facing rooms, for this reason, would not fare well with a cool, blue-undertone gray.

HC-169 Coventry Gray – A steadfast medium gray with relatively neutral undertones.

  • LRV: 48.18
  • Collection: Historical Colours • Colours for Vinyl

2121-40 Silver Half Dollar – A light gray buoyed by cool, silvery undertones.

  • LRV: 56.90
  • Collection: Colour Preview®

 Blue-gray has cool undertones, and is especially suited for rooms with a large amounts of natural light.

Gray’s with a Blue Undertone Combined with Green.

Blue-Green Gray’s

Grays with a Blue undertone, when combined with green, can draw the warmer qualities of green and at the same time, enhance the silvery, crispness of the blue. HC-170 Stonington Gray for example, appears closer to a true gray, but doesn’t have a purely blue base.  Other grays such as OC-52 Gray Owl and 1474 Cape May Cobblestone have a greener undertone, and even though it’s not a bright undertone, like the blue, it does express a softness and warmth.

HC-170 Stonington Gray – An all-purpose silvery gray with relatively neutral undertones.

  • LRV: 59.36
  • Collection: Historical Colours • Colours for Vinyl

OC-52 Gray Owl – A use-anywhere light gray with a cool, crisp cast.

  • LRV: 64.51
  • Collection: Off White Colours • Colours for Vinyl
  • Also Know As: 2137-60

1474 Cape May Cobblestone – Understated elegance defines this endlessly versatile cool gray.

  • LRV: 40.14
  • Collection: Benjamin Moore Classics®
HC-170 Stonington Gray / OC-52 Gray Owl / 1474 Cape May Cobblestone

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Gray’s with a Red Undertone.


An undertone of red in gray appears warmer than a blue-undertone of gray.  A gray with undertones of red may appear slightly pink, however the lighting with these colours can affect how they present themselves.  Red-undertoned grays depicted under daylighting, or fluorescent lighting can reveal the pink undertones, whereas warm lighting, or incandescent bulbs can play down the pink pigment.   Benjamin Moore’s 2108-50 Silver Fox and 2108-60 Abalone are great examples of grays with warmer undertones.

2108-50 Silver Fox – A beloved gray with just the right touch of warmth. 

  • LRV: 43.73
  • Collection: Colour Preview® • Colours for Vinyl

2108-60 Abalone – A light gray softened with the barest trace of mauve.

  • LRV: 61.99
  • Collection: Colour Preview® • Colours for Vinyl
Examples of red-undertoned gray paint

Gray’s with a Red Undertone Combined with Purple.

Red-Purple Gray’s

When a gray possess an undertone of red, it can also include purple.  A purple undertone is a mix of blue and red pigment, which is also commonly perceived as a true gray.  2112-70 American White is a good example of a purple undertone of gray, and as such performs best under warm or incandescent lighting.  On the other hand, with an ideal ratio of blue to red, a gray can feel balanced, when it doesn’t lean too much toward one colour or the other.  Colours such as 1472 Silver Chain and 1459 Metro Gray appear to be close to a true gray, as both have red and blue undertones.

2112-70 American White – A cool, pale gray that has a refreshing effect on a space.

  • LRV: 74.46
  • Collection: Colour Preview®

1472 Silver Chain – Cool gray undertones bring a touch of modern sophistication.

  • LRV: 56.79
  • Collection: Benjamin Moore Classics®
  • Also Know As: AC-25

1459 Metro Gray – This hazy gray hue is reminiscent of a foggy city morning.

  • LRV: 58.43
  • Collection: Benjamin Moore Classics®
Examples of red-undertoned combined with purple gray paint

Gray’s with a Yellow Undertone


A yellow-undertone of gray will feel and look the most neutral, compared to blue-undertoned grays and red-undertoned grays.  Grays with yellow will appear warm and bright, perfect for minimally lit areas.  A slight yellow or gold pigment behind a gray is great for spaces without natural light and is a good idea to use for Northern exposure areas.  Introducing warm tones of the gray will help it not feel as dreary.

The yellow undertone of gray will dance between the line of gray and beige and is worth considering, for transitional style homes.  While beige may have been overused and is now commonplace, a yellow-undertone gray is a compromise between the warm elements of beige and the modern, fresh feeling of gray.  If you’re not wanting to jump into icy blue or steely grays, colours like HC-173 Edgecomb Gray and OC-15 Baby Fawn would be a worthy concession between a cold gray and a warm beige.  By the same token, HC-172 Revere Pewter is also a transitional gray with a yellow undertone, and while it does have a hint of a green backdrop as well, it’s currently the most popular Benjamin Moore colour because it’s such a flexible ‘greige’.

HC-173 Edgecomb Gray – A go-to neutral that can refresh a space, while providing a warm, welcoming feeling. 

  • LRV: 63.09
  • Collection: Historical Colours
  • Also Known As: 972, OC-15

OC-15 Baby Fawn – A go-to neutral that can refresh a space, while providing a warm, welcoming feeling.

  • LRV: 63.09
  • Collection: Off White Colours
  • Also Known As: HC-173, 972

HC-172 Revere Pewter – An iconic neutral that provides a versatile bridge between warm and cool tones. 

  • LRV: 55.05
  • Collection: Historical Colours • Colours for Vinyl
  • Also Known As: 973

Near wall colour: Revere Pewter HC-172, Far wall colour: Chelsea Gray HC-168, Trim: Decorator’s White CC-20, Near wall: Regal® Select, Eggshell far wall: Regal® Select, Eggshell trim: ADVANCE®, Semi-Gloss

Examples of yellow undertoned gray paint

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Gray’s with a Yellow Undertone Combined with Red.

Yellow-Red Gray’s

Comparably, a yellow-undertone of gray can also incorporate a mix of anther colour, commonly red or orange, much like a blue-gray can contain green.  Applying red to a yellow-gray can create more warmth and depth.  OC-28 Collingwood, CC-490 Stone Hearth and CC-394 Boulevard are all great examples of how a combination of yellow and red as undertones of gray work well to establish a warm gray that doesn’t show too much like a beige.

OC 28 Collingwood – A widely appealing shade of gray with lightly cool undertones.

  • LRV: 61.52
  • Collection: Off White
  • Also Known As: 859

CC-490 Stone Hearth – With its hint of warmth, this stony gray can bring surprising depth and texture to a space.

  • LRV: 48.45
  • Collection: Designer Classics
  • Also Known As: 984

CC-394 Boulevard – A moody gray warmed by a touch of mauve.

  • LRV: 48.88
  • Collection: Designer Classics
  • Also Known As: 1005, AC-38
Examples of yellow undertoned combined with red gray paint

The hue of gray you choose will be influenced by the materials existing in your space. Reflect on the undertones of the materials in your house, when choosing a gray, and by doing so, you can start to eliminate certain grays that won’t work with the undertones you have.

If you’re lucky enough to start with a blank slate, it can influence the tone of materials to come as well.

Which Paint to Use?

Lastly opt for a flat or matte finish on the walls versus an eggshell, when choosing a gray colour.  A flat or matte finish looks sleeker, and less industrial than shiny walls.  While a matte finish has previously been expected to show smudges and imperfections, the washable quality of Benjamin Moore’s Aura Matte or Regal Select Ulti-Matte is an ideal product to use with gray. Pairing a washable matte paint, and gray, a colour that naturally conceals defects, will ensure you have the perfect colour and flawless walls.

When it all comes down to gray, there really are more than 50 shades.  Finding the perfect shade of gray is possible, when you break down what you’re look at.  If you deduce what you like, what you’re looking for and what will and won’t work, you can certainly find the perfect shade of gray!

Here’s a list of some great grays under each colour tone:
Blue-Undertone Gray:
List of blue undertoned gray paint
List of blue undertoned gray paint

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Red-Undertone Gray:
List of red undertoned gray paint
List of red undertoned gray paint

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Yellow-Undertone Gray:
List of yellow undertoned gray paint
List of yellow undertoned gray paint

Sahra McFarlane
Interior Decorator
Creative Haus Designs

Photos Courtesy of benjaminmoore.com Note: On-screen and printer color representations may vary from actual paint colors.
List of more than 50 shades of gray by The Paint People
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