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SW Creamy or Alabaster-which is "warmer"?

E Evartt
October 19, 2019

Can anyone share your experience with Creamy vs Alabaster in terms of undertone and which is warmer? I don't want "yellow", and I don't want bright white. I painted 2 bedrooms in BM White Dove and honestly it a little too "white" for me.(one room east facing, the other west facing). I'd like to tone down the white slightly. I will be doing my entire downstairs, and eventually painting the cabinets. I plan to do the trim in the same as the wall color but change the sheen. Any thoughts on which is a great soft white?

Comments (104)

  • Jennifer Hogan

    To be fair, I can see some yellow in Shoreline, it is a soft gray, but yellow is not the predominant hue and it will never look yellow on someone's wall unless they have Dark Purple walls surrounding it. Then it will look more beige/greige than gray.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    OMG. What a hot freaking mess.

    The ONLY reason I'm replying is to rescue innocent people from the ridiculous theory that any one individual is in a position to subjectively judge color appearance under whatever random light source and context they happen to have and define that color for everyone else.

    Maria Killam, Kylie and Jennifer all suffer from the same misinformed and misguided color point of view. Which can be summed up very simply.

    They do not understand WHY it's critical to define an illuminant/light source in order to describe, define and order color.

    I got your messages and emails. Thank you.

    I also got all your questions and I will unravel all the chaos for you.

    Get comfortable.

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  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    We'll start with the paragraphs Jennifer found online and posted above.

    She took them out of context and failed to include the conclusion for the source she cited. For example, this one:

    All the white papers and color science texts use pretty much the same format.

    Outline the problem first. Offer a few options as solutions. Finish with the conclusion and recommended remedy.

    The problem outlined - and what Jennifer took out of context (and she's done it more than once) - is the fact that we can't use basic equations to transform CIELAB values to a Munsell notation.

    What Jennifer failed to share is the solution.

    From the same resource cited,, it concludes the same solution as every other white paper and text that discusses transforming spectral data to a Munsell notation:

    "ASTM D1535 includes equations, tables and graphs that may be used to determine the CIE XYZ tristimulus values for any Munsell notation, or to find the Munsell notation, given the XYZ values. For historical reasons, the bases of these relationships were determined for specimens viewed by the CIE 1931 Standard Observer under CIE Illuminant C. The current version of ASTM D1535 includes a method for calculating tristimulus values for other illuminant–observer combinations. Similar calculations can also be performed at a website and by purchased software."

    In other words, there is a standard to follow to transform CIELAB/LCh to a Munsell notation and it involves look up tables (LUT) and interpolation.

    And there are software programs that do the transformation for you. I teach you how to use them in my color courses.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    LCh alignment with Munsell.

    There are multiple sources that demonstrate -and apply- the correlation between LCh and Munsell.

    The most noteworthy is this one from Mark Fairchild and Dave Wyble who both work at the Munsell Color Science Laboratory, Rochester Institute of Technology.

    "For reference, on this scale the primary Munsell hues are: 5R, 18°; 5Y, 90°; 5G, 162°; 5B, 234°; 5P, 306°. "

    Source: Prediction of Munsell Appearance Scales Using Various Color-Appearance Models

    David R. Wyble,* Mark D. Fairchild

    Munsell Color Science Laboratory, Rochester Institute of Technology,

    And that is the wire frame followed to design The Color Strategist Color Wheel. The LCh hue angle and Munsell notation doesn't always align exactly which is a good thing because it's a realistic model of how real humans differ in terms of how they perceive color.

    It's an elastic color system model that allows for shifts in color appearance whether it's due to the light source or human color acuity.

    This is drastically different from the theory that you can subjectively judge color under any random light source, in any random context and statically assign it in to unyielding silos of "undertones".

  • E Evartt

    @nhb22 Can you tell me what your trim color is?

    The effect you show in this picture is pretty much what I'm seeing at my house. Even Alabaster looks very "white" to me and, while I know "white" is a relative term, its leaning too much of a white than what I need. I did a comparison on the wall with Alabaster, White Dove, and Sherwin Williams Creamy.. And yes, I could not tell very much difference between White Dove and Alabaster. Creamy does seem to have a little more depth/warmth to it? I tried a sample of Dove Wing also, it does seem a little dark. Has anyone used Creamy and if so can you give me your thoughts? I do know that lighting is different in everyone's home, but would still love to hear what comments are on Creamy. The paint store recommended I try Greek Villa or Westhighland White-but these look like White Dove/Alabaster to me or very very close. I am in search of that perfect warm white with some depth. Not beige, maybe like a "dirty" white.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    Per Lori this color would fall between the 5Y and 7.5Y Munsell Hue Family

    CIE-L*Ch(ab) = 85.357 2.286 94.899°

    It's not "per Lori" it's per the original spectral data used to develop the paint color formula for Shoreline in the first place. Illuminant D65, 2 degree observer.

    The problem here goes back to the fact that Jennifer does not understand low chroma, near neutrals and their hue families.

    This graphic means nothing without the Munsell notation for Shoreline.

    And the reason Jennifer didn't include that critical bit of info is because she doesn't know how to get a Munsell notation for Shoreline.

    Shoreline isn't in The Colorography Lab and that is the only online resource you can Google to get complete - and correct - Munsell color notations for paint colors. (Except for Dunn-Edwards, they publish Munsell notations for all their colors)


    Low chroma, near neutral colors from the Yellow, Green-Yellow and the front half of the Green hue families are the most likely to appear as "neutral" with no discernible hue bias.

    Let me say that again.....

    Low chroma, near neutral colors from the Yellow, Green-Yellow and the front half of the Green hue families are the most likely to appear as "neutral" with no discernible hue bias.

    Colors from this hue family range are most likely to be subjectively described as "just gray" or "warm gray" or "cool gray".

    That is a double-edge sword.

    Because that also means they are especially prone to shifting in light sources that are not balanced across the visible spectrum -AND- in relation to the colors of other contents in context of a space.

    And since we know how to properly define, describe and order color into hue families, we are AWARE of the pattern of how low chroma, near neutrals from this hue family range can shift so we can MANAGE IT if we need.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    We have no idea what the light source is here so there is nothing meaningful or useful for me to respond to.

    In addition, according the Maria Killam website Maria nor anyone on her team knew that paint chips are made with real paint and not printed ink on paper.

    They believed they could reproduce whites and near neutral by printing with cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks on white paper.

    I'm gobsmacked that there were actual color experts in this loop that let it get to the stage of actually being printed.

    It is shocking it ever made it to a printer.

    In order to somewhat salvage The Maria Killam Color Wheel, you have to glue real paint chips on to each section.

    Not like it makes any difference because this thing is a hot mess in general - from the theory behind it to the actual execution - but there are no paint chips glued on to the color wheel in this picture and we have no idea what light source(s) are involved.

    So, again, there is nothing meaningful or useful to glean from this image or for me to respond to.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    We're supposed to default to Jennifer's subjective opinion about the color appearance of Shoreline -- from her bathroom next to a yellow ceramic dish.

    What else is there to say?

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    Unfortunately, the undertones theory she subscribes to doesn't account for the shifts shown in this image.

    So, her explanation is Shoreline has multiple "undertones".

    How anyone finds this useful or informative is absolutely lost on me.

    In marked contrast, since we know that Shoreline is a low chroma, near neutral from the Yellow hue family, we can explain WHY Shoreline is such a chameleon color and susceptible to lighting conditions and context.

    We can explain WHY because the Yellow hue family designation was determined using the standard D65 illuminant framework of color order which gives us a consistent, repeatable, cogent point of departure to analyze Shoreline, observe it in context, compare it to other colors and ultimately manage it.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya


  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya


    Since I detailed in great detail the flaws of "Understanding Undertones" and Maria Killam's color wheel, there's a good chance this entire thread will disappear. #colorconsipracytheories

  • nhb22

    @nhb22 Can you tell me what your trim color is?

    My trim paint is 13 years old. It was a painters white oil from Dulux, I believe. Still looks bright white to me with all of my medium to dark wall colors, but sure it has yellowed. Definitely does not look good with other lighter whites. Our kitchen ceiling is SW Navajo White. Looks great with my trim! The walls are BM Decatur Buff. Both colors are slightly lighter looking in real life.

    Hope this helps!

  • bbtrix

    Because that also means they are especially prone to shifting in light sources that are not balanced across the visible spectrum -AND- in relation to the colors of other colors in context of a space.

    Absolutely! That’s why we homeowners need to sample paint in our own homes, in many rooms, on different walls, under many light conditions using our own eyes.

    @E Evartt, I went through exactly what you are doing last summer when I redid my lower level. I wanted SW Creamy because it looked beautiful in my sis’s home. It looked great in my guest room with lots of natural light but was too yellow for me in the rooms with less light. I sampled so many SW whites, including Greek Villa, and chose Alabaster mostly because I used it in nearly every room in my daughter’s house. Pictures may help you, but really sampling in your own home is really the only way. Here is what Creamy looks like in my sister’s former home. Tons of natural light.

    Here is SW Alabaster in my daughter’s home with SW Extra White trim and doors. no natural light in this hallway.

    SW Alabaster in my lower level guest room with a South and West window.
    SW Alabaster in my laundry room next to IKEA Bodbyn cabs which are very creamy.

    BTW, in my house I used SW Alabaster Emerald Matte for the walls and Emerald Urethane Enamel semi-gloss for trim. I really like the Emerald line! Also, there is no way to snap pictures that accurately represent the colors. All I can relate to you from my experience is that I loved Creamy in my sisters home and I love alabaster in mine. Good luck with your search - it is painful! I hope this thread does not disappear since choosing whites is so difficult and others may learn from the value of the info here.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    I hope this thread does not disappear

    Read and screen shot while you can.

  • E Evartt

    I hope no one takes this thread down, I started it and have received information on the thread that I am using to help me in finalizing paint color choices. Thank you all for your responses.

  • E Evartt

    @bbtrix Thank you for all these pictures!!! yes, I totally understand about how the paint colors will look different in each home, but it still helps me a lot to see these pictures! And wow, based on your pictures, I would say that I love both Creamy and Alabaster. One of my rooms that I will be painting is south and west facing. Even from your pictures, I can see the warmth in creamy vs Alabaster.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    @E Evartt, I feel bad that your thread was hijacked. :(

  • ladas

    In my house wall color is very much affected by what’s on the floor (for example dark blue black tile versus warm caramel hardwood) and what kind of light the room gets. And in my bathroom (with a dark gray floor with chocolate undertones) Shoreline is close to taupe.

  • bbtrix

    @E Evartt, you’re welcome! I know what you’re going through and I appreciated pictures too! Here’s a few more. These have Alabaster walls and Extra White trim in different lighting

    Alabaster walls and trim.

  • E Evartt

    @Lori A. Sawaya no, please do not apologize. I appreciate all the comments, I have learned a lot and I especially appreciate that you take the time like you do to explain so in depth. I have very often had a hard time with the descriptors of "undertones" because as I've mentioned in my posts, I understand that what looks warm and creamy in my home, may seem cold and gray in another. Please continue to give your thoughts, I appreciate your knowledge.

  • E Evartt

    @ladas yes, we just added a study to our home and I painted the builtins in Benjamin Moore Cheating Heart. The cabinets definitely throw off a blue cast onto the surrounding wall which is an off white color!

  • E Evartt

    @bbtrix interesting, in those last pictures-the Alabaster appears to me as a "vanilla" white, or slightly off white. I love that look. Hmm..I am going to have to get some Alabaster and test it.

    P.S....cute little guy..I miss those days..mine are all grown :(

  • Bunny

    Are you all sure that Lori is right and I, along with some very well respected color experts are all wrong?

    "All" encompasses a lot of people. Every single one.

    I don't know--am not sure--that Jennifer Hogan and other very well respected color experts are all wrong, or if just some are, or maybe none are. That needs a whole other thread.

    I do know that Lori's expertise has helped me immensely. In my situation(s) she was right. I'm sure of it.

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC

    I will also defend Lori's incredible knowledge and gracious sharing of it on this site.

    As for the "very well respected color experts" that's also very subjective and one woman's opinion.

  • mrichter54

    bbtrix, from a desktop browser save the page as html. You will be able to open and view the thread (up to the point at which you saved it) in your browser even if the page or web site no longer exists.

    I just did that to be able to reference the knowledge Lori shared here. Thank you Lori!

    And thank you E Evartt for starting this thread. I'm hoping some day to stumble on a better color for my walls, one I'm considering is SW Alabaster, but sadly Lori's great Best White Paint Colors chart doesn't include Behr paints, so can't compare - hoping not to need to repaint Behr Polar Bear trim :) .

    E Evartt thanked mrichter54
  • gardener123wewantsophie

    So, maybe I'll ask here. (Did a separate post, no replies).

    Can I do Alabaster kitchen cabs with Alabaster walls and ceiling, instead of matching the Dover White trim? Other option is SW Pure White.

    Dover looks a bit yellow at night (great in the day). Alabaster holds more true.

    Low gloss or satin on the cabinets?

    ETA apologies to OP EEvartt

  • chloebud

    "I just did that to be able to reference the knowledge Lori shared here."

    I've done that myself several times. :-)

  • PRO Dallas

    @mrichter54, Behr's Polar Bear is 96.3 L, 3.3 C, with a hue angle of 101.3 Yellow.

    If you used SW 7008 Alabaster on your walls next to that, it is 93L/5.6C/99.9H in Yellow family. So yes, those should be compatible. The trim will appear brighter and whiter, since it's lower chroma. Behr's colors are among the highest LRVs because their white base starts out so pure.

    I used their products in my 60s house, and in the guest room where I have a jade green blanket over the bed, plus light from a big picture window, it's unbelievable how it casts an aqua light on certain parts of the wall. It's just the reflection from the blanket onto a very light wall color in a Behr paint product. Interesting though.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    Behr's colors are among the highest LRVs because their white base starts out so pure.

    Interesting tidbit of color tracking info. Noted.

  • PRO Dallas

    @gardener123wewantsophie, I don't see any reason why you have to keep using Dover if you want something less yellow. I think Pure White would be a little too stark; it would just make Dover look even yellower.

    As I referenced above, SW 7008 Alabaster (in the LCh model) is roughly 93L/5.6C/99.9H.

    SW 6385 Dover White, using that same system, is about 93.7L/8.2C/99.3H. Same part of the yellow family, but Alabaster is closer to neutral. I'm surprised to see that they are about equal in Lightness, would have figured Dover to look darker. So unless you want the walls to be noticeably lighter or darker than your trim, this combo would technically work.

    Sorry to butt in on the discussion, but I finished early today and as you can see, I'm bored. I've already cleaned the fridge and this is much more interesting. ; )

  • mrichter54

    PaintColorHelp, thank you for that info! Getting a sample. Thanks again E Evartt for sharing your thread.

  • E Evartt

    @katinparadise I've had the same happen to me! I mentioned above about having built-ins painted BM Cheating Heart, which is a pretty deep color, and how it casts a blue tone onto my lighter walls adjacent. The wall paint is Sherwin Williams

  • E Evartt

    Another question regarding SW Creamy vs. Alabaster- I know that many people paint their trim in Alabaster when they paint the walls Alabaster. Does any one have any recommendations for a trim color when using Creamy? Ideally I'd like to have my trim color the same throughout the house.

  • gardener123wewantsophie

    Thanks Paintcolorhelp!

  • PRO
    CK Hoffman Design

    Alabaster is a good "classic" white - not to bright, not too dark, no pinky or blue cast - just white - it's perfect for ceilings. Creamy is nice, it has more of a yellow tone to it... I saw someone mention Westhighland White earlier - this is probably right in between. Creamy is typicaly NOT a good color for Trim - too yellow. My go to's for trim are: Snowbound and Westhighland White. Hope this helps...

  • Sylva Leduc

    E Evartt, you asked, "Has anyone used Creamy and if so can you give me your thoughts? I do know that lighting is different in everyone's home, but would still love to hear what comments are on Creamy."

    I'll provide my experience with Creamy. I, too, though it would look warm in our great room. But that is not what has happened. Our great room faces west and has three large patio windows (8' tall and 12' wide) made of Low-E glass which cast a green light inside the house. In this same thread, I'd asked Lori how Low-E impacts the light and she responded that it depends. She also recommended that I keep track of all the testing I am doing.

    So, I have been examining more and taking notes. The ceiling height in the dining nook and by the patio doors is 10', and with the vaulted ceiling is app. 13' at the highest point in the middle of the room. Outside the great room, is a covered patio which is about 10' high.

    Since I know how hard it may be to track what I described, I included our floorplan showing where the sun is in the afternoon.

    As the light enters the room the color changes. In the morning, the great room looks grey and dingy so I leave the warm 3000K LED lights on.

    In the afternoon, on the wall with the door to the laundry/garage (yellow arrow), from floor level to about 8', Creamy is light creamy yellow with a greenish hue. And then, from 8'-13' it looks less green and has more of a sickly grey tinge. On the wall in the kitchen (other yellow arrow) the color is darker but has the same green look to it.

    This afternoon, I invited our new painter over so that he could see what I've been talking about since I'm trying to decide which is the best color for this space. I showed him the wall directly across from the patio doors (yellow arrow). He said he could sort of see what I meant about the wall color looking like it has a hint of green Then I opened the patio door, all the natural light flooded in and the color was much brighter - the way that I expected Creamy to be. He was shocked, saying he'd never before seen the color of walls change as much.

    So, it's not just the paint color. It is the color, the light(s), the direction of the sun and, in our case, the Low-E glass.

    Hope that helps.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    Then I opened the patio door, all the natural light flooded in and the color was much brighter - the way that I expected Creamy to be. He was shocked, saying he'd never before seen the color of walls change as much.


    Wonder if full spectrum paint colors would render differently. Benjamin Moore has Color Stories and also C2 Paints are available in limited markets.

  • Sylva Leduc

    I've not heard of full spectrum paint colors. I'm in the Phoenix area and it doesn't appear there are any C2 Paints stores here. I'll check out BM's Color Stories. Thanks for the tip, Lori.

  • CC

    I just wanted to chime in and say, Lori A. Sawaya is a rockstar! She knows her stuff. I’m not sure what Jennifer’s problem is but she probably needs to spend less time on Pinterest. I am also an artist and I’ve found Lori’s information to be invaluable and has completely transformed the way I see color. Lori is the best!

  • PRO
    Flo Mangan

    BM is full spectrum paint. C2 isn’t in our area either. Daughter arrives in 3 hours! Others on Friday. No time. Talk to you later. Have a Blessed day!

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    For my artist friends you should check out David Briggs and Maggie Maggio.

    They both have an evidence-based approach to color like me but instead of applying it to the built environment, they apply it to painting and art.

  • E Evartt

    @loriasawaya I will be honest, I had to google to read what was meant by "full spectrum paint". Could you explain the benefit of this?

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    Yeah, that gets deep and complicated.

    I spent about a year mixing full spectrum paint colors.

    The theory is if you do not use black or gray to create complex colors, you get a different result.

    You should only mix other "colors" to create new tints, tones and shades of colors - never black or gray.

    It's a theory and debate that goes back centuries. Artists who like how colors look when black is used to tone color vs artists who believe that any trace of black "kills" color and its inherent luminosity.

    The difference is measurable in terms of a spectral curve.

    The debate centers around how much that spectral curve matters because COLOR APPEARANCE is the same.

    In other words, there is more than one way to combine colorants/pigments to make the same color.

    You can use full spectrum color mixing theory to make a match of a regular paint color.

    Since they both look the same, are they actually different?

    The answer is technically yes, they are different because they refelect light differently.

    A tangible example of exploiting the benefits of not using black to mix and match paint colors are the vinyl safe paint products. Sherwin-Williams has "Vinyl Safe" colors. Benjamin Moore is in the process of discontinuing theirs. No black in the mix means the colors reflect more light and solar energy which keeps the vinyl cooler and helps avoid warping.

    Another tangible example is Munsell neutral gray paint available from GTI. It's a balanced across the full spectrum color of gray. I don't know how they make it, but when it's dry its reflectance is balanced. There's a graph at the bottom of the page linked that illustrates what I'm talking about.

    So, the question is since we can see physical reflecantace differences in full spectrum colors, is there some kind of positive and useful affect/effect that can be leveraged in the built environment?

    In my experience, because of its unique reflectance profile, full spectrum paint colors with no black in the mix can be the answer to impossibly unbalanced inherent light sources, like it leans heavily green.

    And then there's the whole metaphysical lane you can go down too. Read more here.

  • Sylva Leduc

    Lori, I'm convinced! Last night, I read a lot about full spectral paint including your article. And I checked out the colors available at Benjamin Moore.

    Am I correct in thinking that one's level of color discernment impacts whether the black pigment makes a color look muddy? I can see very fine differences in color and shifts according to light and reflection. My husband and friends sometimes give me that sideways glance when I talk about color nuances.

    Since I finished my last client meeting for the day, I'm now heading to BM to see what I can find.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    I can see very fine differences in color and shifts according to light and reflection. My husband and friends sometimes give me that sideways glance when I talk about color nuances.

    Ooooooooh, I see. You are "one of those people". I've met many like you because all things color from typical resources don't align with how you see color and people seek me out because I have a different approach.

    It's not a bad thing but it sure can make it more complicated. And you're not crazy or too picky.

    Totally could explain why you're not finding your color. Throw in the window situation and you have your work cut out for you. Not gonna lie.

  • Sylva Leduc

    Wish Houzz had a laugh emoji.

  • Sylva Leduc

    Here's an example of when I've been perceived as, "one of those people." I ordered some replacement lampshades from Restoration Hardware. The color is called white. When they arrived, the color of the linen was a beautiful, clean, crisp ivory. But one was damaged so another shade was sent in its place. But when it arrived, I could see the color differences. The second shade was the slightest bit darker and no longer looked clean and crisp. When I returned all three of them to the store, the salespeople said they were the same until I held the three of them side by side, and also compared them to the shades in the store. That's when they shared they now have a new manufacturing plant or a new manufacturing process, so the light, clean colored shades are no longer available.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    Yep. Oh girl, I get it.

  • PRO
    Flo Mangan


  • PRO
    Flo Mangan

    Houzz just put emojis on the system. They haven’t fixed any real problems but at least we can distract ourselves with cute faces etc. 🤭🎨

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