How to Choose Gray Paint & Accent Colors for Your Rooms

Sep 5, 2022 | Home Guides, Painting

Many people underestimate the elegance and attractiveness of using gray paint to decorate your space. Picking the right shade of gray with complementary accent colors doesn’t have to be a difficult decision. 

This guide will look at how to choose gray paint and accent colors, including different ways to create an eye-catching grey accent wall for your room. We’ll look at accent wall ideas, how to pick out the proper color of gray, complementing colors, and lighting. 

Gray Accent Wall Ideas

An accent wall is an easy and effective way to give your room style and a strong focal point that’s highly cost-effective. 

Gray is a fantastic color for accent walls because it comes in many different shades with various hues. Here are some excellent ways to create a gray accent wall that will make a statement.

Simple Single Color

You can make an effortless statement piece by painting one wall gray while using a different color for the remaining three walls. 

A great way to make an accent wall that pops is to paint one wall a darker shade of gray to break up a room with lighter shades for the other three walls, such as white or light cream. 

Gray can also be a neutral color accent wall for most color palettes, allowing for easier redecorating using room accents. 

Paint three walls a soft gray and give your accent wall a bright pop of color that matches the colors of your room, including rugs, furniture, and pillows. 

Gray Pattern

Another way to jazz up your space for a low price is to give your walls a pattern. You can buy gray wallpaper that has a design already printed on it. Or you can get creative and make a pattern using painter’s tape and paint. 

Pair your patterned wall with solid curtains for a complete design. We cover 31 types of curtains and their uses here.

Add Texture

Upgrade your accent wall by making it textured. A textured wall is more visually appealing and breaks up the monotony of having all your walls look the same. 

There are multiple ways to add texture to your wall. You can leave three walls smooth while texturing an accent wall or texture all four walls using plaster and tools. Check out this link for 21 types of wall textures you can use for your home design. 

Typical textures you can DIY for an accent wall for low costs and minimal materials or experience include:

  •  Comb
  • Sand Swirl
  • Stomp brush
  • Spanish Lace
  • Spray sand

Gray Painted Wood

Another excellent way to make an accent wall is using wood paneling painted gray. Many people hate the look of old wood paneling and want to give it a modern update, saving you money by not replacing the material with new walling. 

But you’re not limited to only painting wood paneling. You can also make a wood accent wall using reclaimed, barn, or new slat wood. Reclaimed walls look great when painted different shades of gray with a few pieces of blue slats.

How to Choose the Right Grey Paint

Due to the wide range of gray paint colors, it can be tricky to find a shade of gray that works for your room. Follow these tips for how to choose the right gray paint. 

  1. View various paint swatches in your home. Because many factors will affect how a paint color looks in your home, it’s a great idea to collect multiple swatches for an in-home comparison. Choose samples of cool and warm shades and see how the colors look in your chosen room in different lighting – natural light (different times of day), at night, and with the lights on in your room. Be sure to compare different shades next to each other and items in your room to ensure the undertones of the paint match your decor. 
  2. Use paint samples of your color choices. Once you’ve narrowed down your paint choices to three or four colors, it’s time to compare how each shade looks in your room. Pick up paint samples of each color and apply the paint to your walls. If you don’t want to paint your walls with the sample colors, you can use a white poster board with a flat finish, white foam core, or white sample boards. The color of your wall can change the color of the sample paint. Label each color and add two or three coats for each shade. 
  3. Compare each shade of paint in different lighting situations. If you’re using sample boards of paint, secure each piece to the wall with painter’s tape. Check the colors throughout the day – morning light, mid-day light, late afternoon, dusk, and night. You should also see how each color looks in artificial light and with artificial and natural. 

Colors that Compliment Grey

Gray is a versatile color that can blend well with many different colors and design palettes. There are multiple shades of gray with varying undertones of color, which will affect the way your paint appears. 

When looking at one gray shade, it may be difficult to detect the different undertones. The best course of action is to compare two or more grays side by side. This process will help you notice the color blends of the gray, allowing you to make a better design decision. 

There are gray paints mixed with undertones of charcoal, purple, lavender, yellow, brown, red, green, blue, or gray-blue. Match the proper undertones with the appropriate shade of gray to get a cohesive look with your flooring and existing furniture and design accents. 

  • Lavender hues – feminine and soft
  • Green or blue hues – neutral 
  • Red or brown hues – warmer 
  • Silver hues – turns blue
  • Cool grays – great for kitchens with stainless steel appliances

To decorate a space that feels too cool, choose complementary colors for your trim and use warm wood accents or furniture. For instance, if you have a gray area with black accents, caramel, and warm white blend well. 

Accent Shade Undertones for Gray Paint
Red Blue/Emerald Green
Orange Blue
Yellow Royal purple/Blue
Royal purple/Blue Yellow
Magenta Kelly green (or other bright greens)
Purple Green/Chartreuse yellow
Green/Chartreuse Yellow Purple
Blue Orange
Kelly/bright greens Magenta
Blue/Emerald Green Red

The above chart can help you match the proper shade of gray with your room’s design palette and accent colors. However, if you’re using softer accent shades, the chart won’t help. 

Creating a softer environment is achievable by choosing a shade of gray that has the same color undertones as your accent colors. 

As an example, for yellow accent colors, pick a gray that has yellowish undertones. If your yellow color features green undertones, match with a gray shade with similar green or yellow hues.


The lighting in your space is a crucial consideration. Different lighting situations can affect the way your gray walls appear. And you can’t base your decision on how a color looks using a color chart. 

It’s best to purchase two to three samples of your chosen shade of gray and paint small patches on your wall. Be sure to use an area where there are varying degrees of lighting.

Natural Light

To make the best decision, compare how the different paint samples look with natural light. A bunch of windows can add too much sunlight to the area, washing out your gray colors. See how each shade of gray looks in natural light at different times of day to know how your chosen colors will fare.

North Facing Rooms

Rooms with windows facing North will notice the gray colors taking on a bluish hue. These rooms can be the most challenging to decorate. Cool northern light gives some gray shades a flat, icy tone.

To give your room more warmth, consider dark shades. Choosing grays with brown or red undertones is excellent for warming up space without overwhelming it with unsuitable colors. 

Strong color choices for Northern rooms include charcoal gray, which is great for dining rooms due to its dramatic, glamorous look. Grays mixed with beige or yellow bases – greige – are great for bouncing light through the area to warm the different shades of gray. 

Grays with blue or green accents will be the least complementary colors for North-facing rooms, as the tones can make your space feel cold and uninviting. 

If you decide you want a blue-gray color, you’ll need to use proper lighting – wall sconces or floor lamps. Using only overhead lighting can cause shadows. Layered lighting works best. 

West Facing Rooms

Rooms that face west will experience changing hues of gray, with warmer tones as the sun sets and cooler tones as the sunrise.

Due to the frequent sun exposure, grays with hues of yellow or beige will have the best tones and warmth, drawing in sunlight throughout the day for the warmest tones during the evening. Yellow hints can create a cozy, inviting space. If your room gets little light, you’ll do best with warm, light gray colors. 

South Facing Rooms

South-facing windows and rooms get to enjoy a warmer ambiance that lights up the gray with golden hues. These spaces are the easiest to decorate because you can choose from cool or warm grays – any tone will look fantastic with southern lighting. 

To create a spacious, bright room, warm grays or pale tones will be your perfect color palette. 

Eastern Facing Rooms

East-facing rooms experience the same changing tones as West-facing windows. During the sunrise, rooms facing east will experience warmer tones. As the sun changes positions, the lighting will cause gray colors to have cooler tones. 

Eastern light can cause gray paint to have bluish undertones. Many designers advise going with the design and choose blue-gray or green grays. French gray is an excellent shade for Eastern rooms. Green-based blues are the easiest to blend with different colors or wood tones due to their neutrality. 

For cooler climates, you’ll want to use grays in layers of colors to prevent your space from looking too cool or clinical. Warm the room up further by using warm accent colors, natural wood, and warm metals.

Grey Accent Wall Painting Tips

Flat paint looks best on gray painted walls.

Gray can be a tricky color to work with because you can end up with a space that’s too cold and uninviting. Or you can end up making your area look too industrial and commercial, rather than an inviting, welcoming space. 

The type of finish your paint has can affect your design’s ambiance. Semi and high-gloss gray colors tend to look more industrial and uninviting for a living space. 

To give your room a comforting, welcoming ambiance, choose flat gray paint. Flat paints have less sheen, making them easier to hide smudges and flaws.

Gray painted walls – Cream trim.

Depending on the shade of gray you choose, white trim may give your space enough character. But if you think a white border will cause the area to look too stark, consider using warmer toned colors. 

Cream, yellow, red, or brown paints mix well with white to create an even, warm color balance for your space. 

Invest in sample pots of your colors and paint test squares.

When debating between different shades of gray for your area, you shouldn’t just pick a random shade from a paint sample strip at your hardware store. 

To ensure that you get a gray paint color that enhances the design and appeal of your space, test different shades of gray on your wall. 

Most places have sample pots – small containers of paint – which allow you to test different colors in your space without wasting money on an entire can of paint. 

For the best results, pick up a few different shades of paint samples. And then paint a small square for each shade, making sure the colors are side by side for easier comparison. It’s a smart idea to label each color, so you don’t forget which is which. 

Wait a day or two before making your decision on color. During the consideration phase, take time to see how each shade of gray looks in different lighting throughout the day. 

You may decide to paint squares on each wall of the room to ensure you know how the colors will look in the darkest areas of the room and the brightest parts. 

You may also want to see how each color looks against your room’s trim. If you decide you like a shade of gray but it doesn’t go with your trim, there’s always the option to redo the edge after you’ve got the walls painted.

Let your painted walls sit for at least a day.

As we mentioned above, you should wait a day or two (or even three or four) before deciding on a shade of gray. 

Paint colors can look different when they’re wet compared to when they dry. It’s best to wait until the paint is no longer wet before picking a color you like. A gray may have a darker tone while wet that lightens once the paint dries. 

Once the paint is dry, examine the colors during different times of the day (and night). You may also want to wait until a rainy, overcast day to see how your paint color looks when there’s no sunlight. Some grays can end up looking too gloomy on days when it’s nasty outside. 

Remove paint colors you don’t love.

Once you’ve painted your walls with test colors, you may instantly find shades that you don’t like. Put the samples away or toss them if you don’t think you’ll want to paint other spaces gray later on. You may also want to mark the colors off on the wall. 

If you’re struggling to decide which color would work best in the space, try painting a more prominent area rather than a small square. Sometimes, it helps to see things on a bigger scale. 

Work out your color scheme and vision for your room. Then decide on a shade.

Some people may prefer to figure out their room’s desired design and color palette. If your space already has color accents, you may want to find a shade of gray that blends well with the existing scheme. 

But if you’re doing a complete redesign (or original design for a new build), you may not yet have design features or know what colors you want to use for your space. Making plans for your room, including picking out your desired color scheme, should happen before you pick a shade of gray for your walls. 

Because gray comes in so many different undertones, these blended shades may end up clashing with your room’s aesthetic. Clashing colors can throw off your room’s entire design. 

Bathrooms can look great using light, cool blue-gray colors. For spaces that have dark grays, consider design accents like brown furniture to add warmth. Some accent colors can cause your gray paint to appear white.

Even if you don’t have an idea of your room’s entire design, you’ll save time and have easier decision-making by choosing a single inspirational piece on which to base your color choices. 

You can use furniture, lamps, throw pillows, carpets, area rugs, trim, or even outside items like wrapping paper or clothing. After picking a piece that gives you color ideas, choose a gray that has matching undertones. 


As this article demonstrated, gray paint is a versatile color that comes in different shades with varying undertones. Because gray can be a neutral color, it can go with many designs and complement other colors. We’ve explained how to choose the right color of gray and what accent shades match. Happy decorating.


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