Gray is a great color for basements. But it’s usually a color you want to use for accents and trims, not to cover walls and doors and ceilings all-gray.
Scientists who specialize in the psychology of color are usually less than enthusiastic about giving basements gray walls, gray ceilings, and gray floors. Even in a well-lit above-ground room, broad swaths of gray can be just a little depressing, unless they contain hints of brighter colors. Pure gray gives a basement a depressing vibe. It saps the vitality of the space.
But you can make gray a great background color. Gray is a useful base coat, and it can soften other colors, so their effects are not as dramatic. Here is where color psychologists put gray in the palette of basement painting options.
- Basements painted with a matte red with no softening, neutral accents give off a hyperactive vibe. But red accents on a gray background give the basement the kind of lighting needed to concentrate on fine detail. If your basement is your hobby room, gray walls with red trim can be a great choice.
- People tend to feel chatty when floors, walls, and ceilings are painted all-blue. But gray walls with blue trim encourages communication, not just chit-chat
- A little yellow gives the basement a sunnier feeling. But too much yellow, especially when it is combined with excessive lighting pushes the vibe from optimism to antagonism.
- Green is a calming color. Sometimes it is an excessively calming color. But gray paints with green tones are “just enough” to encourage self-directed activity in a gender-neutral atmosphere.
Lighter grays in a basement make it a place where it feels right to read. A little fuchsia or peach in gray paint increases the responsiveness of the cones of the retina to artificial light and makes both print and photos come into sharper focus.
And sometimes it is gray that is the best background for making other colors pop. Slate gray and stone grays contrast with high-gloss white ceilings. They add interest to wall art and trophy collection.
If your basement is a teenager hangout, it is good to keep in mind that teens tend to prefer gray laminate flooring to carpet. Gray laminates blend with wood trim, and they can make bedspreads and wall posters stand out. Just be sure to coordinate your choice of gray paint for the walls with your choice of gray laminate for the floors.
Bring all your choices together with upholstery, wall art, throw pills and artwork. Harmonize all your color choices to create a single vibe from your finished basement.
Table of Contents
- Four Grays That Are Great for a First Coat: Evening White N460-1, Seagull Gray N360-1, Silver Marlin N360-2, or Painter’s White PPU18-08.
- Best Gray Paint Alternative to White Paint: Close Knit T17-01
- Best Shade of Gray Paint for Matching Magazine Styles: Passive SW 7064
- Best Shade of Gray Paint for a Small Basement: Dreamscape Gray T15-6
- Best Shade of Stormy Gray: Big Chill SW 7648
- Best Shade of Gray Paint for a Spooky or Mysterious Feel: Marquis Gray Shimmer MQ3-25
- Best Shade of Gray Paint for Focusing Attention on Conversation: Curio MQ3-22
- Best “Fabulously Feminine” Shade of Gray Paint: Gentle Rain 790E-2
- Best Shade of Gray Paint for a Gender-Neutral Vibe: Classic Silver PPU18-1
- Best Background Color for a Basement Trophy Wall: Gray Owl 2137-60
- Best Shade of “Greige” Paint for Basements: Burnished Clay PPU8-18
- Best Shade of Gray Paint for People with Low Vision: Agreeable Gray SW 7029
- Best Shade of Gray Paint for Colorful Collections of Furniture: Repose Gray SW 7015
- Best Shade of Gray Paint to Complement Basement Dark Floors: Dorian Gray 7017
- Best Shade of Gray Paint to Complement Blues and White: Dovetail 7018
- Best Shade of Charcoal Gray: Gauntlet Gray 7019
- Best Shade of Gray Paint for a Basement Playroom: Worldly Gray 7043
- Best Shade of Gray Paint for Trimming Reds and Yellows: Revere Pewter HC-172
- Best Shades of Gray Paint for Making a Small Basement Seem Spacious: Stonington Gray HC 170
- Best Warming Shade of Gray Paint without Beige Undertones: Collingwood Gray OC 28
- Best Gray for Encouraging Reading and Homework: Balboa Mist OC 27
- Best “Just Gray:” Chelsea Gray HC 168
Four Grays That Are Great for a First Coat: Evening White N460-1, Seagull Gray N360-1, Silver Marlin N360-2, or Painter’s White PPU18-08.
Sometimes finished basements can’t be completely finished. There just isn’t enough money or time. Homeowners need colors that work for the basement that are easy to modify later. They want colors that work for their kids’ bedrooms that they can always modify later. These four Behr paints work for walls and ceilings until you have time to add some finesse to your basement decoration plans: Behr Evening White N460-1, Behr Seagull Gray N360-1, Behr Silver Marlin N360-2, and Behr Painter’s White PPU18-08 (which is really a gray, not a white).
Each of these shades of gray works with any bright color or combination of bright colors because they all contain a lot of white. But why not just paint your basement white?
White brightens a basement, but it contributes to sensory overload. White reflects all colors, so colors that cause irritation and distraction and anger are part of the mix. It’s never a good idea just to paint a basement white and leave the details to be determined. Pain walls light gray so furniture, trophies, and personal mementos stand out.
Best Gray Paint Alternative to White Paint: Close Knit T17-01
When you want white walls for better reflectivity but you don’t want a shocking, pure white, Behr Close Knit T17-01 is a good choice. It is a nearly-white shade of gray with just a little yellow for warmth. The yellow undertone encourages an optimistic mood but the gray is relaxing. This shade works for walls and ceilings.
Best Shade of Gray Paint for Matching Magazine Styles: Passive SW 7064
Sherwin-Williams Passive SW 7064 is an extremely popular shade of gray you will see in dozens of magazines about interior design. It’s not a light, fresh, cheery gray, but it’s light enough that it won’t give any basement a dark feeling. It has a little more body than most light grays. Passive has a hint of green but lots of blue and purple for bringing out blues and purples in your basement design.
Best Shade of Gray Paint for a Small Basement: Dreamscape Gray T15-6
Behr Dreamscape Gray T15-6 is an unusual shade of gray that brings brighter colors together and keeps an undersized basement from feeling like a storage area. It complements almost any shade of blue and gives a small basement bedroom a masculine feel.
Best Shade of Stormy Gray: Big Chill SW 7648
Sherwin-Williams Big Chill 7648 is a little stormy, but it is still reflective enough to make a basement feel light and airy.
Best Shade of Gray Paint for a Spooky or Mysterious Feel: Marquis Gray Shimmer MQ3-25
If you are looking for a shade of gray that has a spooky feeling (maybe for a Harry Potter-themed basement playroom) but that isn’t really fear-inducing, take a look Behr Marquis Gray Shimmer MQ3-25. It has a mysterious vibe but in a light and airy way.
Best Shade of Gray Paint for Focusing Attention on Conversation: Curio MQ3-22
Scientists tell us that undertones of aqua and green in a gray base support calm communication Behr Curio MQ3-22 has the mysterious feel of Behr Marquis Gray Shimmer MQ3-25 is a great shade to have in the background when you read stories, have heart-to-heart conversations, or listen to dialog. This shade of gray complements both green and white.
Best “Fabulously Feminine” Shade of Gray Paint: Gentle Rain 790E-2
Here is a gray that is almost blue, devoid of red and yellow notes. It’s a cheerful choice for a girl’s or woman’s basement bedroom. Distinctly feminine. Behr Gentle Rain 790E-2 brings put blues in furniture, bedding, and wall art forward in a shade that promotes a feeling of cozy security.
Best Shade of Gray Paint for a Gender-Neutral Vibe: Classic Silver PPU18-1
Behr Classic Silver PPU18-1 is a shade of gray that brings out greens and yellows instead of pinks and blues. It is also “gray enough” be used to balance steel grays and charcoal grays with lighter grays to bring all the colors of the basement together.
Best Background Color for a Basement Trophy Wall: Gray Owl 2137-60
Source: Benjamin Moore
Benjamin Moore Gray Owl 2137-60 is a gray that is so bright it is almost white. But Benjamin Moore Gray Owl 2137-60 can bring out greens and blues and golds, and gives the basement a calming atmosphere. Its best use is as a trim to white or bright paint used on a trophy wall or art collection.
Best Shade of “Greige” Paint for Basements: Burnished Clay PPU8-18
When you can’t decide between gray or beige, try.” Behr Burnished Clay PPU8-18, a popular “greige” promoted by Martha Stewart Living. It complements upholstery and wall art with shades of muted purple, sky blue, and ocean. This shade of gray works with accents of sky blue, ocean, and muted purple. And if you use your basement as a playroom and your kids are into purple fantasy characters, this is great greige. Product literature states that this paint has especially low levels of volatile organic compounds so your basement will have better indoor air quality.
Best Shade of Gray Paint for People with Low Vision: Agreeable Gray SW 7029
Sherwin-Williams Agreeable Gray SW 7029 is a “greige” that helps people of all ages who have low vision maintain binocular vision — provided the basement has adequate lighting. It woks well with blue or green furniture or accents.
Best Shade of Gray Paint for Colorful Collections of Furniture: Repose Gray SW 7015
Sherwin-Williams Repose Gray SW 7015 is a light gray mixed with of purple and brown. It brings out violet, purple, and yellow in furniture and wall art. It’s a great choice for a well-lit basement decorated on a theme of purple and yellow or purple and gold.
Best Shade of Gray Paint to Complement Basement Dark Floors: Dorian Gray 7017
Sherwin-Williams Dorian Gray 7017 is an “adult” gray, really a greige, that can be applied to basement walls but not to basement ceilings (which need to be lighter) to complement dark floors. “greige” that you can apply to walls and ceilings to complement dark floors and white trim. This shade is a complementary color to dark floors, but it leaves the basement distinctly on the dark side. Sometimes that’s the desired effect.
Best Shade of Gray Paint to Complement Blues and White: Dovetail 7018
If your basement is a hangout for fans of a team whose colors are blue and white and it is decorated with blue and white team mementos, then the best shade of gray paint to tie everything together is Sherwin-Williams Dovetail 7018. It will make blue and white objects pop out, but it is not a great shade for keeping the basement well lit.
Best Shade of Charcoal Gray: Gauntlet Gray 7019
Charcoal is not a color to use extensively in basements. It’s just not bright enough for rooms that don’t have natural light. But when you want cabinets, trim, and wainscot in charcoal, a great choice is Sherwin-Williams Gauntlet Gray 7019. This shade of charcoal gray is a great choice for accents but a bad choice for walls and ceilings.
Best Shade of Gray Paint for a Basement Playroom: Worldly Gray 7043
Browns and greens set a happy, cooperative mood for a playroom, but sometimes even they are just a little too loud when a basement is also used for relaxation after the kids go to bed. Sherwin-Williams Worldly Gray 7043 has greens and browns that bring a room together. Sherwin-Williams Worldly Gray 7043 adds a non-threatening, softening feel that makes a playroom with a jungle theme or a camouflage theme just a little more relaxed. It’s also a great shade of gray for rooms where children tell and listen to stories.
Best Shade of Gray Paint for Trimming Reds and Yellows: Revere Pewter HC-172
Source: Benjamin Moore
Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC-172 is a great gray for trimming bright reds and yellows. It is a good gray to use on walls with white trim, but not basement ceilings. If you have a basement bedroom with lots of reds and yellows in furniture or wall art, this gray makes it more relaxing and conducive to sleep.
Best Shades of Gray Paint for Making a Small Basement Seem Spacious: Stonington Gray HC 170
Source: Benjamin Moore
Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray HC 170 adds an illusion of depth to walls and closet doors. A coat of this shade of gray makes the area it is used as trim look farther away than the surfaces around them. It has the same feel as Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC-172 except it also reflects blues and greens. If you have lots of blues and greens in your furnishings or wall art, consider Benjamin Moore Gray Owl OC 52. Just be aware that Gray Owl is a good choice for basement bedrooms because it is relaxing and sleep-inducing.
Best Warming Shade of Gray Paint without Beige Undertones: Collingwood Gray OC 28
Source: Benjamin Moore
Beige can be boring. Sometimes you want a gray that has warmer undertones without mixing in beige and yellow. If you want a warmer shade for your kids’ bedroom without beige or greige try Benjamin Moore Collingwood Gray OC 28.
Best Gray for Encouraging Reading and Homework: Balboa Mist OC 27
Source: Benjamin Moore
Pink is a color that encourages children to read or do homework, but it can be a little overwhelming used by itself. Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist OC 27 has just enough pink to encourage kids to read calmly. Collingwood Gray OC 28 blends well with pink-tinged hardwoods such as cherry wood and exotic imported pink ivory (which is a wood, not ivory from elephants).
Best “Just Gray:” Chelsea Gray HC 168
Source: Benjamin Moore
Sometimes you know you want gray but you just can’t make up your mind which gray works best. Or you want to do basement walls in gray to redirect the eye to important objects in your interior design. When you can’t choose from the first 24 shades of gray, Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray HC 168 is what you need to give you just “gray.” This “Chelsea” gray includes a tiny amount of green to make it a more welcoming color, but it is probably the easiest of all the gray paints to match to almost any decoration scheme.