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Sherwin Williams Iron Ore vs Peppercorn (Full Comparison!)

    Peppercorn and Iron Ore are often compared as “black” paint colors from Sherwin Williams, but are they actually black, and which one is best?

    Sherwin Williams Iron Ore vs Peppercorn on swatches over a photo of a black room with floral wallpaper on the back wall and a blue couch.

    Here we will take a good look at both colors, and spot the differences. I have also curated some photos to give you a better idea of how they look in real life.

    Let’s go!

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    Sherwin Williams Iron Ore and Peppercorn Swatches

    First lets take a look at the colors individually. Here is a swatch of Iron Ore:

    A sample of sherwin williams Iron ore beside a picture of iron ore.

    And Peppercorn:

    A sample of sherwin williams peppercorn beside a picture of peppercorns

    Iron Ore vs Peppercorn Properties

    Here is a handy dandy graphic that I whipped up to help you visualize the differences that we are going to talk about:

    peppercorn vs iron ore on swatches with LRV over a background of a living room with a gallery wall.

    Iron Ore vs Peppercorn LRV

    The LRV of a color indicates on a scale of 0 – 100 how much light a color reflects (or doesn’t reflect). True black has an LRV of 0 and pure white has an LRV of 100.

    In the paint world, we are working in a range of 3 – 93 because no paint color is purely black or completely white.

    Peppercorn has an LRV of 10.

    Iron Ore has an LRV of 7.

    Iron Ore vs Peppercorn Undertones

    The easiest way to spot the undertone of a color is in comparison to other colors. Here are Peppercorn and Iron Ore compared to true black:

    Iron ore and peppercorn swatches compared to true black

    They both look pretty gray!

    On the swatch, Iron Ore has no obvious undertone. Technically it is a charcoal in the yellow color family. On the wall, it ranges in appearance from a dark blue-ish charcoal color to an actual black. In some circumstances it can even have a slight olivey tone, but that is less common.

    Here is Iron Ore looking as black as it ever looks:

    A black door painted with iron ore in a bathroom
    Sherwin Williams Iron Ore – Credit @rebui1d

    Thanks so much to Rebuild Fabricators for the photo!

    Loving the black door look? Check out this post:

    Graphic reads Spicy Black Interior Doors over a white kitchen with black pantry door

    I would say that most often, Iron Ore looks pretty much like it does here:

    Iron Ore swatch over an interior door painted in Iron Ore
    Background photo credit: @thefinishingroommke

    See just the hint of blue? When I see that (particularly on exteriors) I know the color is most likely Iron Ore. This makes no sense, because there is no actual blue in the formulation, and yet here we are.

    Although in the comparison graphic it shows that Peppercorn is in the red family, it is actually purely gray. The RGB (Red, Green, Blue) of Peppercorn is 88, 88, 88, meaning that it is gray and only gray.

    That was hard for me to grasp, because Peppercorn is a true chameleon. I find that most often, Peppercorn looks like a mid-charcoal, or a greeny-gray. In some cases it can even look a bit blue.

    Here is Peppercorn showing a hint of green. I think it is due to the warm lighting in this room, but I have seen it in several houses:

    Peppercorn accent wall behind pop art
    SW Peppercorn – Credit @stlsweets

    Thanks so much to Jenelle of @stlsweets for the photo.

    Peppercorn doesn’t ever look truly black. (If you like the green-gray effect, consider Sherwin Williams Pewter Green.)

    Here is Peppercorn on an exterior by Stoeck Interiors, showing off more of its blue undertone:

    Peppercorn and Snowbound Townhome Stucco exterior
    Photo Credit: @stoeckinteriors

    Iron Ore vs Peppercorn – Are They Warm or Cool?

    Iron Ore most often looks like a cool color. It looks dark gray, and never the least bit brown despite the formulation. I would say that when it takes on an olivey tone in the odd circumstance, it can look slightly warm.

    Peppercorn has sooo many faces, it can look like a gray-blue, gray-green, or even a brownish-gray (like a deep greige).

    Both of these shades have elements of cool and warm colors. I would say that Iron Ore leans cool most often and Peppercorn is about 50/50.

    Graphic reads "Nail down your neutral color scheme in 60 minutes or less" with an image of the foolproof neutrals ebook. Button below reads "Show me how!"

    Iron Ore and Peppercorn Color Palette

    Because Iron Ore and Peppercorn are technically grays without much real color to them, there aren’t really complementary colors for either.

    (Complementary colors are the colors across the color wheel.)

    Here I made a loosely monochromatic color scheme of coordinating and similar colors.

    Iron Ore and Peppercorn on paint lids in a palette with pavestone, urbane bronze, and kendall charcoal.

    Sherwin Williams Pavestone

    Pavestone is a really nice taupey color that goes with a LOT of other colors.

    Sherwin Williams Urbane Bronze

    Urbane Bronze is a former color of the year for Sherwin Williams and is really popular for exterior trim and doors. Urbane Bronze would look very luxurious with either dark charcoal, but it can sometimes look too similar to Iron Ore.

    Read more about Urbane Bronze.

    Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal

    Kendall Charcoal is a warm charcoal that is closer to being a really dark greige than a black. I don’t know that I would put it with Peppercorn, but it could be another charcoal option, or it could work with Iron Ore.

    Iron Ore or Peppercorn Accent Wall

    Either Iron Ore or Peppercorn works well as an accent wall. I have seen many instances of both.

    The major difference is that Peppercorn will not look black. If you want an accent wall that is definitely mid to dark gray, and not black, then choose Peppercorn.

    Peppercorn on a board and batten accent wall in a bedroom
    SW Peppercorn – Credit @thelivedinlook

    Thanks so much to Martina of @thelivedinlook for the photo!

    If you want your accent wall to look black or close to it, then choose Iron Ore:

    A charcoal gray accent wall in sw iron ore in a vaulted ceiling living room
    SW Iron Ore – Credit @tararowemckenna
    A charcoal almost black iron ore accent wall
    SW Iron Ore – Credit @tararowemckenna

    Thanks so much to Tara of @tararowemckenna for the photos!

    I still wouldn’t say that Iron Ore is truly black. For a real black paint color, check out: Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black (Is it the Best Black? Plus Dupes!)

    Iron Ore vs Peppercorn Exterior

    Here are a couple of photos of Iron Ore on a home’s exterior in different lighting.
    (I do think the contrast is dialled up a little in the darker photo, but you get the idea!)

    Irone Ore on a house with a brick entrance looking black
    SW Iron Ore – Credit @tararowemckenna
    Irone Ore looking gray on a house with a brick front
    SW Iron Ore – Credit @tararowemckenna

    Next up, here is Peppercorn on an exterior:

    Peppercorn looking dark charcoal on the exterior of a home in winter with a wooden door.
    SW Peppercorn – Credit @thetatteredpew
    Peppercorn looking blue in natural light.
    SW Peppercorn – Credit @thetatteredpew

    You can see in the lighter photo how Peppercorn can look a little blue.

    Thanks so much to Kelly of @thetatteredpew for the photos!

    Don’t Forget Your Supplies!

    This little brush might look funny, but it’s my absolute ride or die!

    Rollers like these hold the most paint and make the job faster. Get a metal roller cage for easy on and off.

    DryDex is the fastest (and funnest!) way to make chips and dents disappear. (Make sure you get a small spackling tool that actually fits in the container, and a sanding sponge.)

    This tool will save your back and limit time on a ladder.

    When to Choose Peppercorn or Iron Ore?

    I hope this gave you a better idea of each of these colors! Once you have seen them in real homes you can really see how different they are.

    In conclusion, choose Peppercorn for a mid to dark charcoal color that can have a hint of blue, green, or even brown.

    Choose Iron Ore for a rich off-black that stays a bit more predictable in most lighting and decor scenarios.

    As always, but especially with these two(!), be sure to bring samples into your house and keep them up at different times of the day.

    Not the right moody shade? I’ve got you covered! :

    Thunderous on a paint can lid over a dark background with a fringey blanket and other paint colors
    Urbane Bronze reading nook with outdoor light
    Sherwin Williams Cyberspace paint dot over nursery with cyberspace ceiling