Tips for Painting Over Dark Walls

Dec 13, 2021 Vincent Russo

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Hooboy. You’ve finally bought a house, but the paint is so, so dark. “It’s only paint,” you told yourself as you walked through the place, and repeated at your walkthrough prior to closing. “It’s only paint.” And while it’s true that it’s only paint, and paint can always be painted over, going over dark walls is a much different story than trying to paint over light colored walls. Reds, purples, browns, and dark grays are particularly tricky, though anything with much pigment can pose a significant challenge if you’re not prepared. But don’t worry, we’ve put our best painting tips together to help you conquer your dark wall challenges.

Tip #1: Primer Is Not Optional

It can be easy to scoff at basic prep work when you’re “just painting,” but as with any project in your home, the end result is going to be directly related to how well you do the prep work ahead of time. And just like laying new tile or installing a new bathroom sink, the amount of preparation time you put into repainting your dark walls will show. The right prep also will make the job so much easier, so that’s something to look forward to.

When painting over dark walls, primer is absolutely not optional. Even if you choose a paint that claims to have a primer built in (it does not, it’s just a thicker paint), you will still need a high quality primer. This is not time to skimp on the cheap stuff. Choose a primer that’s designed specifically to block pigment bleeding. The greater the color difference between the paint that’s being covered and the paint you’re covering with, the more your primer will have to do. Plan to paint at least two coats of primer on very dark walls.

Tip #2: Choose Colors in the Same Family

If you like the color that your wall already is, but it’s just a shade or two too dark, well, that’s a much easier problem to solve than going from, say, midnight black to snowfall white. Taming the shade is a much easier proposition, since you’re staying in the same color family, and any small amount of pigment bleed may easily go unnoticed. However, you’ll still need to stay close to the same shade, or else you’ll need to go back to Tip 1 and prime like your life depends on it. You should still prime before you paint no matter what you do, but you may not need industrial strength primer to switch from a deep burgundy to a middling plum, for example.

Tip #3: Paint More Than You Think You Should

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when applying new wall paint, besides skipping the primer, is stopping before they’re done. With some colors, it can be a little tricky to tell if you’ve actually finished the job, but if you see any thin areas at all, you should really apply another coat. Chances are good that you didn’t just have one thin spot.

Two coats are often plenty of paint for a regular job, but don’t be shy about applying a third if it’s warranted, or going back later and adding another coat of paint after you’ve lived with it a while and noticed that the paint coverage isn’t really consistent. It’s easy to underpaint a wall, especially if you’re trying to get a job done over a weekend.

Or, Leave the Painting to a Pro…

If you’re not sure you’re up to painting over your dark walls, or you simply want to make sure the job is a one-and-done, you may need to call in a pro. Professional painters can help you choose colors that will look great in your home, as well as applying a finish that you’ll love for years to come. Your HomeKeepr community has lots of painters, and will recommend one you can trust to get the job done.

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