How To Paint Over Dark Walls with a Light Color (How-to guide)

Now and again we all want to change things up in our home, and one of the easiest ways to do this is by painting your walls a new color. 

A fresh new color can transform a room, and lighter colors can make the room feel bigger, more spacious, and well, lighter.

However, if your walls are currently painted a darker color, you need to add an extra step to the painting process. If you simply attack your dark walls with a lighter color, the darker color underneath will show through and will alter the end result. 

To make the process as simple as possible, we’ve included everything you need to know in this guide.

Step 1: Gather your supplies 

Before you start, it’s best to ensure you have everything you need, so you’re not having to stop and start constantly. 

In terms of paint, it’s best to opt for acrylic-based paint for covering dark walls. You’ll also need to determine the right thickness (nap) of roller you need, and this will depend on the texture of the wall. 

The rougher the wall is, the thicker the nap should be. Thicker rollers will hold more paint than their thinner counterparts, which enables you to cover the crevices more efficiently. 

You’ll also need those regular supplies such as drop cloths for the floor, painter’s tape, and paintbrushes.

Step 2: Prep your walls 

First up, cover your floors with drop cloths and line the ceiling and baseboards with painter’s tape.

As when painting any wall, you’re going to need to do some prep to ensure you have a clean, smooth surface to work on. You’ll need to fill in any holes and sand the walls to make painting them easier and to achieve a more even coat of paint. 

This is especially important when painting over dark walls, and it’s also recommended that you clean the surface as much as possible to help the paint stick better. 

Step 3: Prime your surface 

Don’t just go straight on with your lighter shade of paint, as otherwise, you’ll find you need multiple coats to cover the previous color. 

It’s important to use a white primer first; this will provide a base layer to conceal the old color, and will hopefully reduce the number of coats you’ll need to give the walls.

For optimal coverage, give the walls two coats of primer when covering dark walls.

Step 4: Apply your paint 

When the coats of primer are fully dry, you can finally move on to painting your walls in the new color. 

For professional results, roll the paint onto the wall using large “M” or “W” shapes. This up and down motion helps get a more even coverage.

Try not to load too much paint onto the roller, remove excess paint beforehand by using the slanted part of the roller tray - this will help eliminate those pesky roller lines.

Don’t panic if your color doesn’t look solid and even after applying the first coat. It’s common for paint to appear darker when it’s wet, and the second coat of paint will even out the color. 

When covering dark walls, you’ll definitely want to apply at least two coats of paint, though be sure to allow the first coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next one. This is the perfect time to take a much-deserved break, and kick back and relax!

Step 5: Check for missed sports 

Once your second coat is dry, take the opportunity to survey the walls and check for any missed spots. Do this in natural daylight so you can clearly see any thin patches or missed spots, then top these up with a paintbrush. 

Covering up dark walls without paint

If you’re renting, you may not have the luxury of being able to coat your walls with a new color. If you’re not a fan of your home’s dark walls, or you simply don’t want to go through the effort of painting them, you could consider removable wallpaper. 

This peel-and-stick alternative looks super luxurious and can be easily removed or swapped whenever you feel like it. 

Alternatively, you can use artwork and tapestries to take the focus off of the dark color. You can also use lighter-colored furniture, rugs, and other decor to distract from the dark tone.

With a little creativity, you can easily change up your room without applying a whole new coat of paint. Or, if you do decide to paint, remember that while it’s a lot of work to paint dark walls, once it’s done, if you decide to paint your lighter color darker again, it’ll be a lot easier to do. 

Do more coats of paint make it darker?

You might worry that if you’re adding more coats than usual that the final color will be altered. However, adding layers of the same paint won’t affect the color, it will only affect the coverage. 

You should also bear in mind that the finish of the paint will also affect the color. Flat paint has a chalky appearance which absorbs light and can make colors appear slightly lighter, while glossy paint reflects more light and will typically make a color appear darker because of the sheen. 

Can I paint a dark color over a dark color?

If you are painting dark walls with a darker color, you can usually get away with using a paint with primer in it, rather than using two separate products. 

Final Say 

Painting dark walls can seem like a lot of effort and may require more coats than usual, but using a primer will help reduce the number of coats needed. The good news about painting dark walls a lighter color is that if you choose to apply a darker color later down the line, it’ll be a lot easier to do. 

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