Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tips for Painting with Dark Colors

The favored color palette for most goths is dark.  This works well for clothing, but decorating with dark colors can be challenging.  While I am generally a proponent of the “paint it black” philosophy of gothic decorating, I urge caution when applying this to your walls.  Black walls are illumination vampires – they suck up all the light, probably much more than you’d expect.  In the wrong situation, black walls can make you feel like you’re closed up in a coffin that’s one size too small. 

Consider the size of your room, the amount of natural light in your room, and perhaps most importantly, the intended use(s) of the room.  If you need to apply makeup and/or determine if your skirt and tights are the same shade of black, dark blood red may not be the best color choice for your walls.

Okay, you’ve read the cautions and you still want to go dark.  Great!  Dark walls can look fantastic if done right.  However, it’s surprisingly difficult to achieve good results with dark paint.

If you’re a painting newbie, I suggest watching HGTV’s show 10 Things You Must Know about interior painting, a good 20-minute primer on the basics.

Plan to paint multiple coats
It seems counterintuitive, but dark paint doesn’t cover well.  Put a coat of white paint on a burgundy wall, and it will look white.  Put a coat of burgundy on a white wall, and it will probably look patchy and uneven.

Buy quality brushes and rollers
Stay away from the econo-roller.  Good quality brushes and rollers shed less, hold more paint, and give a smoother finish.  This is particularly important with dark colors, which are not very forgiving.

Buy quality paint
Cheap paint is thin and drippy, and it covers poorly, especially in dark colors.  You’ll need twice as many coats, nullifying any cost savings and wasting a lot of your time.  The quality of specific paint brands is a hotly debated topic online (who knew?), but definitely avoid paint labeled “commercial” quality.  Typically, that’s the low-grade paint used by rental property managers and contractors.  Also be very skeptical of paint that costs $10 or $12 a gallon (U.S.).  Quality paint costs about twice that much.

Use primer
A coat of tinted primer plus a coat of paint will generally look better than two coats of paint.  For dark colors, you will need one coat of primer and at least one coat of paint.  For dark reds, you will probably need an additional coat(s) of paint.

Choose eggshell or satin
A glossier finish will magnify any imperfections in the wall and show every speck of dust.

Pictured below is my bedroom.  I used two coats of Behr Premium Plus Ultra, which is touted as primer and paint in one, in Wild Elderberry.  The ceiling, doors and trim are white to balance the dark.  So far, it's my favorite room in the house.
bedroom as it appeared when I first viewed the house
with carpet removed, ready for paint

with walls painted and flooring installed

with furniture, curtains, etc.


  1. Eeee! Stripey bedroom! I love it. We made black fabric covered panels to enclose the bottom of our bed, now I am so tempted to change the fabric to stripes.

  2. Thank you! I have plans to add more stripes in an unusual way.

    Not to be an enabler... but now is a good time to buy stripey fabric because the stores are putting out their costume fabrics, including the "jailbird" stripe. :-)

  3. I've actually already bought some of the black and white striped satin from JoAnn Fabrics! I have Magpie Syndrome when it comes to spooky or stripey fabric, I'm in that store every week from late July to October ha!

  4. Me, too! I've bought about 10 different Halloween fabrics in the last month, including some nice flowy fabric in black/white stripes and black/red stripes at Hancock Fabrics. I have hours and hours of sewing to do! :-)

  5. Just let me tell you that this is the most awesome blog I have stumbled across. Your instructions are amazingly simple to follow, the pictures are perfect for visual learners like myself, and the ideas you have are amazing! Thank you.