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How to Paint Over Dark Walls

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Painting light colors over dark colors requires more than just slapping on the paint. Great tips on how to paint over dark walls in your home including preparation and product.

I have been a bright color girl in my home decor for most of my adult years. Probably because I spent so many years in college and early work life in bland rooms with cream walls and I was ready to spread my wings! 

Give me all the colors of the rainbow! Bright blue walls and sponge painted orange accents (anyone remember that trend? Bless it ~smile~) Dark green walls with cream sponge paint on top. Apparently the sponge paint game was strong in our home years ago!

But now I’m older and wiser and back where I started! I want my walls white, whiteish or an option with a gray tint. 

Black chalkboard wall with red wall and boy's messy room

This bedroom belonged to our youngest son and was painted bright red with one wall chalkboard paint. Since the room underwent a huge transformation I knew I wanted to go for lighter and brighter!

This makeover over was a challenge because it required painting over dark walls (both red and chalkboard paint.)

How to Paint Over Dark Walls

The two most important factors to remember when covering a dark wall with a lighter color are patience and product.  

The more extreme the transformation the more likely your project will require multiple coats.  If you go into it with that in mind, patience will see you through that second coat (or however many it takes!)  

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Materials:

Paint Brushes
Painter’s tape
Spackle
Purdy roller covers
Roller frame
Plastic tray liners
BEHR Premium Plus Ultra 1 gal. Ultra Pure White Eggshell Enamel

White walls with photos and vintage bed

1. Preparation first.

Spackle any holes or cracks on the surface of the walls (think nail holes, kid damage or wall cracks). Then you’ll want to clean the walls—the cleaner they are, the smoother the paint job.

Bedroom being painted with vintage bed and paint supplies

Next, you’ll need to sand the surface of anything you’re going to paint. Just give everything a good “scuff.” Roughing up the surface gives the new paint something to adhere well to. 

Finally, use painter’s tape on any baseboards or casings if need be. Drop cloths can be your friend as well!

2. Can you paint over a dark color without priming first?

Primer has three specific purposes. It prevents stains and difficult to cover colors from bleeding through the topcoat, allows for one-coat coverage and enhances the paint’s adhesion, which reduces the chance of peeling and blistering.

Because you are tackling a difficult color change, don’t skip the primer!

walls painted white to cover dark paint

3. Use a stain-blocking paint and primer.

Today there are also paints that come with a stain blocker and primer in one product. This will definitely help shorten this time consuming process.

To achieve the best results when repainting dark paint colors, use a high-quality, dedicated stain-blocking primer. Behr Paint is a favorite quality brand and now has a primer/paint combination that is excellent and will go a long way in shortening your project.

One of our favorites is Behr Premium Plus Ultra Interior Eggshell Enamel.

Behr Premium Plus Ultra Paint on outside table

You will have to be the judge on whether you want to add a second coat of primer. My thought is if it reduces the risk of bleed through later on you can’t go wrong!

4. Don’t worry about perfect coverage on the first coat.

It’s good to remember that darker is smaller and lighter is bigger.  As you say goodbye to the dark, the space will really begin to open up and “breathe.”

The major difference in this process is not to worry about perfect coverage on the first coat.  Use a shed resistant roller cover to keep the fuzz off the surface.  

This chalk board black wall presented a specific challenge to cover as well as presented a small obstacle. The edges had to be sanded first.  When the wall was painted black the edges were taped for a nice, clean line.  

large chalkboard wall on top of red painted room

That left a slightly raised line and imperfections around the perimeter.  You don’t want that to show through your new color.  

5. Time for painting

Now that all your prep work is done and the product chosen it’s time to paint!

Work from the top down, cutting in with a brush and then rolling the remainder of the surface. This is not the time to skimp on paint! Lay it on thick because you’re covering all the dark paint!

Dripping paint on brush over can of paint

Repeat with the second coat.

chalk painted shiplap wall in coastal theme bedroom

I promise there is so much more to this room than just this one wall, including sentimental family heirlooms, side of the road treasures, and a DIY project to knock your socks off (you can see just a hint in the above picture!)

***BL-W8 Frothy Surf Behr Premium Plus Ultra Interior Eggshell Enamel is the color we used on the walls.

You can find all of the Behr Paint colors here that were used in our home.

Read all the posts in our Coastal Bedroom Makeover series:

♥  How to Paint over Dark Walls (you’re here)
  Teen Boy Bedroom Makeover
♥  How to Design a Room Around an Inspiration Piece
♥  How to Paint Furniture with Chalk Paint
  How to DIY a Plank Wall with Chalk Paint
♥  Inexpensive DIY Beach Decor Ideas and a Bedroom Makeover 

How to Paint over Dark Walls

Painting light colors over dark colors requires more than just slapping on the paint. Great tips on how to paint over dark walls in your home including preparation and product.

Materials
  

  • 1 paint brushes
  • 1 painter's tape
  • 1 spackle
  • 1 roller covers
  • 1 roller frame
  • 1 plastic tray liners
  • 1 appropriate paint

Instructions
 

  • How to paint over dark walls
  • Materials
  • Preparation first.
  • Can you paint over a dark color without priming first?
  • Use a stain-blocking paint or primer.
  • Don't worry about perfect coverage on the first coat.
  • Time for painting.
  • Coastal Bedroom Makeover series

Video

How to paint over dark walls before and after

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11 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Marty. I wish I knew this year’s ago. My first house was completely pink and dark pink to boot. The doors, the walls, the skirting. It was so hard to cover up. I am now neutral all the way.

  2. Thanks so much for the great tips. Many moons ago we went a little color crazy too and I’ve been putting off repainting the walls because I know just how much work it is trying to cover the old color up.

  3. What a great tutorial! So many people have painted a chalkboard on their walls, this is a great way to cover them up when the time comes to do so! Thanks for sharing!
    Nancy

  4. I wish i had this 10 years ago when my daughter painted all
    The walls red in her room. Great diy

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