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How to Paint Over A Dark Color with Only Two Coats

Dark colors look great when you first paint them on. If and when you choose a dark color for one of your rooms, it’s most likely because you simply fell in love with the color, or it matched a piece of furniture, or because that shade was recommended in a style or design magazine.

However, just as with any paint color, it won’t last forever. Along with fading over time, maybe the trends will change. You could just get tired of looking at the same shade every day. You want to repaint, but you don’t take action due to one thought: Painting over dark colors is difficult.

Prep Time

​​The quality of your brushes and rollers will play a big role in how nice your painted areas turn out. Let a pro at your local paint store advise you on the ideal types of brushes for your specific job. Aim for medium-priced or higher, and never buy from the bargain bin. As to rollers, buy ones with the right-sized nap for your project – rough surfaces need a thicker nap, and smooth surfaces need a thinner nap.

For most interior wall or ceiling painting projects, a quality acrylic paint will do a good job. Avoid off-brands and aim for brands with solid reputations, such as Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams.

The right kind of primer is the critical element when painting over a darker color. You want a primer with high amounts of binders and pigment, as these block out the color underneath. When going from dark to light, a white primer will produce a better result than a gray or darker primer.

Even if you’re painting white over white, neglecting to prepare the surface properly is asking for trouble. Prep work is even more important when painting light over dark. Here’s what to do:

  • Wipe surfaces completely with a microfiber cloth to remove dust

  • Use a detergent cleaner and rag on stains and smudges

  • Scrape off any chipped or peeling old paint and sand well

  • If a liquid cleaner is used, allow the surface to dry completely before starting to paint

Paint Time

One common mistake DIY painters make when painting over dark colors? Spreading the paint too thin.

Always add more paint than you think. You want heavy coverage when you’re rolling.

Then, when painting, roll in big “M” or “W” shapes rather than just up and down. This approach gives the paint a few seconds to dry rather than immediately covering it up again.

And remember: The more extreme your dark-to-light transformation, the more layers of paint you’ll need to get the job done—and the longer the project will take. One wall will take one person about a half-day to complete, Kolsum estimates.

Just keep putting layers on until the dark color is gone.

One of the best parts of painting over dark colors is the built-in break time. You’ve got to let the paint dry between layers, so sit back, relax, and enjoy a good book or take the dog for a walk between coats.

How long should you wait? Acrylic paint dries quickly—about 15 or 30 minutes depending on temperature and humidity.

Does lightening up those dark walls sound like more than you bargained for? Don’t worry—it’s just time to get creative. Consider painting over dark colors with another dark color you actually like.

In conclusion, transforming a room by painting over a dark color can be a straightforward and efficient process when armed with the right techniques and products. By following the steps outlined in this guide and investing in high-quality paint and primer, you can achieve a beautifully refreshed space with just two coats. Remember to prepare the surface adequately, choose the right paint color, and exercise patience during the drying process. With these tips, you'll be on your way to a successful and visually stunning paint transformation in no time!

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