How To Paint Over A Dark Colour

How To Paint Over A Dark Colour

Are your walls starting to channel their inner goth? So dark, it’s like they’re auditioning for a role in American Horror Story? Maybe it’s time to give them a makeover.

If you are planning on painting over a dark colour, you’re probably wondering what’s involved. Are there extra steps you’ll need to follow? Or will it be as simple as splashing a few coats of paint on the walls? These are all great questions.

So, I thought I’d put this blog post together to tell you step-by-step how to paint over your dark coloured walls. Not only that, but I will share some painting tips and tell you what the best primers and paints you can use for this type of interior painting project.

Let’s dive in!

Woman painting white over black walls

How To Paint White Over Black Walls

Let’s get straight to it.

Follow this how to paint white over black walls for a flawless finish without using products to strip the existing paint.

I’ll cover the tools and materials you’ll need, the preparation work involved, and how to apply the paint itself.

Tools and materials you’ll need

Here are all the tools and materials you’ll need to paint over dark-coloured walls:

  • Plastic sheeting to cover floors and furniture
  • Masking tape
  • Dust brushes
  • Sandpaper
  • Filler
  • Putty knife
  • Paint tray
  • White-coloured primer
  • A medium-pile roller
  • A quality angled bristle paintbrush for cutting in
  • Your white paint of choice


Let’s get to the most crucial part of your painting project – the prep work!

Preparation is so important because it ensures your surface is smooth and the surface will look flawless when you finish painting.

Here are the preparation tasks you’ll need to follow before painting over dark walls:

  1. The first step is to cover your furniture and floors with plastic sheeting.
  2. After that, you’ll want to use your masking tape to tape around the ceiling, switch plates, and skirting boards.
  3. Next, you need to clean your walls. You can use your dust brushes to remove most of the dust or dirt.
  4. Gently sand the entire wall to smooth your walls before painting.
  5. Fill any imperfections in your walls (like holes or cracks) with your filler. You can use your putty knife to make applying the filler easier. Once the filler has dried, sand these areas to make it flush with the rest of the wall.
  6. Apply your white-coloured primer to the walls. A white primer will make getting good coverage easier when you paint over dark paint.


If you’ve followed the above steps, your walls will be prepared, primed, and ready to paint.

Let’s get to it:

  1. Open your tins of paint and pour them into your painter’s tray.
  2. Grab your angled bristle paintbrush and begin cutting in the walls – painting as close to the edges of the walls, skirting boards, and ceilings as possible. You can go slightly over the edges when painting – that’s why the masking tape is there!
  3. Take your medium-pile roller and dip it into your paint tray. To roll the paint evenly on your walls, roll the paint in an ‘M’ or ‘W’ pattern to ensure the paint colour is consistent and the finish is free from any brush marks.
  4. Let the first coat of paint dry – it will take approximately 2-4 hours.
  5. Now repeat steps 2-3 and apply the second coat of paint.
  6. Wait for the second coat of paint to dry.
  7. Once it has dried, check if you can still see the dark paint colour through the new colour. If you can, apply a third coat.
How Many Coats Of Paint Does It Take To Cover A Dark Colour

How Many Coats Of Paint Does It Take To Cover A Dark Colour?

The first coat will be a primer coat. A primer coat works as a base coat for the walls.

After this, you’ll need to apply two coats of paint.

A primer coat and two top coats should cover your walls. However, you might need a third coat when painting over a dark colour. You can make that judgment after the second coat has dried.

Why would you need more than two coats to paint over dark colours?

Not all paint is created equal. So, the number of coats you’ll need to get good coverage on your surface will depend on:

  • Paint quality: For starters, cheap paint is thinner, so you’ll need more coats when painting over dark colours. Also, inexpensive paints contain fewer pigments (the superpower ingredient). Pigment is the ingredient that gives paint the ability to cover a surface.
  • Type of paint: Different paints will adhere and cover surfaces better than others. Water-based paints typically provide the best surface coverage compared to oil-based or acrylic paints.
Man using a roller to apply primer to a wall

What Is The Best Primer To Cover Dark Colours

When painting over dark colours, the key to a good quality finish is to choose the best primer for your walls.

The primer you use should be the same as the final colour you want on your walls. 

So, if you paint your black walls white, you’ll want to use a white-coloured primer.

Some ‘experts’ on Google recommend using a primer colour somewhere in the middle of the current and desired paint colour. But it’s a MYTH!

Here’s why you should avoid this when painting over dark colours:

  • You’ll need to apply more coats of paint to your walls to get the same quality finish.
  • A non-matching coloured primer will dilute the top coats, giving you a faded finish.

Instead, using a primer that matches the final colour of the walls will ensure that:

  • You will get optimal coverage. That means you can apply fewer coats of paint.
  • The final colour on your walls will be closer to the desired version of the paint colour.

Now you know what colour primer you should use, let’s look at the best primers you can find at your local DIY store.

Over the years, I have personally tried and tested hundreds of primers. 

Here are my favourites:

  • Best quality: Zinsser BIN Primer Sealer Stain Killer
  • Best value: Valspar Trade Interior Wall & Ceiling Matt Primer & Undercoat

Best White Paint To Cover Dark Walls

Here’s a fun fact that seems hard to believe. There are more than 150,000 shades of white paint available. 150,000. Unbelievable, right?

So when it comes to choosing the best white paint to cover your dark-coloured walls, it’s not a simple decision. In fact, finding the right shade of white will probably feel like trying to find the perfect snowflake in a blizzard.

Luckily, I’ve personally used hundreds, if not thousands, of white paint colours in my time.

So, follow my recommendations and save yourself the agony of trying to find the right shade of white to paint over dark walls:

  • Best quality: Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion or Little Greene Intelligent Matt Emulsion
  • Best value: Dulux Once Matt Emulsion Paint or Crown Breatheasy Matt Emulsion
  • Most environmentally friendly: Earthborn Eco Chic Claypaint

Can You Paint Over Dark Colours Without A Primer?

When you are painting over dark colours, skipping the primer is not a shortcut you should take. If you do, you will simply end up with a poor-quality finish.

Skipping the primer coat when painting walls is the equivalent of trying to build a house without laying a proper foundation. Without it, the paint won’t adhere to the surface or last very long.

Here’s what a primer does for your walls:

  • When you prime your walls, it seals the surface. Painting onto a sealed surface will make it easier for paint to adhere to your walls. As a result, the finish will last a lot longer.
  • When painting over dark colours, a primer helps to create a smooth base. Painting onto a smooth surface will give you a more durable finish by preventing cracks, peeling, and flaking paint.

So, the question goes from ‘Can you paint over dark colours without a primer?’ to ‘Why would you want to?’.

Best Brand Of Paint To Cover Dark Walls

As we touched on earlier, good quality paint is more of an investment than an expense. You’ll need less of it when painting over your dark coloured walls and painting your light colour over dark paint will feel a lot easier.

Not only that, but when you have painted your walls, the finish will last a lot longer than if you use inexpensive paint.

As a professional painter in Camden, I’ve personally tried all types of paint brands. You name it, I’ve painted with it. Out of all of the brands I’ve used, Dulux and Farrow & Ball are my favourites.

I think these brands offer the best paints when it comes to painting over dark colours.

Let’s look at each of these brands in a little more detail:

Dulux Painting Over Dark Walls

I love Dulux paints because they offer great value, a wide range of paint colours, and easy application when decorating.

Here are my favourite Dulux paints for painting over dark coloured walls:

Best quality: Dulux Diamond

Dulux Diamond paint is a high-quality emulsion known for its durability (50x more durable than standard trade emulsion) and stain-resistance technology. That means you’ll be saved from the hassle of re paining for at least 5 years.

Also, Dulux Diamond paint is 99.9% VOC-free, so you can paint your home without affecting air-quality.

Best value: Dulux Easycare

Dulux Easycare offers so much bang for your buck, that I just had to add it to my list.

I actually recently painted the bathroom walls in my home with Dulux Easycare paint.

Dulux Easycare comes with stain prevention technology. So, choosing this paint for your next home improvement project will save you lots of time and energy having to repaint when it gets a little dirty.

It costs around £40.00 per litre but it’s also Dulux’s most durable paint. So it’s great if you are painting a light colour over a darker shade in your child’s bedroom.

Farrow & Ball Paint Over Dark Walls

If I had to choose just one paint brand to use for the rest of my career, it would have to be Farrow & Ball.

They have an amazing selection of unique-paint colours. Also, all of their paints are pigment-rich, which means it will be really easy to paint light colours over dark paint colours.

Here are the ones I’d recommend for painting your interior walls:

Best quality: Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion

Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion is my favourite F&B paint for painting a light colour over a dark colour. That’s because the paint colours have a lot of depth and give a very distinctive finish. It’s perfect for minimising imperfections on your surface.

Best value: Farrow & Ball Modern Emulsion

Farrow & Ball Emulsion isn’t particularly cheap. No Farrow & Ball paints are. But, it does provide an awesome finish that is quick to dry and low in VOCs.

Not only that, but it’s also stain and mould-resistant and completely washable. So it’s a paint that packs a punch!

We used ‘Elephants Breath’ by Farrow and Ball in one of our painting and decorating projects that involved painting over a dark colour. The finish was sensational!