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Is it difficult to paint over dark paint?

Painting over dark paint can seem daunting, but with the right prep work and painting techniques, it doesn’t have to be difficult. The keys are understanding what types of paint work best for covering dark surfaces, properly preparing the surface, using painting tools designed for tricky paint jobs, and applying paint in thin, even layers.

With some strategic planning and effort, you can transform those dark walls into any fresh new color you desire. This article will walk you through everything you need to know to successfully paint over dark paint.

Challenges of Painting Over Dark Paint

Painting over dark paint presents a few unique challenges:

  • Dark paint colors may require multiple coats of new paint to achieve full coverage. The darker the original color, the more coats it typically takes to cover it up.
  • Dark paints can show through lighter paints, resulting in the finished color appearing murky or dull. Certain darker paint colors with strong pigments are especially prone to bleed-through.
  • Preparing surfaces properly is critical. Any existing paint that is loose, peeling, glossy, or chalky must be addressed for paint to adhere correctly.
  • Some stains on dark paints can be stubborn if not sealed in with a stain-blocking primer.
  • Using the wrong sheen of new paint over a glossy dark paint can make uneven surfaces obvious. Special primers help prevent this.

But there are also painting products and techniques designed for these specific issues when painting over dark surfaces. Understanding how to address each potential challenge will set your paint job up for success.

Choosing the Right Paint

Selecting the right type of paint is one of the most important steps to easily painting over dark paint. Here are the best options:


A primer is a must when painting over any dark color. Primers help the new paint adhere properly while also blocking stains and preventing bleed-through. Look for these types of specialty primer:

  • Stain-blocking primer – Contains binding agents that seal in stains so they don’t bleed into the new paint.
  • Color uniforming primer – Helps prevent underlying dark paint from shadowing the new lighter color.

Paint with Stain Blockers

Many standard interior paints now contain stain-blocking additives that perform similarly to specialty primers. Using a paint with built-in stain blocking can eliminate the need for a separate primer coat.

High Hide Paint

Look for paint labeled as “high hide” or “hiding.” These contain higher levels of pigments, which allow the paint to hide dark surfaces more effectively. Two coats of a high hide paint often suffice.

Paint Type Key Benefits
Stain-blocking primer Seals in stains
Color uniforming primer Prevents bleed-through
Paint with stain blockers Primer + paint in one
High hide paint Maximum coverage in fewer coats

Choosing Paint Sheen

The sheen or glossiness of the new paint you use also matters when painting over dark colors. Here are guidelines for sheen:

  • Flat or matte paint is great for covering dark painted walls and ceilings. It reflects less light, making it easier to hide an underlying color.
  • Eggshell or satin paints provide enough sheen for easy cleaning while still covering well.
  • Semi-gloss paint can highlight any imperfections like cracks or an uneven surface.
  • Glossy paint is the most prone to showing flaws. Use over pristine surfaces only.

In general, the flatter the new paint color, the better it will hide dark paint. Semi-gloss or gloss paint is best saved for trim and cabinets.

Surface Prep Tips

No paint can adhere well or hide flaws if the surface isn’t properly prepped. Follow these steps to get surfaces ready for painting:


Wash walls with a degreasing cleaner like TSP to remove any oily residues. Rinse thoroughly. Always wear gloves!


Lightly sand any surfaces with glossy or peeling paint to rough up the surface. Use 220-grit sandpaper on walls and 120-grit on trim and cabinets.

Fill Cracks and Holes

Seal any flaws larger than a pinhole with spackle or painter’s caulk so they don’t shadow through the new paint. Sand smooth when dry.

Spot Prime as Needed

Apply stain-blocking primer to any water stains or heavily discolored areas before painting the entire surface.

Proper prep removes contaminants, dulls shiny surfaces, and ensures paint can adhere evenly. It’s tedious but well worth the effort!

Paint Application Tips

Applying the new paint properly ensures you achieve full coverage over the dark paint in minimal coats:

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended drying times between coats. Rushing the process can ruin the paint job.
  • Use a high-quality roller cover designed for smooth application and durability.
  • Maintain a wet edge as you paint. Stopping halfway up a wall makes lap marks more visible.
  • Backroll over each section as you finish it to even out the coating. Backrolling also forces paint into the pores for better adhesion.
  • Use an angled trim brush for cutting in along edges for the cleanest lines.
  • Apply paint in thin, even coats, building opacity over multiple coats. Thick coats can appear blotchy and are prone to drips.

Patience and focus on keeping each coat smooth leads to professional looking results.

Tips for Specific Dark Paint Colors

Certain extra dark paint colors present added challenges. Here are tips for successfully painting over a few of the most difficult shades:


Deep reds with a strong pigment notoriously bleed through new lighter paint. Use a stain-blocking primer tinted close to your final paint color. Apply at least two finish coats.

Dark Browns and Burgundies

These earthy hues can give off a reddish cast. Use a color uniforming primer before painting.

Dark Blue and Purple

These colors may turn grayish or muddy when painted over. Opt for a lighter shade of the new color and use high hide paint for full coverage.


True black requires multiple coats of primer and paint for full coverage. Consider using a very dark charcoal gray instead for easier coverage.

Test potential paint colors over a small section first. Combinations that look fine on a paint chip can interact differently over an entire wall.

Hiring a Professional Painter

While painting over dark paint can absolutely be tackled as a DIY project, some situations call for bringing in a professional painter:

  • Very large interior painting projects like an entire house re-paint
  • Exterior painting jobs, especially multi-story homes
  • Covering very dark or vivid paint colors like black or blood red
  • Painting over glossy or stained surfaces
  • Matching existing custom paint colors
  • Faux finish techniques like sponging or rag-rolling

Professional painters have the right equipment, like sprayers and scaffolds, to paint quickly and efficiently. They also have the expertise to handle tricky prep work and know all the best products for covering stubborn existing paint colors.

The cost is reasonable considering the time savings and beautiful results. Painters estimate costs based on the scope of work, square footage, and type of surfaces. Exteriors often run $2 to $4 per square foot while interiors average $1 to $3 per square foot.


Painting over extremely dark paint colors comes with its fair share of challenges. But with the right primers and paints, proper surface preparation, and careful technique, you can achieve beautiful results. Understanding how to counteract issues like bleed-through and lack of coverage empowers you to transform any dark room into your dream color scheme.

With strategic planning and a little extra elbow grease, even the darkest paints can become a blank canvas. The end result will revitalize your space and make all that hard work worth the effort. So don’t shy away from painting over dark colors – with this guide, you’ve got all the inside tips to ensure success!