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What paint to use for apartment walls?

Painting the walls in your apartment can completely transform the look and feel of your living space. With so many paint options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide what type of paint is best for apartment walls. The paint you choose needs to be durable, scrubbable, and look great. This guide will walk you through the different factors to consider when selecting paint for apartment walls.

Paint Sheen

The sheen or glossiness of the paint is one of the most important factors when choosing apartment wall paint. Here are the most common sheens for interior paint:

  • Flat/Matte – Has no shine and reflects very little light. It hides imperfections well but is harder to clean.
  • Eggshell – Has a soft, velvety appearance. It reflects some light and stands up to cleaning better than flat.
  • Satin – Has a smooth, subtle shine. It’s scrubbable and good for high traffic areas.
  • Semi-gloss – Has a medium reflectiveness and sheen. It’s very scrubbable and great for kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Gloss – Has a high-shine appearance. It’s the most durable and easiest to clean but can highlight imperfections.

For apartment walls, flat and eggshell paints are the most popular choices. Flat paint gives walls a matte, velvety look and helps hide imperfections like bumps and nail holes. However, it’s difficult to clean and can scuff easily. Eggshell provides a soft hint of shine and is more scrubbable and stain-resistant.

Satin or semi-gloss paints are ideal for high traffic areas like hallways and kids’ bedrooms where you need something easy to clean. However, too much sheen can make walls look slick and draw attention to flaws. Gloss paint is rarely used for walls, except for trim and accent pieces.

Finish Level

Another important decision is the quality of the paint, referred to as the finish level:

  • Economy – Has a thinner consistency and requires multiple coats for full coverage.
  • Standard – Mid-level quality that provides good coverage in 1-2 coats.
  • Premium – Has a thicker formulation for excellent hide and durability.

Standard finish paint is fine for most apartment walls. It provides good value without the higher price tag of premium brands. Economy paint can appear thin and transparent, making it a poor choice for covering dark colors or wall imperfections.

Color Selection

Choosing a paint color may be the most fun part of the process! Here are some tips for selecting a color for apartment walls:

  • Opt for light, neutral colors like off-white, beige, light gray, or pale blues and greens. These colors will lighten up the space and appeal to future residents.
  • Avoid very dark or bright colors. While you may love a bold red or purple, it could be a turn-off to potential renters down the road.
  • Look at paint swatches in both natural and artificial light. Colors look different under various lighting.
  • Pick a matte finish for darker colors, which helps avoid making rooms feel smaller or drawing attention to imperfections.
  • Use the 60-30-10 rule – 60% of the walls a dominant color, 30% a secondary color, and 10% an accent color.

You can always add boldness through accent walls, wallpaper, rugs and artwork instead of painting every wall a trendy color. Choosing versatile, neutral wall colors allows you to easily change up your décor later.

Best Paint Brands

With so many brands of paint on the market, it can be tricky identifying quality options. Here are some of the top paint brands recommended for apartment walls:

Paint Brand Price Range Quality Notes
Behr $$ Good coverage, scrubbable, mid-range price
Benjamin Moore $$$ Very durable, provided stain and moisture resistance
Sherwin-Williams $$$ Top quality, extremely durable and uniform finish
Valspar $ Affordable, decent quality for budget-focused

Both Behr and Benjamin Moore offer high quality paints that stand up well to scrubbing and daily wear-and-tear. For a premium product, Sherwin-Williams is hard to beat in terms of coverage and longevity. Valspar is a reasonably priced option for those on a very tight budget.

Specialty Paint Finishes

Looking to add some extra interest and texture to your apartment walls? Here are some popular specialty finishes:

  • Metallic paint – Contains metal flakes or powder to create a glistening, shimmery look.
  • Chalk paint – Provides a trendy matte, chalky finish that can be distressed and glazed for a vintage style.
  • Frosted paint – Has a soft sheen like satin, perfect for creating a brighter, polished modern aesthetic.
  • Pearlescent paint – Contains iridescent particles to give walls a subtle glow and luminosity.

Use metallic, pearlescent or frosted paints sparingly on accent walls. They can overpower a room if used from floor to ceiling. Chalk paint requires a top protective coat to withstand scrubbing on wall surfaces.

Application Tips

Proper paint preparation and application will ensure your new apartment wall paint looks amazing:

  • Fill any holes or cracks with spackle and sand smooth prior to priming.
  • Remove wall plates, outlet covers and switch covers before painting. Apply painter’s tape along trim to avoid messes.
  • Prime walls before painting, especially if you are covering dark colors. Tinted primer helps with coverage.
  • Use good quality applicator tools – microfiber or angled sash paintbrushes and 9-inch paint rollers.
  • Apply paint in a “W” or crisscross motion to ensure even coverage with no streaks or lap marks.
  • Maintain a wet edge by painting from corner to corner or wall to wall without stopping.
  • Allow adequate drying time before adding second or third coats as needed.

Taking the time to properly prepare surfaces and using high-quality applicator tools will reward you with smooth, professional looking painted walls.


Choosing the right apartment wall paint involves considering sheen, quality, color, and finish. Aim for light, neutral colors in a flat or eggshell sheen. Stick with quality standard or premium paints from reputable brands like Behr, Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams. Apply paint properly using high-quality tools and technique for flawless results. With the right prep and products, you can give your apartment walls an affordable makeover with durable, scrubbable paint that looks amazing.