3 Tips for Painting With Dark Colors

Painting with dark colors can seem daunting. Will it make the room look small? How do I keep my room from feeling like a cave? Can I go that bold? We’re here to help you embrace these bold hues and show you how they can work.

Bathroom, blue cabinet with 2 sinks, 2 mirrors, navy blue and white walls
Featured Colors: Anchors Aweigh SW 9179 (Upper Wall), Adriatic Sea SW 6790 (Vanity)

Start Small

If you’re looking to infuse some bold color into your space, but the idea of saturating an entire room has you on the fence, just start small. A feature wall is a great way to introduce dark colors into your home’s palette without going all in.

Cozy living room
Featured Color: Urbane Bronze SW 7048

Think About the Space

When deciding to use a dark color on your walls, it’s important to keep in mind how different hues can influence the space. Crisp, jewel tones like Salty Dog can bring energy to a space, while hues like Urbane Bronze create a look that’s grounded and earthy. The color you ultimately choose should match how the room is being used.

Dining room, black cabinets and wall, large windows
Featured Color: Black Magic SW 6991

Create Balance

Light and dark have always contrasted with each other. The breakdown is simple – dark walls are brightened when accented with a palette of bright colors, lightened when paired with soft neutrals, and dramatized when used in a monochromatic color scheme. Applying any one of these simple theories to your home will ensure you create a harmonious space when working with dark colors.

Need an experts opinion? Book a FREE Virtual Color Consultation with one of our color experts to bring your color to life.


  1. OK that is great how to paint dark colours.

    Question: how do I get rid of dark colours if I want to over paint with white !

    Do I prime first or do I paint with an aluminum paint

    Your thoughts would be helpful………Thanks !

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Ron! Priming is recommended. Please tell us more about your project and we can recommend a product.

    • I have used whites lots most recently updating my home. White takes many coats most often. Too heavy coats to cover a light gray. Three coats to cover a beige. Didn’t matter if it was Bher brand or Benjamin Moore. But it looks awesome

  2. When painting using a dark cooler over a light color which color goes on top or bottom to make the room look bigger?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Kimberley, one would want to put the darker color on the bottom with the lighter color on top. This scheme makes sense to the eye visually and works with your space, not against it.

    • In responding to a customer’s question asking if the dark color should go on the top or the bottom of the wall, you suggested the bottom for the dark and the lighter color on top. So why in https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/color/find-and-explore-colors/paint-colors-by-family/SW9179-anchors-aweigh, you use the dark color on the top with white at the bottom? Just curious.

      • Sherwin-Williams logo

        Hi Janet! We weren’t able to tell what you referring to with the link provided. Is there a particular image you are referencing? Let us know! Thank you.

      • The anchors away link illustrates a different kind of scheme with dark on the entire full walls. The light color seen in the picture is trim, baseboards, mantel and builtin bookcases, not actual wall. So a different concept. The two tone concept described above alludes more to a setup where you have a wooden chair rail trim running around the lower middle of wall, creating a horizontal division of upper and lower wall spaces; that is the one where it’s recommended to paint the lower portion of the wall with the darker color and the upper portion with the lighter. The anchors away ‘full walls with dark’ works ok bc there is so much wide white accents eg trim all around and other wooden items painted white such as the builtin bookcases and mantel.

    • Kimberly the darker color goes on the bottom and if you are installing trim to delineate between the two, I’d install it at the 2/3 mark of the wall height.

      cindi taylor
  3. I have used your paint before.

  4. Awesome

    Barbara Cooper
  5. I have been using Amalfi Coast (very similar to the Adriatic Sea color shown here) for years. I’ve used it in dining rooms, hallways and a library in more than one home. I Love it!

  6. Looking for interior wall colors to compliment navy roman shades

    Cindy Wukits
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Cindy, please let us know what other colors are in your room such as furniture, flooring and upholstery.

    • trying to find a balance with a navy couch and shades and taupe rugs. want to paint the walls in a taupe shade (not gray) and do accent walls in a navy blue that is not too dark. suggestions?

      harriet k farnham
      • Sherwin-Williams logo

        Hi Harriet, for your navy accent wall take a look at Naval SW 6244 or Salty Dog SW 9177. Consider painting that accent color with either Taupe of the Morning SW 9590 or Loggia SW 9590.

  7. How ’bout a tip for painting semi-gloss paints with sponge rollers *without* leaving roller marks everywhere..? My wife and I had a really tough time with this on our new interior doors, which featured a relatively dark shade of grey.

    Robert Garvey
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Robert, Sponge rollers can be tricky especially when trying to achieve a smooth finish. We recommend synthetic covers (nylon, dacron or polyester) depending on the product used this could vary. Nap is something else to consider. Here is additional information about Choosing the Right Roller Cover.

      • Also very helpful w brush marks is using a paint ‘conditioner’ : Floetrol for latex/ Penetrol for oil based paint. These products change the drying speed of paint and allow the paint to flow & settle …a best kept ‘secret’ of professional painters.

        • Can confirm! Floetrol worked great when I painted my kitchen cabinets. There were no roller marks or brush strokes, and even the orange peel texture was at a minimum. The most prominent texture left at the end was the wood grain underneath (which was exactly what I wanted).

    • Use a mohair roller. I’m painting my kitchen cabinets and experimented with different rollers and brushes…and the mohair roller the best.

      Wendy Kimball
  8. I just finished a bedroom feature wall with Smokehouse and the other 3 walls in Alabaster. Simply stunning.

  9. I have used Sherwin Williams for years! No smell, easy cleanup and in my opinion – worth every penny!

    Linda Woodman
  10. I just today used your olive in my kitchen. Getting adjusted to a small space first before going all out

    Linda Stafford
  11. I stopped in to get a sample of the Urban Bronze. I have a Sherwin Williams very similar color Intellectual ( a little more on the Grey side) Can’t wait. Painting the backboard of the bookcase dark while the frame and shelves are already painted with Emerald Pure White High Gloss. Match made in Heaven!

    Robin Buschman
  12. I used Urban Bronze in my large bedroom – white trim and doors. I have three windows brining in natural light and French doors!! It looks amazing.

  13. When using dark colors, paint the ceiling, as well as the walls, with the same color. This will keep your eyes focused on your furniture, drapes or art work along with making the room seem larger.

    Glenn Bergeron
    • So we just painted my daughters room on sensuous gray. Love the color. Should we paint the ceiling too?

      • Sherwin-Williams logo

        Hello Josi, yes, by all means paint the ceiling. Your ceiling is the 5th wall in your room and is a great place to have some fun and whimsy. One option for a ceiling color would be Ponder SW 7079 which is a few shades lighter than Sensuous Gray. A second option would be to pull a color from your daughter’s bedding, hopefully the bedding has a yellow or green in it you can use. Sensuous Gray would look fantastic with a green or yellow. Let us know if you have any other questions. Thank you!

  14. I love Sherwin Williams paint. I have been stock piling SW paints to begin painting in February.

  15. I will be using the Adriatic sea in my bedroom.

  16. Sherwin Williams has a line of Roycroft colors which made my selection easier. Used’ ‘bottle green ‘ for feature wall in living room, accent in bedroom and above wainscoting in bath. Very pleased with results! Grounding and comforting.

    Also used ‘naval.’ Above wainscoting in dining room. Added intimacy without smothering. Deen rich color.

  17. We used Anchors Aweigh as an accent wall in our master bedroom when we purchased this home last year. All the walls and ceiling had been painted grey, and winter weather in the PNW is gray enough for me. Anyway, the accent wall (the long wall behind the King bed) looks great, was easy to apply, and warms up the room.

    Nancy L Driscoll
  18. Painted a feature wall with Urbane Bronze and it turned out great. Its an unique color – sometimes looks black, sometimes dark brown. Our wall hangings are bright and they really pop now.

    Steve Selvig
  19. I would like to take a bold step but I’m afraid of feeling boxed in, or the color is not quite right. What can I do to determine if a room is right for a bold accent wall. And, if so, what color?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hello Jae, don’t be afraid – it is just paint, easily removed in a year or two if you tire of the look. Accent walls look great in rooms that need a focal point; for instance, a room without a fireplace or compelling view would benefit with an accent wall for some interest. One would want to select a color already in the room, in the form of upholstery or window treatments. Simply pick out your favorite shade in those elements and go two to three shades darker for your accent wall.

  20. I’ve used your paint in my foyer. The name of the paint is sea salt and the trim was dove white it is so beautiful I get complement all the time. Love Sherwin williams paint. And the staff are always helpful.

    Sandra Scott
  21. Would like more tips on using dark colors

  22. Great paint!

    Glenn Bergeron
  23. Used Salty Dog (a dark Navy) on an end wall in my kitchen nook, side walls and trim around a window in a soft white. Love the look – put seascape artwork on sidewalls as well as a narrow display shelf with a sailboat … now I call that space my ‘Yacht Club” 🙂

  24. Love the ideas…. I am using Urbane Bronze for external trim and it makes the house paint POP against the House Color

    Jeff McLeod
  25. I have used dark colors . Usually it is just a wall but adds depth to a room. Love your paint

    Yvonne siimon
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Thanks, Yvonne! An accent wall can be a perfect way to break up a large room, or emphasize a great architectural feature.

  26. Always Trying New Stuff. Did Some Nice Accent Walls In The Bedrooms & They Turned Out Gorgeous 😍

    Alexander Wilson
  27. I used Urban Bronze on the outside of my house it’s beautiful. I love the color.

  28. Recently purchased paint from Sherwin-Williams Paint because of an ad for a sale. Love the paint and got great, friendly service. I will definitely be purchasing again.

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      We love to hear that, Michele! Please let us know if you have any questions during your painting project.

  29. I am using “in The Navy”on one wall and using Agreeable Gray on all of the rest! The trim is all white! I was a little afraid but because of Sherwin-Williams beautiful colors it is wonderful.


    Sandy meyer johnson
  30. It took three coats to get the blue just right

    Sandy meyer johnson
    • When painting a dark color, it’s best to use a gray tinted primer first. Then two coats of the dark color paint.

      Lori Pellitteri
    • True…the darker the color, the more coats it takes for me, too! However, I found that I get away with fewer coats using Sherwin Williams than I do with other brands from the box stores.

      Amanda Eckenrode
    • I found using a tinted base coat/primer reduced the number of coats necessary especially when going from a pale original colour.

      Cathy A O'Brien
  31. I loved the outcome, but I have to say, I didn’t love painting with a dark blue (Naval). I didn’t expect to cover with one coat, but it’s the same color wet or dry! For the 2nd coat, I needed a headlamp to see where I had been! SW, you can do better than that!

    Jennifer C.
  32. We painted one wall Dark blue, the height of the wall was a little over 12 feet, and the rest of the walls Alabaster. This was the wife’s idea. I wasn’t so sure. However the room looks unbelievable. Every one who sees the wall just loves the color. I let her pick the colors for my office, she wants one black wall and the other three a silver looking color. Again I never would have picked black, however I’m going along with her, she never led me wrong for 31 years. Bring on the black !!! LOL !

  33. I painted all of our bedroom walls Tricorn Black with crisp white trim. Simply gorgeous!!!

  34. We just completed painting the Master Bedroom with your Oceanside color and we love it. The contrast with the white trim is perfect. It also took 3 coats to get the color and coverage that I wanted but that was my fault for not using primer as suggested on the can.

  35. Just painted bathroom in my son’s house with Anchors Aweigh. Also paired with white wainscoting. IT LOOKS GREAT!!!

  36. I only use Sherwin-Williams paint. I have always done all the painting in my home and I fine Sherwin-Williams goes on the best and last.. I enjoy painting and the colors and easy cleanup is perfect.

  37. I have dark Brazilian Cherry floors (red tint). Is there a dark hue anyone can recommend for my lower kitchen cabinets, or would any darker color be out of the question?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Kristin, a darker green or gray-green would look fantastic next to cherry floors. Take a look at either Greenfield SW 6439 or Dried Thyme SW 6186.

  38. We painted one wall with SW Loyal Blue. The other walls were a light gray, wood work was white and headboard material tan. The room has an abundant of light from the large glass sliders overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The overall appearance is beautiful. The nightstand lights cast a beautiful contrast. The painting of one wall makes the room the showstopper for the whole condominium!

    Don Johnson
  39. Wanting to choose a bold color for an accent wall in a large, high ceiling master bedroom. Textiles are grey, white and cream. I want to create a cozy space. Any suggestions?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Jackie, if you are looking for a bold color with your existing colors, consider using a grey family – specifically a blue-grey which would look great with your whites and creams. Take a look at either Storm Cloud SW 6249 or Downing Slate SW 2819.

  40. I would love to see pictures with the comments. Is there a way for people to upload a picture of their painted rooms/areas?

    Cheri Morrow
  41. I am considering a dark accent wall on either side of a beige/gray rock fireplace with kilen beige surround walls and dark walnut colored wood floor. Should I us black or more brown or bronze tones?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hello Mark, we think a color with a brown or bronze undertone would look fantastic. Check out:
      Porpoise SW 7047
      Quiver Tab SW 6151
      High Tea SW 6159

  42. I use Sherwin Williams paints exclusively. My kitchen/dining room/great room is Grandiose in the dining area and 2 sides of the u-shaped kitchen. It goes great with the Labrador laminate countertops. Above the cabinets and the rest of the kitchen/dining area is Oak Creek, as well as 2 walls in the great room. The other walls are Tiger Eye.

    Master bedroom is Mountain Stream and Golden Gate. I’ve been trying to figure out what to paint the little vanity area off the master, which is separated by an arch,

    Julie Farnsworth
  43. I used the Majolica Green in my large bedroom space. It looks great but I not sure I used the right brush as I experience some skipping with the roller . It is a new wall.

    Shelly Marin
  44. What color is used in the door and window frames in the picture above with the Urban Bronze? It appears a peachy/rose gold color on my monitor.

    Janet Shaffer
  45. I would like to use Anchors Aweigh in my bathroom. Previously, I was told not to use dark colors in high moisture areas. Is this no longer valid?

    Sherril D Whitmore
  46. I’ve used a dark S-W color in several walls that abut other walls of S-W Pure White. I have trouble making the line/edge perfectly sharp. I’ve used good quality painters tape but always seems to be some flaws. Help! I’m a perfectionist!

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Kathy! Is the paint bleeding under the tape or is the paint coming off when you remove the tape? Let us know. Thank you.

  47. I recently had my bedroom painted by professional painter (highly recommended/decades of experience). Used Salty Dog, which with the white woodwork/trim looks amazing. The problem I am having is that with any slight touch, light colored scuff marks are left. I have to actually NEVER touch the walls, which is just not realistic. What went wrong?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Joanne, we are very sorry that you had this experience. For this type of situation, if you have not done so already, please contact the Sherwin-Williams store where you purchased the paint. Each store is required to address any customer dissatisfaction regarding product application. Please contact the store and speak with the manager. If you have already done so, please contact us at 1-800-4Sherwin (474-3794) or by email at http://bit.ly/2Dgu0Ti.

  48. We just finished a dining room/hallway project with Urbane Bronze on top two thirds of wall with Alabaster board and batten wainscoting on bottom third – it looks freaking stunning!!! I will see if I can figure out how to add pictures to the gallery as mentioned above.

  49. I am wondering if I should paint my very large red /orange brick fireplace in a large basement rec room that gets good light with a tall ceiling. the rest of the room are grays do I go white with the fireplace or a dark color? I’m fearful that if I go dark I will not be able to paint over it with white very easily if I change my color scheme? Any thoughts? Thank you!

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hello Bonnie, you are on the right track with painting the fireplace white. Once your fireplace is white, it will become a focal point and bring additional light into the room. Then, if you do tire of the white, you can always paint it darker. Let us know if you need anything else. Thank you!

  50. I have been messing my head trying to find a warm grey-black for my living room accent wall(Urbane bronze/Tricorn black or something else?) and a warm creamy white for the rest of the walls to go with it. Can you give me paint color ideas for black-white combinations that look good together. TIA!

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hello Jen, we think Urbane Bronze SW 7048 paired with a warmer white like Aesthetic White SW 7035 or Windfresh White SW 7628 would create the modern vibe you want.

  51. I have old fashioned brown wood grain kitchen cabinets. I want to paint them white but i am afraid of the wood grain showing through the white paint. How can i prevent this from happening?

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Laney! For cabinets we typically recommend Extreme Bond Primer and Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel. Two coats of Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel should do the trick, but if you still have concerns we recommend testing it in an inconspicuous area first. For more information about painting your cabinets check out our Cabinet Refinishing guide here.

  52. Laundry room dilemma. Currently have espresso cabinets top and bottom, but considering doing them in extra white to match trim, with Commodore blue walls. You can’t see laundry from the kitchen area but you can see it when coming in from garage and its off to the right of front door so can be seen if laundry door is left open. also there is a lower cabinet in espresso in that entry from garage that can be seen from open laundry door. Now confused about painting laundry cabinets all white or tops only. Will Commodore look ok next to espresso AND white cabinets? Or do them all white and not worry about the brown base cabinet in the hall? There are two pocket doors in laundry (so no large wall spaces) one of which leads to a den with blue furnishings…..hence the use of Commodore to tie it into that rooms color. Walls in that room and entry are in August Moon. Could use some advice asap.

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hello Barbara, Commodore SW 6524 will look beautiful next to espresso and white – a classic, timeless look. We suggest you paint all the cabinets white to create a flowing, concise palette.

  53. I have an open concept living space. My kitchen island is painted in Storm Cloud and I love it. I am trying to choose a paint for my brick fireplace in the same room and love either Urbane Bronze or Iron Ore, but I want to make sure I coordinate the two dark colors well. Any input? My walls are Benjamin Moore Classic Gray. Thanks!

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Chelsea, since this is an open concept, we suggest you use Storm Cloud SW 6249 on your fireplace. Repetition of color creates a cohesive, intentional palette and if you put Storm Cloud on your fireplace, you will balance out the strong color in your kitchen.

  54. I have a large interior bathroom with white flooring/tub/counters and birch cabinetry. What colors do you suggest with this combination?

    Heather Hampl
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Heather! Two color families that look great with birch cabinetry are greens and blues. Look at these options:
      Greens Blues
      Evergreen Fog SW 9130 Mineral Gray SW 2740
      Oyster Bay SW 6206 Bracing Blue SW 6242

  55. Dark colors do not just go on the bottom! It really depends on room size, color scheme, room function, personality!

    Judith J Reeves
  56. I’m painting my kitchen cabinets in Peppercorn. The walls in the rest of the house are different shades of gray. What color do you recommend for the walls in the kitchen with the Peppercorn cabinets?

  57. I’m getting ready to paint my living room in off white. I have crown modeling what color would I paint that.

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Diane! If you want to highlight your crown modeling, use either Extra White SW 7006 or Snowbound SW 7004. Those are two clean, crisp whites without any undertones and will really “pop” next to an off-white wall. It is always best to look at color in your lighting. Order some free sample chips from our website to determine which color will work best for you.

  58. I would like to paint an office with high ceilings a dark olive on the bottom 2/3 and then white on the top 1/3 and ceiling. How should I delineate between the two sections? Just a straight painted line or add a strip of trim to “separate” the colors bette

    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Pat! Usually a piece of trim, referred to as a chair rail is used to delineate two colors on a wall. You can paint that trim the white of the top 1/3 or the dark olive of the bottom 2/3. A piece of trim will make the project look more finished than a painted strip.

  59. HI how do I pair a nice saturated dark, warm color with my red oak floors, trim and crown molding. There are 2 walls of window so it gets lots of sun. I am looking for a rich cozy feeling. Fireplace is surrounded by brick with reddish grout also. I was thinking of something like Iron Ore (blue, grey, green vibe)

    thanks Susan

    Susan McQuade
    • Sherwin-Williams logo

      Hi Susan! Iron Ore may be too black to be a complement to your red oak floors. Instead, take a look at
      SW 6202 Cast Iron
      SW 6208 Pewter Green
      SW 2846 Roycroft Bronze Green


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