Interior Painting Tips

No paint has a 100% hiding capacity in one layer. Here are some interior painting tips to turn this feature to your advantage. Of course you can do a second (and third) layer if you want to get that 100% hide, but with the right layering colors, you can make your colors more beautiful in one layer, than they would be as a thick hiding coat. You do that by choosing the right base color or primer.

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Some quick interior painting tips:

Using a colored primer or background

Warm colors respond to underlying paint colors in a different way then cold colors. Though the texture of matte and shiny paints are different, the color effect is the same for both matte and shiny paints:

  • Warm colors look good on white, or a lighter warm color.
  • Cold colors look good on neutral colors that are just as dark as them (or a little darker): a mid-grey primer.
  • Cold colors (with white in them) look good on warm colors.

Colored primers can be ordered here at at For ordering colored primer, you'll need a color name or number - you can find that with the help of paint sample strips, or house paint software. All colors of any brand can be provided.

The effects of colored primer

In general, a warm color is a good basis to work on. The old masters always painted cold colors over warm colors. They created a warm background first, with earth red or brown, and painted blue skies and foliage over that. Yellow ochre is great for painting sunny blue skies. So, if your soon-to-paint wall is a light red, brown or off-white: just paint over it. If it's blue, violet or green: prime it first, with a white, neutral or warm color, depending on the color you want to apply as a top coat. Really light blues or greens still look good on white. If they're a little darker, it's better to work on a medium-dark background. You might take a mid-grey for that, or a primer in the same (or a little darker) color than your top coat.

For reds, it's the other way around. They look good painted on white or off-white. A strong, more orangish red will flame when painted over yellow. Burgundy and magenta-ish colors look better on white or a neutral. Check here for more on colored primer paints

Warm colors

Warm colors I call: browns, reds, skintones, beiges, oranges, peach, yellows. Warm colors go ‘warmer’, when they’re painted on a lighter surface. They can “glow” and show their character. When your surface is darker than your top-coat color, it’s better to apply a light primer first. A primer can be white or offwhite, but it should be a ‘warm’ color too. Offwhite or beige is OK. For darker reds you can take yellow or orange primer and give the color an extra glow (not if you want to keep it burgundy). Yellow will only look good on a white or offwhite background (white is better).

If a warm color is too fiery and strong, add some white to it, and eventually some brown. It will become more of a skin- or earth-color then. Click here for more on red paint colors

Cold colors

With cold colors, I mean blues and violets. In a room with overall a lot of warm colors, neutrals will look blueish (‘cold') too. When you paint a strong blue on a white background, it easily goes sad and smudgy. Only a light blue, with a good amount of white in it, can be painted on a white primer and still look radiant. A strong blue is best painted on a mid-dark or darker background, then it will flourish and start to radiate. Blue and violet paints go more ‘ethereal’ and radiant when you add white to them.Click here for more on blue paint colors


Magenta’s move between blues and reds, and are very sensitive to little color changes. Always paint them in the same light in which you want to see them. In general, it’s better to have a more reddish background for a more bluish magenta. Magenta can be taken towards orange by adding yellow. They look nice painted on yellow too.

Neutral colors

Only greys are really neutral. But when you paint greys dark over light, they get a warm, brownish look-and-feel, and when you paint them light over dark, the feel will be blueish and cold (great for painting faux marble). It works like that with all colors: warm colors respond well to dark-over-light painting, and cold colors respond well when painted light over dark.


In the old times, plants were painted with yellow, and then made green by painting transparant blue over them. In all situations, painting cold colors over warm colors works better than the other way around. So, if you start with a more yellowish green, a cold green painted over will look fine. A yellow-green really needs a white background. But other greens look OK on white as well.

Cold over warm colors

A warm color usually is a good starting situation. In the old oil painting techniques, a warm red or brown background surface was painted first. Old masters always first painted warm colors, and painted cold colors (blues, greens) over them. That situation is most in line with the way we are as humans: having a bright consciousness, embedded in warmth.

If you paint over a blue wall, it’s better to prime it first. The color of the primer depends on the color you want to paint.

Matte and shiny paints

A partial hide looks different for matte paints than shiny enamel paints. In matte paints, the brushstrokes keep visible. The bigger the color difference is (in terms of contrast, or light and darkness), between the underlying and the top color, the more your brushing gestures will come out. That doesn’t have to be bad, when you consider it as an artistic effect. It does require some attention to your brushing, you sort of repeat the same gesture over the whole of your project. It's a bit like a faux-finishing effect. You can do this with latex wallpaints, or with oldfashioned milk paint.

High-gloss or eggsheen acrylic paints for woodwork level out. That means: your brushstrokes will disappear. Still, the underlying paint color will shine through, in the first layer. For reds and browns, that looks great - just make sure the paint is evenly spread, with neat edges. Enamel paint needs a primer, you might choose a color that makes the top color come out on its best.

Other interior painting tips

Small rooms need a different approach then big rooms. click here for more on that. And you might want to give your colors an extra boost, by adjusting them to your available daylight. It's an old paintmakers' recipe.

Related pages:

Painting Directory. We are listed under Painting and Shopping category

Oil Painting Techniques

Acrylic Painting

Watercolor painting

Color Schemes

Interior Painting techniques

Interior Painting Ideas


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