How to Tackle Dark Rooms With the Right Interior Paint Color


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How to Tackle Dark Rooms With the Right Interior Paint Color


Have a space that doesn't see much daylight?   Learn How to Tackle Dark Rooms With the Right Interior Paint. researching the different uses and effects for white paints, it got me thinking about what other hues and tints are appropriate to brighten up dark spaces. Of course this idea then led me to do a bit of research (now that I'm in the pursuit of becoming a self declared industry expert), which ultimately inspired this fabulous post on color and when and where to use it! Dark spaces are those that receive little or no natural daylight.  When approaching an interior project that involves a dim room, choosing a color can be difficult, daunting, and just plain intimidating.  However, there are a few simple tips that will diminish this fear! I’ve broken down these tips into steps that should make your next interior paint project a breeze and provide you with the perfect color for any amount of natural light! 

Steps to the Perfect Hue

STEP 1 - Determine the lightness of your room.

Observe how much natural light your room receives over the course of an entire day. When painting any kind of room it is always important to consider the amount of daylight a room receives because this amount of light can drastically affect the end results. The lack of natural light can cast shadows and affect the appearance of painted walls, thus using dark tones in these rooms can mean trouble.

Next, turn on all the lights in your room and determine the maximum amount of both artificial and natural light combined in the room.  If it receives natural light, do this step both during the day and at night.  If it receives no natural light doing this once will suffice. Once you’ve determine both types of light, rate the amount of shadow present.  Here’s a saturation scale to help. Hopefully your room will be far from the right side!


 0% Black                                                                       50% Black                                                                     100% Black

The pure yellow to the far left is completely void of black.  As the scale moves to the right it is slowly infiltrated with black.  Ideally a room would never be cast in more shadow than that of the right half (50%)

STEP 2- Establish the amount of visible wall

Is your room a bathroom with tiling? Or is it a living room with a large mantle and fireplace? It is important to consider the amount of wall that will be visible once all these factors are accounted for! It is also important to include decor and furniture. If the amount of visible space is limited, then your color options will be more varied. If you have a dark space with a lot of visible wall then the range of colors to choose from will be more smaller.

Visible Wall in Kitchen

Determining Your Color Range Using the Color Center

Now what do these factors tell us about our space? Let’s break it down with the help of California Paints' Online Color Center! Below is a selection of the Perfect Palette colors.  If you notice, the colors in the top row look a lot brighter than those towards the bottom.  That’s because the colors in the top row are the truest hues.  This means that they lack the presence of black. You might also have noticed that as your eye moves down the rack more and more black is present until the nuetrals are reached at the bottom.


Now let's recall the results from the two previous steps.  If you found your room at maximum light is still cast in shadow in the 25-50% black range and your walls have little visible disruptions, you should keep to the top row with the truest hues.  Let's break it down to the 7 different tints of each hue.  It's a common misconception that light tints towards the top of the chip are appropriate for dark spaces.  Unless it is a bright and clear white, you should avoid these tints and opt for the bold, lively colors towards the bottom.  

paint chipYellow chip from the top row is turned on its side.  It features colors DE5385 Fire and Ice, DE5386 Rice Paper, DE5387 Lemon Chiffon Pie, DE5388 Sour Lemon, DE5389 Ripe Pineapple, DE5390 Rubber Ducky, DE5391 Butternut Squash.  The hues towards the right are a perfect match for dark rooms.  It will add warmth and stand out among the shadows.

Choosing Colors Summary

1. Both natural and artificial light need to be taken into consideration in determining the max amount of light in a room.

2. The more wall space obstructed by decor, furniture, cabinetry, or wall features the more flexibility you have in picking a wall color for dark spaces.

3. The more saturated a room is with light the further down The Perfect Palette rows you can venture! 

4. A darker room will limit you to the top rows of the Perfect Palette. Also try to hone in on the bottom, brighter hues in each individual chip! 

5. Using light tints, especially those with a presence of black will increase the intensity of shadows and make the room feel dimmer.


Wooo that was a lot of information! Now do you understand why we always say the bolder the better? Plus now you have some science to support it! Hopefully this guide will allow to approach that next dark room project with confidence!



thanks a lot! Also Can you name a few green sophisticated paint colors for the living room?
Posted @ Tuesday, December 25, 2012 1:15 AM by lyn
I am a little confused on two things: please define " light saturation" Is this different from "color saturation?" (chroma?) ; and, are you basically saying to use either the top or bottom color chip within the rows and stay away from the middle range?
Posted @ Wednesday, February 19, 2014 12:17 PM by Debra
This post needs a bit more detail . But it's the best one that I've read that attempts to explain how to choose colors for a dark room.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 19, 2014 11:44 PM by
Light saturation is very similar to color saturation in that involves the ever increasing presence of black. For our purpose here it's important to separate the two. The lightness of a room should be determined while doing your best to ignore the current color of the space. When picking a color from an individual Perfect Palette chip choose clear, crisp colors. That's why we suggest staying away from those middle tints. Also you are not limited to the bottom most color on these chips especially as they get quite dark in the cooler hues. The fourth and fifth color from the top would be ideal.  
Posted @ Friday, February 21, 2014 8:52 AM by Victoria Elliott
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Posted @ Friday, June 13, 2014 12:56 AM by Katherine
This is great advice. Is there a neutral color -- grey or beige -- that would work in dark homes in your estimation? I have a North-facing rowhouse with very little light, especially in the front of the house, and I'd like to use grey and yellow or beige for the living areas. I tested a few greys and I liked the light silver chip the best so far.
Posted @ Tuesday, August 12, 2014 9:37 PM by Beth Elliott
Gray is currently a very popular hue in interior paint and the right tint can definitely work for rooms lacking natural light. I'd suggest staying away from anything too dark as they will have the greatest presence of black. Our historic color palettes have some beautiful grays that I've seen used in darker interior rooms with great success. My personal favorites are Stainless Steal and Clam Shell. Our historic collection can be viewed online at
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Hi Laura,  
The color is Coastal Sand, from our Historic Colors of America Collection.  
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