10 Common Paint Misconceptions You Can Ignore

Show your true colors with no reservations. We asked interior designers to dispel the most common myths about paint color.

When it comes to painting your home, there are a lot of misconceptions about which colors make a room look bigger or brighter, rules for trim and ceiling colors, and how to perfect a palette. But you shouldn't be afraid of committing a painting faux pas. Interior designers busted the following common myths about paint so you can choose colors without any second guesses.

living room with dark blue walls
Dustin Halleck

Myth 1: Dark Walls Make a Room Look Smaller

"Painting walls and trim the same deep color can make a space feel bigger because the color itself makes the corners recede," says interior designer Erin Gates.

Jen Talbot, who designed this living room, agrees. "But you have to go all-in and paint door and window frames, and choose window treatments that blend," she says. Talbot likes a deep, cool gray, green, or navy. "Dark walls create mood but are not oppressive," she says. "They're rich and make you want to spend more time in the room."

Walls painted a dark color work best in rooms with lots of natural light. Here, Talbot used Benjamin Moore Hale Navy. To lighten the room, Talbot topped a pale gray sofa with pillows in brighter shades of blue plus complementary red and pink. Burgundy armchairs match the walls' intensity.

blue room with painted trim
Photography and Design by Chango & Co

Myth 2: Trim Should Either Be Left As Stained Wood or Painted White

"Colorful trim often helps a space feel more thought through and immersive," says designer Susana Simonpietri of Chango & Co. "For example, painting all trim to work with a wallpaper accent color rather than white. It's also a great way to mix colors you happen to love and add whimsy to a space, as is the case with this room's two tones of blue." Simonpietri went two shades darker than the wall color for the trim: Benjamin Moore Sheer Romance and Old Blue Jeans.

Courtney bishop, courtney bishop design

"Don't think of painted trim as ruining the bones. It can celebrate a room's architectural character, playing up details like molding by creating contrast."

— Courtney bishop, courtney bishop design
dining room with green trim
Katie Charlotte Fiedler

Myth 3: Vibrant Paint is a Good Way to Brighten a Dark Room

With little or no natural light to soften it, a bright wall color can look jarring in a room. Instead, choose light colors tinted with white (versus ones toned down with gray, which can look shadowy in a dark room). Add multiple light sources to create vibrancy.

paint lids with white paint
Kelsey Hansen

Myth 4: All White Paints Are Basically the Same

"Almost all white paints contain some mixture of colored pigments, which give them tone and shading. Unless you go with a pure white paint—which does not work well in all situations. It would be too brilliant in a room that gets direct sun, for example," says Greg Roth of Home Front Build.

Roth's trusted white paint picks include: Timid White by Benjamin Moore, a warm tone with "golden and blush tendencies, ideal for sunny south-facing rooms"; Ice Cube by Sherwin-Williams, a cool white, for its "subtle but distinct blue leanings"; Brilliant White by Benjamin Moore, a bright white that's "a super neutral with coold undertones"; and Milk Mustache by Dunn Edwards, a soft option with "creamy grayness to it."

Myth 5: A White Ceiling Makes a Room Look Larger

"Leaving the ceiling white is a missed opportunity. In this dining room, we contrasted the lavender walls with a glossy coffee shade. It adds depth and shine and cuts the sweetness of the wall color," says Chloe Warner of Redmond Aldrich Design. In this living room by Warner, the ceiling's glossy finish (Farrow & Ball London Stone) bounces light around, making the ceiling seem higher.

"The eye will often ignore a white ceiling. Painting it a complementary shade adds interest and draws the eye up, creating a feeling of a higher ceiling," says Gil Walsh of Gil Walsh Interiors.

"Color on the ceiling can uplift the space, contribute a sense of increased dimension, and add freshness or drama. It also makes the light fixtures pop," says Barry Goralnick of Barry Goralnick Architecture & Design.

living and dining rooms with baby blue walls
Martin Sølyst

Myth 6: Every Room Should be a Different Color

"A home needs continuity, and using the same color throughout will make your home flow," says designer Jackie Armour. In this apartment, interiors stylist Eva-Marie Wilken painted most rooms chalky blue (similar to Sherwin-Williams Tradewind) for a unified feel, then layered in coral and metallic accents. "I often change accessories, and that works best when there is harmony between them," she says.

Myth 7: Eggshell is the Best Choice for Paint Finish

"Clients think eggshell is the most durable finish. These days, with all of the new paint formulas, like Benjamin Moore's washable Aura product or the washable finishes of Farrow & Ball, this is no longer true," says Carla Weisberg, interior designer.

Phillip thomas, interior designer

"Sheen is the secret sauce that interior desingers often rely on. You can add depth and glow to a space using high gloss."

Phillip thomas, interior designer
paint lids with neutral paint
Kelsey Hansen

Myth 8: A Neutral Palettes Means Shades of Beige, Gray, or White

"'Neutral' is another way to define softer and calming nuances of color. Neutrals can be used in interior design in two ways—either as a quiet overall look or as background colors for dramatic accents. Using 'near neutrals' creates a low enough intensity to not be considered a real color. Using lavender with a grayer undertone in a bedroom, for example, creates a calming, elegant space with cream and white accents," says Philip Mitchell of Philip Mitchell Design.

Mitchell picked the subtle hues above, which walk the line between neutral and colorful. From far left, clockwise: Sugarcane Pink by Valspar; Sea Salt by Pratt & Lambert; Under the Big Top by Benjamin Moore; Piano Concerto by Benjamin Moore; Blanc de Chine by Farrow & Ball.

Myth 9: There's No Need to Prime Walls if You're Using a Dark Color

Regardless of how light or dark the hues are, your existing wall color can affect how the new paint looks, so the final effect might not be true to the color you picked. "Think about painting a room dark green when the wall color was lavender," says Jean Liu of Jean Liu Design. Essentially, the shade of green will be tainted by the lavender. We recommend two coats of primer and two coats of paint to achieve the true color."

living room with dark blue accent wall

Myth 10: All the Walls in a Room Should be the Same Color

"As well as capturing attention, another wall color helps define a separate zone in a room without a divider," says designer Rebecca Haskins. "It can also be used to add contrast and highlight an architectural feature like a fireplace or special room shape." That's just what designer Lauren Li of Sisällä did in this living room, where a dramatic blue-black accent wall showcases the converted barn's architecture. Li chose an inky black similar to PPG Witchcraft for a deeper take on the home's slate flagstone facade.

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