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Tips for Applying Red Interior Paint Successfully

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Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.

A dining room I painted with Sherwin Williams color Heartthrob.

A dining room I painted with Sherwin Williams color Heartthrob.

Painting Walls Red

Red is a tricky color to paint on walls, not only for coverage, but also finding the perfect shade that you won't end up regretting. I personally love red paint for an accent wall, or even an entire room, such as the red dining room featured in this article, which I painted myself.

Painting walls red, especially over white, can turn into a nightmare without using the right primer first. Without a base coat, red is very vibrant and covers poorly, but when planned and painted right though, it's the perfect eye-catching color choice.

Choosing Red Interior Paint Colors

The problem with red is some samples are just downright ugly. I'm not a fan of tomato red on walls. I like deeper shades of red, or even burgundy. The color of the dining room in the picture is Heartthrob SW-6866, a Sherwin Williams color. Color planning is key, so you don't end up with walls that look like a giant tomato, or a fire engine.

The sample swatches from the store are useful, but they're not always accurate, and the small size makes it hard to see what the color really looks like on a larger scale. Drive down to your local paint store and buy paint samples. Sherwin Williams, for example, sells their Color to Go samples in a quart size container.

Don't paint the color samples directly onto the wall. Doing so leaves dark spots that can show up in the final coats of paint. Instead, paint the samples on sheets of paper for comparison. Check out the Sherwin Williams fan deck too to compare colors. They have a nice selection of red.

What Room Should You Paint Red?

Studies have shown that color impacts our mood and emotion. Cool colors make us feel calm and relaxed, while warm and intense colors, like red, make us feel energized. With that said, painting your bedroom walls red probably isn't the best choice, unless you want to raise the energy level in the room. Red paint works well in social living spaces like an active living room, or in a dining room, similar to the one I painted in the picture.

The color red pairs and contrasts well with white baseboard and molding. The white molding makes the red even more bold and bright. You might even consider using it for an accent wall paired with navy blue, grey, or gold, for the main color. Is your front door a boring white? Consider painting it red.

A dining room I painted gold with a red accent wall.

A dining room I painted gold with a red accent wall.

tips-for-applying-red-interior-paint-successfully

Priming and Painting Walls Red the Right Way

If you've ever tried painting red over white walls, without priming first, you know how poorly the color covers over white, even after multiple coats of paint. You will end up with a banding effect along the corners of the walls and ceiling from overlapped paint.

Using the right primer is critical for getting solid coverage and a professional finish painting red over white, or another light color. With one solid prime coat, red usually covers in no more than two coats, using the right paint roller.

The Best Primer for Red Interior Paint

The best way to paint red over white is with gray tinted primer, not with primer tinted close to the red. A base-coat of gray primer allows the paint to cover a lot better and touch up easier. When you choose your paint color, look at the back of the swatch. Most paint brands include a tinted primer recommendation for vibrant colors, including red and other deep base colors.

Sherwin Williams, for example, uses an exclusive Color Prime System that includes a numbered rating from "P1", the lightest shade of gray primer, all the way to "P6", the darkest shade of gray primer. Choose the recommended gray primer for the red you choose to get optimal coverage. With the right shade of tinted primer, the color of the paint won't be altered.

For primer, go with latex. I have used the Multi-Purpose and PrepRite latex primer from Sherwin Williams many times with excellent results. The PrepRite primer dries in less than three hours for paint. The store will tint the primer to the gray shade recommended for the red you choose.

The Best Brush and Roller for Red

Always use a lint-free roller when rolling red interior paint, otherwise you'll end up with fuzzy walls. Don't use a roller with too thick of a nap. The best roller nap is 1/2-inch. This is thick enough to lay the paint on good without leaving heavy stippling texture on the walls.

Unless you're taping the corners with painter's tape, use only a high quality paint brush to cut-in by hand. I use the Purdy White Dove paint rollers with 1/2-inch nap for most of my wall painting projects. These are lint-free and perfect for painting red and other colors. For brushes, I'm a long time fan of Purdy, specifically the Purdy Clearcut brush in the 3-inch size. This is the only paint brush I use for cutting-in walls.

Applying the Primer and Paint

Carefully cover the floors with heavy-weight drop cloths (10 to 12 ounces) to prevent paint drips from seeping through. Cleaning red paint off of tile is one thing, but carpeting is another story. Tape off the trim with high quality masking tape for painting.

Cut-in and roll one coat of tinted primer onto the walls, using an extension pole, and allow the primer to dry for the recommended time. Make sure all of the wall patching is done before priming the walls.

Apply the paint the exact same way as the primer. To get the best finish, make sure the walls are rolled from one side of the wall to the other. Roll the walls evenly from top to bottom, keeping a wet edge as you roll. With the right tinted primer, red usually covers in two coats, but depending on the shade, a third coat might be needed. For the paint, use a satin finish to give the red a nice glossy finish.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Matt G.

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