Skip to main content

Tips for Painting Accent Walls Like a Pro

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

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

A living room accent wall I painted.

A living room accent wall I painted.

Mistakes to Avoid When Painting Accent Walls

Painting accent walls in your home is a great way to create focal points and make an otherwise boring room look more interesting. Accent walls are typically painted darker than the surrounding walls for a bold visual that draws attention not only to the color itself, but also the shape of the wall, decor and the furniture.

Most DIY accent walls are easy and inexpensive to paint. In an average room with eight foot walls, you can easily finish this project in one day using my tips. Before I get into the step by step process, let's cover a few mistakes to avoid with the planning part.

Don't Pick the Wrong Wall

Picking the right wall for your accent color is more important than the paint job itself because bad planning throws everything off. The goal is to create a focal point in a room without dominating the main wall color. Choose a wall that isn't totally blocked by furniture otherwise it won't be noticeable in the first place. I would avoid using a wall bigger than the surrounding walls.

Keep the 60-30-10 rule in mind when choosing a wall and the color. The main color of the surrounding walls should make up roughly 60% of the room, 30% for the color of decor, draperies, furniture and only 10% for the accent wall color.

Bedroom Accent Walls: In a bedroom, the wall I almost always paint a different color when requested is the wall behind the headboard of the bed. This works well because it centers the room with the position of the bed and decor.

Living Room Accent Walls: Fireplace walls are excellent. You might even consider painting the fireplace mantel white to really highlight the contrast from the darker wall color behind it. This color scheme also highlights the woodwork of the fireplace. Painting a living room column a different color works too. The column I painted, which is featured at the top of this article, is a good example.

Don't Paint Two Accent Walls in a Room

Only one wall per room should be painted a separate color. Remember to keep the 60-30-10 rule in mind. Painting more than one wall per room a different color looks too busy. Doing this will also throw off the main color and have a reverse effect as a focal point. Painting two dark walls in a room will also make a room look smaller.

Don't Choose a Color Too Similar to the Main Color

Paint swatches can be deceiving. If you choose a darker shade of the main room color as your accent, make sure the color is at least three or four colors down on the color strip. If you pick a color only one or two shades darker you won't see much of a difference between the two colors. I recommend checking out colors from Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams. Both have fantastic paint colors, but the Sherwin Williams fan deck is my personal favorite.

A red accent wall I painted on a fireplace wall.

A red accent wall I painted on a fireplace wall.

Prepping and Painting Accent Walls Correctly

Accent walls are generally easy to paint and only require one gallon of paint and one gallon of primer, depending on the color and condition of the wall. Before you do anything, cover the floor with a heavy-weight drop cloth. I prefer 12-ounce drop cloths because the added thickness ensures no paint ends up on the floor. Accent colors are usually dark red, gray, blue, green, or brown, and you definitely don't want any of those leaking onto your carpet.

Read More From Dengarden

Painting supplies needed:

  • 1 canvas drop cloth
  • Painters' tape (Frog Tape)
  • 1 lint-free paint roller (1/2-inch nap)
  • Paint tray
  • Angled paint brush (2 1/2-inch to 3-inch)
  • Drywall joint compound/spackle for patching
  • Paint roller extension pole
  • Sanding sponge
  • Putty knife for patching
  • 1 gallon of premium latex paint
  • 1 gallon of latex primer if needed

Tape the Wall Corners and Baseboard

The best way to achieve razor sharp lines between two paint colors is with FrogTape. Blue tape works too, but FrogTape is more effective at preventing paint bleed-through in corners. I don't use blue tape anymore.

The best FrogTape to use on painted drywall are the yellow rolls for delicate surfaces. I use the 1.41-inch x 60 yard rolls. The purple tape from 3M/Scotch also works great and does the same thing. Delicate surfaces tape is less tacky and won't peel paint from the wall when you remove it.

Tape off the baseboard to protect it from paint roller sprinkles. Press down the edge of the tape with a putty knife. Cut-in the ceiling line with a high quality brush, or tape it off too. My article How to Paint Edges of Walls Without Tape covers several tips on cutting-in ceiling lines with a free hand.

Patch Nail Holes

Always fill holes in drywall before you prime. Primed patches blend in better with paint. Use a putty knife for patching so the patches are smaller and less noticeable. There is no need to use a huge taping knife to fill a tiny nail hole. Drywall imperfections and over-sized patches show up more in darker paint colors.

To Prime, or Not to Prime

Primer is important if the wall is porous and not smooth, or if you're painting over white with red, deep blue, or a deep green. Red is the worst. Without primer, you'll end up having to apply multiple coats to make it look right. For red and deep colors over white, the best primer to use is a latex primer tinted gray. The reverse side of paint swatches for darker colors usually recommend what primer shade should be used.

My favorite latex wall primer:

  • Insl-X Aqua Lock All Purpose Acrylic Primer
  • Sherwin Williams Multi-Purpose Latex Primer
  • Sherwin Williams Prep Rite Pro Block Latex Primer

After the wall corners are taped off, dry brush only a light coating of primer into the corners so it's less likely to bleed underneath the tape. Roll one coat of primer onto the wall with a lint-free roller. My personal favorite is the Purdy White Dove paint roller. These rollers are soft woven and lint-free. They hold a lot of paint and roll paint on very smoothly. Sherwin Williams also sells their own version that's basically the same thing.

Paint the Wall Two Coats

Repeat the same process for the paint as the primer. I strongly recommend using premium paint for your accent wall so it's more washable and covers better in fewer coats. My two favorite wall paints are Duration Home from Sherwin Williams and Regal Select from Benjamin Moore. Both paints can be used with darker colors.

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.

© 2022 Matt G.

Related Articles