Can you paint over dark wallpaper?

by Daniel Berry | Last Updated: 18/02/2021

So your finally sick of that dark and danky wallpaper and have mustered up the courage to give them a lick of paint. They are so dark though you may well be wondering how well the paint will work. Can you even paint over dark wallpaper or is it doing to take a billion coats of paint? Well luckily for you we are here to help you out and tell you everything you need to know when it comes to painting over wallpaper!

Can you paint over dark wallpaper

Can you paint over dark wallpaper

Well, can you?

Yes, you can paint over dark wallpaper, but it will take a bit of extra effort when compared to painting on a light wallpaper. Well, actually, if you are painting with a dark colour it will actually take less effort. But I guess you are here because you have dark walls which you would like to paint in a fresh light shade.

What you need to make the process easier

The first and most vital piece to this puzzle is also the most obvious. A good high-quality paint. A crappy cheap paint will see you need roughly 1,252 coats of emulsion to cover dark wallpapers. Not all paints are created equal, some brands are much thicker than others and as such will cover much better. Stay away from cheap or store brand paints as these are often incredibly thin and require multiple coats on light wallpapers, never mind dark!

I recommend Leyland trade paints. While I have most certainly not used every paint brand out there to compare and contrast them all I have used a lot of them. And every time I have used Leyland trade I have found it to be an excellent paint. It covers well, has good durability and to top it all off it’s even reasonably priced.

Leyland Trade Vinyl Matt, Brilliant White, 5 Litre
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How to paint over dark wallpaper

Preparation

The first step to any painting job is preparation and when it comes to painting over dark wallpaper the first thing to do is tidy up any loose pieces of paper. You can use wallpaper paste to stick down any bits which are flapping up.

You can then fill any dints or holes with filler. Polyfiller is the recognised brand here but any off-brand alternative will work well. You can also use joint compound or other such fillers.

Once you have secured any loose pieces and filled any holes then it is time to clean the wallpaper. Use some sugar soap and a sponge and give the walls a good clean. Note that you don’t want to get the wall wet, use the sugar soap sparingly. If you get the paper too wet it may sag and bubble, this will definitely not help you achieve a nice finish.

Once cleaned you need to leave the paper plenty of time to dry. The act of painting the wallpaper itself will make the paper damp, if it is already wet before you begin you run the risk of it peeling away from the wall, ripping or bubbling.

If your wallpaper is textured then you may want to consider sanding it to smooth it down. To do this you need to use a high grit paper (above 250) as this will reduce the chance of the textured wallpaper ripping whilst being sanded.

Priming

Priming the wallpaper with specialist paints is not something I normally do. I just don’t think it justifies the extra expense of buying a separate tine of paint. What I will normally do is use a ‘mist coat’ for the first layer. This is just the emulsion you intend to use watered down 60% water 40% paint. I talk more about mist coats here.

I would recommend avoiding oil-based primers for most job as oil-based paints come with a lot of extra clean up work and require buying either turps or specialist paint brush cleaners. I would recommend avoiding the hassle altogether.

Painting

You can paint over dark wallpaper as you would paint over any other wallpaper. Just be aware that it will definitely not be done in a single coat.

Ensure you leave ample drying time between coats and don’t try and apply too much paint at once. Putting too much paint on your brush or roller at once will make the painting messier and also may induce runs in your paint. If you do get runs in your paint it is not the end of the world, these can be brushed out if the paint is still wet or left to dry and then sanded out.

When you should not paint over wallpaper

If the wallpaper is peeling or in a poor general condition then you should not paint over it. In these cases, it would be preferential to spend the extra time and remove the wallpaper before. If you are worried about the condition of your plaster under the paper then make sure to read our article on how to smooth walls without plastering.

If none of the tips there take your fancy you can always use lining paper and then paint the lining paper. This is a cheap way of achieving a good level of finish, although make sure you take your time with the lining paper.

There are also certain types of wallpaper that just don’t take paint that well. Look out for excessively shiny and plasticky feeling wallpaper. If you are unsure how well your wallpaper will take paint you can always try painting a small test patch first to see how well it works. This can be done with any old emulsion you have lying around to save you the expense of buying a tin you may never use!

Most papers will be absolutely fine and will be able to be painted.

Hey, I'm Dan, I studied computer science with artificial intelligence at Loughborough University. I try to bring my tech knowledge to the posts where it is needed while also offering a DIY view to go with Sam's professional view on tools. I am a very keen DIY'er and have experience of doing everything the completely wrong way.