Painting a room is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to give the room a fresh start. But when you’re painting a bathroom, you have to consider a lot more than just aesthetics. 

Here are five expert bathroom painting tips to help you choose the right paint for the job. 

small modern bathroom

1. Choosing a Paint Color

First, you need to choose a paint color

Start by asking yourself how you want to feel when you walk into the room. 

Let’s not sugarcoat it: first impressions matter. Especially for a bathroom, when the first thing you see is often the toilet. Think about it. The toilet has certain psychological associations that tend to interfere with the pleasant vibe you want to create in a bathroom. 

So, ask yourself how you want to feel when you walk into the bathroom. Do you want to feel relaxed? Invigorated? Refreshed? 

If you want to feel relaxed, go for something light and airy, like a neutral or an airy blue. 

If you want to feel awake and invigorated, go for a warm color in a bolder hue. 

But don’t forget to ask yourself whether you’ll be sick of the color in five years. That fuschia might seem fun and funky now, but it can get exhausting to stare at day after day. 

For somewhere to start, check out paint colors online for ideas. Then visit your local hardware store for paint swatches. 

Modern bathroom with blue accent wall

2. Keep Colors Bathroom-Appropriate

Unfortunately, painting a bathroom is not quite as simple as just picking a color you like. 

First, you have to remember that bathrooms tend to have very limited empty wall space. There’s usually cabinets, a mirror, the shower, the toilet, and any shelves and wall art. 

So, most of the time, the walls act as a border rather than an empty canvas. 

The right paint can make these items pop, like a frame for a picture. But be prepared to make compromises and choose a color palette that works well together. 

bathroom with good lighting

3. Don’t Forget the Lighting

Have you ever wondered why ceilings are usually painted white?

It’s a simple optical illusion. Light colors reflect light and make a room appear larger, while dark colors absorb light and make a room look smaller. Ceilings are normally painted white because it fools the eye into thinking the ceiling is higher than it actually is. 

This is important for a bathroom for two reasons: 

  1. Bathrooms tend to be smaller
  2. Bathrooms tend to have little or no natural light

Nothing can alter the color of paint faster than the sharp tang of artificial light. That warm dove gray can turn mauve instantly with the flick of a light switch. 

The effect of unnatural light is compounded by the fact that bathrooms are usually smaller than other rooms in the house, which means you have less space than usual to make up the difference. 

So, you need a color that doesn’t make your bathroom look like a cave, but you also need something that won’t go Jekyll and Hyde between the hardware store and the wall. 

There are two ways to fix this:

First, when you pick up paint swatches, take them home and tape them to the wall. See how the color looks under the bathroom light. 

Once you have colors you like, get a small sample of each and paint a little swath of each on all four walls. Take a look at the color during all stages of the day. If the color still looks good, you’ve got a winner. 

bathroom paint choice

4. Choosing the Right Type of Paint

Sadly, color isn’t the only consideration for bathroom paint. 

You see, bathrooms have an unusually high moisture content. Every time you introduce water into the room (by brushing your teeth, taking a shower, flushing the toilet, etc.) more moisture gets into the air. You do this more often in a bathroom than any other room in the house. 

Because of this, paint for a bathroom must have a few key characteristics: 

  • Mildew-inhibiting properties
  • Washable finish
  • Tight structure

There are paints sold specifically as bathroom paints, and while you can get moisture resistance in non-bathroom paints, buying bathroom paints will give you more options for paint finishes. 

painting bathroom

5. Choose the Right Paint Sheen

Before mildew-resistant paints, the best way to deal with bathroom moisture was to choose a high-gloss paint. High-gloss paint doesn’t prevent mildew, but it does make it easier to wipe away moisture. 

These days, mildew-resistant paint has opened your options for paint sheens, but certain finishes perform better than others. Here’s how finishes work: 

  • Flat: matte coating, best in low-traffic areas, absorbs moisture like a sponge
  • Eggshell: slightly shiny finish, more washable than flat finish but still best in low-moisture rooms
  • Satin: a bit of a gloss, can be used in low-moisture bathrooms (like half-bathrooms)
  • Semi-gloss: not as shiny as high-gloss, performs well in most bathrooms
  • High-gloss: the most durable bathroom paint but terribly unattractive on large surfaces

High-gloss is the most moisture resistant, but it’s just plain ugly on large surfaces like walls. If you want the most functionality without compromising aesthetics, use high-gloss paint on your cabinets and semi-gloss paint on your walls. 

bathroom with concrete counter

Thinking of Painting a Bathroom?

If you’re considering painting a bathroom, why not get it done right? 

Hiring a painter can make the whole project go by in a flash, without worrying about taking time out of your week, getting supplies, or prepping the space. 


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