Does the Paint Dry Darker or Lighter?

By Mandy Moss

You’ve probably heard that when you pick the paint, you have to have it lighter or darker than what you might think you want.

Many things can affect the color of the paint from the ingredients, how it dries, the UV rays, the primer, the surrounding furniture, and mood. Even psychological factors can affect it. Lighter color shades will very likely become lighter because of the materials present. While the darker paint will mostly become darker to show its true colors.

It’s pretty standard for many people tho to grab a paint chip or the specific color desired then go to a store to buy that exact shade of color. Then to their surprise, once on the wall that it looks drastically different. Especially when you have this perfect image in your head of how the room would look, and then it doesn’t come out as you imagine!

I’ll help you by my best to understand all the little tricks, finding that perfect color for your needs.

Is Interior Paint Lighter or Darker when Dry?

It’s most common that once the interior paint dry becomes lighter or darker than expected. There are some theories occurrence for this as some of them are psychological others have a factual basis.

This effect is because paint begins to lose many components that make up the paint as it dries.

Lighter Colors

White paint tends to look a bit darker sometimes in the can than on the wall. The product that gives it that lovely white is titanium oxide. It reflects light wavelength, so when it bounces back, it looks white.

However, just the titanium oxide isn’t enough to paint a wall, so you have to add all other ingredients to make it liquid for painting your wall. Kind of like how underwater things look different compared to when outside of water it can change how light acts. Thus it changes how the color is perceived!

Darker Colors

Materials on the other hand that use dark colors like Navy Blue, can end up a LOT darker in appearance. This is more because the water traps the light. Similar to how clothing colors can seem darker when wet compared to when it is dried.

PRO TIP: It is always good to test the paint and see how it looks when it dries up. Most lighter shades will usually look brighter than expected because of this material. This also works vice versa with darker colors.

Is Exterior paint Lighter or Darker when Dry?

Now exterior painting does not really allow too much wiggle room. Since if you are painting outside, there is a lot of prepping you have to do prior if you want to achieve a nice final outcome.

There are actually a lot of things that can affect its appearance and we need to be aware of.

Does the light outside affect the color of the paint?

Yes, the color of the light can significantly affect the paint’s color. Most of the colors will always look lighter than expected because of the sunlight hitting them constantly.

TIP: Choose lighter shades so they won't be visible as much as if you would choose darker ones.

Do different colored base paint affect the new paint?

If you have an older house, it likely has its own paint job maybe it’s a bit old or worn. If the base color is darker than the new color you desire to use, use a primer to try and get rid of the darker base tone.

KEEP IN MIND: Painting over it with primer can help your new color stick better than just brushing over it with fresh new paint.

What is a Primer? Can it help colors stick?

Primer is a base coat used to keep the color from being absorbed by the base material or causing rust in metal. It also helps provide better adhesion to the new paint, so it isn’t sliding off.

There are actually two kinds of primer;

  • oil-based primer is the most versatile that is used with both oil and latex paint.
  • Latex-based primer is water-based and ideal for regular walls in preparations to be painted.

Think of primer as a base color that will help you cover up that old paint and minimize the color distortion of the base colors previously used. Not only that, it can really help prevent any blotching as well as allow it to get that lovely shine.

Primer will also cover up stains and prevent future ones from sticking to the wall or material you are painting. It is a long-lasting solution that will help your colors stick and stay consistently smooth. In the end, your colors will end up as you desire.

What If I don’t use primer before Exterior paint?

If you choose to opt out of primer and get directly to painting, it can affect how the new paint will look at the end. In most cases, it will make any paint you put on, look different than intended.

When your planed white paint color will turn into some funky grayish shade, you will need several coats to hide it. It’s even likely you might need to scrape and sand it!

Does age affect the paint?

The simple answer is yes. A more complicated answer would be – white colors suffer the most. In most cases, they begin to yellow indoors more because of the lack of sun. If you used oil-based paints indoors, they will begin to produce yellow coloration, but they tend to stay white if hit by sunlight.

PRO TIP:  Is a good idea to open the blinds if you want your white walls to keep looking beautiful white.

Do the UV rays affect the colors of the paint?

UV rays do affect the paint’s color. The speed of discoloration varies among paint colors. It also depends heavily on the amount of sunlight and light present in the area. In spite of its perfect appearance, the paint will gradually fade under UV rays. 

Example: Your lovely dark blue will probably discolor into offish grayish-blue.

Compared to the interior, it would probably be best to stick only to lighter colors as there is no way to prevent this. Not only would using lighter colors get discolored less but because it will look better for an extended period.

PRO TIP: If you really want some dark colors outside, paint your front door with them. They can actually raise the value of your house without any UV to damage it!

How do colors on metals look?

Don’t we all love those white picket fences we see on TV? Or maybe you want something a bit more unique. Like a red fence, now that would be something, and it actually can take to it well as any wall can. It just takes a few coats of it to make it show.

If you have a metal fence or metal objects, you need to be careful of rust. Painting over it can actually help prevent it from rusting in the long term. However, make sure you use oil-based paint. I love to use Duraux, which you order in different shades from Amazon.

[amalinkspro type=”image-link” asin=”B01N31CSTL” new-window=”true” apilink=”″ img-size=”400,500″ addtocart=”false” nofollow=”true” alt=”Duralux M748-4 Marine Paint, National Blue Boat Paint, 1 Quart” alignment=”aligncenter”][/amalinkspro]

Oil Based Vs. Latex paint? How do the colors hold up in comparison?

Oil-based paint is suitable for many reasons since it doesn’t contain any water, allowing you to apply it directly onto metal objects without worrying about rust breaking through. Though it does fade over time so make sure to check if it has protection against it. In addition, oil-based paint tends to take the longest to dry, which can actually help show off that specific color you want. So it doesn’t change much in color once it dries compared to others.

However, this means it can be quite a tedious task to remove if you ever want a different color. It can hold its dark colors a bit better, but white needs the sun.

Latex paint, however, tends to be one that often dries the darker yet is the most common paint for indoor and outdoor walls. It does dry quicker than Oil tho which can be convenient. It’s also useful outside if trying to get a dark-colored look though just keep in mind the UV rays and lighting will be your worst enemies when it comes to dark colors.

NOTE: Latex paint does have water in it so don't use it on anything metal.

Does Sheen or metallic Gloss change the colors?

Keep an eye out as the sheen of the pain might end up making it lighter or darker than expected. Since it affects how the light bounces back but you can use that to your advantage.

I highly recommend getting a spray gun-like Homeright instead of taking a brush if you really want convenience. It’s much easier to use as you can just spray it and don’t have to worry about the paintbrush leaving marks.

[amalinkspro type=”image-link” asin=”B071X9FZ7R” new-window=”true” apilink=”″ img-size=”500,500″ addtocart=”false” nofollow=”true” alt=”HomeRight C800971.A Super Finish Max HVLP Paint Sprayer, Spray Gun for Countless Painting Projects, 3 Superior Brass Spray Tips, 3 Spray Patterns” alignment=”aligncenter”][/amalinkspro]

Can you use colors to give rooms a specific feel?

Unlike the exterior, you have many more options since you don’t have to worry about dark colors eating up your electric or repair bills. So go for the color you love! From there, you can base all the other colors around the house on it. Still, there are many things to consider if aiming for a particular look or feeling.

Can you use colors to give rooms a specific feel?

Are you looking for a more calming color to relax to? Or want something more chipper for your housing? Let us look at some colors, as you can use them to inspire a specific emotion.

  • Blue is a calming and serene color great for a living space. It’s also a color that inspires trust, so maybe you would enjoy a blue living space.
  • Green is a calming and refreshing color as well that has been proven beneficial. It might be able to help you relax after a long day of work.
  • To feel more energized, use orange, which is an excellent color for the living room. That high energy can give some pep in your step when it comes time to hang out with the family or just to sit back and watch TV.

Each color can have a double meaning depending on the circumstances. So while blue is a calming color, it can also be sad or elicit a melancholy feeling. Hence the term feeling blue isn’t a bad thing and is a fascinating marvel that humans can experience. Use it to your advantage.

NOTE: When indoors, many colors might seem darker than intended if there is poor lighting. So make sure you have a very well-lit room, or maybe pick a lighter shade to help brighten the room up!

Can objects around the colors affect the paint?

Now then you found the perfect color, you used your primer, or maybe just scrapped the original color off. It looks perfect! Or it does until you put in your furniture and now it looks completely different.

This is actually an optical illusion that your brain plays when it sees different colors as the base. Keep in mind that the size and color of the furniture will always affect how the colors look.

If you wanted an orange and light-colored living room, then that black couch is going to stick out a lot more. Even the white table might look a bit yellowish because of the wall colors. So you have to make sure that the color you are picking for your walls plays nice with the furniture.

PRO TIP: Use the color wheels to see what contrasts nicely or what just doesn't play nicely.

Related Questions:

It would depend on the color you use and how high is your ceiling. For example, if your room is wide with low ceilings, you can choose dark blue walls and paint your ceiling white. This way your rooms will look will visually look more narrow and but at the same time not so low in light.

It would depend on the type of paint as Latex paint can take up to thirty minutes to dry. Then you have to recoat it after four hours to get that color you really want.

Dark colors take longer to dry because of all the solvents inside of them. Don’t rush the process since doing so might make weird textures and rewetting the base paint.

Oil-based paints needs more time to dry compared to Latex paint. If you paint on it too soon and see tiny droplets or bubbles, you might have to sand it off smooth to retry. Once it’s dried, it will take about 14 days to ‘cure’ or so for the paint to fully harden. Keep in mind that Spray can does dry a bit faster than the bucket paint

Read next: