If you’ve been itching to paint a wild, bright color but don’t want to overwhelm the room, paint an accent wall
How to Paint an Accent Wall
Thomas J. Story


  • primer
  • any sheen of brightly colored latex paint, 1 quart per 100 square feet


  • drop cloths
  • ladder or step stool
  • microfiber dust cloth
  • rubber gloves, bucket, and sponge
  • household cleaner, or deglosser if existing paint has a gloss finish
  • painter’s masking tape, 1 inch or wider
  • synthetic-bristle brush, 1½ inch or 2 inch
  • paint tray roller, 9 inch
  • artist’s brush


1. Clean. Position the drop cloths. Wipe the accent wall and the top of the baseboard with the dust cloth. If the wall is dirty—or if it’s in a bathroom or kitchen—put on gloves and wash the wall with water and the cleaner or deglosser.

2. Tape. Apply the painter’s masking tape to the ceiling, baseboard, and walls on both sides, just beyond the accent wall edges. Press down firmly on the tape edges that face the accent wall.

3. Patch (if needed). With the putty knife, use the patch material to fill any gouges. Let dry. Sand the patches flat; start with 100 grit, then go to 150 grit. On woodwork, make a final pass with 180 grit. Vacuum up the sanding residue. If the walls are textured, apply wall texture spray to any patches.

3. Prime. Prime the patches using the synthetic-bristle brush. If you are priming the entire surface, use the brush to apply a band of primer about 2 inches wide along the taped edges, directing the brush away from the tape. Next, pour primer into the paint tray. With the roller, prime the main expanse of the accent wall, working on sections about 3 feet across at a time. First, prime the top of each section by rolling on primer in an N shape. Then roll vertically to even out the primer.  In the same way, prime the lower part of the section. Finally, run the nearly dry roller from the top of the wall to the bottom. Go over the primer only once this way, then let it dry. 

4. Paint. Apply the latex paint to the wall, using the same procedure you used in step 3, but paint edges in sections as you progress across the wall. After you roll from the top of the wall to the bottom in each area, avoid going back to touch up areas that look thin. Let dry. 

5. Touch up and complete. If the paint looks thin or blotchy when dry, add a second coat. Let the paint dry again. Then remove the tape carefully. With the artist’s brush, touch up any places where paint seeped under the tape or the tape pulled away the paint.

Style note

For a sleek look, balance the brightly colored accent wall with a deep, grounded color on a piece of furniture or on the window frames.