Painting a Bathroom

Bathrooms are often one of the most neglected rooms in the home. Painting a bathroom is a great way to bring some life to the space without spending excessive amounts of money on new fixtures, tile, or cabinets.

It’s a fact of life. We spend a fair amount of time in the bathroom – showering, bathing, primping, and…well. Yet this room is often the last to be thought of.

No one likes to clean the bathroom (I know I certainly don’t). The walls get wet. The vanity collects clutter. And the floor collects used towels.

Painting a bathroom is a cheap, effective way to transform your bathroom from a utilitarian space to a space of beauty and relaxation. We all love the thought of long candlelit baths and relaxing smells. We love spas and we love the gorgeous and peaceful bathrooms of first-class hotels.

A little paint can go a long way toward transforming your mundane bathroom into a peaceful retreat.

When painting a bathroom, there are a few things that need to be kept in mind.

Durability and Sheen

When painting a bathroom you need to choose a paint that is durable enough to withstand the high moisture level of the environment. Water splashes on walls during baths and showers and steam from showers and sinks maintains a high humidity level.

First, make certain that you seal the wall with a high-quality latex primer. This will help to create a barrier between your drywall and the moisture in the room. It will also provide an excellent base for your paint.

Secondly, select a good durable paint. What does this mean? Latex (water-based) paint comes in several different sheens – flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss (some paint companies have other finishes, or call them by different names).

This refers to the finish luster of the paint. Flat is a dull, matte finish and cannot be easily wiped clean. On the other end of the spectrum, gloss is shiny and reflective.

Higher gloss paints are more durable and more resistant to moisture. Flat and eggshell are not good choices for painting a bathroom. Satin works well, and semi-gloss is better yet. Hi-gloss is not a very popular choice, and I do not suggest using that for this application.


When choosing a bathroom paint color you should take a couple of factors into account.

First, the size of the room. Most bathrooms are fairly small, if not downright tiny. Also, many bathrooms do not have windows, which means that they receive little or no natural light.

This suggests the use of a light color. No navy blues or burgundies. Dark colors can eat up available light, especially in a small space. You want your bathroom to feel large and airy, even if it isn’t.

If you’d like to use a dark color in a bathroom, use it sparingly. Consider an accent wall, where one wall is painted a vibrant or dark color and the other walls are given a more neutral hue.

Secondly, consider the feel that you want to create in the room. Are you trying to turn this into your little, relaxing oasis away from the world? Think about what colors make you feel relaxed or soothed. Greens? Light blues?

Many times the best way to help you decide is to choose a theme of some sort. Perhaps a tropical feel with seashells and bamboo and light airy blues? Or perhaps a sunny little Mediterranean feel, with its yellows and golds and terracotta hues.

Find some décor – a shower curtain, or perhaps a piece of art – for your bathroom that you really love and take a color that you really love from that. Most paint and home improvement stores will assist you in color-matching from a swatch of fabric or a piece of art.

If you need more help in selecting a color, see our Choosing Paint Colors page.

Choose a Faux Finish

Faux finishes are another great option for painting a bathroom.

Faux finishes offer so many creative and durable looks. Many of the faux finishes found elsewhere on this website use semi-gloss paint basecoats and glaze topcoats, both of which are very resistant to moisture.

A few of the paint techniques – most notably Suede Paint and Crackle Painting are not great choices for bathrooms due to their lack of durability.

The rest of the faux finishing techniques are perfectly durable enough for bathrooms. A couple of the most popular are Color Washing and Sponge Painting.

The photo on the How To Faux Finish home page is an example of a color-washing technique, laying a terracotta-tinted glaze and a burnt orange tinted glaze over a golden-yellow base coat.

The photo on this page is a faux tile (the tile around that tub is applied with spackling and sealed) and terracotta-tinted Old World Plaster on the walls above sealed with wax (for moisture protection).

Painting a bathroom – or any room for that matter – should be an exercise in creativity. Don’t view it as a chore or a project, but as a hobby. Get creative. Pick up home decorating magazines and do web searches for photos. Pick out things you like and things you don’t.

The final step will be picking out the decor for your newly painting bathroom. Great new bathroom decor will help bring your new paint color to life.

Best of luck with your project!

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