Red Paint Tips

Thinking of using red paint in your next project? Red is a warm, energetic color that can add life and pizzazz to any space.

Red is also a problematic color, both when used as part of décor, but more particularly pertaining to paint.

I touch on the idea of using secondary colors sparingly with red in the page discussing colors and mood.


My primary focus with this page is to give a few helpful tips and pointers for successfully using red paint.

Some of you (those who have attempted to use red paint in the past) may already know what I mean when I say “problems with red paint”.

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Some of you are probably scratching your head and wondering what I’m talking about.

The problem is simply this…(and I’m simplifying this a bit) -

Most paint is 80% to 90% white paint base plus 10% to 20% pigment for coloration. This is important, because it is the paint base which covers…the pigment merely adds the necessary tint.

With many tones of red paint (and a few reddish-purples and oranges, as well), much more pigment is added to create the desired color. The ratio of base to pigment is noticeably more even, say 70:30. This results in a much “thinner” paint.

Thin paint does not cover well.

Painting with red becomes a very painstaking process. Coat after coat after coat, the base coat (even if the base coat is white) shows through.

One of my first professional paint jobs was red on a large kitchen and adjoining dining room. I had certainly used red paint before, but mostly in small settings, with accent walls and faux finishes.

I knew it did not cover well, so I prepared myself for numerous coats. My psyche was not prepared for one coat of red primer and eight - eight! - coats of paint, all on a very large area.

I felt like I was trying to run a marathon on a treadmill. I kept working at it, but it seemed like I was getting nowhere.

I have heard horror stories of people applying ten…even up to a dozen coats of red simply to achieve an even appearance.

Needless to say, I never forgot about that experience and kept all of my future estimates for red paint jobs fairly generous.

My point is that painting with red can be a stressful and laborious process. But…there are also some time-saving (and back-saving) tricks and products that I have learned since that first fateful job. (If only I had known them then!)

TIP #1

Trick #1 is not actually a trick at all. Dutch Boy, one of the major paint manufacturers, has released some new products.

I have also heard rumors that a few other paint manufacturers are following suit, but I haven’t been able to confirm.

The new products are namely these:

  • A red primer that is truly red. They call it a “Deep-Tone Undercoat” and they can tint it to numerous dark colors (dark blue, purple, etc…).

    This may sound odd, but in the past primers for red were not actually red, but a light pink. Creating a truly red primer caused some difficulty, I’m not sure on the exact reason why. I’m just happy somebody has finally figured this out.

  • A much thicker base for red tone paints.

    As I said before, the primary problem with red paint’s coverage is that it is thinned by the pigment. This essentially makes the paint very translucent and reduces its coverage.

    Dutch Boy claims to have introduced a much thicker base to its red paint to increase coverage.

    I have used this product, and found it to be a considerable improvement over traditional products.

    Dutch Boy recommends one coat of the pure red primer and two coats of the paint with the thicker base.

TIP #2

Other than experimenting with new products, there is another very helpful tip that can save time and trouble.

Use gray primer.

This tip does not apply if you are using the new products listed in Tip #1, but does apply if you are using any traditional red paint.

Most paint manufacturers suggest using “red-tinted” primer with their red paints. As I mentioned in Tip #1, red-tinted primers are pink, not red, and hence do very little (if anything) to assist in paint coverage.

Instead, gray primers (which are considerably darker) have been proven to decrease the number of coats of red paint necessary for coverage.

It isn’t perfect, but it certainly helps.

TIP #3

Do not attempt to use a thicker roller nap than 3/8” for red paint.

Red paint’s thin consistency means that it will run much easier than normal colored paint. Buying a roller cover with a thicker nap than 3/8” will not help increase coverage, it will only cause the paint to drip, run, and splatter.

This was another hard lesson learned.

I hope these few tips will help you avoid the headaches I’ve had with red paint in the past. I also hope that this won’t deter you from being bold with reds in your living spaces, because they can be such bold, striking, passionate colors.

In the end, they’re well worth the effort.