How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Basement

Three Methods:Choosing Paint ColorsEvaluating Your Basement LightingCoordinating With Your Existing Décor

When adding drywall to an unfinished basement, or when sprucing up your basement in preparation for a home sale, the question arises: what color paints should you choose? Basements are often approached as special cases when painting, as they typically feature low ceilings and a paucity of natural light. While this is often true, the intuitive tactic of painting every room a light color is not always the best solution. Learning how to choose paint colors for your basement requires a consideration of what makes paint colors stand out in given lighting setups.

Method 1
Choosing Paint Colors

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    Lean towards rich, deeply saturated paint colors. It is a common misconception that dark rooms should be painted light colors. In fact, light colors need an abundance of light to realize their potential; otherwise they tend to look drab, dull, and even dirty. The best way to counter the low light levels in a basement is by painting with rich, deep hues.[1]
    • Basement paint colors do not necessarily need to be dark, but they should be richly saturated. So, a highly saturated, medium-toned turquoise will often perform better than a dark-toned gray paint.
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    Paint your basement with lighter colors only in spaces that receive abundant light. The more light a room receives, the better the paint will look regardless of color. This gives you more options in brighter rooms. Near windows and in rooms with plenty of electric light, you can use whites and off-whites as well as rich colors or dark tones.[2]
  3. 3
    Pick the right sheen. Choosing the right sheen is an important part of choosing your basement paint. The type of sheen can determine how light reflects off your painted walls (an especially important consideration for a basement), how visible imperfections in the walls are, and also how easy it will be to keep the space looking clean.[3]
    • If your basement is damp and tends be affected by mold, choose a satin paint finish. These kinds of paints can withstand moisture better than other types.
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    Coordinate colors with existing materials. How your basement is currently finished will, in some ways, determine what colors you should paint the space. For instance, if you have exposed brick walls, you might want to consider painting the adjacent wall a cool, refreshing color like mint green or pale blue.[4]
    • For rooms with finished drywall walls and carpeted floors, richer colors would be more appropriate.

Method 2
Evaluating Your Basement Lighting

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    Evaluate the amount of light your basement receives. The often overlooked but crucial step in determining how a paint color will look is assessing the lighting. If your basement receives little sunlight and has a generally dim electric light setup, it will actually be very difficult to get light paint colors to look appealing. Instead, they tend to look dingy and dull.[5]
    • Darker rooms need more richly saturated paint colors to prevent them from looking darker and less inviting.
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    Invest in additional lighting. If your basement is rather dark and you have the time and money and want to make your basement look spectacular, consider investing in additional lighting. Recessed lighting has long been the favored choice for basements, and if you already have recessed lights you can simply add more.[6]
    • Try How to Choose the Proper Lighting for a Basement.
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    Consider changing light. Remember that the amount of light your space receives will vary depending on the time of day, the season, and the current weather conditions. Of course, there’s no way to change that. But you can keep that in mind when deciding what kind of paint you choose and how much additional lighting you may need.
    • If your space is darker in the winter months because of the decreased natural light, you might want to consider using richly saturated paint colors combined with additional lighting that you can use when needed.
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    Remove light-blocking walls. If your basement has windows along one or more walls, you can encourage the spread of natural light by removing any walls blocking the windows from other rooms.[7]
    • These partitioned walls can often make a space feel more closed off.
    • Of course, be careful not to remove any important load-bearing walls. Consult a structural engineer before making any decisions to remove walls.

Method 3
Coordinating With Your Existing Décor

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    Consider your existing furniture. Of course, you likely aren't willing to discard your existing furniture and décor when painting. This means that choosing colors will be constrained by the colors in your existing pieces.[8]
    • Think about the hues of your furniture pieces and what colors would go well with them. Rich paint colors would blend well with yellowy wood tones.
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    Coordinate paint colors with your decorative accents. In addition to your existing furniture, you’ll need to consider what decorative items you’ll be putting in the basement. You don’t want to have to purchase all new items just to match the paint color you choose.[9]
    • If you’re using neutral paint colors like taupe or beige, a great way to add some excitement and color is through your accents. Throw a brightly colored pillow on the couch or include a colorful piece of artwork on the wall.
  3. 3
    Cater to potential buyers. Even if you aren’t planning on moving any time soon, you should try to consider what a potential future buyer might think of your renovation plans. You don’t want to make a change you’ll have to undo in order to sell your home later. Rather, you want to make changes that are both appealing to you and increase the value of your home and attract a wide range of buyers.[10]
    • Try not to paint your basement a wild color that could be off-putting to others (like bubblegum pink or lime green).
    • If you are selling the home soon, try to work within a limited palette. Being adventurous with paint and décor color schemes can often turn potential buyers off.
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    Get creative. While it is important to consider what potential buyers might be interested in, the basement can also be a place where you let your decorating side go a little crazy – especially if you plan on living in this home for a long time. Not every visitor in your home will see your basement, so this gives you an opportunity to really express yourself through color.[11]
    • Let yourself pick vibrant, exciting colors that will make a statement. But be sure to coordinate with your décor so that you don’t have clashing color combinations.


  • Unlike some rooms on upper floors, basement rooms are almost never occupied when the lights are out. Therefore, basement rooms only need to look good under a single lighting condition, instead of responding well to a range of diffused or ambient lighting situations.

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Categories: Home Decorating