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Choose the Right Type of Paint for Your Bathroom

Bathrooms are constantly exposed to water and humidity, so selecting a moisture-resistant paint is crucial.

Photo by Tim Beddow/Interior Archive

Picking paint for your bathroom presents a special set of considerations. Bathrooms are constantly exposed to water and humidity, so selecting a moisture-resistant formula is crucial.

In addition, bathrooms tend to be smaller-sized spaces, so if you want the space to feel larger, the right paint color can help you achieve your goal.

Gloss vs. Matte Finish

Bathrooms tend to be damp, with every surface exposed to moisture after each shower or bath. This means that it’s important to cover the drywall of the room—anything not tiled, including the ceiling—in a high or semi-gloss finish. The shinier and more reflective a paint is, the more repellent it is to water and mold. And ceilings, in particular, are more mold-prone since they don’t get wiped down as often as walls do.

To that end, flat and matte finishes don’t do well in the bathroom, as they tend to absorb moisture. Eggshell paint is slightly more durable, but still not the best option for most bathrooms. Satin paint is somewhat reflective, making it an acceptable option in a powder room, which doesn’t get as damp as a full bath.

Acrylic Paint Works Best

For the best bathroom paint, pick a high-quality, fast-drying acrylic formula, as opposed to an oil-based one, which won’t react well to water. Look for specially formulated “bathroom paint,” containing mold-inhibiting agents for extra protection.

Bathroom paint costs more than regular paint, but it’s specially designed for humid spaces and is worth the added expense.

How to Choose the Right Color

Paint color sets the tone of a room, and when it comes to bathroom palettes, the recommendation is generally to go light. Lighter colors, with their reflective nature, have the effect of brightening spaces, making them look bigger. Darker colors, on the other hand, absorb light, which makes rooms appear smaller. So, if your aim is to make your bathroom appear bigger and brighter, pick a lighter color. If you have molding along the ceiling, paint it the same color as the walls; the unified shades will give the illusion that the ceiling is higher than it is.

But which color should you select?

If you plan to retreat to your bathroom for long soaks in the tub, colors like taupe, sage, and dusty blue are ideal for creating tranquility. There’s a reason why spas use these muted, nature-inspired hues their own decor—they evoke a sense of zen-like calm and invite relaxation.

If you want your bathroom to have a more up-and-at-’em vibe, employ the many shades of white—from bright to creamy—to get you going in the morning. No color says “clean” the way white does, and you can always add touches of color with decorative tiles or, for maximum versatility, with accessories like towels and rugs.

VIDEO: How to Paint a Mold-resistant Bathroom

Is the bathroom meant for kids or guests? With children, think about slightly bolder, more fun shades—whichever suits your home and tastes. For a guest bathroom, think neutral, yet still inviting. Choose a palette that pleases you and is also likely to appeal to most people. Soft grays, warm beiges, and pale blues tend to appeal to just about everyone.