Art Studio update, and which wall color?

Well, we came back from our beach vacation this past weekend to find out that our building permit application for the garage/studio was approved. We were pleasantly surprised, especially considering it only took a week, and we had been warned that this process could take much longer.

I’ll not gloat too soon though. We have a long process and many permit applications yet ahead; but at least we can get this ball rolling. I’ve got to get some painting and packing done today, but soon I will share my little floorplan I’ve worked out for my workspace. Meanwhile, here’s a related question I’ve just received from a fellow artist, followed by my response:

Q: Just moved into my new home. I have a north facing 
wall with lots of windows and storage space, now I need a wall paint 
color… any suggestions???


Dear J.A.-

I am just getting started building a studio, so this is a topic I need to investigate myself. My main thought is to do something neutral. White can tend to make the light bounce around a lot, especially if you have lots of windows. You might check out artist Casey Child’s blog post about the paint color he picked. A lot of portrait painters are into this neutral gray-green. I have no problem with the hue but I’m a little afraid the value shown at the above link would be too dark for me. But it could just be my monitor or his photos –or it could be that the walls don’t need to be as light as I think they should be (Any thoughts, anyone?) In any event, whatever color I am considering, I’ll try out in swatches in my own space first. Paint colors can look very different from one location to the next.

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13 Responses to Art Studio update, and which wall color?

  1. I have a studio with one small north-facing window (lots of overhead lights). The walls and ceiling are currently white. Since I paint in vibrant colors, the paintings show very well against the walls. However, the room feels very cold with white walls. I’m thinking an eggshell would warm it up and still be light enough to showcase the paintings. I would be depressed by a grayed color such as sage green on the walls.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Ann. Yes, I don’t know that the wall color mentioned would be optimal for landscape painters or those who are doing other kinds of paintings besides classical portrait/still life. That color is great for those purposes though, and gives a nice backdrop and nice contrast for fleshtones.

    The artist who posed the question to me in the above post tracked down a sample of the BM paint color mentioned in Casey’s blog, but she too felt it was too dark for her liking. She opted for the grayish sage color in a higher value and said it was gorgeous. To each his (or her) own, I guess. What I may do if I go with a definite color like this is try it on one wall for a while to see if I like it, instead of painting the whole studio.

  3. Jennifer, You’d think as artist’s we’d be experts on wall color! If you are like me, all my friends ask me to help them to pick out their wall colors and that is hard enough. When it’s your own studio, it must be really difficult! I haven’t any advise, except I know red is not a good studio color. LOL. I do have a burgandy accent wall that I face , about 5 feet in front of me. Not much of the color shows because of a big window and lots of shelves on that wall. It does add some nice color spots without effecting any problems for me. Or….maybe that is why hummmm………

  4. Marilyn, remind me not to paint in my kitchen. It’s red, wall to wall ;-) I too always have a hard time picking out paint colors for the walls. What’s up with that?

  5. Chuckle, chuckle. I just built and brand new studio, yay! I was searching around for others experiences. Academically trained, founder of interior design school, color consultant, instructor and experienced (40 years) in interior design and architecture i was still interested in others … really! The best colors to use for an art studio for painters (not photographers) is off white. Ceiling flat super white; walls more than just off white. For example Benjamin Moore’s #969 in an eggshell finish (not flat). Good for keeping fresh and clean and not tiring. Just sweet enough for all types of painted images, live posing models and still life’s. This color is excellent for all studio exposures north light, or any other. It is also wonderful for your residence or office spaces. Taking it one step further, you might enjoy looking at #966 for those ancillary spaces in other places. Question? Happy to help fellow artists! Gail

  6. question for Gail


    What do you mean, walls more than just off white … after you said for painters to use offwhite?


  7. Hi..
    Great ideas. My art studio (bedroom conversion) has a high ceiling (whiter than white). Walls are off white (am not sure which particular off white shade). However, the room is actually square but there are 1.5 foot panels linking 2 of the walls (so I guess technically the room is slightly hexagonal).
    I want to do these littler walls in another colour. I really don’t know what to do. There is not much natural light in this room after midday. Initially I thought aubergine colour but that would actually be a little bit too dark perhaps. Red is a no-no. Blue also a no-no. Yellow is not quite right… any ideas?!? Tanks

  8. Hi Jim- it’s hard to say without really seeing your space. Color is so personal too. If it were me I’d go with something fairly neutral. I worked in a yellow studio space once (a rental) and it wasn’t ideal. That yellow bounced off of everything. For that reason I wouldn’t go with red. There are a million shades of greys to choose from, and a million more in the taupe/beige category. If you really are wanting more color, I’m still loving the shades of grey-green I chose for my walls.

  9. Pingback: Plan Your Exhibition with a Scale Model « Art Biz Blog

  10. I have had good success with matching the paint color to Canson’s Mi Tiente pastel paper in the “Pearl” tint. It’s a warm, neutral gray, and doesn’t create a color cast. You can get this paper at any art store. A paint place can match the color off a sample. Light enough for a windowless basement, but dark enough to avoid glare and balanced still-life and portrait setups.

    The dark green-gray that many artists use was popularized by David Leffel. It minimizes reflected light into the shadows, but I think it’s one or two values too dark, though it certainly is striking and beautiful.

  11. Bernadette Roth

    Can you post a pic of your room Tim or and me one?
    Thank you!

  12. kathy snow

    I am hoping to pick out the right color for my soon to be studio!
    How has every one enjoyed their colors?
    I have two 5′ X 3’10″north light basement windows; in a basement room. It also has a west window. What color? Its light but not could use more light. Is a gray green or neutral or off white appropiate?

    Also what color should the floor be? I was going to go with something that has a lot of white, some gray and some warm. Should the floor be warmer, darker, lighter? I will be painted in two weeks. (I hope a great color)
    Thank You for all your help!!!!

  13. Hi Kathy- We are getting ready to move so I will soon be facing some of the same questions again. Unfortunately there are no formulas, in my opinion, for which wall color is universally appropriate. I’d definitely go neutral, but beyond that you will need to determine what feels good to you creatively and functionally. My feeling is for a basement studio you will want to go lighter on the walls and more of a mid gray- neutral on the floors. I guess a bit darker on the floors to hide dirt and paint and such?

    My current studio, which I am still grieving having to part from, has lots east facing natural light and daylight fluorescents overhead. My soon-to- be studio will have north facing natural light, primarily. I will still install fluorescents for nighttime work, but I will need to be in the space with tons of paint samples before I will be able to determine the best wall color. I doubt my current color (which I have loved) will look the same in the new space. It may still work, but it will likely look different. My advice to you is to get all of your lighting in place first and then sample, sample, sample!

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