6 essential painting tips all renters need to know, according to the pros

Don't let the creative juices flow before reading this!

a paint roller painting a wall with blue and pink pastels
(Image credit: RUBEN BONILLA GONZALO/Getty Images)

Congratulations on your humble abode! Before you go all Picasso, you might want to check out our professional-backed painting tips for renters. 

We get it, decorating white walls might dull your shine, quite literally, but if you've signed a lease to a property that you don't own, you might have to make some sacrifices in the painting department. 

That doesn't necessarily mean bold statements or dopamine decorating are out of the equation — you'll just have to plan properly. Fortunately, we have great advice to help see you through. 

The best painting tips for renters, according to the pros

Before you bust out the rollers and dabble with an emerald green or terracotta shade, plan accordingly. Keep this step-by-step guide bookmarked, folks. 


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1. Talk to your landlord

If you're keen on adding a little color, you're going to have to speak to the head honcho and understand the terms of your lease. Should you have a few maintenance suggestions, always have a discussion before forging ahead with any project.   

"My biggest tip for renters would be to compromise with your landlords," says Sue Wadden, Sherwin-Williams' director of color marketing. "Make sure to communicate that it’s in both of your best interests to make some changes. However, be aware that landlords might not go for a huge change."

And even if you can't actually paint, we'll help you choose the perfect color scheme for your apartment, so fear not!

2. Sample different shades

Before you start using the bedroom wall as your personal easel, snag a few paint colors and test them out on a small area. Some paint brands even have peel-and-stick samples to make the process easier. Never underestimate the beauty of peel and stick!

3. Choose colors wisely

Let's say you've been given the green light to paint...but green is off-limits on the walls. Stick to neutrals, pastels, and versatile hues to give your room a fresh look. Also note that if you paint after move-in, you might be required to put in some sweaty equity upon leaving your rental. 

"Since renters may be responsible for repainting their apartment to match the original colors, it is advisable to paint with lighter, brighter colors," says Task Rabbit tasker, Jay W. "However, if you want a darker accent wall, go for it. Just keep in mind that it may take more than two coats to get the wall back to its original state."

4. Select the right spot

Location, location, location! Rather than designate the bedroom or the kitchen as the place for color, you can narrow it down to a single wall. 

"One rental-friendly way to add color to a room is by painting one feature wall," says Erika Woelfel, Behr’s vice president of color & creative services. "That way, you get the benefit of personalizing your space without a total room re-paint upon move out."

And being strategic might even trick your eye into thinking you're working with more space than you are.

"Carefully thought-out pops of colors can make the space appear larger," says Hannah Yeo, the color marketing & development manager at Benjamin Moore. "For instance, if you have a long and narrow hallway, pop the end of the hallway wall with a bold, bright accent color. You can dress the wall with your favorite artwork to serve as a focal point while having lighter colors on side walls to make the hallway look wider."

For a light, airy feel in a smaller room, she suggests working with pale colors and pastels. 

5. Think about alternatives

Who said you have to go for the walls? Painting furniture is always a solid option, and it can totally transform your space.

"Upcycle a piece of furniture or décor item with a fresh coat of paint or change out hardware pulls on a chest of drawers and spray paint them a new color," Woelfel suggests.

6. Accessorize properly

Break down what you need. Though it might seem like a simple shopping list, products can add up quickly. 

"First comes preparation tools, and once the surface preparation is completed, you’ll want to survey the project to see what needs to be covered," says Mike Mundwiller, senior manager, end user product experience at Benjamin Moore. "Next, you will need tools to apply the paint."

He recommends snagging a durable paint tray and a high-quality angle-sash paintbrush. "Synthetic bristles, like nylon or polyester, are the most practical," he adds. 

Andrea Philips of Airtasker's lifestyle editorial team insists that the often-overlooked items are the ones you'll find yourself needing. Find a can opener, masking tape, a roller extension pole, and a canvas sheet. 

"It is more durable than other materials like plastic and will absorb any paint drips and spills. This is especially important when renting as you don’t want to risk losing your deposit by getting paint on the carpet," she says.

Danielle Valente
Content Editor

Pleasure to meet you! I'm Danielle, a content editor at Real Homes who loves scoping out interior trends. I've specialized in lifestyle writing and editing for 10 years with a focus on events, food, and books, among other areas. When I'm not working, I'm usually cooking, reading, or searching for a new project for my apartment.