Best Wall Colors for Studios

Before you start buying gallons of paint to upgrade your art studio, read up on the best wall color choices in this “Ask the Experts” article by Koo Schadler.

Best Wall Colors for Art Studios

by Koo Schadler

Q. I’m preparing a 12×12-foot studio that will have one window. How might the color of the walls and ceiling affect my painting, and what color would you suggest?

A. There are different ways the color of your studio might affect your painting. First, the color will influence how well you can see what you’re working on. If you’re looking for maximum illumination, consider painting the walls and ceiling a light value, such as off-white. Light (from the window and electrical fixtures) will bounce off surrounding surfaces and create ambient, reflected illumination. The result is a well-lit and cheery workspace.

You should also consider your subject matter. Ambient illumination isn’t a problem if you work from photos or imagination; however, if you work from life, a room full of reflected light makes creating convincing light and shadow effects on a model or a still life setup difficult. For this reason, traditional painters generally paint their studio walls a middle value (with an off-white ceiling). Also, the color shouldn’t be too strong because intense chroma can throw unexpected color onto your subject and influence how well you see your work. A midvalue gray or dull green are popular choices.

If you intend to display finished work in your studio, you have yet another consideration. Most artwork looks best when set against a midvalue, low-chroma color (as can be seen on the walls of many museums and galleries). Artist Richard Whitney painted one wall of his studio Pompeii red. He asserts that, gold frames set against this color look “extraordinarily beautiful.”

Finally, think about what color you would most enjoy seeing on your studio walls. A studio is a deeply personal space. It shouldn’t only attest to practical considerations, such as those outlined above, but also be personally pleasing, helping to create a beloved space where you’re eager to spend time.

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For more information about studio lighting, see Koo Schadler’s article “Your Personal Light” in the October 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine, available at



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