How Many Coats of Paint on Your Wall? Tips for a Perfect Finish

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As someone passionate about painting and home improvement, I’ve come to appreciate the transformative power of a fresh coat of paint on walls, whether you’re simply looking to breathe new life into your living space or embarking on a long-awaited home improvement project.

The choice of paint and the number of coats you apply can make all the difference. In this guide, I will address some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the number of coats of paint needed to achieve a flawless finish.

Ideal Number of Paint Coats on Walls

The golden rule in painting walls is to apply a minimum of two coats. While it may be tempting to cut corners and use only one coat, this often results in an uneven finish and compromises the durability of your paint job. Two coats ensure better coverage and a smoother appearance.

However, not all walls are created equal, and the number of coat requirements can vary based on factors such as wall material and the previous wall color. 

Wall Material

The type of material your walls are made of plays a crucial role in determining coat requirements. Unfinished drywall, for example, is more porous and may require additional coats, such as a primer or undercoat, to achieve an even finish. 

painting wall blue

In contrast, walls made of finished material, like plaster or smooth drywall [1], often need fewer coats.

Previous and Chosen Wall Color

If you’re transitioning from a darker color to a lighter one, you may need an extra coat to ensure complete coverage. For unfinished drywall or walls with a darker previous color, it’s advisable to add a layer of primer or undercoat paint before applying the two finish coats. 

The color you’ve selected for your walls can impact coat requirements. While lighter colors may require fewer coats to achieve full coverage, darker hues often necessitate additional layers to hide any underlying colors.

Paint Quality

Choosing the right quality of paint is paramount when determining coat requirements. Investing in quality paint not only ensures fewer coats are needed but also results in a more durable and long-lasting finish. 

paint brush and paints

While it may be tempting to opt for cheaper, lower-quality paints, they often require more coats to achieve the desired outcome, ultimately costing you more in terms of time, effort, and resources.


The use of a primer can significantly affect the number of coats needed. Applying a primer before your finish coats can enhance coverage, adhesion, and color accuracy, potentially reducing the overall coat count.

Surface Type

Different surface types may require varying numbers of coats. Textured surfaces, for instance, can absorb more paint and may need extra coats to achieve a smooth finish compared to flat, non-textured walls.

Painting Over New Plaster

This requires special attention to ensure a durable and attractive finish. The typical approach involves three coats: a primer coat, a mist coat, and two finish coats. This meticulous process guarantees that the paint adheres well to the plaster and provides a long-lasting result. 

lady painting wall grey

To simplify the task, consider using paint specially designed for new plaster. Brands like Dulux offer products that are ideal for this purpose. These paints are formulated to provide a flawless finish, ensuring that your newly plastered walls look their best.

Always adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations when painting over new plaster. Different products may require specific systems from bare plaster to the finish coat, so consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for the best results.

How Much Paint Do I Need?

Determining the right amount of paint is crucial to avoid running out mid-project or wasting excess paint. Accurate calculations not only save you time but also ensure a successful painting endeavor.

To simplify the process of estimating paint quantity, consider using a paint calculator. These online tools take into account factors such as room dimensions, surface type, chosen color, and the desired number of coats.

a can of base paint

Providing this information also provides you with an accurate assessment of the amount of paint required for your project. Using a paint calculator ensures you purchase the right amount of paint, eliminating the need for multiple trips to the store and reducing paint wastage.

Oil-Based vs. Water-Based Paint

Choosing between oil-based and water-based paints can affect your project’s timeline. Oil-based paints typically require longer drying times between coats, whereas water-based paints dry faster.

Regardless of whether you opt for oil-based or water-based paint, the general rule of using a minimum of two coats remains consistent. Consistency in this practice ensures a professional finish and long-lasting results.

Benefits of Using Multiple Coats of Paint

Improved aesthetics and finish quality

Using multiple coats of paint contributes to improved aesthetics and finish quality. Extra layers result in a smoother, more appealing appearance that enhances the overall look of your space.

blue painted wall

Enhanced durability and longer-lasting paint

The durability of your paint job is significantly enhanced with multiple coats. These additional layers create a robust and long-lasting finish that withstands daily wear and tear.

Possibility of longer warranties with additional coats

Some paint manufacturers offer extended warranties when you apply multiple coats of their products. Using more coats can provide added protection and potentially extend the warranty coverage for your painting project.

Should I Hire a Professional Painter?

While DIY painting projects can be rewarding and cost-friendly, consulting with a professional painter may be advantageous. Experienced contractors can provide expert guidance on coat requirements, ensuring the best results. 

painting wall

Hiring professionals eliminates the stress of tackling a complex painting project on your own. However, be cautious when considering cheaper estimates for your project. Some contractors may use low-quality paint to cut costs, which can lead to disappointing results. 


Painting your walls [is a significant investment in your home’s aesthetics and durability. Choosing the right number of paint coats is crucial for achieving the desired results and ensuring long-term satisfaction. 

I encourage you to apply the knowledge gained from this comprehensive guide to your painting projects. By considering surface type, paint quality, and color, you can achieve the perfect finish for your walls and ceilings, turning your home into a masterpiece of design and craftsmanship.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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