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Paint to Hide Defects, Dents and Dings

Paint to Hide Defects, Dents and Dings

by Fred Fauth (email Fred) | | November 18, 2011 | 21 Comments »

While everyone prefers smooth, flat, undamaged drywall, the reality is that most older homes (or homes with children) have a couple of dents and dings.  The best solution for these imperfections is to lightly sand the surface, use drywall compound to fill the dents, and then sand the compound flat and smooth with a very fine grain sandpaper.

Even after using this technique, though, homeowners are frequently looking for ways to hide dents and dings in well-worn walls using paint.  If that’s you, here’s a few suggestions from our own experience for the best way to cover up slight imperfections.  (Note: all hiding techniques have limitations… it is much better to start with a smooth, clean wall).

Editors note: Many of you know that we’re converting Fred’s garage into the official OPC workshop, and it’s given us the opportunity to add some new pictures to this post. Read on to see how paint selection can make a dramatic difference when concealing minor imperfections.

Use Textured Paint or a Pattern on the Wall

textured-paintThe human eye picks up on dents and defects due primarily to the different angle of light reflection on the surface.  A dent distorts the plain of the wall, causing the light to bounce off in a way that the eye instantly identifies as an inconsistency.  Textured paints and creative application techniques (like sponging a lighter color over a darker one) will greatly reduce the visibility of imperfections since it is harder for the eye to identify the peaks and valleys on the wall.

Paint with a Flat Finish Paint

Flat finishes reduce the amount of light reflected off the wall, thus reducing the visibility of dents and dings. Flat finishes also look bolder and classier than their glossier counterparts.  Unfortunately, these paints tend to be harder to clean and require more frequent touch-ups.  As a compromise, eggshell paints offer an easier-to-clean surface that still do a pretty good job of hiding defects.

Paint with a Dark(er) Color

In the same way flat finishes reduce dent visibility, darker paints also reflect less light than lighter paints, making them a better choice for hiding defects.   The drawback: darker colors make a room look smaller, and can promote a dreary atmosphere when not sufficiently lit.

Final Thoughts & Pictures

Here are two examples showing how darker, low-sheen paints can hide defects.

The first two shots show a soffit in our home, one up-close and one from a distance.  This soffit was repaired after a section of it was removed.  From a distance, with Ralph Lauren eggshell, green paint, the imperfections are pretty invisible.  Up close, though, it’s still easy to see the flaws.

At a Distance:


Up Close:


One challenge we’ve faced as we create the official OPC workshop is the poor condition of the ceiling drywall. When the drywall was installed, the joints were taped, however nothing was sanded and much of the tape has since ripped. The best course of action would be to re-tape the damaged areas and conceal the joints with a few layers of drywall compound. Instead we applied another layer of mud, sanded, primed and painted.

For this application we used Valspar flat, black paint.

After mudding:
If you’re curious about that wire, it’s for the garage door opener, and you can just barely see the attic access.

After priming:
Ideally you wouldn’t be able to see any of the joints after a couple coats of primer.

After painting:
The flaws are noticeable if you know where to look, and you’re searching for them. Combined with recessed lighting, the very imperfect drywall ceiling is completely disguised.

What do you think? What are your techniques for hiding drywall flaws?  Weigh in below and let us know.

Textured Jade Image by Pareeerica.

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Conversation on This Article

21 Responses to Paint to Hide Defects, Dents and Dings

  • Bugler responds...
    April 2nd, 2009 9:19 am

    Kilz High-Build Primer is a new product designed to hide imperfections. I intend to try it on my next repaint. Here’s some information:


  • Jennifer responds...
    April 2nd, 2009 8:19 pm

    What about skim coating the whole wall in drywall compound, sanding, priming, and painting? That’s what we are planning on doing to our walls. Lots of work, but you get a “perfect” new wall to work with.


  • Fred responds...
    April 2nd, 2009 10:33 pm

    Jennifer, Skim coating is definitely one of the better options in terms of quality (although depending on how bad everything is, drywall replacement might be good too)… Unfortunately, it requires a lot of work as you noted… I’ll write a post about skim coating sometime soon.

    Bugler, thanks for sharing the Kilz high-build. I’m very skeptical of thicker primers that claim to have hiding effects. I noticed that the post says you can avoid a skim coat when the primer is sprayed… and one commenter says the product did wonders when painted on with a brush. With a brush or roller, seems like many of the imperfections would simply be raised equally by the high build, thus reducing the hiding characteristics.


  • Lara responds...
    September 25th, 2010 10:51 am

    I bought a old farm house that was semi remodeled and they did not do any sanding so as an easy and quick was to hind improfections in the kitchen and dining room I use tissue paper. It creates the look of textured walls but much nicer I think. The way to do it is to buy plain white tissue paper and as you paint an area of 3’x3′ you roll the tissue paper into a ball and flatten out to have as many wrinkles as you want. Then place tissue paper on wet paint and smooth down, and add a layer of paint over the tissue paper. It takes time to get the right amount of wrinkles you want but it looks great in the end and it’s really cheap. Just a little thing I picked up was to use the cheaper paint like wal-mart because the tissue paper absorbs a lot of paint and in my first room I used Ralph lauren and it costed almost $100 to do 1 wall that was 20×9 and 1 that was 12×9 so it is really cheap if you don’t make my first mistake..
    good luck


  • jeff_williams responds...
    November 18th, 2011 10:37 am

    Whenever I have to patch drywall I stipple on the primer with a brush. It blends the years of built up roller texture perfectly. Sometimes it takes two coats of primer to get the bumps right but the patch is invisible once the paint goes on.


    Kim Reply:

    This is a great technique, Jeff… Thanks for adding.


  • paintergal responds...
    November 18th, 2011 10:42 am

    I have been applying a texturizing treatment on our new drywall and will use it to mask the gouges I created on walls where I steamed off wallpaper.
    After I fill the gouges with drywall compound and sand, I then mix the compound with water until it’s the consistency of pancake batter. Then I roll it on. Let dry, prime, and paint. This is an easy way to add texture to walls without being too labor intensive.


    jeff_williams Reply:

    Does it look like “orange peel” texture? Have any pictures?


  • MissFixIt responds...
    November 18th, 2011 9:57 pm

    What about popped out drywall screws in the ceiling? I have one that keeps popping out. I screwed it back in patched and repainted and in a year its back out.

    Should I just remove that screw? and Screw into someplace else? My guess its not hitting any studs.


  • jeff_williams responds...
    November 18th, 2011 10:53 pm

    Put another one about an inch away that goes into structure. Then you can either drive and bury the old one or pull and fill the hole. When I’m hanging drywall and accidentally drive a screw so that it goes through the paper I put another one in close proximity.


  • Eek565 responds...
    November 19th, 2011 4:06 pm

    The dark walls work until you get a new chip in the wall and then the white drywall underneath shows easily. I like lighter colors for this reason because nicks on inevitable.


    Kim Reply:

    Good point – although probably less of an issue with the ceiling.


  • JustME responds...
    November 20th, 2011 6:57 pm

    Even newly finished walls are not perfect so we’ve use flat or satin paint in our home other than in the kitchen and bathrooms ofcourse. I hate repairing holes and dings so to avoid the need I’ve stopped using nails. For lightweight items I’ve use pins in the past, but now that I’ve discovered 3M Command strips I’ll use nothing else. If you pull the strip straight down there is absolutely no sign the strips were ever there. No more worries about those dents in the walls from repair jobs where nails once were.
    But if one does need to repair their drywall I like the light weight all purpose joint compound. So much easier to use and sand smooth when covering nail holes. Not sure how well it would work on larger areas though.


  • Joe responds...
    November 22nd, 2011 11:14 am

    The Previous owners of my house didnt believe in sanding their patches, so there are lots of nice globs of joint compound over old holes (some even have big drips of paint going down the wall too!!). I am slowly fixing these, but not much has been finished because I havent re-painted yet.

    What I really want to know is how to match the texture on my ceilings, its plaster with a really rough surface (sand maybe), I removed some original trim work (goofy square open shelves) and that left some un-painted areas (and a large hole where the ceiling had dropped and a piece of wood pushed through it). I have NO idea how to get this to be a seamless repair, I fear the answer is “you cant”.


  • HANDYMAN51 responds...
    July 6th, 2013 9:59 pm

    Does the black ceiling in the OPC workshop absorb light to the point where you notice it? Put a bunch of glow-in-the-dark stars on that ceiling, and you can have family campouts there without worrying about pitching a tent.


  • Sharon W. responds...
    November 9th, 2013 1:30 pm

    I have an old house that the previous owners put paneling on one rooms walls. I painted them when I first moved in but through time two problems have developed. 1st. some on the seams of the paneling has moved away from the other piece and you can see where they have been placed on the wall. 2nd I would like to paint the walls but I would like to apply a method first to eliminate the appearance of the paneling. Any suggestions? Also should I nail some of the panels to eliminate the separating of the panels.


  • Wayne Howell responds...
    December 4th, 2013 9:26 am

    I need to paint may bathroom, it is filthy. The drywall behind the toilet is rotting out because it gets wet. Does anyone have any idea how to fix rotting without replacing the entire drywall?


  • Deborah responds...
    February 10th, 2014 3:49 pm

    No comment on the drywall problem, but my god, that paint job is atrocious! Tape doesn’t work well on textured surfaces, but it is easy to get straight lines without it and avoid all that paint spilling over to adjacent surfaces. Paint the ceiling color (or whichever color is lighter — wall or ceiling) slightly over onto the other surface first to ensure uniformity in edge color. Then, use a flat piece of cardboard or stiff plastic sheet to draw along the angle between wall and ceiling as you paint the second, darker surface. You’ll get perfect lines despite the texture.


  • colin responds...
    February 16th, 2014 2:58 pm



  • Diane responds...
    October 5th, 2015 4:52 pm

    We removed our pool enclosure and chalked the nail holes in the super gutter. There are no leaks and the super gutter functions great. We are now getting ready to sell our home and want to paint the super gutter with something that will cover the bumps where the nails were. Any suggestions?


  • Dhana responds...
    April 21st, 2016 10:28 pm


    we are building a new house, I can see through joint lines across the wall and dents in master bedroom when I switch the wall light. I raised issue to our builder, but he mentioned the reason was wall light shade reflecting on the wall.

    I need a help to solve this ugly looking wall in my bed room.




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