5 best colors to paint a ceiling according to designers – from colorful hues to classic white

Add interest to the fifth wall with these expert-suggested paint color ideas

dark dining room, white bedroom with yellow ceiling, beige living room
(Image credit: Eddie Lee Inc/Gieves Anderson Photography, Benjamin Moore, Farrow & Ball)

Choosing the best color for a ceiling can involve much deliberation. While white has long been the go-to paint color, we're now seeing designers embrace a more experimental approach to ceiling colors. 

'Most of us default to a white ceiling but this can be a hugely missed opportunity to add another layer of design to any room,' says Patrick O'Donnell, brand ambassador for Farrow & Ball. 'Looking at the ceiling in a more considered way can enhance the scale of the room in multiple ways, such as lowering the height or softening awkward angles in an attic space.'

So, what are the best colors to paint a ceiling? We asked interior designers for their advice, and have rounded up five of their top suggestions below. If you're in need of some room color ideas for the fifth wall, read on. 

5 best paint colors for a ceiling

'When selecting a ceiling color, you need to consider the architectural elements of the home including the size of the room, the amount of natural light, architectural features within the room, and the height of the ceiling,' advises interior designer Trish Knight, co-founder of Knight Varga Interiors.

'Another thing to consider when painting your ceiling is your trim,' adds designer Nadia Watts. 'The trim will give you a natural starting and stopping point. If you don’t have ceiling trim, create drama by bringing the ceiling color a few feet down your wall. This creates a “lid” effect and makes your space feel cozy, inviting, and colorful, even with tall ceilings.'

1. Dark and moody hues

dark dining room with lots of artwork

(Image credit: Eddie Lee Inc, Gieves Anderson Photography)

For an on-trend look, opt to color drench your whole room in a dark paint color. While using color on the walls and painting the ceiling white has been the default for some time, fully embracing color throughout a room creates a moody and modern look.

The NYC-based designer Eddie Lee demonstrates this in this dining room, where the ceiling aligns with the rest of the room's dark brown color scheme. 'Ceilings are the fifth wall that helps convey whatever mood you are going for,' the designer explains. 'I have done chocolate brown and black ceilings for a cozy, enveloping feeling.'

Farrow & Ball's Patrick O'Donnell says that color drenching in a dark hue can even work in small rooms, saying: 'We are seeing people painting whole rooms in one color for a saturated, dramatic look. This can create a lovely intimacy even in the smallest of rooms.'

However, you don't need to color-drench an entire room to include a dark-colored ceiling. For rooms with mid to dark color paint across the walls, you can experiment with paint colors of various intensities on the ceiling, as Patrick continues to share: 'The darker your walls, the darker you can go on the ceiling. Something like Preference Red on walls will respond wonderfully well with the mid-toned neutral of Jitney.'

2. Replicate the wall color with 25% intensity

Living room painted in a warm clay paint color

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

'One of my ceiling secrets is taking 25% of your wall color and adding it to white for a perfectly paired neutral ceiling with a touch of color,' says Nadia Watts.

This color rule works to create a cohesive look throughout a room and makes a great alternative to white. It works especially well in neutral rooms, avoiding any harsh color contrasts or awkward cut-offs that can be the case with white ceilings. 

'If the walls are a light neutral such as beige or gray, we will consider painting the ceiling in the same color reduced to 25% of its intensity,' shares interior designer Trish Knight. 'This creates a calm yet polished look, especially in a contemporary home.'

3. Bright colors for a playful look

white bedroom with yellow ceiling and twin beds

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

The ceiling presents an opportunity to channel slightly unexpected hues, and adding colorful paint to an otherwise pared-back color scheme can create a playful look. If all four walls are white, for example, adding a sunshine yellow to the ceiling instantly uplifts the space and adds plenty of interest. 

Nadia Watts says this works especially well in rooms with high ceilings: 'If your ceilings are tall, consider a bold ceiling color to bring the ceiling down and create a color story.'

To further lean into the playful look, consider different paint finishes. Benjamin Moore's Director of Color Marketing Helen Shaw recommends a gloss finish for added impact: 'Consider a higher finish such as semi-gloss or high-gloss to bring reflection and dimension.'

4. Classic white for light and airy schemes

bedroom with white walls and ceiling

(Image credit: Nadia Watts Interior Design, photography Emily Minton-Redfield)

Although many designers appear to be swapping out white ceilings for colors with more depth in 2024, that doesn't mean white ceilings don't still have their place. In fact, painting a ceiling white can be one of the best colors to create a light and airy feel throughout a room. 

'Opting for the whitest white on the ceiling can work wonders in a room,' says interior designer Eugenia Triandos of Hibou Design & Co. 'Ceilings typically receive the least amount of light, so they tend to appear darker naturally.' To offset this lack of light, opting for a white ceiling can help create a more spacious look and feel. 

Another benefit of a white ceiling is that it pairs well with pretty much all other colors and styles, as Trish Knight observes: 'White is a versatile neutral backdrop that looks good with all wall colors and design aesthetics.'

5. Calming blues

bedroom with light blue ceiling and pink chair

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Lastly, decorating with blue is an expert-approved ceiling color that can be a great way to create a calming feel in a room.

'A blue ceiling is a nice way to bring in the outdoors and create coziness and calm in your space,' explains Nadia Watts. 'Whether an ocean-inspired teal, a sky-inspired light blue, or a deep navy, blue is timeless and classic and pairs well with a wide variety of styles and colors.'

Helen Shaw suggests Benjamin Moore's Splash, a light yet uplifting hue, to use on a ceiling, adding: 'Reminiscent of a summer sky, Splash makes the perfect choice to paint a ceiling. This pastel hue used on the fifth wall will draw the eye to give the illusion of a larger space. Use it alongside sugary soft pinks and hits of vibrant purple for a dopamine decor hit.'

Whether you want to lean into a moody look by channeling a dark color on the ceiling or create a playful look with a bold ceiling color in an otherwise neutral room, these paint ideas will ensure the fifth room has plenty of design appeal.

Emily Moorman
News Writer

Emily Moorman is a News Writer at Homes & Gardens, working across a range of topics spanning interiors, celebrity and emerging trends. With a background in the fashion industry, Emily is well-versed in the world of design and trend cycles. Her undergraduate degree was in Fashion Communication and Promotion which she studied at Norwich University of The Arts, specialising in writing and digital communications.