The main purpose of every home theater is to have the big movie experience in the comfort of your own home. Since much of your viewing will be with the lights dimmed or off, you may ask yourself why the rooms color scheme is considered to be so important. There are basically two aspects of wall paint that we must consider; the paints finish and its color.
When painting your home theater, you should use good quality paint with a flat finish from a reputable manufacturer. Paints are available in a few different finishes; flat, satin (or egg-shell), semi-gloss, and gloss. These determine the paints level of light reflectivity. Flat and satin finishes don’t wear quite as easily as gloss but they’re the best choices for home theaters because they don’t reflect much light.
Never use gloss or semi-gloss paint anywhere in your home theater. Not on the walls, not on the doors, not even the trim. Why? Because glossy paint reflects light. Lots of it. When you’re looking at dry paint near a source of light, if you can see a brighter area that’s shiny, then that’s already too much light reflection. But what does it matter if the lights are out? With the lights out, the light coming from the television or projector screen will bounce off the walls and light up your room like crazy.
An overly bright room will adversely affect the performance of a rear-projection television, and absolutely kill the performance of even the most expensive consumer front-projectors. Light from a brightly lit scene will spill into the room, bounce off any lightly colored or glossy walls, and then back onto the screen reducing the screens contrast. The result is less detail for you and your audience.
The solution is to use a darker color for your walls; something neutral like browns, dark tans, or black. Don’t worry too much about painting your walls a darker color — you’re not going to end up with a cave. Whatever furniture you put into your theater, the lighting you use, and wall treatments you hang will help to balance out the room when it’s finished. My family room is painted a nice caramel color, and the walls around and soffit above the projector screen are a nice chocolate brown. A tan carpet and recessed lighting shining down make the place look really comfortable. Wall papers are fine too. Just be sure to bring a sample home with you, tack it to the wall and shine a bright light on it at an angle. If it reflects any light, keep shopping.
I want to stress that you should stick with darker, neutral colors. Dark red or blue, for example, are a no-no because they will still shed some light. You’ll end up with a slightly tinted red or blue screen image. Most onscreen colors won’t be affected too much and you will get used to it after a while, but you can kiss pure white goodbye. Wasn’t the point of spending a lot of money on a good projector to get a great image?
Now I mentioned black earlier. Who wants to paint the walls of their family room completely black? Even dedicated home theaters owners shy away from pure black because they want a theater that has some style to it and completely black walls make a room hard to decorate. Black has its place in many home theaters (like the walls around the screen) and can add a classy feel.
So to recap, stick with a paint that has a flat or satin finish. Stay away from bright colors and learn to love neutral, darker ones. Don’t be worried that you won’t like the color; you can always repaint after. Stick with these tips and you’ll be able to enjoy a comfortable viewing area and great looking movies.