The 5 Best Colors to Paint a Woodworking Shop


It may seem odd, but did you know that wall color matters when it comes to your woodworking area? When you’re creating a woodworking shop, there are plenty of things to consider. What equipment is necessary, and how should your tools be stored? How can space be maximized to allow for all the necessary tools, equipment, and a desktop workspace? And finally, what color should you use to paint your woodworking shop?

Lighter wall colors enhance your lighting better than darker colors.  The fact is, not all paint colors are created equally, and for professional woodworking, wall color matters! When creating a woodworking shop, using the right paint color is just as important as choosing the right lighting. The most important factor in paint selection is reflectance.

Overwhelmingly, career woodworkers, whether a cabinet maker, joiner, general carpentry contractor, wood artisan, or professional builder, all agree that using a color that reflects light is key! Let’s find out what colors work best for high reflectance.

The Best Colors to Paint a Woodworking Shop

Bright White.  No color on Earth reflects light better than white. These days, there are plenty of variances and shades of white available on the market, from eggshell to chantilly lace and many others. However, a bright white like  Sherwin Williams Extra White is ideal when searching for a paint color with high light reflectance.

Off-White. For some, bright white may be a bit too institutional, and many people prefer some nuance in their color choice. Off-white colors can vary widely, with some edging toward warm yellow and even green tones, while others give off a cool blue or gray vibe. This Benjamin Moore off-white Marble White is far from boring with nice undertones, yet is still very reflective.

Gray. There are beautiful gray shades available that will reflect plenty of light in a workshop setting but can also provide a calming, almost soothing atmosphere. Neutral grays are a great choice because they won’t distort the appearance of different wood tones under shop lighting. A great example of a bright yet neutral gray is this  Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore. Nothing is boring about this beautiful gray.

Yellow.  Many color experts equate yellow with creativity and optimism, which sounds like a great choice for a woodworking shop where creativity abounds! This beautiful shade still reflects plenty of light and will give the shop a creative, warm atmosphere. Sherwin Williams Icy Lemonade won’t blind you because it’s a soft yellow-tone.

Green. Believe it or not, there are several shades of green that will actually brighten up a workshop and reflect plenty of light. Green tones tend to be soothing while reducing eye fatigue, which is a great choice in a creative environment. This green would be perfect for a woodworking shop: Behr Wishful Green.

Understanding Light Reflectance Value

Even with bright shop lighting, reflective walls can make a huge difference for those working in these creative fields. Not only do reflective walls make it easier to complete some of the complex intricacies of woodworking, but it also helps fight eye fatigue and other hazards of the trade.

When considering paint colors for a woodworking shop, the most important aspect is light reflectance value or LRV. In any creative space where precision is key, it is important to have as much light as possible. After all, a 100-watt lightbulb looks quite different in a bright white room than in a dark blue room. That is due to light reflectance.

Learning More About LRV

Light Reflectance Value or LRV is a universal guide used in determining how paint colors will reflect or absorb light on a painted surface. Each paint color, regardless of manufacturer, is given a Light Reflectance Value between 0-100. 

Darker colors, such as black, brown, deep blues, and reds, will typically absorb light, while lighter colors, such as whites and yellows, reflect light.

High Light Reflectance Value paints are those with an LRV of 60-100, medium reflectance is between 21-59, and low reflectance is 0-20. 

Ideally for a woodshop scenario, the higher the LRV, the better. 

For example, most white paints have an LRV of 70 and above, with the bright whites in the 80-95 LRV range. 

Your Lights Matter Too

However, even with high LRV, the lighting itself is important. High LRV paint will reflect light better and more efficiently than a mid-range LRV paint color, but if the light source is inadequate, to begin with, simply selecting a high LRV paint color will not be enough to provide adequate lighting within the room.  See my article on Small WorkshopsOpens in a new tab. where I also discuss lighting.

Instead, LRV should be considered along with the light selection for the workshop. With the right lighting, a high LRV paint color will complement and support the shop lights, while lower LRV paint may compete with and absorb some of the shop’s lighting.  

Why LED Lighting is Preferred

Most professionals agree that the best lighting for a woodworking shop is LED lighting. LED lighting provides brighter light at a much lower wattage, which not only saves energy but is actually much safer than other lighting solutions. LEDs will perfectly complement a high LRV value paint color.

Combining the right lighting with a paint color with a high Light Reflectance Value will provide the brightest possible lighting for your woodworking shop. Most professional carpenters agree; this combination makes for the ideal work setting for cabinet making and other creative woodworking.

Selecting the Right Paint Finish

Equally as important as color, selecting the right paint finish for the specific environment is important. The paint finish that works in a bedroom may not be right for a woodworking shop.

When picking a finish, there are several things to consider:

  • Durability. In a workshop setting, durability is key. With heavy equipment, tools, tons of wood, and supplies, it is vital to select a finish that can stand up to the daily wear and tear that occurs in a woodworking shop.
  • Easy Clean-up. A woodworking shop can get a little messy. Sawdust, paint, dirt, and wood stains are very common in a woodworking shop. Keeping the walls clean and dust and dirt free should not be a battle you have to fight.
  • Light Reflectance. Not only do different paint colors reflect light differently, so do different finishes. Having the right lighting in any creative space is important, and a woodworking shop is no different. After hours of working, eye fatigue is common. However, when working in a creative field, precision is key. Therefore, finding a finish that helps fight eye fatigue is your best bet.

High-Gloss Checks the Boxes

With all of that in mind, when creating your woodworking shop, consider using high-gloss paint.

When compared to other interior paint finishes, like matte or semi-gloss, high-gloss paint is by far the most durable. Experts recommend using high gloss paint in high traffic areas,  rooms exposed to a high volume of dirt, dust, and oil; and rooms that require extra light.

Providing the Perfect Solution

To summarize, a high-gloss, high LRV paint is ideal for your woodworking shop. Dust and dirt can be cleaned easily with a damp cloth, and the paint is, by far, the most durable over time. Best of all, high-gloss paint will also give the lighting in the woodworking shop an extra boost of reflectivity.

With any professional workspace, providing the right environment to support the work being performed is important. In a woodworking shop, the main focus is on selecting the right equipment and the appropriate tools, as well as creating a shop with adequate space to pursue your craft.

However, it is also important to consider the smaller factors that help make the workshop a more enjoyable place to work. Using the right lighting, along with selecting a paint that provides good reflectance, easy clean-up, and durability will provide the finishing touches to create the ideal woodworking shop.

John McCormick

I have been woodworking since being introduced to the hobby in High School. I enjoy woodworking as a hobby and would like to share some of what I have learned with the world. I have recently built a CNC router system and I have enjoyed learning this new dimension of the hobby.

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