Unfinished interior concrete-block walls produce an uninviting jail-cell vibe, so unless that's the look you're going for, give them some color. With paint, you can turn the cold feature into a warm, colorful or even artsy statement. Unlock your design imagination, and use the stacked squares or rectangles as a grid for any pattern and palette you please.

Getting Started

Start with a clean slate -- paint won't stick to dirt or loose concrete bits:

Prep Work

  1. Sweep or vacuum the wall or walls.
  2. Wash them with a concrete-cleaning solution or warm water and a little gentle, low-suds detergent, such as a cheap brand of dish soap.
  3. Seal the concrete with a masonry sealer to thwart mold, and give the paint something to stick to. Porous concrete tends to draw mold- or mildew-breeding dampness, especially if it's exterior facing. Let the sealer cure according to the manufacturer's directions.

Prime Time

  1. Apply exterior block primer -- yes, even indoors -- for better moisture control, to fill pores and to create a smoother surface than with standard primer. Allow the primer to dry for at least eight hours but no more than three or four weeks before applying paint.
  2. Roll on a couple coats of breathable, stretchable, mildew-resistant latex masonry paint -- sometimes labeled as elastomeric wall coating, using a thick-nap roller to get in the grooves.

Painting Between the Lines

Be as creative as you like. For something subtle, paint most of the blocks warm white tinged with yellow or red, and a random few squares a shade or two darker -- warm colors help alleviate the concrete's coolness. If you prefer an edgier design, choose three or four compatible bright colors -- turquoise, yellow and salmon, for instance. For a monochromatic or gradient effect, use a light, medium and dark trio of pinks, purples or metallic colors. Use any hues in color-blocking fashion to create block-sized horizontal stripes -- or vertical stripes in zigzag fashion, from brick-like block to block -- rough block lettering, geometric shapes or a staggered chevron pattern. The obvious perk to painting blocks is that you can use the lines to form your designs and skip the painter's tape. Outline the squares by painting the lines black or white, if you like.

Picture This: Creative Painting

If you don't think you can hang art on your concrete-block wall, think again. Assorted concrete screws, screw hooks and wall anchors, along with a drill and masonry bit, make hanging artwork on such hard surfaces basically the same as anywhere else. Decide where you want your prints, photos or paintings, and then paint the background blocks to offset, highlight or frame the frames. If you have artistic talent -- or stamps or stencils -- paint your own art directly on the prepped and primed wall, using a block, group of blocks or the as your canvas.