To ensure the paint sticks to the dark paneling, clean the surface of the wood with warm, soapy water, and wash the wood with diluted vinegar to remove grease. Before applying the primer, repair nail holes and other imperfections with wood putty, and sand the wall lightly with 220-grit sandpaper. To cover very dark colors, apply two coats of primer and two to three coats of paint.
Before painting an entire wall, sand and paint a small, inconspicuous area of the paneling to ensure the paint adheres properly. To simplify sanding, use a pole sander, and remove the dust with a damp cloth or tack cloth before applying the primer. When choosing a primer, opt for a high-quality white or light grey-colored primer that is designed to cover dark colors.
Choose paint that is compatible with the primer, and apply the paint to the wall. A second or third coat of paint may be necessary to fully cover very dark colors. To paint around fixtures, such as door trim, use a small, angled paint brush.
Because the grooves in paneling add texture to the wall, it is unnecessary to add texture using other methods. Paint the paneling in a method that is similar to painting drywall if the paneling is real wood.