Should Backsplash Be Lighter or Darker Than Countertop?

Choosing the right backsplash to pair with your countertop is an important design decision that can dramatically impact the look and feel of your kitchen. The key considerations when selecting a backsplash color relative to your countertop are aesthetics, functionality, and creating visual harmony. Here is an in-depth look at whether you should opt for a backsplash that is lighter or darker than the countertop.

Factors to Consider

When deciding if your backsplash should be lighter or darker than the countertop, here are some key factors to take into account:

Aesthetics and Style

  • A lighter backsplash can create an airy, open look and make a small kitchen appear larger. It also highlights and accentuates the countertop as a focal point.
  • A darker backsplash adds visual weight and grounding to the space, which can be desirable in large, open kitchens. It creates more contrast with the countertop.
  • The style of your kitchen should inform the color choice. For traditional spaces, a darker backsplash may suit the décor better. In contemporary kitchens, a lighter backsplash prevents heaviness.


  • Consider the amount of cooking and cleaning the backsplash will endure. Lighter colors like white show dirt, stains, and splatters more easily than darker hues.
  • Opt for a glossy finish if choosing a darker backsplash color, as the sheen is easier to keep clean. Matte finishes show grime on darker hues.

Creating Harmony

  • Complementary colors are classics. A white or beige backsplash looks great with a darker granite or wood countertop. Darker slate backsplashes pair elegantly with lighter marble.
  • Contrasting colors can add drama. Dark backsplashes give light countertops a bold pop of color. Avoid pairing extremely disparate shades.
  • Matching the countertop and backsplash color creates visual flow, but can be safe and less interesting.

Lighter vs. Darker Backsplash: Pros and Cons

Here is an overview of the relative upsides and downsides when selecting a backsplash that is lighter or darker than the adjoining countertop:

Lighter Backsplash


  • Creates an airy, open look
  • Makes small kitchens appear larger
  • Highlights and accentuates the countertop
  • Easier to keep clean and limit visible stains


  • Can appear plain or washed out if neutral colors chosen
  • Shows dirt, stains, and splatters more readily
  • Doesn’t provide strong contrast with countertop

Darker Backsplash


  • Adds visual weight, anchors the space
  • Provides striking contrast with lighter countertops
  • Hides cooking stains and splatters well
  • Greater design flexibility for colors


  • Can make small kitchens feel more closed in
  • Shows grime on matte finishes
  • Requires more diligent cleaning than lighter hues
  • Less highlighting of the countertop

Tips for Combining Materials

Beyond just lighter and darker shades, the specific materials used for the countertop and backsplash impact the overall look significantly. Here are some useful tips:

  • Match stone with stone or tile with tile for a cohesive feel. Mixing materials can feel disjointed.
  • Glossy backsplash tiles pair elegantly with natural stone countertops like granite or marble, creating sheen contrast.
  • Mosaic tile backsplashes add visual interest and texture to solid surface countertops like quartz.
  • Glass, metal or porcelain backsplash tiles can create an eye-catching look against stone.
  • Contrast matte finishes like concrete backsplashes with polished stones for bold textural contrast.

Recommended Color Combinations

Here are some classic, elegant backsplash and countertop pairings that look beautiful together:

  • White marble countertop with dark gray slate backsplash
  • Black granite countertop with white subway tile backsplash
  • Quartz countertop with accent mosaic tile backsplash
  • Butcher block countertop with sandy beige stacked stone backsplash
  • Soapstone countertop with metallic or glass tile backsplash


The decision of whether your backsplash should be lighter or darker than the adjoining countertop has no definitive right or wrong answer. The most important considerations are the overall style you want to achieve, establishing visual harmony, and choosing colors and materials that complement each other. Contrasting shades can add drama, while similar tones create flow. Be sure to also factor in functionality like ease of cleaning. With an array of colors and materials to select from, you can find the perfect backsplash and countertop pairing for your unique kitchen décor.

FAQs About Backsplash and Countertop Color

Should you match backsplash and countertop color?

Matching the colors can look clean and uniform, but contrasting colors adds visual interest. It comes down to personal preference and the look you want.

What is most popular – light or dark backsplash?

Light and white backsplashes are most popular, as they keep the space feeling open and airy. Dark backsplashes are bolder and require more maintenance.

What backsplash goes with white countertops?

White marble countertops pair elegantly with subway tile, gray slate, or stone backsplashes. Avoid pure white on white. Add visual interest with contrast.

What color backsplash goes with dark countertops?

Light beige, white, or gray backsplashes complement darker countertops beautifully. Contrasting tones prevent heaviness.

Should you match countertops and cabinet colors or vary them?

Having all the same color can look monotonous. Usually best to vary countertops and cabinet colors while keeping them complementary.