Decorative Paint Technique: How to Color Wash Walls

Paint is the cheapest product that you can use to refurbish a room and bring new life to an area. When we think of painting the walls we normally envision someone loading paint onto a roller and then off-loading the paint on the surface of a wall.

There are a variety of painting techniques that can add texture and appeal to your walls. Color washing is one of those ways of creating a unique to the walls around you.

What You Need to Color Wash Walls

painting tools
  • A paintbrush that is 3 to 4 inches for a textured appearance, soft rags or sponges for a more diffused look
  • Acrylic or latex paint in the colors of your choice. You need 2 or more colors to create this painting effect. You can apply paints in graduating colors. You can put the lightest shade on the wall as a base coat, then add a darker shade mixed with glaze, and you can even add a darker shade for a third coat. You can also use completely different but complementary paint colors to create this effect. You can even buy glazes that have color hues to them to create dramatic effects.
  • A glaze to apply to the walls
  • Painters tape to cover hinges, knobs, and things you do not want to get paint on
  • Drop cloths to cover furniture, carpeting, and larger items you do not want to get paint on
  • Screwdriver
  • Clear tape or masking tape

Wall Preparation Color Wash

You must thoroughly clean the walls before you can paint them. You also need to remove pictures and outlet covers. Use the tape to hold the outlet cover screw in place so it does not get lost.

Make sure that nails are flush against the surface of the wall, and repair any sheetrock damages you might discover.

Apply the Painters Tape

Apply the Painters Tape

Use the painters tape to cover any hardware that you do not want to get paint on. Door hinges, doorknobs, locks, and around windows. You can tape newspaper over the glass of the windows to ensure that they do not get any paint on them.

Use the painters tape to go around the top of the wall on the ceiling so no paint transfer can occur.

Cover baseboards and trim boards that you do not want to paint.

Apply the Base Coat

You should apply the base coat of paint using a roller. You will need to use a paint brush and paint around the top of the walls, paint the inside corners, and then paint around the top of your baseboards before you begin to apply the paint with a roller.

Remember that when using a roller you should not apply too much pressure to the roller. If you apply too much pressure the paint will me mashed out of the roller and this will cause you to have thicker sections of paint in some areas, or it can cause the paint to run and drip down the wall.

This base paint must dry completely before you can do the next step. You should give the base paint at least 24 hours to dry.

Applying the Color Wash

The first thing you need to do is mix the glaze with the color you have chosen to be your wash color. The mix ration is one part paint to four parts glaze, and one half a part of water. Stir this mixture completely before you begin.

You will now choose to use the paint brush or the rags to apply the mixture over the base paint.

Dip the soft cloth into the glaze mixture and dab it onto the walls. You want to create an X pattern, and repeat the pattern in a random way. You can also apply the glaze in a circular configuration like you would do if you were cleaning the walls. Just be careful to not create an exact pattern

You can dab with lighter and heavier amounts of pressure to leave varying amounts of the glaze mixture on the wall.

If you have places where there appears to be too much of the glaze you can brush a dry paintbrush over the wet glaze to soften the look.

Remember that you want a light coverage so you do not conceal the base color completely.

You will want to apply the paint and glaze to one wall, and then completely cross the room to do the next wall. When you start to do the third wall, start in the corner closest to the first wall. This gives your glaze time to begin to dry before you have to stand too close to it. It avoids mishaps and stops the wall from being accidentally touched while you are painting.

Once you have applied your glaze let it dry completely before you put outlet covers back in place or start to remove the painters tape. Your glaze will need at least 24 hours of drying time before you remove all of the drop cloths and painters tape.

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