Wall Painting Techniques for Beginners

There is a lot to love about painting a room. Not only does a fresh coat make the room look clean and renewed, but it also provides the opportunity to try some new wall painting techniques. With so many techniques to choose from, there are a ton of ways to give a wall a professional, stylish look.

How to prepare a room for painting

Regardless of the wall painting technique you choose, prep work is an absolute necessity. These tips on prepping a room for painting will help ensure that the final coat of paint looks as smooth as possible. 

  1. Remove outlet covers, window coverings, and switch plates. Start by removing everything from the room that you can. This includes furniture, outlet covers, curtains, switch plates from the light switches, vents, and anything else that might get in the way during painting. Cover items that are too large or heavy to move with drop cloths.
  2. Cover the floor with canvas drop cloths. Be sure to stretch canvas drop cloths across the floor to catch drips and spills. If possible, avoid folds in the middle of the drop cloth as they’re easy to trip over. Instead, fold the drop cloth at the wall.
  3. Using a putty knife, fill nail holes or dents with spackle. Before even opening a can of paint, you need to patch the walls. First, run your hands over the walls to find any rough or uneven surfaces, and then circle them with a pencil. Next, scrape any loose paint or gunk off the wall with the tip of the putty knife. Then, use the butt of the putty knife to create a dent over the repair area. Finally, apply spackle to the repair. Allow it to dry before sanding it smooth.
  4. Cover trim and surfaces next to walls with painter’s tape. New painters that don’t have steady hands should rely on painter’s tape. First, apply it along the tops of the walls where they meet the ceiling. Then, when the ceiling is painted, apply it along the trim where it meets the walls (windows, doors, and baseboards). Finally, apply painter’s tape along the floor where it meets the baseboards and along the walls where they meet the trim. 

12 Wall painting techniques

The following are some of the most popular painting techniques, which vary in difficulty from simple to more advanced, but there is something for every taste and style.

Note: Many of the following techniques involve a product called “glaze.” Glaze is a transparent layer that typically covers a surface, and it’s available for latex paint and oil-based paints. However, many of the following techniques involve mixing the glaze with the can of paint. Be sure to paint the ceiling before moving the walls.

Antiquing

Antiquing is a wall painting technique for those that prefer the worn and weathered look, and it’s one of the easiest to accomplish. First, apply a base coat to the wall. Then, with a straight paintbrush, dip the brush into another gallon of paint before wiping most of the paint back off in the can (not just the excess paint—almost all of it). With the dampened bristles, apply the paint in vertical brush strokes. The light, uneven texture gives the wall a worn look.

Checkers

Much like striping, checkering a wall involves two or more colors and the careful application of painter’s tape. After coating the wall with the base coat (usually the lighter color), the painter carefully lays out the design with painter’s tape in vertical and horizontal sections. Then, the painter applies the contrasting colors in diagonal patterns, resulting in a checkerboard pattern with the tape removed.

Color washing

Color washing is a wall painting technique that gives the room a rustic, aged look. Color washing involves painting the walls with a base color (typically in a semi-gloss sheen), allowing the walls to dry, and then haphazardly applying coats of paint thinned with a glaze with a large brush. This technique creates depth and texture, as well as color variations in the wall. 

Crackling

Crackling is a painting method achieved using crackle medium (a clear substance that reacts with the topcoat). This technique creates a broken, uneven texture on a wall, giving it an aged, antique look. To achieve this look, the painter applies a base coat of eggshell or semi-gloss paint on the wall before applying crackle medium. Finally, the painter quickly applies the topcoat, allowing it to react with the crackle medium.

Ombre

Ombre is a technique that involves choosing at least three colors and blending them on the wall. The painter will start painting the lightest over the whole wall as a base coat. Then, moving to the next lightest color, they’ll paint in the middle and blend the color into the lighter section with a paintbrush. Then, they repeat the process with the darkest color, blending it into the middle section to create a gradient from top to bottom. 

Patterned rollers

For those who’d like a particular pattern or texture on their walls, try experimenting with a patterned roller. These special rollers are usually rubber, but they work similarly to a typical paint roller: The painter loads the roller in the paint tray and then applies the texture in one long roll to create the pattern on the wall. These rollers come with wood grain designs, ridges, crackles, lines, and many, many more designs. 

Rag rolling

The technique of rag rolling involves applying a base coat of paint to the wall and then rolling a twisted rag over the surface. Typically, the twisted rag will be loaded with paint of a different color, and the wrinkles and folds of the fabric create a semi-pattern and texture on the wall. 

Sponging

Sponging is a popular wall painting technique that involves using a sea sponge to apply a contrasting glaze to a base coat. After applying the base coat, the painter applies paint with a dampened sea sponge, coating the wall using a dabbing motion. The contrast between the base color and glaze-mixed paint creates a smooth, soft texture. 

Stencils

When it comes to simplicity, it doesn’t get much easier than using a stencil for a design or pattern. Starting with a fresh base coat, the painter uses stencils, paint in a contrasting color or shade to that of the base coat, and a roller cover or brush, or spray paint to create patterns and designs. 

Strié

Another glaze technique, strié involves painting the wall with a base coat, and then applying a topcoat of paint and glaze. With the topcoat still wet, the painter drags a stiff-bristled brush through the glaze, working from the top of the wall to the bottom in long consistent strokes. After each stroke, the painter cleans the brush and begins again, slightly overlapping the last pass, creating a fabric-like texture that exposes the base coat.

Stripes

Striping is one of the most widely used wall painting techniques. With this painting method, the painter chooses two (or more) colors to create an alternating pattern. First, they apply the lighter color as the base coat and allow it to dry. Once dry, they carefully use painter’s tape to create straight, even lines on the walls. The painter then paints between the tape and removes it after drying, leaving behind sharp, contrasting stripes.

Accent walls

While accent walls are more a design choice than a technique, they can be an easy way to achieve a professional-grade paint job. With this option, the painter chooses one paint color for three out of the four walls, and another color in a more dramatic hue for the fourth wall. This 4th wall can be a complimentary color or an off-the-wall design—the possibilities are endless.

Copeland offers video-based online classes that give you a foundation in construction fundamentals with real-world applications, like drywall finishing. Classes include professionally produced videos taught by practicing craftspeople, and supplementary downloads like quizzes, blueprints, and other materials to help you master the skills.

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