Decorative painting

The Old House Web

It may have started slowly an extra sponge here, a few cans of glaze there. Interest in decorative painting is skyrocketing. Homeowners and professional painters alike are experimenting with a whole new world of decorative painting options -- beyond the basic tried-and-true techniques such as sponging, ragging and marbling. From the Paint Quality Institute, here's what you need to know about these cutting-edge techniques.


bedroom

A painted ceiling and bright walls give this child's bedroom  in an 1800s farmhouse a playful, whimsical feel. -- Photo: The Old House Web


Color Blocking

Color blocking involves painting several colors (usually at least three) in various-sized blocks on the wall. Because of its visual interest, this technique is usually done on one wall in a room, and often takes the place of artwork -- behind a sofa, for example.

The key is to draw the blocks in different dimensions -- varied sizes of squares and rectangles -- and map them out in a geometric, visually balanced arrangement on the wall. These blocks should be sketched on paper, then transferred to the wall and outlined lightly in pencil, then filled in with paint. Make several copies of the final design on paper for practice. Use these to play with the arrangement of colors in the design, then pick your favorite and start painting!

Choosing colors for this technique can be fun, but there are some things to keep in mind to help achieve the look youre after:

Colors from the same color card, but in varying intensities, will give your room a sophisticated, monochromatic appeal. If youre looking for subtlety, choose colors that are next to each other on the card.

Two or three harmonious colors and a third accent hue of either black or white creates a dramatic look.

For a fun, playful look, choose complementary colors (those that are opposite one another on the color wheel) such as yellow and violet.

It is helpful to use colors of the same value, or intensity, by choosing ones that are in the same position on several color cards --- the second up from the bottom, for example. This helps achieve a feeling of balance in the finished job.

If you decide to use colors of varying intensities, you may want to experiment with several practice designs. Using more of the brighter hue will give you a bold look, while using more of the lighter one will be more soothing. Remember that the practice design is much smaller than the final product, and any color you use will intensify once its on a wall.

The technique itself requires a fairly high level of decorative painting know-how. Here's a step-by-step description of the technique:

Steps in Color Blocking (Photos by PQI)

color block
 

1) First, properly prepare the surface. This includes removing any dirt, dust and mildew, filling cracks and holes, and priming where necessary. This step is crucial for this and every other technique.

color block
 

2) Select colors. Choosing colors for this technique can be fun, but there are some things to keep in mind to help achieve the look youre after:

  • In general, colors from the same color card, but in varying intensities, will give your room a sophisticated, monochromatic look.
  • Using brighter hues will produce a bold look, while lighter colors will be more soothing.
  • If youre looking for subtlety, choose colors that are next to each other on the card.
  • Two or three harmonious colors and a third accent hue of either black or white creates drama.
  • For a fun, playful look, choose complementary colors (those that are opposite one another on the color wheel) such as yellow and violet.

color block
 

3) Draw square and rectangular blocks in a variety of sizes on a sheet of paper that is in the same proportion or scale as the wall surface to be painted. You may find it helpful to use graph paper. Arrange them in a geometric, visually balanced layout.

color block
 

4) Make several copies of the final block design, and use these to experiment with the selection of colors within each block and the overall arrangement of colors in the design.


color block

5) Once the final color pattern is set, transfer the blocks to the wall and outline them lightly in pencil before taping them off. Then, fill them in with top quality interior paint. An easy decorating trick is to use colors of the same value, or intensity, by choosing ones that are in the same position on several color cards the second up from the bottom, for example. This helps achieve a feeling of balance in the finished job. Also, it is important to keep in mind that the practice design will be much smaller than the final product, and that colors will intensify when on the wall.


Sheen Striping

Sheen striping is another new technique that homeowners will find interesting. It involves painting vertical stripes of the same color, but in differing sheens, to create a subtle, sophisticated, moir© like design.

Sheen striping is well-suited for those with intermediate decorative painting experience, and works well in homes where the owners tastes tend to be more classic and conservative. It is especially appealing for use in dining rooms, above the chair rail, or any area that needs visual height due to a low ceiling.

Although this technique uses only one color, the painter will need to purchase paint in two sheen levels to produce the final result. Any color can be appropriate for sheen striping. The key is selecting the proper sheen levels. For visual interest without overwhelming a room, eggshell and semigloss finishes are good choices. Because the sheen difference should be somewhat subtle, a flat and a high gloss is usually not a good combination.

The steps for this technique are:

1) Paint the wall with the paint that has the lower gloss level and allow it to dry.

2) Then, use low-tack painters tape to mark off the stripes on the wall. Stripes are usually 3 to 6 wide. The larger the wall space, the wider the stripes should be.

3) Paint the areas to be striped with the paint that has the higher gloss level.

4) Allow the paint to completely dry before removing the tape.

Let your personal preference be your guide on color choice. If you need some direction, though, here is some advice:

  • Red is popular for dining rooms. It stimulates the appetite -- which is why you see it on so many restaurant walls. Green is also a good color for this room, as green is the color of many foods.
  • Hallways and foyers benefit from the a welcoming color, like yellow, or a shade of orange, like peach or terra-cotta.
  • Bedrooms can become serene havens or romantic escapes by using colors like pale blue, green, or lavender.

Moving beyond walls

Think beyond interior walls when considering decorative painting. Consider using traditional techniques, like stenciling, on furniture, floors, and cabinetry. Almost any surface can be painted including doors, furniture, ceramic tile, cabinets and picture frames. Think creatively!

For example, the ceiling has been traditionally overlooked as a surface for decorative painting. But a painted ceiling can do everything from decorate a room to make it appear larger. With an eye-catching decorative paint scheme, it can also become an unusual focal point for a room.

Distressing

cabinetPeople are also discovering the technique of distressing as a unique way to give furniture, cabinets, vanities and household objects, such as clocks and picture frames, an antique appearance.

It is an easy technique to master. Needed are two colors of top quality paint, 100-grit sandpaper, clear lacquer and these instructions:

1) Choose two colors that complement the existing color scheme.

2) Apply the base color and allow it to dry.

3) Use the sandpaper to lightly sand off patches of paint, allowing the surface below to show through. Clean off residual sand and allow the surface to dry for 24 hours.

4) Repeat the process with the second color of paint and allow it to dry for 24 hours.

5) For added protection, apply a coat of clear finish. Use a latex or water-based clear if you used latex paint; an alkyd varnish if you used an alkyd paint.

A word about preparation and paint choice

Decorative painting projects involve more than just putting paint on the wall. To ensure that your time and creativity have been worth the effort, make sure you do thorough surface preparation. This includes: washing away any dust, dirt and mildew; filling cracks and holes; and priming where necessary.

Also, choose a durable, top quality interior latex paint. These paints go on smoothly and evenly, cover well, resist stains and cleaning, and hold their color over time. In short, they will continue to look the way you want them to for a long time.


ThePaint Quality Institute, sponsored by Rohm and Haas Company, is an educational resource for consumers, professional painters and sales people on paint and paint-related coatings.

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