Advanced Painting Techniques

Tips the pros use for decorative painting finishes

While painting with brushes and rollers will help you cover a lot of ground, you'll need to draw on other, more advanced painting techniques to complete the task. Examples of advanced painting techniques include color washing as well as methods for achieving specific painting finishes or decorative painting effects. The end results will look striking and professional, but the truth is you can achieve them on your own with a little practice.

Color Washing

This is a relatively new painting technique, in which subtle variations in hue are used to create a washed-out, shimmering effect on the wall (or ceiling). Done properly, this glazed effect is very striking, and you can create tonal variations as stark or subtle as you want.

First, you'll need some specialized supplies, including:

  • Latex paint
  • Drop cloths
  • Brushes
  • Paint rollers
  • Mixing sticks
  • Paint trays
  • Sponges and rags
  • Painter's tape
  • Crumpled paper
  • Texturized fabric
  • Glaze
  • Putty knife
  • Joint compound
  • Bucket

Once you've gathered the necessary supplies, use this step-by-step guide to color washing:

  1. Remove all furniture from the room. Lay down drop cloths to protect the floor.
  2. Mask all trim using the painter's tape.
  3. Ensure the wall surface is perfectly smooth. Fill in any gaps or holes caused by missing or damaged nails and drywall.
  4. Use joint compound to smooth out any remaining uneven wall surfaces.
  5. Apply primer to the wall, if desired.
  6. Apply the first coat of paint, known as the "base coat." Allow it to dry completely.
  7. Mix the glaze and the second paint color in a bucket, using a ratio of 4 parts color washing glaze to 1 part paint.
  8. Use a length of textured fabric, or crumpled paper, or a sponge to apply the second coat of paint in desired patterns. It's a good idea to practice on a plywood board or sheet of paper before actually putting paint on the wall.
  9. Begin to apply the second coat of paint in the center of the wall, then move outward using circular motions.
  10. Use a clear varnish or an acrylic coating compound to "seal" the effect when you're finished, if desired.

More Decorative Painting Finishes to Consider

Here's a quick how-to overview for some other popular decorative finishes:

  • Glitter. Prepare the surface as outlined above, by smoothing out the wall and adding primer. Then, apply your first coat of paint. Once the initial coat of paint has dried, add a second coat of specially formulated glitter paint, or manually spread glitter on the walls while the paint is still wet. In the latter case, simply toss glitter dust at the wall while the paint is still wet and it will stick.
  • Texture. In essence, you create a textured finish by applying a unique type of texturizing paint to the walls. Again, begin by preparing the wall surface, applying primer, and applying a base coat of paint. Then, apply a coat of texturizing paint, using creative brush strokes to create a sense of rhythm and movement on the wall. This is an ideal way to hide minor flaws in walls which you are otherwise unable to remove.
  • Dry brushing. This is an advanced technique that adds a hint of drama to a room. Here, the key is to use only a minimal amount of paint with each coat, so that the texturizing effect of the brush registers with each stroke. The easiest way to create a dry brush look is to paint at 45 degree angles, either in adjacent or alternating directions as desired. You will usually need to add at least three layers of paint to achieve a uniform effect.
  • Glow in the dark. As with the glitter technique, glow in the dark painting finishes are achieved by applying specially formulated interior house paints. As usual, you'll start by prepping and priming your walls, then adding a base coat of regular paint. Once it's dry, simply apply a second coat of glow in the dark paint; if you want to get creative, you can add glitter or use dry brushing techniques to create a very unique effect.

When it comes to unique painting finishes, you're really only limited by your imagination. However, the success of any such choice is dependent on proper technique. Thus, practice any technique you're not familiar with before you try it on the walls. It will be easier and cheaper than trying to fix a mistake.