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Decorative Painting Techniques

Decorative Painting Techniques

Faux painting is a decorative painting technique that creates texture and nuance to enliven plain, ordinary, walls. Faux finishes replicate the look or feel of other surfaces, from striped wallpaper to marble.

While it takes some patience and creativity to paint faux-finishes, the results almost always outweigh the amount of work and time spent. By following the guidelines below, you too can be on the way to becoming a faux finish craftsman in no time.

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  • Paint Stripes

    • Step 1: Choose Colors
      striped bathroom wall

      Choose a color scheme. It's common to choose two shades of the same color, but you don't have to limit yourself. For a bolder effect, try contrasting colors that complement one another. For a more subtle striping effect, use the same color for the base coat and paint the stripes in different finishes. You can also try using an eggshell finish for the base coat and a semi-gloss finish for the stripes. If you use this technique, the stripes will be more noticeable when you use a darker color.

      You can be more contemporary by using stripes in varying widths. You'll also need to decide whether you want vertical stripes or horizontal. Striping a room horizontally creates a cozy effect while vertical stripes can make ceilings look taller.

    • Step 2: Prepare the Room

      Clean the walls with warm soapy water and a cloth. Let the surface dry for at least an hour before painting. It's best to move furniture out of the room, but if you can't, just move it away from the walls and cover with drop cloths or tarps.

      Lay canvas drop cloths below the walls you're painting. Canvas cloths stay in place better than plastic ones. Use painter's tape to attach the cloths to the baseboard or bottom of the wall so that they don't shift around while you're painting — this reduces the chance of getting paint on your floor.

      Safety Alerts!

      Always paint in a well-ventilated area. Open the windows or use fans to make sure you'll have proper ventilation.

      Wear goggles, protective gloves and clothing when painting.

    • Step 3: Paint a Base Coat
      easy care ultra premium primer and paint

      Once you've prepped the room, it's time to apply the base coat. The base coat should be the lighter of the two paint colors you've selected. Using a paintbrush or roller, apply a coat of True Value EasyCare® Ultra Premium Interior Paint in a color of your choice. Allow the area to dry completely for at least 24 hours before painting the stripes.

    • Step 4: Measure, Mark & Mask Stripes
      scotch blue painters tape

      Decide on the stripe orientation, width and where to start and end your pattern. How wide your stripes will be is up to you. You can make your stripes uniform or you can vary the widths to add visual interest to your striping effect. For example, alternating 3" stripes with 5" stripes gives the room a unique, contemporary feel.

      Once you've decided on the direction and width of your stripes, you're ready to start masking the wall. It's a good idea to start the first stripe in an inconspicuous place, such as behind a door, just in case the first stripe isn't exactly perfect on the first try.

      To create vertical stripes, use a ruler or yardstick and a pencil to measure and mark even intervals along the top edge of the wall. Do the same along the bottom of the wall, marking the exact same measurements as the top. Continue along the length of the entire wall. Use painter's tape to mask out vertical lines starting from the top marks to the bottom marks. These will form the outside edges of each of your vertical stripes.

      Horizontal stripes are made in a similar fashion. Measuring with a yardstick, mark where you want the topmost stripe to be from the ceiling. With one hand, hold the yardstick against the marking you made on the wall. Use your other hand to place a level horizontally against the yardstick. Adjust the yardstick until it's level, and trace a line with your pencil along the top of the yardstick. Continue creating this line in the same way across the length of the wall.

      Using the same technique, create the rest of your horizontal stripe pattern as wide as you want your stripes to be. Unless you're going for a specific design that calls for irregular-sized stripes, be sure that each stripe is the same width.

      Apply painter's tape to the lines you made in pencil on the "outside" of the lines. Score the outer edge of the tape with your fingernail or small knife so the paint will not bleed under the tape. Continue the process until you've masked all the stripes. This will keep you from painting over the lines as easily and ruining your base coat.

    • Step 5: Paint Stripes

      Using a small-to-medium-sized paintbrush, carefully apply the second color or finish, making sure to keep within the lines you made with tape. Let the paint dry completely before removing the painter's tape. Pull the tape away from the wall gently in a downward, angled motion. This will give you a clean paint line without damaging your freshly painted wall.

    Rag Rolling

    Rag rolling is a simple way to create texture on plain walls. It's done by using a twisted or bunched up rag to roll paint on or pull it off irregularly, creating a mottled effect for a custom look that is all your own. Follow the steps below to do it right.

    • Step 1: Prepare for the Job

      As you did with painting stripes, clean the walls and move furniture out of the room or cover it with drop cloths. Also cover the floor to protect it from any spills. Secure the cloths to the floor using painter's tape. Mask any woodwork or other items that you don't want ruined by paint spills and splatter with painter's tape as well.

    • Step 2: Paint a Base Coat

      Using a paintbrush or roller, apply a coat of True Value EasyCare® Ultra Premium Interior Paint in a color of your choice. Allow the wall to dry completely for at least 24 hours before painting a new coat.

    • Step 3: Start Rolling

      You will need a few clean linen or lint-free cotton cloths or rags. Decide which method you want to use: rolling on or rolling off. Each of them provides different variations of the same texture. Rolling off usually means less of the base coat will show through, compared to rolling on the paint. Rolling off also usually requires more rags because they eventually become saturated with paint and cease to provide the desired effect. Choose a small portion of the wall to use as a test area to see which method works best for you. You can always paint over what you've done.

      For the next coat, use a slightly darker shade of the same color paint you used as your base coat or vice versa, if you want the base coat to be darker than the top coat.

      Helpful Tip

      For better results, try diluting the paint for the next coat by mixing it with water in a paint tray. Aim for getting the mixture at a ratio of 2:1 (paint to water).

      If you're rolling on the paint, dip your rag into a paint tray to cover it with paint. Be careful not to over-saturate the cloth. Twist it or bunch it up into a ball to distribute paint evenly throughout and then roll the cloth down the wall with steady pressure, starting at the top. Try not to use the same downward stroke each time or the results may be too uniform; you want to use slightly angled, different strokes, re-adjusting as you move along the wall. Keep extra rags handy, as once one becomes too saturated with paint, you'll need a new one because it won't work in the same way. Do this across the entire surface of the wall until you've covered it completely.

      When rolling off the paint, apply the next coat of paint over the base coat with a roller or paintbrush. Then, immediately begin rolling a clean twisted or bunched up rag down the wall. The clean rag will pick up paint from where you just painted, creating the textured appearance.

      Helpful Tip

      Do small areas at a time so that the top coat doesn't dry before you begin rolling.

      Once the rag has become completely saturated with paint, discard it and use another. Keep applying paint and rolling it off in downward strokes across the surface of the wall until you've covered it.

    Marbleize Countertops

    Marbleizing is a paint technique that can be used on many surfaces: walls, countertops, furniture, etc. If done right, it gives the appearance of real marble to whatever you're working on. Because marble countertops in kitchens and bathrooms are highly sought-after decorative home accents, these steps will focus on how to make laminate countertops look like real marble, without the high price.

    • Step 1: Prepare the Work Area

      Remove all items from the countertop and clean the whole surface using water, mild detergent and a sponge or cloth. Remove all dirt, grease, dust and debris. Get into every nook and cranny, including around appliances. Be sure that all grease, especially, is removed, as it will affect how the paint will adhere to the countertop. Allow the surface to dry completely. After it has dried go over the surface with a tack cloth or slightly damp cloth to remove dust and lint.

      Use a fine-grit sandpaper to lightly roughen the surface so that your primer and paint will adhere effectively to the laminate surface of your countertop. Wipe away all dust from sanding with a damp cloth.

      Put down drop cloths on the floor and secure them with painter's tape so that they don't shift around. Cover anything that cannot be removed from the countertop with plastic sheeting or painter's tape.

      Safety Alert!

      Be sure there's adequate ventilation in the room where you will be painting. Open windows and use fans to push out paint fumes and bring in fresh air.

    • Step 2: Prime the Countertop

      Pour True Value EasyCare® Ultra Premium Interior Primer/Sealer into a paint tray and apply it to the surface using a small roller applicator. Keep a small, angled paintbrush for hard-to-reach areas and edges and to fill in any areas the roller missed. Complete at least one coat of primer. You may need two coats or more, depending on how dark your countertop color is. Let the primer coats dry completely before starting the next step.

    • Step 3: Apply Base Coat

      Decide on a basic color and tone of marble you want for your kitchen. Be sure that it complements the rest of the décor and color scheme of your kitchen or bathroom. Marble can be white, black, green, yellow, and red, among other colors.

      After choosing the marble color you want, paint a base coat in a light shade of that color using True Value EasyCare® Ultra Premium Interior Paint and a small roller applicator. As you did with the primer, use a small, angled paintbrush to touch up any drips, places you might have missed or to paint in places where you need more controlled strokes. After the first coat has dried, apply another and then let it dry thoroughly.

    • Step 4: Add "Marbling"

      Use a painting sponge or a bunched up rag and a slightly darker shade of your base coat to create mottling or the blotchy pattern that is a hallmark of real marble. Dab the surface of the countertop with the paint-covered sponge. Be creative in your strokes; try not to use the same pattern across the counter. This would make the surface too uniform and less realistic. Let this coat dry.

      Add the look of veins using assorted sizes of artist's brushes to add to the realistic marble appearance. Use different paint colors as well, such as white, gray or black to get the effect you're looking for. Move the brush with uneven, diagonal strokes making "Y" or "K" shapes, taking care to not make them too straight or too uniform (you can smudge your lines a bit, if they don't look realistic enough). Consider strengthening your veins by reinforcing lighter-colored ones with darker colors and vice versa. Let these dry.

      Helpful Tips

      Use a real piece of marble or a photograph as a guide to make a realistic appearance with mottling, veins and other characteristics of marble.

      You can take a faux-marble artisan's approach and use feathers to make your veins.

    • Step 5: Apply Glaze Coating

      Add a layer of glaze to the countertop using a mini-roller. You can use a lightly-tinted glaze in the same color as your base color or a non-tinted glaze. Adding glaze provides a crystalline shine like polished marble. Cover the entire surface of the countertop as you did with the primer and base coat of paint. Let this glaze coat dry.

    • Step 6: Apply Varnish Topcoat

      Adding a few coats of polyurethane varnish or sealant will enhance the shine effect of your marbleization and protect it. Apply the varnish using a roller or large paintbrush, using a small brush for hard-to-reach areas or places where you need finely tuned strokes. Let this dry completely before returning items to their usual place on the counter or using it for any food preparation.

      That’s all there is to it! Now you’re primed and ready to paint your own faux finishes.

  • Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

    Before you begin, use the shopping list below to uncheck the tools you already have to complete this project.

    Then, print or save your updated list and bring it to your local True Value hardware store, where an expert Hardwarian will give you the remaining tools and expert advice you need to complete this project.

    You can also shop online for these project items at and receive FREE shipping to a participating store.

    Paint Stripes

    Rag Rolling

    Marbelizing Countertops

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