Decorative Painting Techniques


These popular decorative painting techniques provide interesting textural finish to a wall. They generally involve a coat of base paint allowed to dry, then an application of glaze or paint in a secondary color. Consult your local home improvement store for more detailed techniques and choice of paint.

Color washing

This technique creates walls that look dreamy and cloud-like. Usually white and pastel colors are used in color washing. The subtle background can be used in rooms in which you wish to have a relaxing ambiance, like the bedroom and bathroom. After applying the base color to the walls, sponge over the surface with water to dampen and soften the acrylic glaze, which is applied immediately after with another sponge or rag in a random swirling motion.

Rag rolling

Also known as ragging, rag rolling produces a textured pattern that resembles soft crinkled fabric. You may choose a secondary or top coat paint color that is slightly lighter or darker than the primary base. Scrunch up a damp rag in your hand, dip it into the secondary paint color and blob off any excess onto a paper towel. Lightly dab the rag over the surface of the wall, working your wrist in different angles to vary the pattern created.


As its name indicates, sponging is carried out with a natural sea sponge. It can produce the appearance of rough stone and add interesting dimension to a room. For a more dramatic effect, use contrasting colors. You may also want to sponge with two or more colors, applying one color after the other. For a more subtle effect, work with two colors and select a secondary color that is slightly lighter than the base color. Make sure the sponge is not over-saturated since excess paint diminishes the texture.


This technique creates lines in the paint finish that can be vertical, giving a more formal silk-textured appearance, or horizontal, wavy, or criss-crossed. To create your “comb,” cut a tooth pattern on the rubber edge of a squeegee. Working in small sections to ensure that the secondary layer of paint does not dry, run the comb through from one end of the section to the other. Clean the squeegee to remove excess paint before running it through again.


A distressed, aged look is achieved with the crackling painting technique. It can be used on unfinished furniture as well as on walls. You will need to purchase a crackle medium and two contrasting colors of paint. After waiting overnight for the base coat to dry, apply the crackle medium followed by the secondary coat, immediately after the crackle medium has dried. Applying the top coat with a paint brush produces larger cracks, while using a sponge creates smaller cracks in the finish.


Use a stipple brush to achieve the sandy, dotted texture associated with this technique. Stippling produces an elegant look, ideal for the walls and trim of any room. Choose two complimentary colors and apply a layer of the secondary glaze over the dried base coat of paint. While the glaze is still wet, hold the stipple brush perpendicular to the wall and hit the surface with quick, light motions, creating the texture and pattern desired.

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