Wall Painting Techniques

In wall painting techniques, it's important to find the right color and tonality (lightness or darkness). The brushing doesn't have to be refined - you look at your walls from a little distance. But: walls are big visual surfaces, and the key is to get some life in them. When your walls are covered with wallpaper, that might be an issue - but in most cases, wallpaper can be painted over (and look good). Click here for more on painting over wallpaper

Masking Tape

This tip applies to all wall painting techniques: the “look” of a wall depend on its edges. If you paint the edges of your walls very straight and neat, your paintjob will have a clean and finished look, even when you see brushstrokes. It may even be OK not to have a complete hide - if the underlying paint color is good, it'll be like a faux finishing effect.

You get straight edges by using paper masking tape. A steady hand CAN replace masking tape, but when you’re not a trained painter: use the tape. But be careful - the longer the tape is stuck on, the faster it sticks. If the tape gets stuck too well, it might do damage when you take it off. Further down, you'll find a step-by-step guide for regular wall painting techniques.

Is one coat enough?

In wall painting, hiding power depends on several things: the kind of paint, the condition of the surface (and preparations), the colors, and a also a bit on painting supplies. These are conditions for good hiding:

  • A clean, non-greasy and non-shiny surfade. If there's shine, sandpaper is needed.
  • New paint colors that are almost the same as the old one. If the colors are different, you can expect the first layer to shine through (click here for the influence of underlying paint colors). A (colored) primer can save you one or two paint layers.
  • If you take a quality primer, and you like a matte sheen, you might just keep the primer as-is. Another option is soy-alkyd paint (semi-gloss), it's very thick and claims to prime and finish in one layer.
  • When you paint over wallpaper, the color will change, but the structure remains.
  • Heat-reflective paint additive makes your paint thicker (better hiding), and has a other advantages as well (indoor climate regulation, savings on your energy bill)
  • Check here for info on paint rollers - for wall painting techniques, 9 inch width is enough (bigger sizes are harder to handle). The best ones have thick fur that can hold much paint.

If conditions are less favorable (entirely different new colors, a shiny wall), then count on doing two or more layers - a primer, and a finishing coat. Click here for paint rollers, and acrylic latex paint.

Masking tape for wall painting techniques

Tips for choosing wall colors

  • Check this page on wall stickers - if you plan to use them for decorations, it's good to choose them first, and pick a wall color to go with it.
  • House paint software can give you a realistic impression of new colors in your own living space
  • If you use sample strips: take the big ones, especially for wall painting. If you can't find the big ones, use a sample jar to test the paint color.
  • For a list of 'safe' paint colors (of all color groups!), check this review of the paint color cheat sheets
  • The color of your daylight is of influence - you can 'mend' your paint colors to match the light with a little extra color (from a sample jar).

Color mixing techniques for wall painting

Wall colors make a huge surface - they have to be good or you'll very soon be sorry you painted at all. Regular paints are very limited in their color spectrum, which means, they're artificial. Live sounds have upper and undertones, cheap computer sounds don't - it's the same with colors. One tip can be, to add slight amounts of other paint colors (sample jars) to your wall paint. Another way to create harmony, is to have different wall colors. Some tips:

  • Add upper and undertones: take color samples from colors that are elswhere in your room, and add them to your paint. The color wil seem more "muddy", but on the wall it will be far better to bear in big visual amounts.
  • If you buy different wall colors, first mix a bit of one jar into the other. The colors will harmonize better.
  • You can also do this with furniture colors: if you'll do a daring color behind the couch, get a sample jar in the color of your couch, and add a few tablespoons to the wallpaint.

Material tips for simple wall painting techniques:

  • You have to know what the old paint is made of, if you'll paint over it. Old paint can be tested by rubbing it with a cloth over your fingertip, drenched in some denatured alcohol. If paint or color comes off, it's waterbased and you can use acrylic latex paint or -primer (if not, click here).
  • Apart from the color you choose, the tonal value (darkness) of this color is vital. When the tonal value of your paint color is just right, the color will ooze. Which shade you need depends very much on the amount of daylight that will reflect on the wall, and also the kind of color (yellow is a light color, reds are darker). Use big sample sheets or a sample jar, and take your time to choose the right value.
  • A heat reflective paint additive has many advantages: it makes your paint thicker (better hiding), and it can drastically improve your indoor climate (for both temperature and moisture).
  • Two other factors: paint sheen, and structure. Dark colors need a bit of sheen, to look dark. If your wall is (slightly) damaged or has wallpaper on it, adding a texture additive can fuzzle things away (scroll down for more on structure).

If your new color is much lighter or darker than the old one, the paint may not hide in one coat. Consider using dura-soy waterbased alkyd paint, or a latex primer in the same color as your top coat. Maybe also read this page on the effects of underlying paint colors

Preparing a painting project

When well prepared, your painting job will go smooth and can be done in a day. Most wall paints dry fast, and preparations make sure you won't bump into unexpected problems. While preparing, you'll find out if you need to do one coat, or more (if so, schedule your project early in the day).

  • Decide on which wall painting technique to use - just a flat coat, or do you paint over wallpaper? How is your wall condition, are preparations needed? Maybe you want to do special faux finish. Click here for more wall painting ideas.
  • Choose paint colors, and decide on the sheen. Get samples and try them out - either a sample jar, or paper sample strips (do take the big ones).
  • Check here for info on wall paint, and decide if you need to do a primer first.
  • Order paint and painting supplies. Besides paint, you'll need drop-cloths, masking tape, a small brush, a paint roller, and maybe a colored primer (scroll down). Also check what surface preparation is needed, and buy supplies for it.

Ready to start?

On painting day, your home may look very chaotic - but it's only for a short time. Remove furniture, and cover the floors with plastic, and put on old clothes. Drop cloths are often of thin material, so walk over them carefully - somehow paint always gets through the holes you walk into them.

  • First the preparations - for painting latex over latex, only light cleaning will do.
  • Put on masking tape (lightly!)
  • Paint the edges with a smaller brush
  • Fill in the big surface with a paint roller
  • Take off the tape a.s.a.p. Only leave the tape on (for a second coat), if you're sure the underground can handle it. If not: gently pull it off.
  • If spills or stains occur, clean them right away with a damp cloth - it's easy while the paint is still wet.

Wall painting in child's bedroom

Other wall painting techniques:

If you're moving out soon, consider removable wallpaper. You can take it off without leaving traces, and put it on again in your new home. On some websites you can design it yourself. It's good for kid's rooms too (their taste changes with their age...)

Choosing paint colors

Walls are big surfaces, and a change of color changes the whole room. In choosing paint colors it's important to see (before the actual paintjob...) how your wall colors wil look together with other colors in your room. House paint software can help getting a solid beforehand impression, before you start on the job. Another good help is the paint color cheat sheets - a list of 'good' colors composed by an experienced designer (click here for a review). Both these items are a great help in making an interior painting design.
It's good take the special features of your room into account (is it big or small, light or dark etc.), and the other visual elements: the color of your floors, furniture, a favorite painting or rug. Arrange everything into one interior painting design. Apart from the color, also think of what structure and paint sheen you want- they're styling elements too.

Wall structure

Apart from choosing paint colors, structure is a major issue in regular wall painting techniques. If a wall already has structure (because of wallpaper), it will remain visible. Structure doesn't match to all styles, but it really is a trick to make damaged walls look like new again. It hides all damages, and it makes the paint color more lively.

Structure can be: wood, wallpaper, structure paint. When you paint over structure, the color will get livelyness because of the structure. You can add structure if you like, by using a texture additive.

Wall primers

Sometimes you need to do a primer first: when the surface is of an entirely different color, when it's damaged, or done with a difficult paint layer that needs preparation. Click here for more info on wall paint, and here for trouble-shooting primers.

  • When the wall is painted with oil-based paint, use a shellac before applying latex. It also seals stains and odors.
    • If you want to paint it over with latex, use a shellac primer (for example Zinsser-BIN)
    • If you want to paint over with acrylics, use an oil-based primer (for example Zinsser bullsy eye)
  • When the existing wall color is very different from your top coat, use a primer in the same color as your topcoat. It saves you one paint layer. It can be ordered here at ThePaintStore.com
  • Another option for priming and finishing in one coat: Dura-soy, an alkyd-emulsion waterbased and low-VOC paint. A great product - it's sustainable and can be matched in any color. search here for Dura-soy one
  • With an extra additive, you can turn your wall paint into a heat reflective paint - it also makes the paint more hiding.

More tips for one-coat-wall painting techniques

No matter what color you choose: it can be adjusted to your available light. Windows on the north give cold, bluish light and windows facing the south give warm, orangish light. Old paintmakers used to add a little extra color to balance out this effect. It hardly changes the paint color, but it does boost them with an extra pleasing "ooze".

For one-coat wall painting techniques, you might want to invest in the right paint. Good paint gives a better hide, and has well-toned colors that will last to satisfy you. Take your time to choose your paint colors. Once you chose, first order sample-jars and try the color out.

The influence of underlying paint colors is an issue in wall painting techniques. A good paint gives a reasonable hide, but hardly ever for a full 100%. And there is a catch: the colors you paint over each other, effect each others look. Painting dark, warm colors over white or colder ones however, always looks good. If you do that with blue, it easily looks smudgy. Blue works the other way around. Click here for blue paint colors, click here for red paint colors.


Wall painting techniques usually are about creating a background that makes your other stuff look good, but sometimes the walls can use a little extra decoration. One-coat-jobs can be enlivened by panelling, stencilling patterns, or stripes. These wall painting techniques look great and are relatively simple. To check the effect, look at it from a distance. In most designing styles, seeing brush strokes is OK, it gives your wall an authentic look-and-feel. If you don't want to see brush strokes, use an enamel paint (with an enamel undercoater)

Do make a plan before you start, and keep your design as simple and logical as possible. If you’re not sure, make a design on an office printing a4. Use the paint you’ll put on the wall. The important thing to find out is: proportions, the size of the colourfields compared to each other. If you never worked with stencils, it’s a good idea to practice for a bit (a carton box will do). On that, you can also try out extra colors, if you like. Some stencil tips:

  • Use a stencil shape that fits your design. For beautiful classical designs (floral and art-deco), check here at ThePaintStore.com. For lettering, contemporary or pictural styles, check Stencil Ease.
  • Stipple the paint on with a bristle brush, and wipe the back of the stencil before repeating the pattern
  • For filling in the stencils, use colors that are already present in the room.
  • Sample jars will be enough for small decorations
  • For a classy, subtle effect: paint in the stencils with a transparant glossy binder or sealer. The color will be just a bit darker, and the decorations will appear as a shine.
  • Check here for more on stencil painting

2 or 3 layers: Faux finishing techniques

In faux finishing, you take two or three layers to create a lively color or structure. It’s also a great way to try out the strenght of your colors. You don’t put have to put in on at full strenght at once, and after each layer you let it rest a while, to see what it does to your room and mood.

Faux finishing techniques are fun. It's a wall painting technique that can be learned easily, and it creates great satisfaction. You can do it in latex as well as acrylic paint. Want to imitate wood, brick, stone, metal or marble? click them. Want to create an indoor beach, forest or just an extra window? click here for more on faux painting techniques. If you want to work fast, think of using stencils (check out Stencil Ease). Even faster: wall stickers.

3 or more layers: color-washing or glazing on walls

This wall painting technique takes some time, but the results can be truely amazing (click here for examples). It's the most elaborate and refined of all wall painting techniques. When you glaze a wall, you put on very thin color-washes of paint, until you reach the hue and the saturation you want. Which doesn’t have to be the same on every spot of the wall. You can adjust the color to the available light, and create amazing atmospheric effects. If done well, the room will move and breathe, and the walls will feel like transparant spheres of color. This technique is very suitable for bedrooms, the nursery, bathrooms, meditation rooms. Click here for wall painting glazing techniques.

If you want to take away the attention from the floor, use the panelling effect. Just give the wall a different color, up from the floor, for about 1 to 1.20 metres (depening on your own length).

Just think of your walls as a big abstract painting. Have them the way you like it! Which can be smooth, simple or elaborate.

Related pages:

Oil Painting Techniques

Acrylic Painting

Watercolor painting

Color Schemes

Interior Painting techniques

Interior Painting Ideas


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