Paint Tricks, Techniques, and Treatments

The beautiful rooms featured here were the result of a joint project undertaken by the National Paint and Coatings Association and Woman's Day magazine for an article in the May 1981 issue of the magazine. Themed, Paint Tricks, Techniques and Treatments, the idea of the project was to actually transform a new, unadorned home with interesting uses of paint. The association hired an interior designer to create a houseful of fresh and exciting paint uses for the Virginia home chosen for the project. The result was a house with paint that looks like paneling and paint that looks like a satin wallcovering - rooms that were architecturally bland became stunning with rich new color combinations and clever paint tricks. The house became a showcase for the special versatility and beauty that only paint can offer in home decorating.

Perhaps the best aspect of the paint treatments used in the house is that they can all be done by the do-it-yourselfer with this explanation of how the techniques were done - a helpful guide whether you plan to do the painting yourself or oversee a contractor's work.

Living Room
The living room in the house selected for the project was long and narrow. It had only two small windows at the front of the room, and no architecturally redeeming features.

Color and unique paint treatments were used to change the room from average-looking to something special. The walls were painted peach and the ceiling became sky blue - to brighten the dark room. A deeper peach was used to paint a ceiling border, since no decorative molding had been built into the room. The final distinction was made by outlining each window with a floral stencil to accentuate the floral fabric of the draperies. The back wall of the room was painted a shade lighter than the other walls. This helped to offset the problem of limited natural light

The stencil pattern used in the living room is versatile - designed to work well with many different floral prints simply by changing the colors. Other stencil designs may be purchased at decorating centers and craft stores. Or, if you aren't satisfied with what is available in stores, you can make your own stencil using materials available in most office or art supply stores.

Here's how:

  • Find a design that you like or use your creativity to design your own. A simple pattern is best - one that will be easy to trace, cut out, and paint.
  • Transfer the design onto a piece of clear acetate by tracing it with a wax pencil.
  • Using an artist's knife with a #11 blade, carefully cut out the design.

To apply the stencil design to a wall:

  • Measure the stencil as well as the distance of the area you will apply it to.
  • Compute how many times the design will be repeated, allowing for a neat arrangement at corners.
  • Hold the stencil in place and lightly mark the wall where the design should appear. You might want to reverse the design by flipping the stencil over each time it is painted, creating a more interesting pattern.
  • Before painting, tape the stencil to the wall to keep it in place.
  • Using fine artist's brushes, a sponge brush, a regular bristle brush, or even your finger, outline or completely fill in the design with either a latex or oil-based interior paint in your choice of colors.
  • Work slowly and use a small amount of paint on the applicator.
  • Wipe off the stencil each time it is moved to prevent paint smears.

Painting a Ceiling Border
Builders rarely include crown molding in a new home these days. Homeowners can install it themselves as a decorative accent, or they can paint a border at the ceiling line as the designer chose to do in the living room, master bedroom and study of the house. To paint a ceiling border in a room of your house:

Prime the ceiling and walls.

  • Measure the border using a wooden yardstick to ensure a straight line. Mark the outer edges with a pencil or chalk. (Our living room border extended two inches onto the ceiling and three inches down onto the wall. In the master bedroom and study, the border extended two inches onto the ceiling and four inches onto the wall.)
  • Cover the sections of the ceiling and wall adjacent to the border with plastic tape. (We suggest using a plastic tape designed for painting racing stripes on automobiles. Unlike paper masking tape, the special tape will not allow paint to seep beneath its edges. It can be purchased at well-stocked paint stores or auto supply stores.)
  • Paint the border in your choice of interior wall paints.
  • Allow the border to dry, then remove the tape from the ceiling and walls.
  • Tape the border for protection while painting the walls and ceiling. Remove the tape when all walls have dried.

Dining Room
The dining room in the home had similar beginnings to the living room - it was a bland room with no architectural details. The designer decided to remedy that situation by continuing the tudor theme found on the home's exterior. She had the ceiling painted mauve for a flattering dining atmosphere and she suggested a sand finish textured paint on the main part of the walls for a stucco effect.

A special paint treatment which simulates fine wood paneling was used for trimwork and the lower third of the walls and became the room's best feature. Without fail, first-time visitors to the house thought the dining room had been paneled and had difficulty believing that it was a creative paint treatment instead!

Simulating Wood Paneling
The simulated wood paneling effect was achieved with wood molding and tinted glaze. Glaze, a versatile coating used for many special paint techniques, can be purchased in ready-mix form at good paint stores. To get a certain color, the clear gaze is tinted with universal tinting colors - also available at well-stocked paint stores. Here's how you can use wood molding, paint and glaze to achieve the same wood paneling effect in your home:

  • Install crown molding along the ceiling line and chair rail molding about one-third of the way up the wall. Between the chair rail molding and baseboard, install strips of panel molding in evenly spaced rectangles.
  • Prime the molding with an alkyd enamel undercoat tinted slightly with universal tinting colors to match the color of the base coat of paint.
  • Lightly sand over the primer coat.
  • Caulk the molding at the joints.
  • Fill all nail head holes with putty.
  • Apply the base coat of paint to the crown molding, window trim, chair rail molding, baseboard, and the wall section below the chair rail. To determine what color base coat to use, select a sample piece of real wood paneling you would like to copy. Match the base coat to the lightest shade in the sample. A paint retailer will match and mix it for you.
  • Next, tint your glaze with universal tinting colors. Match the glaze coat to the darkest shade in the sample piece of paneling. Use a ratio of between 5 and 10 percent tinting color to the amount of paint -- or, less than one pint of tinting color per gallon of paint. We recommend adding a small amount of tinting color and then testing the mixture on sample wallboard. Keep adding the tint and testing the glaze until you get the exact color you want.
  • After the paint base is completely dry, brush a coat of the tinted glaze over it.
  • Allow the glaze to set about 10 minutes so that the solvents it contains may evaporate. Timing is important the glaze should set (it will begin to look dull), not dry.
  • Using coarse, dry brushes brush the surface in the order and directions shown in figure 2. You will probably need both a two-inch and a four-inch brush. The brushing directions are important in achieving the wood grain effect, so work carefully. If a section of the wall is too long for one smooth brush stroke, brush in from each end and blend the strokes by overlapping them near the middle of the panel.
  • Next, splatter a small amount of glaze lightly onto the wall and molding with a stiff-bristle brush. This prevents a too-perfect look by creating slight variations in the depth of color and by subtly adding texture to the finish.
  • Let the glaze dry for 24 hours and protect the finish with a low lustre/satin varnish.

Master Bedroom
A shimmering deep blue wall created with a special paint combing technique - lent luxury to the master bedroom. A putty color paint used for trimwork and the adjoining dressing room worked well with the blue to add a warm, welcoming feeling.

Combing A Wall
The bedroom wall looked as if it were covered in moire -- an expensive, satin-like fabric - but it was actually combed paint. The technique of paint combing is done by first covering a wall with one or two coats of regular paint. Next, a coat of glaze is applied over the paint base. Then a toothed instrument is used to comb through the glaze. The result of this special paint technique is so beautiful that it may seem difficult to achieve, but you'll be surprised how easily you can create the same effect:

  • First, apply a primer-sealer to the walls, tinted to match the color you plan to paint the walls.
  • If you are combing only one wall as an accent, paint the other walls first.
  • For the paint base on the wall to be combed, mix the color you used on the other walls with white paint. (Combing will darken the color of a wall.) A 50/50 ratio is recommended. However, if you choose to make your accent wall darker than the others, don't lighten your wall paint.
  • Tint a ready-mix glaze with universal tinting colors to match the color of the wall (see glaze tinting instructions).
  • After the paint has dried, brush the glaze over the entire wall.
  • Allow the glaze to set about 10 minutes - until the surface begins to look dull. Be careful to let the glaze set not dry - or it will be impossible to comb.
  • Combing, or striating is done with a metal paint comb made specifically for this type of work, and available at well-stocked paint stores. (Although the bedroom wall was combed straight down, combing can be done in any direction. Another popular version is cross-hatching - combing the wall once straight down and once across the wall horizontally. Or, comb the wall diagonally - starting at the upper left hand corner and working toward the lower right hand corner. If you are really adventurous, comb in wavy lines instead of straight ones!)
  • Comb the wall twice, overlapping the second line between adjacent comb strokes
  • Wipe the glaze off the comb after each stroke to prevent glaze from building up. Don't worry about keeping a steady hand or applying consistent pressure - these inevitable irregularities help create the satiny appearance you want.
  • Allow the glaze to dry for 24 hours, then apply a low lustre/satin varnish for protection.

The study in the house, adjoining the master bedroom, was small and boxy, but the dramatic look created by a trellis graphic on one wall solved those problems. A putty-colored ceiling border and the same deep blue from the bedroom used on two walls created continuity between the two connecting rooms.

First, the ceiling and walls were primed with a primer-sealer. The primer was tinted to match the color of the topcoat to be used in each area. Then, two topcoats of a creamy beige were applied to the ceiling.

Next, the ceiling border was painted. Directions for painting a border are given under the heading Painting A Ceiling Border. After the trellis accent wall was completed (see following directions), the other walls in the room were painted deep blue. The ceiling border and accent wall were protected with plastic tape during the painting.

Creating a Trellis Design
With careful planning and a little patience, you can create a striking trellis design on a wall of your home:

  • First, paint the background of the wall. (We used the same putty color from the ceiling border.)
  • It's a good idea to sketch a scale diagram of the trellis on graph paper before you start to mark the wall itself. Make each square of the graph paper equal to one inch of the wall. We made each diamond shape 12 inches wide across the middle, but you may alter that depending on the width of the wall and the number of pattern repeats desired.
  • After the background color has dried, mark the trellis design lightly on the wall with a pencil or chalk. Use a wooden yardstick to draw diagonal lines in two directions.
  • Before painting apply plastic masking tape along the outer edges of the design lines. Apply the tape carefully for a neater design.
  • Cut out the tape where two diagonal lines intersect.
  • Paint the lines in a lighter shade of the background color.
  • After the strips of paint have dried for 24 hours, draw inch-wide highlight strips over them.
  • Apply more tape to frame the highlight strips.
  • Paint the highlight strips white or another very light color.
  • When the strips have completely dried, remove the tape.  

Child's Room
We asked our designer to create a very special child's room -- one that would be stimulating in its use of color, distinctive in its appearance, and above all, a fun place for a child to spend time. The resulting child's room fills the bill with diagonal floor stripes, a colorful headboard painted right on the wall, bright yellow spray-painted furniture, a yellow ceiling, door, and trimwork.

Painting a Floor
The most striking feature of the room is its floor. The unusual combination of turquoise and white diagonal stripes is an eye-catcher, as well as a great way to give the small room extra depth. To create the floor in your home:

  • Prepare the surface for staining. If your floors are bare and unfinished, sand them until the surface is smooth. Paint and varnish on previously finished floors should be removed with a thorough sanding -- most effectively done with an electric sander. When using a power sander:
  • The first cuts should be made at a 45 degree angle to the grain.
  • All successive cuts should be made with the grain of wood.
  • On previously finished wood, start with a #2 or #2 « paper; make the second cut with a #1 or #1 « paper; the third with a #«; and finish sanding with a #0 or #00 paper.
  • On new wood that is not very rough, start with a #1 paper and change the paper in the same order given above.
  • If you don't own an electric sander, you might choose to rent one -- check the yellow pages under the heading Rental.
  • Vacuum the surface of the floor after sanding to remove dust and other debris.
  • Wipe the floor with a mop slightly dampened with mineral spirits. The floor should not become wet -- it should simply be wiped lightly to remove dirt and grease.
  • Apply two coats of colored stain to the floor. (We used a turquoise stain.) Not all stains are alike, so it is best to ask your paint retailer for guidance in selecting one that is appropriate for your project. In general:
  • All stains must be stirred thoroughly before they can be used.
  • They are applied with a brush or soft cloth.
  • They should be applied with the grain of the wood.
  • Follow the manufacturer's directions for use.
  • After the stain has dried, it should be coated with a non-yellowing clear coating. (Ask your paint retailer for a recommendation.)
  • After that coating has dried, lightly sand it to remove the gloss since a dull surface promotes better adhesion of the paint.
  • Use a piece of chalk and a straight edge to draw the diagonal lines on the floor.
  • Outline the stripes with plastic tape.
  • Paint the stripes. (We used flat white wall paint.)
  • When the stripes are dry, cover the entire floor with a non-yellowing clear coating and allow it to dry 24 hours before you use the room.

Painting a Headboard
Painting a headboard on the wall, as our designer suggested for the child's room, is one of the simplest, fastest and least expensive ways to brighten a room:

  • Using a wooden yardstick for guidance, lightly draw the headboard on the wall. This one was 45 inches wide and 42 inches high -- just right for a child's twin bed. The two outer bands of color extended down to the floor, while the two inner colors formed rectangles.
  • Outline each section with plastic tape.
  • Paint the outer band first and outer rectangle second. (We used a flat, interior wall paint.)
  • Allow these sections to dry and remove the tape surrounding them.
  • Outline the other two sections with tape, then paint them.

We used four bright colors to paint the headboard, but other interesting effects can also be achieved with two alternating colors or with increasingly darker shades of the same color. One of the best characteristics of the headboard is that it may be adapted to any existing color scheme and to any child's favorite colors!

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