Types of Creative Paint Finishes

Painting is about far more than solid colors these days. Anyone who has spent any time thumbing through design magazines has likely noticed just how many homes are being utterly remade with more textured approaches. These can range from simple mottled colors to fully realized imagery, and everything in between. If you are looking for creative paint finishes to make your home a more interesting and inviting place, you may take great benefit from a comprehensive overview. Most homeowners do not realize the sheer variety of looks, tones and techniques that are available to DIY-ers, and the sheer variety of choices can be overwhelming.

First things first. No matter when kind of finish you’re applying, it is essential to make the proper preparations first. This means not just choosing the colors you want, but ensuring the wall itself is free of any cracks, holes or peeling paint. Vacuum for dust in and around the area, and lay down masking tape and drop cloths that can withstand paint and glaze. You also want to secure good lighting and prepare all the materials so you aren’t mixing in a hurry and learning on the fly. Experiment with wood pieces or an unseen corner before you create the full solutions – practice beforehand is the surest way to avoid disasters down the line.

Most paint finishes can be broadly divided into categories. The most common is generally called ragging, though it may encompass any number of similar techniques. The point of each is to create blends of colors that are coarser than a simple mix, combining glazes and undercoats into finely etched, repeating patterns. For each, you want to begun with a solid base coat of paint, something to play off as you expand the room’s visual interest. The second step is to mix that paint with glaze – the proportions may vary depending on the manufacturer, so it’s always wise to start with a lower paint percentage and work your way up.

Ragging and sponging are essentially identical – the only difference is what shapes you use. Sponging involves dipping an edge or face of the sponge into the glaze solution and pressing it for a mottle effect. Ragging, on the other hand, allows for much greater creativity as you can scrunch that fabric in countless configurations for a truly random distribution. Avoid getting the glaze on your hands, elbows or paint handles, as you could inadvertently break the effect with an errant streak. Also bear in mind that the top coat is what generally draws the eye, so plan ahead and make the base coat the one you will ultimately use for peek-through “accents.”

Combing is an entirely different effect, though arguably an even simpler one. Because this technique doesn’t require you to apply the glaze piecemeal, you can brush it on more broadly with equally good results. Create a lead line of tape or string to mark the primary parallel, and then draw down a stiff brush in alignment with that guide. Vertical lines are more common, though you may be able to generate a funkier feel with expansive horizontal strokes. As with ragging and sponging, much of the ultimate look here depends on which colors you are matching – very close and you have a look not unlike denim, while more disparate glaze can create striking juxtaposition.

More interesting color combination can be layered with greater depth, creating what many designers called a marbleized look. This technique is as much art as science, so you’ll need a good eye and plenty of practice to emulate the mineral distribution of true marble. Multiple sponging layers in subtly different hues comprise the bulk of this technique, but much of the effect depends on finer details such as metallic passes, subtle striations over broad space and the application of “veins” using an artist’s brush or a feather. As with the other techniques, practice is essential here – give each layer plenty of time to dry if you want a true representation of your vision.

More sophisticated paint finishes techniques await for the enterprising homeowner as well, from wood graining to crackle glaze. Thankfully, they all involve essentially the same materials, so this is a hobby that rewards long-term experimentation year after year.




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