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Colour your World

Lail Hossain provides tips and tricks for faux painting techniques to add decorative and dramatic touches to your walls.

When we first moved into our house, all of the white walls screamed boring to me. I was determined to add some life to the walls and, one fine day, my husband returned from work to find me on top of a ladder using a faux (pronounced fo) painting technique. That’s where the journey began. Over the next three years, as we slowly finished painting the house, I read and learnt much about faux finishing techniques. The techniques are versatile and anyone can use them to add customised effects to their homes.


Faux painting literally means ‘fake’ or ‘false’ painting. It is a way to add warmth and style on a low budget. Faux painting techniques put a false texture or pattern on the wall with a tool. Changing hand and the position of the tool while applying different techniques gives walls a distinctive and dramatic flair with decorative paints and glazes. Faux painting livens up any room by adding depth, unique texture and character.


The effects that can be achieved with faux painting are endless. The techniques include using various types of tools such as sponge, rags, different types of paint brushes, or any other tool you can come up with to create an illusion to resemble other surfaces, such as marble, stone, fine linen, antique leather and aged or crackled wood.


Some of the techniques discussed below are subtle while others are bold. When choosing a technique, keep your style in mind. You can use these techniques alone or combine them to create your own customised look. For beginners, it may make sense to try some sample boards and see which look you prefer before you get started on the wall or any other surface.


There is always a basecoat in faux painting. The topcoat is chosen to complement the base colour of the wall so that it shows through. Traditionally, a translucent glaze is used for the top or finish coat. Before starting on painting, be sure to prepare the surface properly. Clean the walls thoroughly and repair any protruding nails or other imperfections. Tape off any edges you wish to protect, such as trims and corners along ceilings, windows, and doors.


This is one of my favourite techniques, most likely because I can finally put some old cotton T-shirts to good use by using them as rags to paint a surface. By giving the appearance of shifting colour density, ragging evokes a timeless appeal.


Ragging on means adding add one or more topcoat paints or glazes over a basecoat using a rag and ragging off means using a dry rag to remove or smoothen a topcoat over a basecoat. Negative ragging gives a soft, diffused look and leaves more of the contrasting colour in place while positive ragging creates a sharper image on the surface.


The technique can be used with glaze and looks best with a topcoat 2-3 shades darker than the basecoat. You simply crumple a rag in your hand loosely and shift your hand to apply the glaze or paint. Just make sure that no part of the rag is hanging down to avoid a big blotch on the wall.


Also called “smooshing”, frottage is one of the easiest techniques. Plastic sheeting or those grocery bags you’ve been saving are used to achieve unique leather or marbled textured effect.


The technique is as easy as applying plastic sheeting from top to bottom on wet glaze and then wrinkling or rubbing the plastic along the wall. This is a very fast technique and will probably not require more than five minutes to cover your entire wall. To ensure there are no air bubbles, press a brush against the plastic sheeting.


Colour Washing
Colour washing gives any room in a home a very inviting look and feel. Colour washing, a technique using watered-down paint to achieve a whisper-soft finish, creates a casual and multi-dimensional look by using a brush, rag or sponge to apply the paint.


For this technique, glaze is applied to the wall using a random wiping or circular motion, as if you were washing the wall. Soft cloth gives a more subtle appearance, while using a sponge gives a more textured look. Vary your wiping motions as you apply the glaze for a different visual effect.
For a more textured look, use a large paint brush to apply the glaze onto your wall with a crisscross motion in random strokes. Feather out any harsh brush strokes by lightly sweeping over the glaze with a clean, dry brush or rag.


I used this technique to paint our kitchen to get a warm and inviting atmosphere. I was going for a look with richer colour depth so I used three colours – a base color of beige, a glaze darker than the base colour and a third deeper glaze color. To achieve a richer colour depth, wait until the basecoat dries, and then apply the first glaze in random areas. Next, use the second glaze, again in a random order but for a smaller portion of the wall. Crumple a rag or cheesecloth and start blending the colours together, twisting your hand every time you touch the wall as if you are washing the wall.


Dragging, or strie technique, involves dragging a soft-bristle dry brush vertically through a wet wall with tinted glaze applied. This technique mimics a range of fabric-like looks. For this technique, it is best to have one person rolling on the glaze while another one does the dragging. The effect is prominent when there is a clear contrast between the basecoat and topcoat (glaze) colours. Similar tones of paint/glaze will yield a subtler look.


Stencilling provides an interesting break from solid wall colors and adds pattern to walls. There are ready-to-use stencils that you can buy from a paint store. My favourite and cheap way of stencilling is to make my own designs on a piece of cardboard and cut it out. Using stencils to add texture with Venetian plaster instead of paint or glaze creates a central highlight.


Use special stencilling or a small stippling brush to dab paint or glaze lightly in an up-and-down motion into a taped stencil on the painting surface. If you like to create a three-dimensional effect instead of a flat design, concentrate colour around the edge of a design or apply more paint on one side than the other to suggest directional light or an ombré effect. After removing the stencil carefully, clean the stencil and choose the next stencil location randomly, or create a regular pattern.


Water based paints, such as acrylics, are the most user friendly for stencilling as they dry quickly.


Decorative paint treatments are one of the most cost-effective ways to add personalised custom looks to your home. There are many other techniques that you can play with when colouring your walls. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. You can paint over the walls again if you do not like the look. Smile, have fun and add some colour to your world.


Lail Hossain is a mom, wife, daughter, sister, niece, management consultant and founder of With A Spin. She is a committed lover of family, nature and shares her journey to tackle and celebrate everyday life through food, creativity and family on With A Spin (www.withaspin.com).