Painting is often the easiest and most cost-effective method of updating your home’s interior. However, just slapping a new paint shade on your walls is a well-worn decorating trick. If you want to do something completely new and exciting, consider incorporating decorative paint finishes in your decor.

Decorative painting finishes, or faux finishes, are an easy way to add unique, personal flair to your house.

Remember to prepare just as you would if you were painting a wall regularly. Lightly wash the wall, remove any outlet coverings, move any furniture you can, and lay down drop cloths or newspaper on any exposed surfaces.

No matter your skill level when it comes to painting, you can DIY a decorative paint finish in any room of your house.

Kitchen

Get-togethers always seem to migrate to the kitchen, so try these decorative techniques to personalize this important gathering space.

Beginner: Stenciling

If you want to take your backsplash to the next level, try stenciling. Stenciling is totally customizable; you can use just about any design that you like, including polka dots, stripes, or even your favorite written quotes.

A current stenciling trend involves mimicking decorative tile using a stencil that has a repeating geometric design. Instead of stenciling an entire wall in your kitchen in this faux-tiling style, use it as an accent for your backsplash to give your kitchen some character.

While the end result may look like it took a lot of time and skill, the only tricky part about stenciling is making sure the pattern lines up before you paint.

Expert: Color Washing

If you have a little more painting experience under your belt, try color washing, a technique first popularized in Italy. With visible brushstrokes and a warm color palette, this finish creates an inviting, rustic look that evokes the Old World.

Although you can use any color you like to achieve this look, color washing is usually done with three different (but complementary) tones of warm colors like marigold or terracotta. Sticking to lighter, airy shades will help open up and brighten your kitchen.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take:

1. Prep: prepare the walls as you normally would for a painting job, making sure you’ve spackled and sanded any imperfections and taped off trim and permanent fixtures.

2. Prime: paint the walls with a white or tinted primer, especially if you’re painting over a dark color.

3. Paint: using a roller, cover the wall in an even coat (or two, depending on the paint color you’re covering) of the main color you chose.

4. Layer: once the base coat is dry, apply the first layer of color wash in a crosshatch pattern using one of the complementary paint colors that you’ve thinned with a glaze. Keep your brush strokes relatively far apart to ensure that the base color shows through.

Note: An important part of this technique is not filling the brush with paint too often. As you continue painting the crosshatch pattern, the drying brush will help distribute the paint. Refill the brush when it no longer has paint on it.

5. Layer again: using your third color, also thinned with a glaze, repeat step 4.

6. Finish: while you’re applying the second layer of glaze, brush the wet paint with the end of a dry paintbrush. This will blend any harsh brushstrokes and create a softened effect.

Note: Try to use a light hand here—overly vigorous dry-brushing will blend away the color-washed effect.

Living Room

Home is where the hearth is. The living room is one of the most communal places in your home, and adding a decorative paint finish will help bring your personality to this space.

Beginner: Pickling

white-washed wood

If your living room is a throwback to the wood paneling of the ‘70s (and not in a chic way), you may want to consider pickling. The pickling technique involves lightly whitewashing wood paneling in order to brighten up a room. Done correctly, this technique evokes the gray-white bark of aspen pine.

Using a whitewash stain or watered-down white primer, paint a small section of the wood. Working against the grain of the wood, rub the whitewash solution into the wood with a dry, clean cloth.

Grab another clean cloth and wipe down the whitewashed section, working with the grain this time, to remove any excess paint or stain.

Repeat those steps as you work your way around the room one section at a time.

Expert: Marbling

Natural marble is a beautiful accent to a wall, decorative column, or countertop, but it does come with high price tag. Marbling, a decorative painting technique, mimics the look of marble without the expense of the real thing.

To do marbling well, you’ll need a lot of patience, time, and skill, as well as a few special tools—and a feather. Yes, you read that right. A feather is the only tool that will accurately mimic the veins in marble.

If you’d like to try marbling on your own, watch some tutorials online and read a few firsthand accounts of the process. Track down some scrap pieces of marble to use as a guide, and give yourself plenty of time to practice and perfect your technique.

If you love the look but feel like this level of DIY painting might not be your wheelhouse, contact a professional painter.

Home Office

You get a lot of work done in this room, so why not use faux finishes to aide your productivity and creativity?

Beginner: Chalkboard Wall

chilkboard wall in a home office

If you’re a highly visual person, consider adding a chalkboard accent wall to your home office.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of writing on a chalkboard. It makes you feel productive, and it helps you keep track of your to-do lists and project goals in one easy-to-see place.

Chalkboard paint is available at most home improvement stores. The only decision to make is whether you’d prefer a green or black chalkboard.

Prep the wall as you would for a regular painting project, paying special attention to any imperfections. Most chalkboard paint formulas dry quickly, so for even coverage, plan on applying a second coat about two hours after the first.

Let the wall dry overnight, and then break out your chalk first thing the next morning.

Expert: Color Blocking

woman painting wall yellow and blue

Color blocking is a modern, fashion-inspired painting technique that pairs complementary colors in geometric shapes. The effect is bold and unique, and this painting technique is a good way to decorate a wall without relying on objects.

Use color blocking in your home office to create an invigorating, creativity-sparking environment that will help increase your productivity. Bright colors stimulate your mind and evoke optimism and creativity. To get the full effect, pair saturated shades of orange and yellow with muted colors like white and grey.

Here’s how to color block a wall:

  1. Prep the wall as you normally would for a painting project.
  2. Apply two coats of the neutral color.
  3. After the paint dries, apply painter’s tape evenly and neatly in the shape you’d like to fill with the brighter color. Use a straight edge and a level, if necessary, to make sure that your lines are exactly where you want them.
  4. Use the bright paint color to fill the shape you created. Let the paint dry completely, remove the tape, and admire your handiwork.

Bathroom

While you’re painting the rest of your house, don’t forget the bathroom. Here are some decorative painting techniques that can update your bathroom’s decor.

Beginner: Rag rolling

Rag rolling is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of using a traditional paint roller to apply a coat of paint, this technique calls for a crumpled towel or bag. The effect of rag rolling is somewhat like that of color washing, but the process isn’t quite as labor intensive.

Rag rolling looks best when it’s done using different shades of the same color—a calming, highly saturated cerulean rag rolled with an airy, lighter blue, for example.

When you purchase paint for this project, buy the base color with a satin sheen. An eggshell or matte finish will make working with the accent color much more difficult than necessary. Thin the accent color with clear acrylic glaze to ensure that it will spread easily and won’t completely cover the base coat.

Work in small sections so that you can assess your work and repaint if necessary. If you don’t want to get extra messy by using a rag, buy a special sponge roller for your paint roller that will mimic the effect you’d get with the rag.

Regardless of whether you rag roll with a cloth or a roller, be sure to choose a lint-free material so the finished surface won’t be marred by small fibers.

Expert: Venetian plaster

Much like color washing, Venetian plaster is a decorative technique that is meant to evoke the aesthetic of classic European homes.

After prepping the wall, paint it with a color that will be similar to the plaster you’ll apply later.

Using broad, sweeping strokes, layer the plaster on the wall with a spackling spatula or putty knife. Imperfection is part of the charm of this technique, so don’t worry too much about getting each swipe of the plaster exactly right.

Rinse your spatula or putty knife after you’ve finished the first coat, and let the plaster dry for a few hours before applying a second coat.

To finish, sand down any areas that seem too high, and wipe the wall down with a damp rag. An optional last step is applying a coat of varnish to protect the wall.

Bedroom

Your bedroom is your haven. Try a decorative painting technique to add personality and turn the space into a calming refuge.

Beginner: Painted Ceiling

Think outside the box by painting the ceiling of your bedroom. Adding a pop of color in an unexpected place is a great way to bring your personality to any room of your house.

You can use almost any color for this technique. Muted colors will give your bedroom an extra elegant touch, while brighter colors will give the room an eclectic pop.

Remember to adequately prepare the space by removing furniture and laying drop cloths on the floor and over items you can’t move.

Expert: Ombre

dark grey to light grey ombre walls

Ombre is here to stay. You may have seen this decorative technique everywhere from art museums to hair salons to clothing stores, but give it a try in your bedroom for a subtle, elegant effect.

The most common way to paint an ombre effect is to use three different shades of the same color—choosing the lighter shades on a paint chip is a good way to begin.

Follow these steps to create an ombre accent wall:

  1. Cover the wall you’re painting with the lightest shade first.
  2. Once that coat of paint is dry, divide the wall into thirds (either horizontally or vertically) and mark the division lightly with a pencil.
  3. Paint the middle section with the next lightest color, and blend the edges with a dry paintbrush.
  4. Paint the remaining section (either the top, bottom, far left, or far right, depending on the direction you chose) with the darkest shade.
  5. Create the two additional paint colors you’ll need to complete the effect by blending the lightest and middle shades into one color and the darkest and middle shades into another color.
  6. Use these two new paint colors to add a narrow line—approximately six inches—of color between the three sections. Blend the lines together using a dry paintbrush.
  7. Painting an ombre wall doesn’t require special painting skills or equipment, but you will need time and patience. Your bedroom will have a stunning focal point once the paint is dry.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a fresh technique to bring some life and personality to your house, faux finishes for walls are a great, hands-on decorating trick to try. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to prep the walls to ensure a beautiful result, and don’t be afraid to experiment with colors and techniques.

ribbon