Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guest Post: Dabbling in Dappled Color

I absolutely adore paint and love the way that it can transform any space, and that is why I was so excited when Debbie from the Paint Quality Institute blog contacted me and wanted to do a guest post. After reading this, you will probably want to get out some paints, glazes, and brushes, I know I do!

Dabbling in Dappled Color
The vast majority of interior painting involves the use of solid color. But there’s another way to embellish a home interior with paint that can be even more exciting – one that involves special application techniques to create dappled or “broken” paint color.

Often involving multiple paint colors applied in layers with unlikely tools, so- called “decorative painting techniques” impart walls or woodwork with varied tone and texture, all the while adding character and personality to interior spaces.

In a way, decorative interior painting is where home improvement enters the realm of artistic expression. . .a world that can be addictive for those with creative flare. If you’re game, there are a few things you need to know before you get started.

Virtually all decorative painting techniques employ glazes or washes to work their magic. Glazes and washes are really modified paints. Both give a textured look to the painted surface.

Glazes, which are made of oil-based paint mixed with linseed oil, turpentine or varnish, are more transparent than washes. They add a rich glow to walls and other surfaces.

Washes are simply latex paints that have been thinned with water. They produce color that is fresher, purer, and more delicately textured than that produced by glazes. Part of the beauty of washes is due to the fact that they show brush strokes and other marks, which adds depth to the painted surface.

Deciding whether to use a glaze or a wash depends upon the visual effect you want to achieve and the complexity of the application technique you’ll be using. Since oil- based paints dry more slowly, glazes are preferable when you want to “work” the paint extensively. However, washes are easier to make, modify, and clean up after. As a result, washes are usually favored by do-it-yourself painters.

Some of the most common decorative painting techniques are sponging, ragging-off, and stippling, each of which produces a slightly different dappled effect. Here’s how to proceed when working with water-based washes.

Sponging is a simple broken color painting technique that is used to produce a mottled, irregular pattern using an ocean sponge, which you can buy at the paint store. You can sponge either solid-color paint or a wash onto a wall or other surface. Two or more colors can be sponged on, as long as each is allowed to dry before the next one is added.

Start by applying a solid color of paint to the entire surface you’ll be sponging, typically in a light neutral or pastel color – this will serve as the canvas for your sponging. Next, lightly moisten the sponge and dip it sparingly into the second color of paint or wash. Start sponging in the center of the wall by gently tapping the sponge against the surface, while frequently turning the sponge and changing directions to produce a variegated effect. When you get the look you want on the center of the wall, begin to work outwardly towards the corners until the wall is completed.

If you plan to sponge on more than one color, be sure to allow plenty of basecoat to show through when applying the first color. Otherwise, there won’t be enough space left to accommodate the next color of paint.

Ragging-off produces broken color patterns reminiscent of brocade or watered silk. As the name implies, the technique involves removing wet paint from the surface with an absorbent cloth or clean rag. Often, two or three colors are ragged off in succession, typically in related tones or shades from the same family of paint colors.

As with sponging, the first step is to apply a solid basecoat color and allow it to dry completely. Next, decide what type of fabric you want to work with – you can use pieces of old sheets, chamois cloth. . . even paper towels.

Because speed of application is important when ragging-off, it’s best to work with a partner. One person applies the paint or wash with a brush or roller, the other lightly rolls the cloth through the coating while it is still wet, removing some, but not all, of the color.

Different rolling techniques will produce different effects. For example, single- directional ragging will create a much different pattern than random ragging-off, but both can yield attractive results.

Stippling is another decorative technique used to create broken color that is more subtly textured than that produced by either sponging or ragging-off. Rather than being mottled, the effect created by stippling is more accurately described as suede-like, with greater depth than flat paint color.

Again, start the process of stippling by applying a basecoat, which can be either a light tint or dark shade.

After the basecoat dries, start working from one end of the wall to the other, applying a wash to the wall in foot-wide strips from ceiling to floor. Working quickly, before the strips of paint dry, stab at the wet paint with a large, soft-bristled brush to remove dots of paint. Periodically blot excess paint from the brush onto an absorbent cloth. Working the paint in this way will break up the wall color into a mass of very small dots, giving your wall a rich-looking, patterned finish.

Sponging, ragging-off, and stippling are just three of the more basic decorative painting techniques. If you’re aching to be even more artistic, you can take your interior painting to a still higher level by trying your hand at marbling or trompe l’oeil. But even if you go no further than creating dappled color, you’ll have done more than the vast majority of do-it-yourself painters. . .and most professional painters as well!

About The Author: Debbie Zimmer is editor-in-chief of the Paint Quality Institute blog, http://blog.paintquality.com/. She's a widely cited authority on color, use of paints in interior and exterior design, and decorative painting techniques. She can be found on Twitter as @PaintQualityIns.

Thanks for reading!!!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this will us! You seem very creative!! :)

  2. I agree you are quite creative and talented.


Thank you so very much for your sweet comment!!!