Archive for Sunday, August 18, 2002

Add interest by combining painting techniques

August 18, 2002


You know the old saying, "If one is good, two must be great!" Well, that's certainly not true with everything in life, but it can be true if you're talking about painting techniques.

Matt Fox, my partner, and I have used all sorts of painting techniques in combination, and we really like the finished effect. It is a bit trickier than using one technique by itself, because there are pattern and color issues to consider. So, let's start there.

When mixing patterns, and this applies to fabrics and wall coverings as well, the results are best when you combine patterns that differ, like floral and a stripe. The same idea applies when selecting two painting techniques to use together.

The curvilinear types are techniques like sponging, ragging, rag rolling, washing and cross hatching. The more geometric or planned techniques are striping, combing, whisking and basketweave or wicker.

I'm sure there are many other techniques to consider, like marbleizing or wood graining. Just remember that if the techniques you choose are too similar, they won't play well off each other. The variety makes the combination interesting.

Once the decision on pattern is decided, next comes color.

Selecting colors for painting techniques is harder than actually doing the technique. Believe me, I've selected all sorts of bad combinations, and sometimes you just don't know how colors are going to work together until you've created a sample board. This is the No. 1 rule of color selection: Always make a sample board before painting the walls.

This gives you the opportunity to try the colors and become familiar with the technique. Once the sample board is made, lean it against the wall in the room you're painting and live with it for a couple days. Look at it in the daylight and at night, to make sure it's the technique for you.

Now, as you start selecting colors for two different techniques that will be used together, consider more colors in one technique, and fewer in another. For instance, a multicolored stripe used with a two-toned ragging technique offers variety in pattern and coordination in color.

Make sure the two colors used in the ragging technique also appear in the striping, and the two techniques will blend together well. I recommend using a chair rail, a stenciled design, even a wallpaper border to create a division between the two. A wallpaper border can be a great place to find a gamut of colors to select from for your techniques. That's what we did in an upstairs guest bathroom.

We were working with oak cabinets, white fixtures, a rose-colored countertop and beige carpeting that we couldn't change. Our starting point was a black background floral border with all the colors we needed. To tie everything together, we chose the obvious beige from the carpet, a rose from the countertop and a white as our stripe colors.

Since those probably wouldn't be considered a beautiful combination, we dry-brushed the colors into the stripes for a more subtle coloration. Above the stripes, we chose the same beige and white from the striping for the ragging technique. Our neutral color selection allowed the room to stay more neutral instead of becoming too feminine by using the rose tone on the upper walls. Then, when the border was installed, the two techniques came alive.

In the end, the redecoration of the bathroom cost about $100, but it looked like a million bucks. The combination of techniques was a big part of the overall success of the bathroom.

Shari Hiller writes this column with Matt Fox. They also co-host the Home & Garden Television show "Room by room." For more information, visit

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