15 Wall Painting Techniques To Make Your Walls Stand Out

Kyle Schurman
Written by Kyle Schurman
Updated April 11, 2023
Living room with texturized accent wall
Photo: FollowTheFlow / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

These clever painting techniques are surefire ways to transform your space

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Few interior updates can transform your home’s look as quickly and effectively as a fresh coat of paint. And when you use creative wall painting techniques, you can create an interior aesthetic that's unique to you. Even better—many wall painting techniques don't require any artistic talent; a few supplies and a free afternoon can transform any room in your home. 

Whether you want to add subtle and sophisticated texture to your look or make a bold style statement, the following paint techniques can help refresh your home's interior style.

1. Color Washing

Modern interior with sofa and gray accent wall
Photo: Poike / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Color washing involves layering two paint colors together to create a textural effect. Typically, this technique works best when you combine a lighter and darker version of the same color, such as light gray and dark gray, or complementary colors. If you choose mismatched colors or hues with too much contrast, it can make the wall look unintentionally messy. 

To achieve this look, paint a solid, semi-gloss base coat, then use a brush or sponge to sweep your two colors on randomly, allowing bare patches and brush strokes to show. Prevent your top paint colors from drying too quickly or thickly by mixing them with glaze to thin them out and keep them wetter longer.

2. Sponge Painting

Painting wall with a sponge
Photo: Steve Gorton / Dorling Kindersley RF / Getty Images

Sponge painting is another dynamic painting technique that doesn't require any artistic prowess. It also doesn't take very long to execute. You can add it to your existing wall color or use it on top of a new color, depending on your desired look. 

All you need is a sponge paint roller or a natural sea sponge and a paint color you love. Then, dip your sponge into your chosen paint color and dab it all over the wall. You can create a thin layer for a subtle effect or a thicker layer to make a stylish, textural statement. Avoid pressing too hard on the sponge when applying, and use a smaller sponge for touch-ups as necessary.

3. Rag Rolling

Similar to sponge painting and color washing, rag rolling is a great way to add dynamic texture to your interior walls. And this method tends to be more subtle than the other two techniques, so it's a great way to quietly elevate your look. 

Rag rolling might be the easiest paint technique of all; it involves taking a wet rag and rolling it in a top coat of paint. Once you dip the rag in paint, bunch it into random creases and folds, which will help to create the wall texture, then press it onto the wall. Since the first blots will be heavier, it helps to spread them out first for a consistent appearance. 

4. Ombré

Bedroom decorated with ombre technique
Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

An ombre effect involves one paint color fading into another, usually from dark to light or vice versa, and it’s a popular way to create an accent wall. You need three colors rather than two to create the gradual fading effect. The third color will be used in between the two main colors in order to create the effect.

Once you decide on your colors, measure and mark three equal horizontal sections of the wall, creating a bottom, middle, and top section. Then, paint each section in a different color, leaving a couple inches of space between sections. After you paint these main sections, mix some of the bottom and middle paint colors and fill in the space you left between these sections. Then repeat the process with the middle and top colors.

5. Wall Stenciling

Kitchen backsplash with stencil design
Photo: KCULP / Adobe Stock

Wall stenciling offers a more affordable and customizable alternative to wallpaper accent walls. And endless wall stencil designs and patterns are available, so you'll have no trouble finding the right fit for your room’s aesthetic. 

Once you find a stencil, choose a paint color that complements your existing wall color. Typically, people opt for their stencil pattern to be lighter than their existing wall color, but it’s completely up to your preferences. Then tape your stencil in place, paint over it, and then carefully untape it and move to the next section. It’s helpful to make your stencil placement with a pencil prior to painting to ensure the sections align properly.

6. Striping

Bedroom with striped accent wall
Photo: Jacek Kadaj / Moment / Getty Images

Striping is much like it sounds—it involves painting vertical or horizontal stripes on the wall. But It can create a wide variety of effects depending on the thickness and color of your stripes. For instance, if you want to make a bold statement, you can paint thick stripes that strongly contrast with your base paint color. But if you want a more subtle look, you can opt for thinner stripes in a more neutral hue.

You can use painter's tape to create stripes, using a ruler to evenly space out the tape. Then paint every other section to achieve a striped effect. Vertical stripes will give the impression of higher ceilings while horizontal stripes can make spaces feel wider. 

7. Strie

Speaking of vertical lines, that's exactly what the Strie technique creates. However, these lines are much finer than striping, creating a similar effect to linen. Strie is ideal for anyone who wants to add warmth and texture to their design, but it works particularly well in French country and cottagecore aesthetics

To achieve the look, start by applying two coats of satin paint as a base, letting it dry for at least four hours. Then mix four parts glaze to one part paint. Use a roller to apply the mixture, then quickly run a wallpaper paste brush from floor to ceiling to create the Strie effect before the glaze dries. 

8. Checkerboard

Impress family members and house guests alike by creating a checkerboard pattern on your walls. The checkerboard look works equally well with subtle, neutral colors and bold colors. Aside from painting walls, this technique also works well on furniture, flooring, and more. 

One of the most popular options of implementing this technique involves starting with a base color, usually white or another light, neutral color. Use painter’s tape to create horizontal stripes. Paint every other one with your desired color. After it dries, waiting about four hours between paint coats, create vertical stripes of the same width as the horizontal stripes and paint every other one with the desired color.

Then, tape off the center squares where the horizontal and vertical stripes meet. Paint these a darker color than the color of the stripes. The final result will be a white base color, the primary color in the stripes, and a darker color where the stripes meet. 

9. Harlequin

Consider a painting technique that creates a harlequin pattern for a wall design that goes beyond checkerboard. The pattern of diamond shapes delivers a sense of movement and works in almost any room in the home, and it looks great as an accent wall, too. The harlequin technique works equally well with colors that have a subtle or a bold contrast.

Paint the wall with your base color. Then apply painter’s tape vertically at angles across the wall to create the diamond shapes of the desired size. You can paint every other diamond or paint each diamond a different color, using the width of the tape to leave a light-colored stripe between each diamond. It takes precise measurements to use this technique correctly, so it’s best to hire a local interior painter to make your vision come to life. Plus, a pro painter can ensure professional-quality results for this stand-out wall feature.

10. Polka Dots

A bright nursery room with polka dots painted on the wall
Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Nothing says whimsical and fun like painting a wall with a polka dot pattern. One of the best things about the polka dot painting technique is you can show off your creativity. You can use multiple sizes of dots, multiple colors, and random placement all on a single wall, or a more organized pattern.

Paint your base color first, usually a light color. Then purchase or create stencils for each size of desired dot. Tape the stencil on the wall at the desired spot and paint the open space in the stencil. A renter-friendly way to achieve the polka-dot look is to purchase vinyl wall decals in the same shape and stick them to the wall.

11. Half Wall

A room’s wall half painted in a diagonal form
Photo: Kseniya Ovchinnikova / Moment / Getty Images

One of the easiest wall painting techniques is to paint half the wall in one color and the other half in another. This technique helps you approximate architectural detail on the wall. You could simulate wainscoting without having to learn how to install wainscoting.

You can use any color combination, but we recommend using related colors on each half of the wall. Neutral colors for both halves tend to work best. Paint the lighter color first and slightly past the dividing line. After it dries, place a horizontal stripe of tape across the wall. Place the tape at your desired height, and then paint the darker color in the remaining area. You can put a darker color on top and a lighter color on the bottom, or vice versa.

12. Metallic Checkers

When it comes to enhancing your aesthetic, metallic paint offers a treasure trove of possibilities. You can apply a solid coat of metallic paint to create an accent wall or use metallic paint to create pretty yet subtle patterns, like checkers.

To create a subtle checkered effect, purchase metallic paint in a similar hue as your existing paint color, then use painter's tape to create a grid of squares on your wall. If you're working with a small space, creating large grid squares as opposed to small ones can help make the space feel bigger. Once you create the grid, paint every other square metallic to add dynamic sheen to your look. 

13. Antiquing and Crackling

A senior couple watching TV in their living room with an antiquing wall on their back
Photo: 10'000 Hours / DigitalVision / Getty Images

If you prefer an aged look for your painted wall, using an antiquing or crackling technique works well. Crackling involves applying a clear crackle medium over the top of the base coat before adding a top coat that reacts with the crackle medium—think of it as a natural patina.

Start by applying a light-colored base coat of paint to the wall. Then apply the crackling medium using either a paintbrush or a paint roller. A thicker coat of the crackling medium creates more obvious cracks, while a thin coat results in subtle cracks. Then apply the top coat of paint in a color that differs from the base coat. Application with a roller tends to generate subtle cracks, while a paintbrush enhances the look of the cracks. Protect the crackling effect by adding a polyurethane sealant.

14. Using a Patterned Roller

Using a patterned paint roller to create a texture or pattern on your wall is another tried-and-true option. These rollers usually consist of rubber with raised patterns molded into the roller. It usually works best for creating subtle patterns like wood grains or horizontal lines, similar to the Strie pattern. 

Apply paint to the roller to cover the raised pattern. Then, apply it from the top of the wall to the bottom in one rolling stroke. It can be challenging to apply the paint evenly from the top to the bottom, so some people prefer to leave this technique to a professional interior painter to ensure high-quality results

15. Lettering

A dog posing in front of a wall with lettering
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Another way to create a unique accent to a wall is to paint lettering. For example, adding your child’s name to the wall in the bedroom, or writing an inspirational phrase to your kitchen or home gym. Use highly contrasting colors between the wall’s base color and the letters’ colors to make them stand out, or use similar colors to generate a subtle look.

The best way to use this technique is to purchase letter stencils or a stencil with a complete phrase in the desired size and font. Then, paint the wall in a manner similar to the wall stenciling technique. If you use individual letter stencils, it takes some practice to achieve the right spacing between the letters, so you may want to practice first on cardboard. You also can paint the letters freehand for a whimsical, less formal look.

Kelly Weimart contributed to this article.

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