Better Homes & Gardens Home Ideas, 1996
donít need any artistic training to make your walls come
alive with texture and color. Anyone can give a room a
complete makeover by sponging, stenciling, rag-rolling, or
combing. Follow these step-by-step instructions to turn
plain white walls into your own personal canvas.
One of the quickest, easiest decorative painting
techniques is sponging. It involves dipping a sponge in
paint, then lightly patting it onto your desired surface.
The result is a random, textured finish that can be the
crowning touch to any room.
Before you begin, paint a solid base coat
of the color of your choice, and let it dry overnight. If
you are painting over a previously unpainted surface, be
sure to apply a primer coat or an extra coat of base paint
to the walls.
Use a natural sea sponge and experiment until you find
a look you like. Itís wise to test your technique and
color combination in an inconspicuous place such as the
inside of a closet.
To begin, wet your sponge with water, wringing it out
thoroughly. This will make the sponge more pliable and
allow the paint to adhere better to the sponge.
Pour a small amount of paint into an old plate or pie
tin and dip the sponge into it. Cover the sponge with a
small amount of paintótoo much will weight it down and
ruin the effect. If you get too much paint on the sponge,
use a newspaper to blot off the excess. Cup the sponge in
your hand and push the paint lightly onto the surface
Space the patches of color as evenly as possible, but
change the position of the sponge for an irregular,
mottled effect. A wall with close, overlapping sponge
marks will have a sleek, sophisticated flair. Widely
spaced sponging, with little or no overlap, will produce a
heavily textured, more casual appearance.
If you want to apply several layers of color, dab the
first color over the entire surface. When the surface is
dry, apply the second color and then the third in the same
Helpful Hints (sidebar)
- Wear plastic gloves. Household rubber gloves will
leave unwanted fingerprint impressions.
- Use a natural sea sponge as opposed to a synthetic
one. Sea sponges give a soft, mottled appearance;
synthetic ones donít have large enough pores and
will leave harsh, unattractive lines.
- Use a clean sponge that has been wrung out in water
to blend any hard edges.
Stenciling is one of the oldest ways to give your
walls some charm. Our Colonial ancestors used to decorate
their modest homes by etching simple patterns along the
walls. Today, stenciling is still an increasingly popular
way to create a border on walls and ceilings. Stencils can
draw attention to a roomís architectural details, or
mimic wallpaper when applied over an entire wall. You can
find different sizes and styles of stencils in paint and
crafts stores. Or, if you want a one-of-a-kind look,
create and cut your own patterns.
The hardest part of stenciling is positioning. To get
it just right, measure the stencil motif and the area you
want it to cover. Divide the length of the area by the
width of the stencil size to come up with the number of
times the stencil will be repeated. Lightly mark the spots
where the edge of the stencil will be.
To begin, position the stencil and anchor it securely
with masking tape. Put a small amount of paint into a
paint-can lid or paint tray. Acrylic water-base paints
work best because they go on smoothly and dry quickly. Dip
the tip of the brush into the paint and remove any excess
by dabbing the brush onto paper. The secret to successful
stenciling is to use a nearly dry, round brush.
Hold the brush perpendicular to the stencil and paint
with an up-and-down motion. Donít stroke or drag the
paint across the stencil because it will smear under the
edges. Work from the edges of the stencil toward the
center. When done, carefully lift off the stencil.
Helpful Hints (sidebar)
- Practice on paper or cardboard before stenciling
- Use a separate, clean brush for each paint color.
- Repair a torn stencil by putting a small piece of
transparent tape over the torn area on both sides of
the overlay. Use small scissors or a craft knife and
carefully recut the open areas of the stencil covered
Rag-rolling is a more precise technique that produces
a luxurious textured finish. The final look will vary
greatly, depending on the type of fabric you choose, but
generally the finish resembles watered silk.
Almost any type of cloth will
workócotton sheets, burlap, cloth diapers, or
cheesecloth. There are no limits, so be creative. To
prepare your fabric for rolling, twist it into a tight
6-inch-wide sausagelike roll. The texture of the fabric
will determine the finish.
Rag-rolling requires completing a whole
wall or room at one time, so itís best to tackle this
task with two people. One person can apply the glaze or
paint while the other follows with the rag.
To get started, apply a base coat of semigloss oil-base
paint or a thinned-down glaze, letting it dry completely.
Then apply a second coat of a different, complementary
color, using a roller or a brush. Most designers prefer
pastel shades for rag-rolling, and neutral base coats. The
background color should be several shades lighter than the
paint you apply on top of it.
While the second coat is still wet, roll your fabric
lightly over the surface from top to bottom, holding it at
both ends. This will remove some of the new color,
exposing the base coat. Change the direction of rolling
often to create an irregular design. When the fabric roll
becomes saturated with paint, discard it and pick up a
fresh one. Use as many colors as you like, letting each
layer dry thoroughly between coats.
Helpful Hints (sidebar)
- Gloss or semigloss paint works best when ragging. It
wonít be absorbed too quickly by the wall or the rag
like flat paint will.
- Before beginning the project, prepare enough twisted
rolls to do the entire room. This saves precious time
needed to get the job done quickly while the paint is
still wet. A 12x14-foot room may need as much as the
equivalent of a double bed sheet in fabric.
To create this interesting, striated finish, you drag
a comb or other toothed instrument through a layer of
fresh paint or glaze. Combs can be found in paint or
crafts stores, or you can make one yourself by cutting
notches into the edge of a squeegee.
To prepare the wall, apply a base coat. Any type of
paint can be used for this first coat, but semigloss or
high-gloss paint creates a slicker surface for combing.
When dry, apply a complementary color of paint over the
first layer. Be aware that the top layer will darken the
color of the undercoat somewhat.
Comb the surface while the new layer is still wet.
Begin at the top of the wall, in a corner, and pull the
comb through the paint or glaze.
Again, you may want to have a partner for this project.
One of you can brush on the coating while the other
follows and combs through the paint before it dries.
Use long, smooth strokes, and wipe the comb clean of
paint after each run down or across the wall. The
direction in which you comb is entirely up to you. Some
people prefer waves of squiggly horizontal lines, while
others like bold, vertical stripes.
If you become proficient, you might even try a
basket-weave or crosshatch design.
Helpful Hints (sidebar)
- Use a corner as your stopping point when combing, so
it will look more natural.
- Donít worry if you canít keep the design
consistent. Irregular patterns add to the creativity
of the finish.
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