Paint Effects

Many paint effects are based on a few simple techniques. These can be used on their own or combined to produce an infinite variety of paint effects. The techniques shown here all use ultramarine blue emulsion (latex) paint mixed with acrylic scumble glaze and/or water to be able to compare the different effects possible. Two coats of silk finish white emulsion paint were rollered on as a base. Before you start a project practise these techniques first.


Dilute a little paint with a some water in a paint tray or saucer. Dip a damp, natural sponge into the paint and wipe off the excess on kitchen paper (paper towels). Dab the sponge on to the surface in different directions.


Dilute the paint with water and brush on randomly with cross-hatched brushstrokes, using a large decorator’s brush. A damp sponge will give a similar effect.


Dilute the paint with water or scumble. Apply paint with cross-hatched brushstrokes, then press a piece of tissue paper over the wet surface and peel it off.


Mix paint with scumble glaze and brush on with cross-hatched brushstrokes. Drag a flat decorator’s brush through the glaze. The soft effect is achieved by going over the glaze again to break up the lines.


Mix paint with acrylic scumble and brush on with cross-hatched brushstrokes. Run a metal or rubber graining comb through the wet glaze.


This soft, patchy wall finish is pure country. It is traditionally achieved using either a very runny colourwash or an oil-based glaze tinted with oil colour, over eggshell paint. The technique below gives the same effect but is easier to achieve. Wallpaper paste adds a translucency to the colour and PVA (white) glue seals the surface when dry.

  1. Paint the wall with a plain, light emulsion (latex) colour. Mix the glaze, using 1 part PVA (white) glue, 5 parts water and 1 part wallpaper paste. Tint it with three 20 cm/8 in squirts from an acrylic or gouache tube, or about 15 ml/1 tbsp of powder paint. Vary the intensity of colour to your own taste. Get the feel of the glaze and brush, and adjust the colour at this stage if necessary.
  2. Begin applying the glaze in an area of the room that will he hidden by furniture or pictures; as your technique improves you will be painting the more obvious areas. Start near the top of the wall, dabbing glaze on with the brush and then sweeping it over the surface with random strokes.
  3. The effect will be streaky and the brushstrokes will show. So after about 5 minutes, brush the surface lightly with your brush but don’t use any glaze. The brush will pick up any surplus glaze on the surface and leave a softer, less streaky effect. When working on edges and corners, apply the glaze and then brush it away from the corner or edge.


Brush on a coat of water-based crackle glaze and leave to dry. Using a well-laden brush, apply paint carefully on top so that you lay, rather than brush, it over the surface. Work quickly and do not over-brush an area already painted. If you have missed an area, touch it in when the paint has dried. Seal with acrylic varnish.


  1. Paint the wall with cream emulsion (latex). Leave to dry and then mix a glaze of 1 part raw umber acrylic paint to 6 parts scumble. Stipple this on to the wall. Leave to dry. Mix a glaze with the white acrylic paint in the same way. Dampen a sponge and apply the glaze over the stippling, varying your hand position
  2. Using a softening brush, skim gently over the white glaze while it is still wet. Now mix a glaze with the yellow ochre paint as in step 1, but this time rub it into the wall with a cloth. Leave some areas of white glaze showing. Using another dampened cloth, rub some areas to disperse the paint. Leave to dry.


This paint finish imitates the opaque, soft colour and powdery bloom of distemper, the wall finish most used an oil-based glaze tinted with oil colour, over eggshell paint. The technique below gives the same effect but is easier

  1. Prepare the walls by stripping off any wallpaper down to the bare plaster. Spread filler irregularly with a spatula to simulate the uneven texture of old plaster. Use thin layers and apply randomly from different directions. Don’t worry about overdoing the effect; you can always rub it back with sandpaper when it’s dry, after an hour.
  2. Blend the dried filler into the original wall surface using rough-grade sandpaper, leaving rougher areas for a more obvious distressed effect. Mix water-based paint with water in the ratio 2 parts water to1 part paint. Stir the paint well: it should have the consistency of single cream.
  3. Begin painting at ceiling height. The paint is likely to splash a bit, so protect any surfaces. Use the paintbrush randomly rather than in straight lines, and expect a patchy effect — it will fade as the paint dries. The second coat needs to be stronger, so use less water in the mixture. Apply the second coat in the same way, working the brush into any cracks or rough plaster areas. Two hours later, the ‘bloom’ of the powdery finish will appear.