Painting a Gradient | Blending colors on your wall

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Blue Yellow Red Color Wheel. Vector replacemen...

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Have you ever seen one of those rooms where the wall starts at the ceiling as a soft yellow but by the time it gets to the floor it’s now more of a burnt sienna or brown? And in between it’s a spectrum of yellows and orange but in a nice slow blend from one to the other. Not “lines” of color. You can’t see any “edge” where the colors change? Those walls are AMAZING, aren’t they? Well, you can have them too!

Here…a newsletter subscriber wrote in and asked about just this type of painting….

Subject: Instructions for Painting Gradients

Debra & Tawn ~

I love your website…so much great practical information.

Do you know where I would find instructions for creating horizontal stripes on a wall and blending them? I think it is called a gradient. I’m not a professional…only an eager home decorator…

I appreciate your help!


Great Faux Painting Technique Question!

First…Thanks, Mary! Glad you’re finding the information helpful. ;) We try!

Next…FABULOUS question! It’s not a hard technique to do, but it is “timely”. In order to create a blended effect or smooth transition from one color to another, make sure the colors are close on the color wheel (see above). You’d get an ugly transition of you choose colors that are opposites. Swampy mud color. ;) Gads!!

Just follow these directions and you should be able to get the great gradient affect you want:

* Neighbors get along better: Choose the two paint colors you want and blend equal parts of each together. This will create the PERFECT mid-tone for you!

* Speed is of the essence: You MUST work fast!! You’ll get the best results by working with wet paint. To help increase your blending time and allow a longer open time to work your colors in to each other, spray a light mist of water on the surface before and during the blending of your colors.

* Limits are good in this case: Work in small sections of the wall at one time.

* Wet works: Use glaze in the paint to allow your paint to have more “open” time. The wall and brush should both be dampened before you start. In fact you may want to use a “Woolie” on this project!  It’s a great blender!  But a 2″ chip brush will work fine.

* Really…Dampness is GOOD: If your paint starts to dry up, or “grab” before you are done…add more of the misture to “soften” the paint and it will start to blend again. You can also spritz it with water to keep it damp while you move it.

You can do this finish on any satin or eggshell latex wall.  It works best when you do it on a smooth wall, but you can do it on a textured wall.  Any cracks or texture will show and the “smooth transition” may be spotty.  So…just KNOW that you’ll have color “pool” in the “dents” and crevices if you’re going to give it a go on a textured wall.

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Before you start there are a couple of schools of thought on this.  1 - You paint the top, then the bottom, then the mid-tone region.  OR – 2 - you paint the mid-tone area then either the top or the bottom and as the come to the mid-tone you create your gradient area.  OR – 3 - You paint from the top down.  I’ve done both version 1 and version 2 and both worked fine.  Version 3…Seems like it would work, right?  ;)

Anyway…here we go:

* Divide your wall in to three sections. Either visually or literally.  If you draw lines in use a watercolor pencil and use the same color as your palest paint color.  The center space will be filled with the mixture you made. That half and half combination of the two colors you chose.

* Leave a gap above and below the mid-tone zone. I’d say about 5 to 8 inches…depending on the height of your wall.

* Apply a little glaze to these bare areas.

* Now apply some of the bottom color and the middle / mid-tone color to the lower “blank” area. Use the same brush and blend them together. Make sure both colors have glaze in them to keep them wet.

* Apply the first color (one of the colors from your color wheel choice) from the floor up. One-third of the space. You don’t need to use glaze or water in this section, but like I said having glaze in your paint won’t hurt and will help give you more “open time”. Work up – just below that one-third “line” to the “blending zone”!  ;)

* Next, use a brush, dampened, and keep running the brush along the break working the bottom color up in to the still wet medium tone you applied (color washed) above the bottom section but below the mid-tone section. Continue to blend until you have blurred the lines and can’t see a hard edge. Use glaze and/or water to help with your blending.

* Now, with a clean brush paint the top third of the wall down from the ceiling with you other color. Blend this color in to the mid-tone like you did in the previous section. Use glaze and/or water to keep the edges wet so you can blend it until the “lines” blur.  If you need to blend some of the mid tone up in to your top color (or down in to your bottom color) to make the blending blur more.

* If you’re painting around a corner you need to paint in to and out of the corner while painting ONE WALL. Don’t stop in the corner if you can help it. This will give you and area to blend up too on the next wall.

The biggest key here is to work QUICKLY – no breaks – and keep it wet. Wet-on-wet technique is best done on humid days. If you live in a dry area try plugging in a humidifier in the room while you work. Keep fans turned off!! It’ll dry up your paint before you can get it nicely blended.

Also, when you first start your transitions the pressure of your brush should be fairly firm on the surface while you do a coarse transition and blending of colors.  Then as your transitions become apparent, lighten your pressure up to create a smoother transition between the colors.  To remove any excess brush strokes, continue to lighten up on your pressure and then brush across your strokes at about a 90 degree angle.  This is where a Woolie would be GREAT!

Have fun with it!  Instead of going top to bottom how about side to side?  Or at an angle?

Now get out there and splash some paint around!

P.S. Want even more information about this type of faux finish? Or information on other simple faux painting techniques? Then you’ll want to check out this book:

The Painted Wall

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