Fixing a Faux Finish || What Color Do I Rag With to Tone Down Paint Color?

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Color Wash over Yellow

Here is a problem many of you might like to have an answer in your bag of tricks.  You have just painted your walls the perfect (you thought) color to co-ordinate with the tile on the floor and backsplash.  Once you have painted the entire room, it seems the color choice was a poor one.  What do you do?

A newsletter subscriber has sent in a call for help….

Hello, I am building a house, we choose the paint and tile.  Then we put them together in the masterbath, yuk.
The color of the wall is a golden color which is in the floor tile, but the tile next to the wall ( backplash) has a mix of small tile with lots of brown and bone colors.
My question what colors to wash or rag colors on this golden color?  I thought toning down the gold with a bone color then adding random tan to brown.  or do I have to stay within the color pallet of the golden color?
Help.  I am in a quandary and am getting a headache.

The answer is to wash on (not rag off) a  watered down. or glaze infused, off-white/pale cream.  This will “frost” the golden color and soften it.  Create a warm, lovely butter color.  If you try to add on darker colors they will seem to float on top of the gold and not blend.

The idea is to add this wash that will tone down the paint color without having to  paint the entire room again from scratch.

Woolie Pad Tool

The trick is to get the wash to go on with a nice blended look.  This may take more that once around the room.  …. And I would suggest that you use a Woolie to apply and blend the finish.  It is a FABULOUS tool that will make this job go so much easier and quicker.  The blending will be amazing!!  Need a little more instructions on how to use a woolie pad tool?  We wrote it all up in this article:  How Do I Colorwash Walls?

Another good tool to have for this is a chip brush to get into the corners and ceiling line.  Or an artist paint brush works well, too.

Keep in mind…this is a fix for a golden yellow room.  If you have a red room or a green room the color you wash over it would change.  If you paint off-white or pale cream over a RED wall….you’ll end up with a PINK room.  Not really what you want, I’m pretty sure… ;)  Need more information on what to use if your other walls are a color other than yellow?  Check out this article:  Faux Painting Ideas | Colorwash Blending Too Much

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Hope this helps to fix a few rooms and get rid on a few headaches!

OH!!  And I found this cool book I thought you might like to take a look at, too.


It’s called “Simply Creative Faux Finishes” and it’s by Gary Lord.  If you don’t know Gary Lord you need to.  He’s been a professional decorative painter and has owned his own decorative painting contracting business, Gary Lord Wall Options and Associates Inc., since 1975.

This book contains some great finishes.  Gary presents 30 brand-new finishes for not just your walls, but for your floors, your ceilings and even your furniture.

Check it out.  Wander over (click on the link) and just look through it.  I like to do that and get ideas…just by looking at the pictures!  :)


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  1. THAT Painter Lady says

    A recent question came in that was along the same lines as the question above:

    On May 3, 2007 you addressed a painting situation…”toning down a paint color”…

    The color was yellow/gold. I have bright orange walls that I would like to tone down to a burnt orange…

    What technique/color paint/wash would I use?

    I desperately hope you answer this question.


  2. THAT Painter Lady says

    On a bright orange wall that you want to faux paint and create a burnt orange color use a burnt umber wash.

    You will find this color – Burnt Umber- In small 4 oz bottles at your local craft store. Mix this with a clear faux finishing liquid and water. All parts are equal. 1/3 water, 1/3 faux finish liquid, 1/3 paint.

    If the mixture is too intense, add more of the water and faux finish liquid.

    Pat this on with a woolie or rag. You will probably need to do two or more coats of this treatment to tone down the orange. It should come out a rusty orange color in the end.

    Good Luck!
    Debra Conrad
    THAT Painter Lady

  3. nancy hilpipre says

    HI i have recently painted my hallway yellow, with the lighting it looks bright yellow, how can I tone the yellow down, I have thought of sponge painting but not sure what color to use.

    Hi Nancy…

    The power of paint in small places! Amazing how a hallway magnifies paint color! Usually halls don’t have windows, so the lighting truly affects the color you choose.

    If you love the color, but it is just toooo bright… you are wise to want to sponge over to tone it down. Sponging another layer is not only cheaper than applying another layer of paint… it is also much faster.

    After you have carefully protected your floors, moldings, light fixtures and outlet covers… you may begin. This is a pretty messy technique so preparation is really key.

    Purchase a small can of pale off white… not WHITE! Something creamy is good. You can water this down with just water, but I always recommend using a faux glaze in the mix. Some painters like to mix 1 part water, 1 part glaze and 1 part paint, but I just like to mix half glaze and half water… this gives you more working time.

    Remember, even though you will be using this technique on all walls and ceiling… that you need to paint only one wall at a time. And – Start with the 5th wall the ceiling if you painted it yellow… (which is the designer way of decorating).

    I would recommend that you use a Woolie to apply this liquid. It will give you a great soft texture… much better than a sponge. You can order them here:Woolie Lambwool Tool and you will get them in just a few days.

    Hope this helps…


  4. Barbara says

    I used a burnt orange paint 3 parts water one part paint. It’s a little loud anyway to maybe mellow it out a little. Thanks so much

  5. Mary says

    Hello -
    I just bought a couple of bedside tables that have a stenciled shiney gold design over a dark brown. I’d like to tone down the gold but still be able to see it. Is there something I could rub over the top?

    Great web site, by the way. Just added to my Favorites.

  6. THAT Painter Lady says

    The best way to tone down & distress a stencil design that may be a bit to “new” looking is to use a fine steel wool. Rub gently over the stencil design. It will rough it up a bit and make it look as if it has been worn. You should then seal the entire surface with a clear varnish.

  7. farhana says

    is faux finishing liquid the same as glaze. i have a bright orange wall and i want to use the burnt umber wash technique, but can’t seem to find “liquid”.

  8. Patty says

    Hi. Wondering if anyone can help me… I have shiney solid brass wall sconces in a bathroom with antique brass fixtures. Is there anyway to give the bright gold finish an antique look? Thanks.

  9. THAT Painter Lady says

    Get to the craft store and buy some rub n buff. this works really well for toning down shiny brass on objects that are not going to be “handled”.

    have fun with this!

  10. Deb says

    I have gone with a beach theme in my familyroom, but the caribbean blue wall color is much too bright and shiny. What can I do to tone it down? Thank you sooo much for your help!

  11. THAT Painter Lady says

    Sponge over the top with pearlescent glaze from Lowes… it will soften/tone down the blue and give it a watery effect. :0)

  12. Brianna says

    I painted my daughter’s room the color of her choice: PINK. The problem is that it is so intense, like bright, bold Sleeping Beauty pink. What can I do to soften the color?

  13. JoAnne says

    I have light pink counter tops in the bathroom and kitchen. What color paint on the wall can I use to tone down and compliment the pink in the color tops?

    Thank you.

  14. Lynda says

    The color I chose for my kitchen unfortunately has too much orange rather than brown tone. I was thinking of using a sponge with a very pale color. Do they use sponge painting anymore? If not what is an easy way to faux paint the walls?

  15. barbara says

    I just painted my bathroom walls
    The color swatch was not yellow. It was more of a cream color.
    After paintingit looks like its yellow. My daughter and
    Grandgaughter dont see it. They say its cream. Why am
    Iseeing yellow walls and how can i tone it down thru lighting
    Your advice would be very much appreciated
    Than You

  16. Susan says

    I’m building a home and wanted to go with a warm, Tuscan looking yellow with brown/orange under tones in the entire interior. What we got was bright yellow with barely discernible orange under tones. The color is hubbard squach from Sherwin Williams which looked great on the website visualizer and on the practice board we painted but is overwhelming in the entire house. How can we tone down the yellow and introduce the brownish orange tones we desire?

  17. THAT Painter Lady says

    Hi Susan!
    How GREAT you’re building a home! To tone down your color and get more brown (with orange undertones) I glaze over the walls with a burnt sienna. Burnt sienna is a brown with orange undertones. You may want to first take a chocolate brown, thinned with water and glaze an color wash that over the walls and THEN do the burnt sienna. And either way I’d use a woolie to pat it out and get that Tuscan rubbed on look. ;)

    Hope this helps!

  18. Mikki says

    Help! I have a beach theme in my bathroom. I painted the small enclosed area with the tub and stool, what I thought was going to be a calm, peaceful light blue, but it turned out way too bright and bold of a color in that tiny room. I used mildew resistant semi-gloss paint. Can you sponge over a semi gloss? The tub, stool, casings and baseboards are all a clean white, and I have a sandy beige beach themed shower curtain. What color should I use for sponging to give it a calm, peaceful look, white or a sandy beige color?

  19. THAT Painter Lady says

    Hi Mikki!
    Not a problem. Glaze over the blue with a white glaze. I’d use a woolie pad to get it softened. If you want to kick it up a level do a layer of white, then a layer of “sea glass green” – a very very soft aqua – then a last layer of white. It should be beautiful!

    Hope this helps!

  20. Patti says

    Would like to do my kitchen walls in Tuscan red/orange color washing. I’m confused, do I used a yellow base and color wash with the bright red/orange or vise-verse? Would like for some of the lighter color to show through. thanks

  21. Melissa says

    I also have a yellowish wall that I would like to tone down. However I think I’d like to go for a different look than a straight white wash, but I’m not sure what color will work (if any). I have a buttery yellow bedroom. It looks more creamy in the dark, but in the sunlight it looks pretty yellow. I saw a professionally painted home that had some sort of a wash on the walls. It was a tuscan style home. The walls were a light cream base, washed over with some sort of brown to make the walls look old. It was a subtle wash, so the light color came through everywhere, but was just…dirty I guess. But it looked nice. I would like to accomplish that look, but I dont know if my walls are too yellow for that. And I’m not sure how to mix the faux glaze to keep the brownish tone from being too dark. Or even what an appropriate brown tone would be. I actually have a pre-mixed faux glaze (Valspar) in a dark chocolate color. It’s pretty dark though.

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