How to Color Wash a Wall

Blue color washed wall

Color washing your room gives it a warm and inviting feel. All you need is some paint, glaze, and a burst of creativity, making it a perfect project for DIYers. In this article, we’ll teach you how to color wash a wall.

What is Color Washing?

White color washed wall
Photo Credit: Ivaylo Ivanov / Canva Pro / License

Color washing is a faux painting technique that creates an aged effect on your walls. It involves mixing paint and glaze for a more textured look similar to old-world plaster or watercolor paintings.

What sets it apart from other faux finishes is its randomness; more frenetic strokes allow the hues to shine through, which is when it looks best.

Color choice is crucial to get the best wash. The base coat is the brighter or darker of the two paint colors, and the glaze is a more subtle satin or semi-gloss finish. However, you can take the opposite route if you like the look.

What You Need

  • Paint brush
  • Soft rags or sponges
  • Drop cloth
  • Acrylic or latex paint (base coat)
  • Primer
  • Latex glaze
  • Paint tray
  • Painters tape
  • Roller

How to Color Wash a Wall – A Step-by-Step Guide

Before painting your walls, practice with a piece of wood, foam core, or drywall. Use this time to experiment with what colors and techniques work best. Put your base color in the paint tray once you’re ready to paint.

Step 1: Prepare Walls for Color Washing

professional taping off a window and using plastic to cover window prior to painting
Photo Credit: Jodi Jacobson / Canva Pro / License

Color washing is messy, so cover the floors and tape the surfaces you don’t want to get paint on, like windows, ceilings, and doors, with painter’s tape.

Surfaces must be prepped and primed before painting. Clean your walls and remove any protruding nails.

Once the wall is ready for painting, apply the base coat. Use a brush to paint the ceiling, doors, and baseboards, and use a roller for the rest. Let it dry for 48 hours.

Step 2: Glaze Paint Walls

Mix the base coat with your glaze (in the paint tray) to give it extra sheen and depth. A good starting ratio is four parts glaze to one part paint, but adding one-half or one part water will thin the glaze and let the base color shine through. The more glaze in your mixture, the more transparent the effect.

Dip a dry brush into the mixture and draw overlapping X marks on your wall. Ensure that it has enough paint, but not to the point where it drips before making contact with the wall. Keep drawing until the entire wall is covered.

While the mixture is still wet, use a sponge or rag to spread the paint around (going in circular motions) until all the brush strokes are gone. Disperse the paint until you achieve the look you want.

Step 3: Make it Stand Out

Here is where you can be flexible, depending on what type of look you want. The possibilities are endless:

  • If you want a richer color depth, glaze the walls with three coats, each darker and deeper than the last.
  • Apply a lighter glaze over a darker one to give the appearance of an aged patina.
  • A flat sheen for the top coat colors will give a stucco look.
  • For a more earthy vibe, paint with terracotta.
  • If you like the feel of a Tuscan villa, use an eggshell base color and a brown glaze.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is color washing a one-person job?

Yes, it is. Everyone color washes differently, and if more than one person participates in the color washing, you’ll get a discordant paint job.

How cold should the room I paint be?

The colder the room, the better. Paint takes longer to dry in a colder room, giving you more time to perfect your design.

Is priming required?

To achieve the best results, prime your walls before painting to improve adhesion and provide a smooth finish.

When to Hire a Pro

Color washing walls is a simple DIY project that gives a fresh, homey look to any interior. Whether you want an ethereal and airy look or a more dramatic one, color washing will change the character of your room. If you don’t feel confident in color washing, contact a local pro, and they’ll color wash your walls for you.

Main Photo Credit: TITUS GROUP / Canva Pro / License

Stuart Kushner

Stuart Kushner is a writer and aspiring product designer based in New York City. When he isn’t writing about home improvement projects, Stuart enjoys heavy metal music, exercise, and trying new food and drinks.