Want to give your walls a visually impactful look? Need to hide any imperfections on older surfaces? Look no further than color washing. Providing texture, warmth, and depth to any room, color wash is a great alternative to standard painting. Today, we’re going to show you how to color wash a wall like the pros!

Looking for a fully vetted, experienced, and affordable painting contractor? Great Guys Painting makes it super easy! We remove the pain of endless searches, so you don’t have to work so hard to find the perfect fit. From walls to ceilings, we help you hire the best painting professionals in your area. Get started by requesting your free estimates today!

What is Color Washing?

Before we jump into the actual process (and how to beautify any space with color washing), let’s take a look at its origins and advantages.

History and Technique

Color wash finds its roots in Tuscany, Italy. Tuscan stucco is revered for its swirling movement and depth. This is achieved with a combination of stucco and color. It’s also a fairly time-consuming and technically laborious affair.

This is where color washing came about. As a relatively easy alternative to stucco, it’s considered a faux painting technique. Essentially, paint is swirled around to create the appearance of textured plaster or multi-dimensional surfaces.

The interior paint treatment is popular in older homes that have plaster work. Plaster can be an especially difficult material to patch and smooth out. This can result in a lot of prep work just to prepare walls for standard paint. With color wash, a dilapidated house can be transformed into a charming home again. But that’s not to say it doesn’t work well in newer spaces. In fact, color wash can be the go-to for new spaces as well!

There are two main ways to color wash: with cloth or with brush. Using paint and glaze, the process typically involves a base coat and brushed layers (typically two layers). Random strokes and exposed paint layers create a swirling, textured effect.

Best Uses

If you have a home with old plaster work, you might be wondering how you can deal with rough textures and unseemly patches. Enter color wash. This technique not only hides imperfections, but it also takes advantage of it. Dancing in concert with uneven or rough surfaces, color washing adds a desirable look that captures the eye with depth, softness, and movement.

Have a newer home? Color washing is definitely not limited to older walls. If you’re looking to ditch the standard & static appearance of typical paint, color wash offers a refreshing alternative. It allows you to mimic a classic technique that has been coveted for centuries, one that pays homage to tradition but also adds a look that’s highly attractive to any room.

As previously mentioned, color washing is great for walls with blemishes or damage. It’s also a great option for high-traffic areas (particularly spaces occupied by kids). Color wash can even be used on furniture that tends to get dirty or banged up.

Whatever the situation, color wash is a great decorative pick, particularly where people gather. Popular rooms to use this technique include dining areas and living rooms. It’s appearance is warm, inviting, and romantic. Color washing can also soften the look of a harsh space, too.

How to Color Wash a Wall

Ready to learn how to color wash a wall like a pro? This technique is easier than having to apply textured stucco or plaster, but it still requires proper preparation and execution. With the right tools and effort, you can bring a room to life with color washing!

Handy tip: make sure to practice on a spare piece of drywall or cardboard prior to throwing up the finish on an actual wall. This way you’ll have greater confidence and a much better idea of how the final finish will look.

Tools and Materials

In order to color wash a wall, you’ll need to gather the following:

  1.     Polyester-nylon brushes or rags/sponges
  2.     Paint roller
  3.     Angled sash brush
  4.     Paint tray
  5.     Latex gloves
  6.     Drop clothes
  7.     Painter’s tape
  8.     Acrylic or latex paint
  9.     Latex glaze
  10. Water bucket (for cleanup)

In addition, if there are any cracks or holes that need to be patched, grab the following:

  1.     Spackling compound
  2.     Putty knife
  3.     Sanding paper or sponges
  4.     Primer

Step 1: Prepare Wall

First, you’ll need to clean the wall. This can be done with either plain warm water, soapy water, or another appropriate cleaning solution. Once you’ve cleaned, allow it to dry.

If there are any holes or cracks (left from nails or other damage), you’ll want to patch them up before painting the base coat. You can fill these spots in with a spackling compound with a putty knife. Allow to properly dry. Then, sand and apply primer to these patches.

Don’t forget to cover floors and furniture with drop clothes. This way, you won’t have any unpleasant surprises after you start painting.

Step 2: Paint Base Coat

All the prep work completed? Great! Next, we move on to the base coat.

To get a more shimmering effect, use a semi-gloss paint. Choosing colors can be a little tricky, so take your time picking just the right shade. Consult an interior designer or professional painter if you aren’t sure which color to use as a base coat.

Once you’ve selected your paint, it’s time to paint! Use painter’s tape and an angled sash brush to cut in the corners with a clean line. Then, with a paint roller, paint the field (or center section) of the wall. If the original surface color is shining through at all, allow the first coat to dry and then apply a second coat. Let the base coat properly dry for about 48 hours.

Step 3: Apply Glaze

Now, the fun part!

Using a rag, sponge or brush – a rag or sponge provides a more subtle look, while a brush offers more texture – you will apply two layers of glaze in a random pattern.

For the first coat, apply the colored glaze with x-shaped strokes. Don’t be concerned with precision. The imperfections help add to the charm. It’s tempting to cover all of the base color, but fight this urge. You want some of the base coat to shine through the glaze.

Next, take the “dry” rag or brush – this means the brush is out of paint – and drag it across the x shapes in a random fashion. Let this layer dry. Finally, apply the last coat in the same way as the prior coat. Be sure to cover the corners and edges, too.

And there you go! Other than cleanup, that’s how you can create a color wash on your wall.

Regular, uniform painting is fine. But if you’re looking to capture that romantic, old-world charm of Tuscan texture, color washing is a great addition to your home. If you don’t have the time or ability to do it yourself, you can always get a hold of Great Guys Painting. We take all the pressure off your shoulders by connecting you with the best in the business!


Want a free quote from highly vetted color wash painting contractors? Get started now with our fast, easy-to-use form!