Introduction: Painting With Texture: Less-Than-Monochrome Wall Design

My wife and I have been considering repainting our stairwell for a while. To be more precise, we've wanted to repaint ever since some unfortunate plumbing issues left us with a big, ugly patch of unfinished drywall in our stairwell.

But we faced the same existential debate all humans face when confronted with a desire to paint - what color should we paint the walls?

Do we go with a mild, inoffensive color, geared towards possible eventual resale value? Do we go with a bold color, something that will distinguish the house? Or do we paint a crazy pattern, something that matches our personalities, but might turn off future buyers?

In the midst of this discussion, my wife came across some photos on Pintrest that looked like a fourth option. Paint the walls a uniform color, but make a pattern that's painted with a different texture. Lay down a matte layer, and then cover it with a more glossy paint, creating a textural contrast. Simple, subtle, and elegant.

Want to see how? Read on, my friends.

Step 1: Design

Before you lay brush to wall, make sure you've decided on a design. My wife and I spent about two weeks arguing rationally discussing options for our design. We eventually settled on triangles ascending the stairs. To us, this seemed the best balance of easy, uncomplicated, and fitting to the space.

Step 2: Supplies

Now that you have a design, it's time to gather supplies. You'll need:

  • Paint. We decided on Icing Rose for the color (mild and warm), and got one gallon of Olympic Eggshell and Semi-Gloss each. This is waaaay more than we needed for this project, but we have lots of other paining to do. Better to overbuy and have extra than to need more!
  • Brushes and rollers. Everyone has a favorite. Be sure to get trays and stir sticks as necessary.
  • Painter's tape. We got the standard cheap blue stuff. You'll need a fair amount.

Step 3: Wall Preparation

Depending on the quality of your walls, you may have to do more or less to prepare them. If the walls are dirty (kitchen or bathroom), make sure to wash them with some laundry detergent diluted in water. If you have holes, dings, or dents, spackle them over (and give the spackle PLENTY of time to dry).

Primer is always a good idea, especially if the existing coat of paint is of poor quality, or you're painting bare drywall.

Step 4: Paint the Undercoat

Once the wall has been adequately prepared, apply the base coat. We decided to paint the wall with the eggshell paint, and use the semi-gloss as the accent texture.

Remember that you'll be putting painter's tape on top of this coat! Let it dry completely before taping anything, or you're likely to peel chunks off.

Step 5: Mark and Tape the Design

For our design, we marked the base of the triangle to align with the stairs, and the top of the triangle to be centered relative to the base.

Once you have marked the beginning, end, and center point, you can use a makeshift plumb-bob to mark the apex of the triangle.

We taped off every other triangle, so that the bases of the triangles could be in contact with each other, without having to worry about cutting tape or disturbing fresh paint.

Step 6: Paint!

If you were putting down contrasting colors, you'd want to lay down the base color first, before painting the accent. This would ensure that any gaps or flaws in the tape are filled with the base color, so that you won't be able to tell that such flaws existed!

You can do this for this project as well, but due to the subtle nature of the contrasting textures, small flaws are less apparent.

Paint in the accents. Allow the paint to dry completely before removing the tape.

Peeling can be a problem here - after a good amount of experimentation, it seems like the best way to avoid this is to peel the tape off at nearly a 180 degree angle, and by pulling it slightly towards the freshly-painted area.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

Inevitably, there are going to be some issues. Peeling, flaking, spots that need sanding, or edges that could use touching-up. Go over the design again, looking for spots where paint is missing, or lines that need straightening.

Of course, since you waited a full day before removing the tape, and definitely didn't rush the drying time on the spackle, you will have less of these problems than I did.


Oh and since you are a huge nerd, go ahead and fill the empty spaces at the bottom of the stairs with nerdy space stuff.

The same idea applies here as for the designs on the stairs, with a few small twists.

Since the designs are a lot more complicated, the best way to get a clean and crisp transfer is to print out the design at the appropriate size on standard printer paper. Once that's done, apply painter's tape to an area that's slightly larger than the area of your design, being careful to leave no gaps. Tape the paper over the masked area, and cut the design out using a razorblade (or other sharp knife). Be sure to cut through the tape!

After it's been cut out, peel off the tape, leaving a hole that you can access to paint through.

You can also ([wife]if you are a huge chicken about damaging the walls, like my husband[/wife]) cut out the stencil, tape it to the wall, and carefully paint it in.

Wall Overhaul

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Wall Overhaul