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Color Washing: Popular Faux Finishing Technique

Color washing has become one of the most popular of the faux finishing techniques, partly because it's one of the easiest techniques to master--and because the results can be quite spectacular when you're done. The overall effect lends a subdued, somewhat worn look to a wall, and its visible brush strokes can give a wall a like that resembles nicely weathered stucco.


Another appeal to color washing is that it can effectively hide imperfections in a wall. The technique is especially effective with brighter colors, but it's also a great way to incorporate metallic glazes into a room if you're looking to make a bolder statement.

Regardless of which colors you choose, prep your wall first. That's one of the most important things to do before you begin any faux finishing project.

Use a latex semi-gloss paint as your base color. You can brush it on or roll it one, but whichever method you use, wait for it to dry completely before beginning to add your top coat. This will generally take about twenty-four hours.

For your top coat, use a three-inch nylon brush, dipping only the bristle tips into your faux glaze. Then begin applying the glaze in random crossing patterns, making overlapping X's about six inches in length. Don't forget to allow some of your base color to show through, which will add a greater feeling of texture to your finished wall.

Work diagonally as you go and not directly up and down to avoid visible lines and dark spots where your glaze has overlapped too much. Make sure you've allowed yourself enough time to finish the entire wall without stopping. That will prevent further overlaps and inconsistencies that might occur if you have to come back and finish the wall later.

Once you've finished your X's, go back to where you started and begin lightly dabbing at the still-wet glaze with a slightly damp rag to soften the brushstrokes. When you've finished the entire wall, allow your top coat to dry completely. If you want even more color, you can then repeat the process with another color.

What you'll end up with will be a nicely dappled look, with some areas darker than others, and with some of the base coat still showing through, which will lend an even greater sense of texture to the wall. The key to a successful color washing is not to get too uniform in your brushstrokes and cloth dabbing. You're creating a unique piece of artwork, really, and you want it to be a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

As always, if it's your first time, I'd also recommend that you practice on a piece of board before you start on the wall. It's not difficult, but it will take time and patience. In the end, however, the result can be something wonderful.

Kim Schaffer preparing walls for color wahing

faux finish walls with color washing
Bamboo Women Tea Room in Faux Flip

Kim Schaffer, decorative mural artist, hung the drywall, mudded it, faux finished the walls and floor, and hung the bamboo ceiling!

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