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Bring subtle color to walls by blending colors with a wall-washing technique. Then highlight wall art by adding painted wall frames.
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These instructions explain how to do three things: 1) apply a color wash using two top coat shades and a base color; 2) apply a color wash with one top coat shade and a single base color; and 3) create a painted frame to go with either color wash or just on a solid-color wall. From these, you can pick the supplies and steps that apply to the look you want.
Clean the old painted finish and patch any nail holes or wall damage. Apply two base coats of paint (Apricot Ice shown) and let the last coat dry for at least four hours.
While you're waiting, condition your color-washing brush. (You can get by with one, but two brushes let you and a partner divide the job.) Wash the brush with soapy water and rinse it thoroughly. While the bristles are wet, hit the edge of a table or palm of your hand with the end of the bristles and pull out any loose ones. Repeat until no loose bristles separate from the brush. You can also prepare two 4-in rollers by rinsing and drying them to remove any loose fibers.
Plan any painted frames around the art or objects you'll display. (The ones shown are 32 inches wide, 39 inches tall, and start 6 inches above the chair rail.) To lay out the frames, mark their location on the wall using a level and tape measure. If necessary, start your lines with the level and extend them using a straightedge.
Tape along the lines in the area between them. Then trim away excess tape on the outside strips to square the corners without cutting into the wall surface. Run your finger the length of each tape strip to press the adhesive firmly against the wall. Repeat for any additional frames.
For the inside of the rectangle, use a single-color wash (Coral Mist shown). Mix 1/2 cup of paint with 2 cups of glaze (a 1:4 ratio if you're mixing larger or smaller quantities). Lightly moisten a medium-size sponge and wring it almost dry. Dip the sponge into the glaze-paint mixture and apply it within the rectangle using a mix of X and Y shapes up to the edges of the tape. Reload the sponge as needed, but avoid completely covering over the base coat of paint. Repeat for the other panels and let dry. (Glazed paint will take longer to dry. If necessary, ventilate the room with a fan.)
Mask any woodwork with painter's tape and apply tape to adjoining walls at the corners. This time, mix 1 cup of paint and 4 cups of glaze in two batches of colors (Simply Coral and Apricot Ice shown). Use one foam roller to first apply the darker paint-glaze mix in random-pattern groups from the ceiling to the chair rail or floor, leaving gaps between the groups. Then use the second roller to apply the lighter color within the gaps.
Immediately use a dry 4-in color washing brush to blend the glazes together. Avoid brushing more than what you need to just blend the colors. Clean the brush frequently to avoid loading it with glaze-paint. Although the glaze dries slowly, you may need to divide the rolling and brushing with a partner.
After the glaze dries, remove the tape from the adjoining walls and around the frames. Repeat to color-wash the remaining walls in the room. Then apply new tape with the edges even with the color-wash paint lines around each square or rectangle. This time, trim the inside tape strips for square corners.
Roll on the frame color (Polar White shown) in the area between the tape rectangles. After the second coat of paint dries, remove the tape. Repeat for the remaining frames.
Center your art within the painted frame and add the necessary hanging hardware.