Step 1: Color
For swirls or any real “busy” design I like to keep the colors I use within a few shades of each other. (A good rule of thumb is to find a color you like on one of those little paint swatch cards and then go 2 or 3 shades lighter and duller…just trust me, I have 7 quarts of yellow and four quarts of green in my closet to prove it… once that color is on a big space and is reflecting off the other walls onto each other it will turn out just right.)
For the bathroom I used a bright white, a slightly off white, a white with more yellow-green undertones, and a white with more pink undertones. If anyone wants the exact colors just let me know-they’re from Lowes. I chose two of the colors in satin and two in semi-gloss so that some parts of the design would show a little better in the light. (I’d be careful with High Gloss, it really shows the brush strokes.)
Step 2: Supplies
- Plastic sheeting or caper. Cover every-effing-thing you don’t want splatter painted (the eighties are over!) with plastic sheeting. If you’re fortunate enough to be working in a bare room, then I prefer to cover the floor with contractors paper, mainly because it’s a lot harder to slip and wipe out on when carrying a quart of paint around. That’s experience talking. – Brushes. In this case get one for each color… I always get cheap brushes because I’m notorious for covering them with foil when I’m done with a project-intending to wash them out of course-and then forgetting. So sue me. As for sizes… if it’s a big space 3-5″ brushes. For the bathroom I used 1-3″ brushes depending on my mood.
- Paint. Duh. Get quarts, not gallons. If you’re using a brush, not a roller, you use way less paint.
- Foil. Big tip here… if you aren’t going to finish your project in one day and don’t want to go through the hassle of cleaning and drying the brush at night, just wrap it good and tight in foil. You can do this for about 2 weeks and the brush doesn’t stiffen or anything… just don’t forget to wash it out eventually.
Step 3: Prime.
Always prime before you paint. Have you ever seen what can happen if you don’t prime?
It’s not pretty, just do it.
Use white for lighter colors, gray for red, blue, black or anything dark.
Step 4: Practice
Some people are perfectly confident in their abilities to just get it on the wall and get going with it. For those people, skip to Step 5. If, on the other hand, you’re doing a free-form design and you don’t do a lot of drawing or painting regularly, it’s a good idea to get a big piece of sketch or construction paper and just free form a smaller version of what you’re picturing for the wall, just to get the feel of how your brush should be moving. Your actual wall doesn’t have to be the exact same thing, it will just give you an idea of what it’s like to freehand something.
Step 5: Technique
So, you have your paints and your brushes. First, pick a color to act as a “filler” … generally your most neutral color, but hey you’re the boss, do whatever you want. For the bathroom I used the off white as my filler. Because acrylics dry quickly I just work a small section of the wall at a time, 4-6 square feet.
The idea here is to get a good amount of paint on your brush, almost so much that it drips, but not quite. I started by doing a base design in one of the colors-one swirl with other swirls branching off of it. Then I followed that design with another color, slightly overlapping in some areas, but mostly leaving a little blank space between them… this color would also branch off into it’s own design also. In the blank space in between is where I used my filler color, blending it in to both other colors.
For me it’s a matter of leaving as little blank space as possible so that every shape kind of flows into the next, but it does take some getting used to. The good news is, it’s paint… you can always paint back over it!