Paint effects you need to know about

If there’s one easy way to give your home a totally new look, it’s with paint effects. Whether you’re going for a fresh lick of paint, be it neutral or bold or a whole dappled wall, don’t underestimate just how much paint can transform your interiors. The beauty of creating different paint effects in your home is not only that it’s an affordable way to decorate, but also that they can bring joy and playfulness to a room, as well as adding depth and character.

From folk-inspired murals to ombre, limewashing or marbling, the world is your oyster with a tin of paint. You can bring in colour and be bright, or add subtle hints by painting scalloped borders around your window frames, or have some fun with stencils. So get practising with trompe-l’œil or colour drenching; these are the paint effects that you need to know about.

Go for ombre paint effects

The choice of modern paint colours can be overwhelming with so many slightly different shades to puzzle over. Ombre is a great way to incorporate a few shades of a similar hue, and a gradient of colour on the wall will also give the illusion of depth and create a sense of fun and character in a room.

Go for around three shades to create your ombre look and have five separate paint trays to mix those into five shades that will blend seamlessly (the three colours can create the mid-tones when mixed together.)

Start with a base layer on your walls, so the paint sits evenly on top of it, and begin with your darkest colour at the bottom (it’s easiest to work bottom to top). Add your next shade of colour before the one below it is dry, so you can blend the two together with a brush or sponge.

If you’re not confident in creating the look yourself, then Bobbi Beck do a brilliant range of ombre wallpapers that will bring perfect depth and dimension to your room.

Ombre walls are a colour gradient of similar shades to bring a soothing colour palette to your room
Image credit: Annie Sloan

Add texture and depth with limewashing

Have you ever had your walls plastered and loved the textured, soft colour before the paint went on? You’re not alone. The textured style of bare plaster, limewashing or rag painting a wall have all been big trends in recent years.

As well as looking great, there are plenty of benefits to using limewash. Firstly, it’s made from natural ingredients and is therefore eco-friendly and sustainable, it’s versatile and can be used on plenty of different surfaces, and will give a modern look to your interiors.

Other ways of creating a similar look are ragging – dabbing a rag that’s been moistened with wet paint onto the wall or stippling. Stippling is where you add or remove paint by dabbing the wall with the bristles on the end of a paintbrush.

You do have to work quickly with these techniques, before the paint dries, so everything is blended well with no tide lines.

Try a limewash paint effect to bring texture and depth to your room
Image credit: Caffe Latte

Think about marbling paint effects

Marbling is a timeless, design classic that brings a decorative touch to your interiors. While it’s having a moment in furnishings in everything from Pooky’s marbled shades to Beata Heuman’s gorgeous marbled velvet cushions, marbling is also great for walls.

Marbling is an ancient heritage craft of floating paint on a surface and swirling it to make unique patterns. The Japanese technique of Suminagashi, as artist Nat Maks creates (pictured below), uses ink on water. Suminagashi literally means “ink floating”, with the print made by gently moving paper on the ink.

Nat Maks sells a beautiful variety of Suminagashi wallpaper, to bring the one-of-a-kind marbling style into your home. There are no pattern repeats, so each piece is completely different. Go for wall panelling or even a statement headboard.

An alternative way to use the marbling paint effect on your walls is to use two different shades of satin paint and marble directly onto your wall. Dulux has an easy to follow step-by-step guide on how to paint marble effect.

Once you’ve painted and primed the walls and rag rolled on your glaze, Dulux suggest “using a small feather brush and white paint to create the veined look of real marble, or go in with darker shades to create different bands of colour. Once you’re happy with the result, cover the dry paint work with a coat of polyurethane varnish for that unmistakeable marble sheen.”

Bring the ancient paint technique of marbling to your walls
Image credit: Nat Maks

Try your hand at stencilling

With the shops awash with folk-inspired furnishings and hand-painted details, stencilling is the perfect way of bringing the look into your home.

Tess Newall is a decorative artist who creates the most beautiful hand-painted murals and furniture that can bring a room to life. Painting her historical yet whimsical signature style everywhere from residential homes to hotels like the Swedish stencilling at Callow Hall, Tess’ brush strokes bring charm to a room.

To bring stencilling into your own home, colour and paint expert Annie Sloan is on hand to help, stocking a full range of stencils from Meadow Flowers (as pictured), which features delicate blooms of cow parsley, daisies, fritillaries and clover with wild grasses, to a more geometric brushwork tile stencil. It’s a cheaper, more characterful way of adding print and colour without wallpapering.

Tape your stencil to the wall and don’t load too much paint onto your brush, or it could smudge. Make sure each stencilled section is dry before moving on to the next.

Stencilling is the perfect paint effect to add character to your decor
Image credit: Annie Sloan

Paint subtle pops of block colour

Forget feature walls of complete coverage. Pops of colour used in clever ways can add so much detail and interest to your interiors.

Benjamin Moore (pictured) has painted the edge of the door in their warm shade of Coral Gables, which will bring a little bit of joy every time you open it. It’s an affordable effect, as you can use leftover paint from another project or a tester pot.

Bright yellow is another popular colour for door edging. You can also highlight different areas of the room with paint, here Benjamin Moore has painted a circle of Blue Danube to add focus to an otherwise plain light fitting.

More moments of colour can be brought in with different coloured cornicing or picture rails. A painted fireplace is a great way of adding a focal point to a room, while painting a block behind your photos and artwork can bring a fun element to your framing. Another way to add a contrasting colour is to paint a scalloped edge around a window frame (you can do this freehand or use a scallop edge stencil).

Use paint to subtly bring in accent colours
Image credit: Benjamin Moore

Increase height with a lacquered ceiling

Gloss paint has been around for centuries and was known for its quality of bouncing light around a room, (which was especially important when the main source of light was candle). Gloss paint was typically more expensive, and signified wealth, due to the cost of the paint and the numerous coats it needed.

For a long time, gloss fell out of favour, before it became a skirting board favourite, largely because they’re more durable in a high traffic area. We’re now seeing its revival on walls and ceilings to give a mirror-like finish.

Given the breadth of paint colours and increase in technology in modern paint, gloss is relatively easy to apply and can add drama to a room, while still bringing reflective qualities. If you are applying gloss to the walls yourself, use a brush and keep your brush strokes consistent. Don’t load the brush too heavily to avoid drips.

For a more opulent shiny finish, you could use lacquer. Lacquer is a clear or coloured varnish that gives a very durable finish when dried, although it is more expensive and labour intensive, and one best left to the professionals.

Try high gloss or lacquered paint on the ceiling to radiate light and give extra height
Image credit: Benjamin Moore

Go folksy with murals

Bring fun, playfulness and a hint of the whimsical into your home with a folk-style mural. Once reserved for children’s bedrooms, murals are now being seen all over the house.

Annie Sloan is a big fan of using them to bring old furniture to life, and giving you total freedom with some free-style painting. You could start with furniture and when you’ve gained enough confidence take your paintings onto the walls.

Anna Jacobs (aka The Colour Doctor) is a masterclass in how colourful murals can transform a home and regularly posts timelapse videos of how she’s transformed her rental flat in London into a joyful riot of colour with her amazing murals.

If you’re stuck with what to paint, Pinterest is full of ideas to get you started. Always mark out your design with a pencil first. If you don’t want to paint the mural yourself, but love the style, Wallsauce, OhPopsi, and Clarissa Hulse are all great places to check out for easy to put up, bespoke murals.

A vibrant folk mural can be used on walls bring a room to life
Image credit: Annie Sloan

Create cosy interiors with colour drenching

Colour drenching is the paint effect movement of the moment and with good reason: it truly elevates spaces. More of a technique than a trend, colour drenching is when one colour is applied to every surface, think walls, ceilings, woodwork, doors, door frames and skirting boards, and even built-in cabinets and radiators. Colour drenching gives a room the calming sense we all crave by reducing visual noise and helping a room appear bigger.

A lighter paint colour will open up a room and give the illusion of height, while a darker hue can create a cosy and inviting feel. To bring an interesting element to a room, you could buy emulsion and gloss in the same colour. Paint the walls with emulsion and the ceiling with gloss to take your colour drenching to another level.

Colour drenching is a popular paint effect that gives a room a cosy feel
Image credit: Earthborn

Play with trompe-l’œil

The Royal Academy of Arts describe a trompe-l’œil as “French for ‘to deceive the eye’, and an art historical tradition in which the artist fools us into thinking we’re looking at the real thing”. We’re seeing it being brought into our interiors more increasingly, as there’s a sway away from perfection and towards playfulness.

Of course, trompe-l’œil lends itself to being as elaborate as you like. Creating whole scenes, but a simple way of bringing it into your home, is with panelling.

Use masking tape to make your panels, or you can go freehand, as Annie Sloan has done below, and mark out your panels. Have two to three shades of paint, including one light and one dark. Use the lighter paint on the edge of the panels to create highlights of where the light is coming from and use the darker paint for the shadows.

Essentially you want to create a 3D effect. Laurence Llewelyn Bowen is a big fan of this technique and has created a video you can follow to paint the look in your own home.

A riff on a trompe-l'oeil is an easy way to add definition to a space
Image credit: Annie Sloan