5 Color Wash Painting Tips and Techniques Explained

Using a color wash is a great way to make a room look different. It’s a simple decorating technique that can have a great effect. However, the more you know about how to use a color wash, the better your room will look and the simpler the job will seem.


If you want the color wash to look its best, then put some texture on your wall. You can do this by applying drywall compound or plaster to the wall. You won’t want it heavily ridged, just enough to look aged and worn. Be sparing, and smooth the plaster down. Allow to dry, then put on your base coat. When you put on your glaze it will pool in the cracks and tiny ridges of the plaster to create a more interesting effect on the wall.

Paint Chips

The simplest way to find complementary colors, which are essentially different shades of the same color is by using paint chips from the hardware store or paint store. This way you’ll be able to select the darker color for your base coat and see how the lighter color for the color wash will look with it. You can also have a lighter color for the base coat, with a darker shade for the color wash.

A good tip is to have the colors two shades apart so the eye will pick up the difference. If you’re using a contrasting color, make sure it’s not from the same part of the color range on the paint chip or you’ll just achieve a muddy effect.


Don’t mix the color wash until the base coat has completely dried and you’re ready to use it. Depending on the type of paint you’re using, and the depth of wash that you’re trying to achieve, you should mix 1 part of paint to either 4 parts or 6 parts of faux glaze. Always make sure that you mix the wash thoroughly for a color wash


With a color wash you’re aiming for a very thin wash. If you’re shading, you need to use an almost dry brush and work in thoroughly, so you can’t see the brush strokes. No matter what medium you use, whether brush, sponge, or cloth, don’t have too much paint on the implement.

In most cases you want to produce a random pattern, rather than a level coat, so you need to forget the rules about putting paint on a wall.


If you’re applying more than one coat of color wash then let each coat dry before applying the next. It’s perfectly possible to add a second coat of color wash that’s lighter than the first for extra effect. The beauty of it is that you really can’t mistakes with a color wash, unless it’s applying too much paint.

While you’re working, keep standing back to look at your work. This way you can see the effect, and also what areas need a little more attention. Work in small areas at a time.