Broken Color Techniques

Anyone looking for a more interesting way of painting interior walls than the normal coat of paint can find many different options in broken color painting. All broken color techniques basically use a painted background and a different color of paint applied in a variety of ways, so that the effect is one of background colors showing through.

Colorwashing is a popular style for interior walls. Colorwashing consists of applying a coat of translucent or thinned paint over either a white or colored background. Different textures and patterns can be given to the colorwashes by brushing on additional coats or wiping off paint. For the best effect when applying colorwashes, there should not be too many different colors used. Colorwashing can utilize oil-based paint, latex paint, or distemper finish.

Shading is a technique that blends different shades of one color across a surface in order to create a transition from dark to light or light to dark. Shading can appear to change the proportions in a room. Using a light shade near the floor and getting darker near the ceiling can seem to lower a ceiling, and the opposite effect is also true. Either eggshell paint or flat oil paint can be used for this broken color technique.

Sponging is a very easy broken color technique. It provides a cloudy, soft finish, with different shades of the same color. It is best to use actual sea sponges, but cellulose sponges can also be used. Sponging on is the more common sponging method: paint is applied with the sponge. Sponging off involves dipping the sponge into solvent and removing some of the color from the wall. This technique provides a slightly softer effect than sponging on.

Dragging is accomplished by using a dry brush and dragging it down through the wet glaze on a surface so that the base color shows through. Dragging is a broken color technique which should be done immediately after the glaze is applied, so that the glaze does not become stiff or dried out. Dragging can give the illusion of old wood, or if done vertically and horizontally, of a woven fabric.

architect and interior designer Combing and Stippling
Combing is a broken color technique that is similar to dragging, but uses a comb. Contrasting colors are often used in combing. Stippling uses a flat brush called a stippler, which is dabbed gently onto wet glaze, removing enough to let the base coat show through. Oil-based paint is best for combing, but either oil- or water-based paint can be used for stippling.

Although spattering seems like one of the simplest forms of broken color techniques, it actually takes some skill. Spattering involves dipping a brush in paint and striking it with a piece of wood. Alternatively, spattering can be accomplished by holding the brush with the bristles upward and running a comb over the bristles. Spattering can be done with oil- or water-based paint.

Ragging and Ragrolling
These two broken color techniques involve painting a base coat and then a colored glaze over it. The surface is then distressed with a cloth or a rag. Ragrolling is when a rag is folded into a cylindrical shape and rolled across the glazed surface. Ragging is similar, but uses a piece of cloth which is crumpled up and pressed against a glazed surface repeatedly.

Written by Bronwyn Harris