Colorwashing is one of many broken color techniques that can enhance an interior wall or surface. This technique can create an attractive patchy effect that softens the look of the walls.
The technique of colorwashing involves applying a coat of thinned, often translucent glaze, over a base color. Three different types of paint can be used for colorwashing. Oil-based paint gives depth to the color but takes a long time to dry, water-based paints dry quickly but appear flatter, and distemper can be made at home with casein powder.
To prime the wall for colorwashing, two coats of the base color of paint should be applied over any undercoat that may be needed. No matter which type of paint is being used, the base coat should be allowed to dry for at least 24 hours before beginning the colorwashing. The glaze and base coat color combinations should be chosen carefully. You can always try the combination on a small area before you commit to the entire wall or room. Be sure to stay away from using too many colors, as the variety can be overwhelming.
When preparing to apply the colorwash glaze, the paint must be thinned. Oil-based paints can be thinned with equal parts of paint and paint thinner for a extremely translucent finish or with less paint thinner, depending upon preferences. Water-based glaze can be made by mixing one part paint to up to four parts water, depending upon the desired effect.
Colorwashing can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Glaze can be brushed on and/or wiped off one coat at a time, or additional techniques such as dragging, combing, or stippling can be used. Glaze does not have to be painted on evenly or brushed off evenly. Instead, colorwashing lets the painter be creative. However, trying a test section of wall is recommended so that you are not unhappy with your results.
In order to end up with a colorwash that you like, try to set aside enough time to finish an entire wall so that new glaze does not have to be mixed, as it may be difficult to achieve the exact effect as before. Experiment beforehand with different tools: a dry brush will create a feathery effect while a rag will create a soft, welcoming effect. For best results, work in random sections so that the finished wall looks more splotchy and less even.
Paint colors should be considered carefully before colorwashing. The base coat color should be brighter than the glaze, to make sure that it will show through. Similar colors should be used, such as different shades of blues or a yellow-green and a yellow together. Another popular technique is to use a pastel color with white — either with the white as a base coat or a glaze. White as a glaze produces a cloudy effect and white as a base coat causes the color on top to stand out.
Written by Bronwyn Harris