Combing and Stippling

Combing and stippling are both broken color techniques which can create very interesting effects on a room's decor. These decorative paint techniques will always be unique, as they are done by hand, creating a personal touch in a room or on a piece of furniture.

Combing produces a stylized pattern of straight lines, wavy lines, or criss-crossed lines. Any sort of comb can be used, although the most common are hair combs and rubber three-sided combs made specifically for this purpose. Stiff combs make better straight lines, while bendable rubber combs can make an excellent wavy pattern.

Oil-based paint is the best kind of paint for combing, and highly contrasting colors provide the greatest effect. A base coat is applied first, and allowed to dry completely. Glaze or another color of paint is then applied, and the comb is dragged through the top coat, along the entire length of the wall, floor, or other surface, creating the desired pattern. Combing is much easier when done with a partner, and many people also find it helpful to use a straight-edge of some sort. If combing is performed on a floor, it should be protected with several coats of polyurethane varnish.

Stippling is another broken color technique which uses a brush called a stippler. A stippler is a large, flat brush with soft bristles. This brush is used to dab at wet glaze, giving it a mottled effect, with the base coat showing through.

Both oil-based and water-based paints are appropriate for stippling. One common form of stippling involves adding a semi-transparent or transparent glass over a light colored or white base. Another is to apply oil-based paint over a base coat of eggshell paint, then perform stippling. Walls and furniture can both benefit from stippling, but be sure not to overdo it by using the techniques across all walls or on walls and furniture in the same room, as it can be a little too wearying to the eye.

home institute 1 To begin stippling, apply a base coat of paint in the ordinary manner. After the base coat dries, add a glaze of some kind — oil-based or acrylic — in thin bands, stippling each band right after it has been applied. Only the points of the bristles on the stippler should touch the painted surface, never the sides. Dab at the paint firmly, without sliding or brushing the surface. When the stippler becomes full of glaze, clean it off in the manner most appropriate for the glaze being used, and continue working.

Stippling, like combing, is more easily performed with a partner. One person can apply the bands of glaze with a traditional paintbrush, while the other can stipple the glaze immediately. However, the tasks should not be switched, because even a slight change in stippling style can be quite obvious.

Written by Bronwyn Harris

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