How to paint artwork for your walls

How to paint artwork for your walls

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The quickest way to paint interior walls is to use an airless sprayer, but the overspray it produces makes it impractical for painting a single wall. The alternative is to use a brush and roller. The brush is for cutting in the corners and around fixtures, and the roller is for painting the bulk of the wall. There’s nothing complicated about rolling a wall, but a few tips can help the job go faster.

Tape Judiciously

Taping off trim, woodwork and windows is a time-consuming task, and there’s always the chance the tape will pull paint off the surface to which it’s stuck when you remove it. You can avoid taping vertical and overhead borders if you’re prepared to cut in carefully. Although it requires a good eye and a steady hand, it isn’t that difficult to make a straight line with your paintbrush, especially if you use a high-quality brush with tapered bristles. You should tape all the baseboards, however, because paint tends to drip onto horizontal surfaces.

Prep the Walls

Your paint job will go more quickly if you properly prepare the walls. This includes making sure there are no flecks of old paint or dried joint compound to mar the finish, and it also means etching the surface so the paint adheres. Washing the wall with a solution of 1 cup trisodium phosphate or an equivalent detergent to a gallon of warm water is the most efficient way to degloss old paint while removing grease, crayon marks and other dirt. If you need to fill small holes, do it with lightweight wall spackling compound. It dries quickly and is easy to sand.

Get the Paint Ready

Instead of simply opening a can of paint and transferring the paint directly to your rolling tray, strain it first. This ensures that any lumps or pockets of paint that didn’t mix well don’t end up on the wall and require recoating. After straining, adding a paint extender helps eliminate streak marks. It lengthens the drying time so that the paint on the edges of the wall, where you’ve cut in, is still wet when you roll. If you need to prime the wall, tinting the primer the same color as the topcoat may reduce the number of topcoats you need.

Roll the Wall

When rolling a wall, you get the best results if you do it as soon after cutting in as possible. Attaching a two-foot handle onto your roller allows you reach the top and bottom of the wall easily. The job proceeds quickly if you start rolling at the bottom of the wall and continue in a straight line to the top. Rolling back down over the same area smooths out streaks.The best time to reload is when you reach the bottom, then you can paint another line that overlaps the first by about two inches

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Chris Deziel has a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.

When it comes to ensuring that your paint project is a success, there is no more important place to start than room preparation, including cleaning, sanding and priming walls before painting.

Step #1: Cleaning Walls Before Painting

As seen in our How to Prep Walls for Painting video, clean walls are key in preparing a room for painting. While there is no best way to clean walls before painting, most walls can be washed using a sponge and warm water. For surfaces that have exposure to oil or grime, like kitchen walls, wash with a solution of water and grease-cutting detergent and follow up with clean water to remove any residual cleaning agent. Finish by wiping the walls with a damp cloth.

The most important part of the process is to make sure you let everything dry thoroughly. Applying primer or paint to walls that are still damp can cause a host of issues, including blistering.

Interested in learning how to clean walls you’ve already painted? Read this.

How to paint artwork for your walls

Step #2: Removing Mildew

No matter which room you’re preparing to paint, make sure you address any mildew first. Never paint over mildew—it will grow through new paint, which will make subsequent cleaning and maintenance even more difficult.

You can clean mildew with a sponge and a solution that is three-to-four parts water to one part bleach. Apply the solution, allow it to set for a few minutes, scrub the affected surface with a soft brush, and rinse the area with clean water. Make sure you wear gloves and goggles and allow time to dry.

How to paint artwork for your walls

Step #3: Sand Surfaces Before Painting

While sanding is not required for every paint project, rough spots on walls, whether they have been previously painted or not, need to be sanded before they are painted to ensure the paint goes on smoothly. Use sandpaper or a sanding block to dull any uneven surfaces, wipe away dust with a damp cloth and let dry thoroughly.

Smoothing walls before painting is necessary for surfaces previously painted with a gloss or high-gloss paint. For previously painted water-based paint, sand with a fine-grit sandpaper. For oil-based paint, a medium-grit sandpaper (100- to 150-grit) should be used. Again, wipe away any debris and allow to dry completely.

Cracking or flaking paint on previously painted surfaces can also be an issue. Paint cracking on walls and ceilings happens due to a variety of causes, one of the most common being poor preparation of a surface prior to painting. Painting over cracked paint is a bad idea; it is important to remove any flakes from the surface via sanding or scraping before repainting.

How to paint artwork for your walls

Step #4: Priming Walls Before Painting

If paint and paint color make a home, then primer is that home’s foundation. Use a primer to get the most out of your paint, especially if your walls are porous or have surface stains that need covering up. Primers disguise imperfections, create a smooth surface for your paint to lock onto, and ensure a uniform finish no matter what you’re painting.

There is a primer for every project and substrate. Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start ® line of premium interior primers offer products that provide excellent hide on nearly any surface, even for projects with a significant color change.

How to paint artwork for your walls

Should I Paint Over Wallpaper?

Benjamin Moore does not recommend painting over wallpaper, especially if you have wallpaper with a high sheen or a heavy texture. Even the best, most premium paint will not hide wallpaper seams. We strongly recommend you hire a painting contractor to remove wallpaper, prepare walls for painting after wallpaper removal and to complete your painting project.

Have More Questions? Visit your local Benjamin Moore store or contact Customer Support.

How to paint artwork for your walls

When it comes to decorating your walls, no trend is more timeless than the gallery wall. Whether you love photographs, concert posters, vinyl record album covers, paintings, or a mix of all of the above, putting together a wall full of beautiful art can really complete a space and make it feel homier. And while it’s always nice to add completed pieces to your ever-growing art collection, buying art can be pretty expensive. That’s why learning how to paint your own gallery wall art has become such a huge trend in the DIY community.

Even if you don’t consider yourself artistically inclined, there are easy ways to create your own completely customized artwork to make your home feel more personalized. “Painting custom art for a gallery wall is a great way to add color and uniqueness to a room,” says lifestyle blogger MaCenna Lee. “I love creating my own art as it’s my stamp of uniqueness in each room of my home and I know no one else will ever have the same look.”

Painting my gallery wall in my home office kept me occupied for a weekend of quarantine life in Los Angeles, and it has become one of my new favorite hobbies. There’s something so therapeutic about being able to display work that I created on my walls, and when people are finally allowed to come visit my home, I know that the wall will be a huge point of pride. It might seem a little intimidating at first, but take it from someone who knows: Once you get started, you won’t want to stop. Here are a few tips and tricks for DIY-ing your own gallery wall art.

DIY Wall Art Tip: Cohesiveness Will Play A Big Part In How Successful Your Wall Is

The most obvious way to make your paintings cohesive is to play on similar themes, like line work, abstract blobs, or anything else. But cohesion actually goes beyond just the subject matter of each painting. “Color plays a major role in cohesiveness,” explains artist and illustrator Sabina Fenn. “Some colors are a match made in heaven, while others will change the whole mood and maybe veer it away from what you’re going for.”

She continues, “You can use websites such as Pinterest or Adobe Color to get some inspiration on color palettes that work. Once you have your color palette, making sure those colors are evenly distributed throughout the gallery will create balance and harmony.”

Lee also advises picking one paint color that’s incorporated throughout the gallery wall, whether it’s a background in one, an accent detail in another, or the frame color of another.

DIY Wall Art Tip: Acrylic Paint Is The Easiest Medium To Start With

“If you’re just getting into painting your own art, acrylic paint is a great medium to start with,” says Lee. “[There are] loads of color options at an inexpensive price. What I love most is if you don’t like how your painting is turning out, just paint over it with white acrylic and begin again.” Fenn adds that acrylic works best on a canvas, and you can choose whether you prefer a stretched canvas or a flat one.

If you want to work up to working with watercolor paints, be wary that they’re a little finicky. “Watercolor is a wild medium that does what it wants and it’s very hard to correct mistakes when they happen,” says Fenn. “With acrylic, you can paint over it very easily and you can also hide your pencil sketch much better.”

DIY Wall Art Tip: Beginners Can Try Painting A Few Easy Shapes

For me, the easiest things to paint are abstract blobs. It’s virtually impossible to mess them up because they’re already meant to look uneven and random. If you do a collection of paintings with similarly colored abstract blobs on them, they’ll automatically look cohesive and the paintings can be interpreted in so many different ways.

Lee painted smudged watercolor lines for the art in her kitchen, which is also relatively simple. Other options include splatter paint — which is so much fun — paint drips, and so much more. The sky really is the limit, so don’t feel obligated to paint something super lifelike.

DIY Wall Art Tip: Make Sure Your Art Matches The Vibe Of Your Room

It probably sounds obvious, but the colors and themes you pick for your artwork should match the room they’re going in. According to Fenn, the easiest way to do this is to take a couple colors from the existing decor in the room and incorporate those into your paintings.

You also want to pay attention to the mood of your room when you’re painting. If you want the room to feel more playful and bright, pick themes that mirror that, like sharp geometric shapes in bright contrasting colors. For moodier, more mellow rooms, something more abstract and in a neutral color palette will probably work better.

Now that you have all of the tools you need to paint your own gallery wall, get to creating! And if you need to stock up on supplies, check out some of my recommendations below.

We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

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How to paint artwork for your walls

What paint should you use for exterior walls?

If the outside of your property is looking a little tired, it’s time to give it a new lease of life. Painting your exterior walls can make a dramatic difference to your property, both in appearance, value and quality. A bright coat of paint will give the outside of your home a fresh, inviting appearance, while a good paint job can repair weather damage, and prevent future issues that may arise. Whether you’re refreshing an existing paint job, switching to a new colour, or painting your exterior walls for the first time, it’s important to have the right paint. So before you start picking out colours, you need to understand a few things about the types of paint you should use.

Masonry paint

For exterior walls you will need to use masonry paint. It comes in a variety of colours and finishes and is designed to help protect your walls from weather damage. Whether you choose a neutral colour or something a little more bold and daring, masonry paint is the right coating for the job. Acrylic masonry paint, which is water-based, is usually the best paint to use on outside walls. This paint is great for waterproofing your walls, yet simultaneously allows moisture that is already within the walls to evaporate. This prevents the formation of damp.

Textured paints

Textured paints are brilliant for outside use as they are designed to give a hardworking finish. They easily mask any imperfections in the surface of your wall. It’s pretty much a given that external walls will have bumps and lumps, holes, dents, and odd little quirks. These can be fun details you want to keep, but if you prefer a uniform finish, a textured paint is a very good idea.

Smooth paint

A smooth paint will give you a beautifully even finish as long as the wall beneath it is reasonably smooth to begin with. Smooth paint can hide small faults and minor blemishes in your wall, but it can’t cover larger faults. On the plus side, it’s very easy to apply, while textured paint takes a little more work.

Acrylic masonry paint is available in a range of colours and is used as the finishing coat on your external walls. However, there are a few other types of paint you will need to consider using before applying it, including primer, sealer and filler.

Primer, sealer and filler

Although primer is not technically paint, it is essential for your painting efforts – especially on exterior walls. A primer coat is the first coat of paint you apply, which readies the surface of the wall so that it takes the final paint as well as possible and gives you a nice, even finish. Primer can be both water and oil based, so be sure to match the type of primer used to the type of paint – if you’re using an oil-based paint, you need an oil-based primer, if it’s water-based you will need a water-based primer. You might also want to look into using masonry sealer.

Another method of preparing your walls is using a filler paint as a base coat, to ensure any gaps or holes are filled. Even if there are no visible holes in your wall, if the surface is porous, you will need to use either a primer or a filler coat before applying your top coat. A paint like Acrylic Filla is perfect for this.

For more information be sure to look at guides to painting various surfaces.

How to paint artwork for your walls

If you’ve repainted in the last few years, chances are your home has some gray walls. Mine certainly does. And if you’re feeling like it’s time to move on, you’re not alone. Inspired by the fresh, white walls in a recent Paris vacation rental, I’m ready to swap the many gray walls in my house for clean, classic white — and a quick scroll through Pinterest or Instagram shows that a lot of us are saying goodbye to gray.

But the number and variety of white paints available is overwhelming. To find out where to start, I turned to interior designer and assistant professor of interior design at the University of Louisville Laura McGarity. Currently teaching a class on color theory, she’s studied color for some 20 years (and consulted with me when I renovated my kitchen).

When everything went gray

And to understand where we’re going, we first looked at where we’ve been, and just why gray took over all our homes. McGarity points to the economy. “When September 11 and the stock market crash in 2008 happened there was an onslaught of gray,” she said. “Consumers, they don’t feel hopeful so they were more drawn to gray and if you look back the same thing happened in the Great Depression. Anytime the economy takes a downturn, color trends change.”

But it wasn’t all just cocooning. It’s super versatile. Gray is “almost like a chameleon,” said McGarity. “You can make it do a lot of things and people liked that.” Gray can go warm or cool, and it fit with the move in interiors and design to a more gender neutral, slightly more masculine look, she said. It also let people experiment. Before I painted my kitchen walls black, I painted other rooms increasingly darker shades of gray.

Like any trend though, gray may have finally played out. “Right now people are moving away from gray, the cool gray especially,” McGarity said. “I don’t think it will ever go away but it’s hit its peak.” And once a darling of realtors, word in design circles is that realtors are turning away from it.

Gray has left the building

Where do we go from here? We’re definitely using a lot more color, said McGarity, as people “want to feel happy, they want to feel warm again.” But crisp, clean white fits our current lifestyle, she said. And we can thank … IKEA?

Think about it. In past generations, people bought furniture in their 20s when they got married, and that’s what they kept for 40 years, said McGarity. Now we have access to design-forward furnishings and accessories that are financially plausible to replace every few years.

“We live in an economy and society where we can have anything we want,” she said. “Now we can have the bright red sofa or the green chair. If you have a blue velvet couch for five years then you can change it.”

Not that this is necessarily a good thing, she added. “I’m not saying I agree. I don’t like that we have a throwaway society. But it’s influenced how we live.”


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And it’s influenced how we paint. The fact is “many of those low price furnishings look better with a white backdrop because it’s clean,” she said. Trendy accessories and the omni-present houseplants pop more against white, and the interior furnishings become the star.

It also works without all the accessories. McGarity points to the movement toward Marie Kondo and simplicity. “When you get rid of things and don’t have stuff everywhere, the white is serene. White . feels like simplicity and clean.”


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50 shades of white

If this is your first leap to white, how do you know if it’s for you, and which white is for you?

A good test to see if you can live surrounded by white walls, McGarity said, is to head to a museum or gallery. They “go one of two ways,” she said. “It’s white walls or the most saturated color you can imagine.” Spend some time in those with a lot of white spaces, she said. While you’re there, consider how it makes you feel. “Comforted and at ease, or anxious like it’s a surgical suite?” she said. Most people either really enjoy the white spaces or think it’s too sterile.

If you fall into the love it camp, now the fun begins. What’s the right shade of white for you and your space? I loved the Farrow & Ball Pointing white in that Paris apartment, but does that mean it will work in my house?

There are several considerations, McGarity said. When people don’t like the white paint in their space most often it’s because it has the wrong undertone. Because of course white is almost never pure white. While undertones are subtle, they have a big impact.

The biggest trick is to assess what other colors you have in the space, McGarity said. So head to a big box store and find the paint swatch with, say, the blue from your sofa. Now go all the way up the swatch to the lightest shade with those undertones to find a complementary white.

Without a color in mind, you can use those cards as clues. “Think of paint decks as sliding scales,” she said. When you’re looking at a white, go all the way down to the most saturated color. Even a neutral has undertones, 100 percent and that’s where most people go wrong. Fun fact: McGarity said the biggest mistake people make is getting a white that has too much pink in it.


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Let the light shine in

Think about your light source, too, McGarity said. And the direction it’s coming from isn’t necessarily as important as how much light you have coming in. “White is obviously very reflective so the more windows you have the more it will reflect and brighten the space,” she said. So if you have a ton of natural light, “get a white with a little bit of color, not a pure white because it’s going to be so bright.”

And if your space isn’t exactly flooded with natural light? That could actually be part of why we see so many white spaces in all those photos of beautiful urban apartments filling our feeds. “With all the people who live in metropolitan areas who don’t have [as much natural] light the whites work well because they’re reflecting light.],” she explained.

Another thing McGarity cautions when choosing a white is to consider any trim in the room. If you have white semi-gloss baseboards and trim around doors and windows, you want to be careful not to get too close to that color. When it comes to trim color, if you aren’t matching the colors exactly with the walls, “make it enough different that it looks intentional,” she said. “You want to avoid looking like you tried to match and miss.”

And don’t forget about adjacent rooms that are visible from the space you’ll paint white. The number one consideration is whether that color is warm or cool, McGarity said. Whichever it is, go with the same for your white, she said. And the more intense the color, the more complex your white should be (colors away from the very top of the swatch).

No matter how many interior designers create revolutionary trends in home decor, one trend will always remain timeles: the gallery wall. Gallery walls are an easy way to put together different pieces of art to create a statement wall, whether it’s paintings, photographs, vinyl album covers, posters, or even a mix of all of them. But art is expensive—especially if you want something custom-made for your space—so DIYers everywhere are embracing a new take on the trend: painting their own gallery wall.

I know, I know. Painting your own art sounds way too intimidating, particularly for people who don’t consider themselves artistically inclined. But painting your own cohesive gallery wall actually isn’t as hard as you might think. Sure, you probably won’t be drawing up the Mona Lisa anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t create something beautiful and special for your home. And because social distancing and safer-at-home orders are still in place all over the country, you might have a little extra time to kill (instead of binging yet another show on Netflix).

Read on to learn more tips and tricks for painting your own gallery wall art.

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Look for inspiration

Find inspiration artwork that gets your creative juices flowing. Scroll through shops on Etsy or artists’ Instagrams so you can figure out what vibe you’re going for. Depending on what you want the room to feel and look like, you might gravitate towards sharp lines and rigid geometric shapes, or you might prefer abstract blobs or scenes of nature.

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Get started with the basics

“For those who are picking up a paint brush for the first time, Pinterest has DIY brush stroke tutorials to help with technique,” says Larkin Brown, user researcher and in-house stylist at Pinterest. “Whether you are using acrylics or watercolor, these Pinterest tutorials can help determine the best medium for the look you’re trying to go for.”

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Cohesion is key

For anyone who’s ever watched an episode of Project Runway, you’ve probably heard Tim Gunn say, “Cohesion, cohesion, cohesion!” Though you’re not sewing a collection of couture clothing, the same principle applies to your gallery wall. Cohesion of your gallery wall can come in many forms. For the most part, you’ll want to stick to the same color palette throughout the paintings so that they all match. There should be a commonality in the themes of each painting, whether that’s abstract blobs, haphazard brush strokes, or anything else you choose. And finally, you’ll also need to find cohesion in the paintings’ presentation.

“Try and either match the type of frame you use, or match the type of mat you use in wildly different frames. This brings any eclectic look together,” says artist Kyra Kendall. “If you’re handy, you can precisely measure out the size of mat you need for your frames and get mats cut professionally to put in your frames you already have. It saves you money but will make your wall look professional.” (For painting novices, the mat is the border around the painting that separates it from the frame. This applies more to watercolor paintings that are on paper and need to be framed, rather than acrylic paintings that typically go on stretched canvases, which don’t have to be framed.)

Brown adds that even the placement of each painting really has an effect on the wall and overall room, noting Pinterest’s “gallery wall placement” search page, as well as the addition of other wall decor elements to play off of the actual paintings. “We are seeing a specific rise in searches for creative art ideas like these more minimalist ‘triangle wall paint’ with 12 times more searches, and ‘accent wall dots’ with over 14 times more searches,” she says.

How to paint artwork for your walls

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The artwork in your home is one of the defining characteristics of your design style, and you want it to be visible against your walls. Take this idea too far, though, and you could end up with clashing colors or art that looks garishly bright. The basic principles of color design suggest constructing a palette using either analogous colors, which are are next to each other on the color wheel, or complementary colors, which are opposite each other on the color wheel. Apply these principles to create a wall that is neither too boring nor too extreme.

Painting Walls

Decide whether you want a color scheme that feels more peaceful or more dramatic. If you want a relaxing, more formal-looking wall, opt for analogous colors. If you want your artwork to pop against the wall color, choose complementary colors.

Identify the most prominent color in the piece of art. This could be the brightest, most central color, or it could be the background color if the background is expansive. Locate the color on a color wheel.

Select a neighboring color to create an analogous palette or an opposing color for a complementary palette. For example, if the dominant color in the art is bright red, analogous colors would include shades of orange or red-brown, and complementary colors would include shades of green.

Paint the wall on which you plan to hang the art in the color you’ve chosen. Use a contrasting shade to help make the art stand out. For example, if the most prominent color in the art is bright red and you chose green as a complementary color, paint the wall in deep moss green or pale gray-green to balance the brightness of the art.

Choosing Art

Decide whether you want an analogous color scheme or a complementary one. Identify the color of the wall. If it looks white, examine it closely to determine whether it has an undertone. For example, a wall that looks white might actually be tinted with a very pale shade of yellow, pink or blue.

Locate the basic color of the wall on a color wheel. Select a neighboring color or two to create an analogous palette. Select an opposing color or two for a complementary palette.

Find art that fits the color palette you’ve devised. It’s not necessary for every single color in the piece to fit the palette, only the most prominent one or two. Ideally, the other, less prominent colors or the background color should also coordinate with the wall color, meaning they should all be analogous, complementary or from the same color family as the walls.

How to paint artwork for your walls

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Things You Will Need

Latex masonry paint

Other paints (optional)

Note that for detailed parts of your mural, you can use other paint, such as oil paints, but you will likely need to touch up these portions in the future because they are more easily damaged by weather conditions and fissures.

A mural adds depth, creativity and inspiration to a blank wall. A mural is any artwork painted directly onto a wall, ceiling or other large, hard surface. Stucco walls make an interesting mural surface choice because of the usually unfinished texture of the wall. Incorporating the roughness into your mural, such as in the surf in a beach scene, will draw intrigued looks from passers-by or guests in your home. Whether you choose to paint a rural landscape, a city scene, a detailed portrait or a fantasy world, knowing how to prepare the stucco wall and preserve your mural is paramount.

Clean the stucco surface with a power washer to remove all dust, dirt and oil. Fit a wide spray tip on the power washing hose. Use minimal pressure, about 1,200 to 1,500 psi, because stucco is considered a soft coating. Spray the wall until you do not see any dirt.

Remove loose paint from previously painted stucco. Use a putty knife and wire brush. Lift the loose paint with the knife. Brush away loose particles. Let the surface dry completely.

Paint on an acrylic masonry primer. Apply two coats to ensure a smooth surface for your mural.

Choose a paint type. For the safest paint, select a masonry type, such as latex paint, that advertises its “breathing” qualities. Or, if you prefer, use oil or water-based types. Choose types of paint that allow internal moisture to escape but that will not let rain and humidity affect your mural. Masonry paints, such as latex paints, tend to limit the amount of dirt and mildew growth on the walls.

Select your brushes. Depending on the type of mural you want to paint— extremely detailed or light and unstructured — choose brushes that give you flexibility and a variety of brush-stroke styles. For large swaths of image, such as sky, use a lamb’s-wool roller. Use a 1- or 1 1/4-inch roller thickness for smoother stucco textures and 1 1/2 inch for rougher, unfinished textures. Reach higher areas of the mural by extending the roller brush pole.

Apply the paint. For the first coat of your mural, roll on a continuous film of paint. Avoid leaving any small holes or bubbles in the paint. As you progress with the mural, use smaller brush strokes and get into detail.