How to rag paint a wall

How to rag paint a wall

Tone-on-tone rag rolled paint effect

In rag rolling, you work with a roll of cloth that produces a rhythmic linear pattern – in contrast to the random effect of the loosely bunched rag in all the other rag painting techniques.

NOTE: due to the structured nature of rag rolling, it can be hard to continue the effect around corners without breaking the continuity.

Another challenge is moving the rag evenly and vertically up or down the wall. For these reasons, this technique is recommended only for small accent walls.

Preparation

Refer to the basic ragging tutorial to learn how to prepare your surface and what tools and materials you’ll need.

The key to the distinctive look of this finish is the shape of the rag, so practice first on a board to see if you like the imprints your rag makes.

You also want to get comfortable with the actual rolling motion before you start on the walls, and figure out which direction (up or down) gives you more control of the rag.

TIP: the less contrast there is between the base coat and the glaze color, the more forgiving and graceful this finish will look.

Application

1) Saturate a 2-foot square rag in your colored glaze mix, then squeeze it thoroughly so that it doesn’t drip.

How to rag paint a wall

Fold the rag in half and then roll it lengthwise into a loose cylinder (you can also twist it slightly, for more texture).

2) Place the rag at the very top or bottom of the wall and slowly and carefully roll it vertically (up or down the surface – depending on where you start).

How to rag paint a wall

Hold the rag at the ends but try to spread your fingers along its length as you roll, so that the middle part also gets some pressure.

Focus on maintaining the shape of the rag to keep it from unrolling (which can start happening after about a foot).

3) When you reach the end of your first strip, reload and re-roll the rag and start the next one, overlapping the edges just a little bit.

How to rag paint a wall

NOTE: keep in mind that if your working strips are long, you may get somewhat of an ombre effect – darker at the start, lighter at the end.

It can actually look intentional (if you start all your strips in the same place), but it’s also another reason why this technique is not recommended for regular size walls (hard to maintain the same color saturation from top to bottom).

How to rag paint a wall

The techniques demonstrated on this page can be used to produce a faux finish that simulates leather or suede. This effect can produce the look of leather on walls, furniture, or decorative items like vases or picture frames.

To create these finishes, painting glaze is applied and while it’s still wet, some is lifted off using a rolled-up rag or wadded up plastic wrap. Faux painting techniques like these work best on small wall features such as under wainscoting or as a leather or suede inlay on furniture.

Rag Rolling Preparation

How to rag paint a wall

See this link for surface preparation, base coating, and glazing mixing instructions if you need help with those steps. To better simulate real leather, the base and glaze should be two shades of the same color with the glaze being the darker of the two.

Use cotton rags similar to bed sheets to roll several one foot squares into tubes and set them aside. Wear latex glove to keep the glaze off your skin while doing the ragging part of this process.

Base coat the project with a semi-gloss paint using a roller with a short nap to get a smooth, shiny finish. Use a base color in the same hue as the glaze but considerably lighter in shade to get the most realistic leather effect. Let the paint dry completely before proceeding.

Apply the glaze over the base paint with a brush to get a good, thick coat that almost completely hides the color underneath. Work on small spaces that can be rolled all at once with the rag before the glaze dries.

Creating a Leather Faux Finish

How to rag paint a wall

If you’re doing a small space like a table top, coat the whole thing with glaze at once and then roll the rag across it. If you’re doing a larger area, coat a manageable section of a couple feet at a time and leave a border of untouched glaze along the leading edge to aid in blending the finish into the next section. Roll starting at one corner and working out.

Roll one of the rags through the glaze all the way from one side to the other without stopping or lifting the rag. Lifting the rag in the middle of a run will create an unwanted pattern that may ruin the effect. If this happens, try to roll over the glaze again with the rag before it dries to blend the finish. Otherwise, brush it out with fresh glaze and try again. Rolling horizontally or vertically is optional. Experiment to see which creates a more realistic leather appearance.

On large spaces like walls, roll in parallel rows letting the end of the rag overlap each row slightly to blend them together. Continue until you reach the glaze border, but don’t touch it. Start a new section brushing the glaze from the border and out another couple of feet. Roll the first pass with the rag in the new section letting the end overlap the first section a bit to blend the two together. Continue with this process until you reach the end of the wall.

Avoid letting the glaze stand for more than 10 minutes before rolling it. If a delay causes it to become tacky, coat the area with the brush to soften it before applying the rolling technique again. When the rag becomes saturated, discard it and use a new one. A rag will probably cover several square feet before it will need to be replaced.

After rolling the project, let the glaze dry for at least 24 hours before handling. If your project will see a lot of traffic such as with a tabletop, use a clear varnish to protect the finish. Apply two coats for added protection.

Creating a Suede Faux Finish

How to rag paint a wall How to rag paint a wall

To create a suede look, you can use either wadded plastic wrap or rags to dab at the wet glaze. Experiment with both to find a technique that works. Rags will create a finish closely resembling suede while plastic will create a finer grained appearance like lizard skin. As with the process above, this technique works best on small spaces.

When using plastic wrap for this process, cut several strips of kitchen-type wrap about 18 inches long. Wad the plastic into tight balls and straighten it out several times to create multiple fine creases in the plastic. Place the plastic balls in a box or bucket to keep them tight until ready for use. For rags, use an old cotton t-shirt cut into one foot squares and ball them up just before using them to dab at the finish.

Brush the glaze onto the project using the same process as for the leather finish above. If you’re doing a small space, coat the whole thing at once and then apply the dabbing technique. If you’re doing a larger area, coat a manageable section of a couple feet at a time and leave a border of untouched glaze along the leading edge to aid in blending the finish into another section.

Before the glaze can dry, begin dabbing at it with the wad. Go over the glaze in the same place repeatedly until you have the finish you want. As you move across the surface, turn the wad frequently in your hand to avoid creating a regular pattern that would diminish the realistic suede effect. If you don’t like the finish you’ve created, you can brush the glaze out again before it dries and try again until you find a finish you like.

Achieving a professional look takes some prep work and know-how.

Unlike retiling your kitchen floor, painting a room is a doable task that even renovation novices can tackle in one weekend. But before you grab your paintbrush, it’s important to get informed and learn the basics. Here, Chris Richter, senior paint merchant at the Home Depot, shares his expert advice for creating a perfect paint job on the first go.

Prep the Walls

Before you open a paint can, inspect your walls for cracks, holes or stains. “First, look at the wall and see if there are repairs that need to be made,” Richter says. “Fill holes from things like pictures and peel away areas of chipping paint.” Next, lightly sand any patched areas to ensure there are no ridges left from applied spackling and use a tack cloth to clean up any dust from sanding.

“You can spot prime those patched or repaired areas but a primer on its own is generally unnecessary,” says Richter. “I would recommend priming an entire wall if the surface is in bad shape or stained.” However, a “clean, or recently painted wall” doesn’t need to be primed, the pro says, especially if you’re using a high-quality paint-and-primer-in-one, which saves you time and money.

If your wall has some marks, Richter says to use a rag and a household cleaner to wipe the area. For tough grease stains, he suggests using a TSP (trisodium phosphate) cleaner; a non-toxic cleaner like Simple Green ($12.20, amazon.com) is a good choice if you need to lightly wipe down the wall and remove any dirt or oils.

Protect your Goods

Once your wall is in good shape use painter’s tape to protect baseboards and other areas like moldings, door and window casings, light fixtures, and switch plates. “I’m a big fan of the ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape ($5.64, amazon.com), it’s great for every person to own,” says Richter.

Next, make sure that all your valuables are out of the way or protected. Move furniture out of the room, or place in a centralized location in the room, and cover with plastic or a canvas tarp. Protect the floors with a drop cloth. Once you’ve covered your bases, open up your paint can and pour it into a tray. “The ramp of the tray helps distribute paint evenly on the roller,” says Richter. “And trays can also be a good way to work faster if you have more than one person painting.” For bigger jobs he recommends using a roller screen combined with the five-gallon bucket for an even more efficient system.

Pick Your Tools

As far as paint tools, Richter is a fan of Wooster Pro ($16.89, amazon.com) brushes. He suggests looking for the label “shedless” when it comes to rollers. All and all, a painter’s tool kit should include: sandpaper, painter’s tape, drop cloths, paintbrushes like the Wooster Pro brush, paint roller, paint roller extension pole, paint tray, and the paint color of your liking. For the wall above we used Behr Blue Hydrangea and painted the trim in Behr Ambience White.

Start at the Top

If you’re painting an entire room including the ceiling, Richter recommends tackling the ceiling before the walls. “It’s really a personal preference but I like to work from top to bottom,” he says. “I start with the ceiling and work my way down.”

Master the Technique

There are two professional phrases to keep in mind while painting: “cutting in” and “wet edge.” “Cutting in is when you use a brush first to paint the top and bottom areas of your wall along the trim from left to right (or in reverse, if you’d like). Then go back in with a roller to fill the wall space between, from top to bottom” Richter explains. He also says to work in small, four-foot sections of the wall.

During this process, you want to keep a “wet edge,” meaning the “cut in” sections of paint stay wet and don’t dry before you go back in vertically with your roller (hence working in manageable four-foot sections). “If the cut in paint dries before the rest of the wall is done, you’ll see those sections through the rest of the paint,” he warns. The same technique applies to the ceiling as well. As far as the trim, Richter says to tackle that before the ceiling or the wall, and paint by using a brush and sweep with side-to-side strokes.

Let Dry and Store Supplies Like a Pro

When you’re finished painting, Richter recommends not touching the walls for at least two hours. Instead, focus your energy on preserving your brushes and any remaining paint. “Rinse your brushes and rollers with warm water and maybe a little bit of mild soap,” he says. “Most paints are water-based so they clean off easily. Keep rinsing until all the paint is gone and then it’s ready to dry and store.” For the cans of paint, just hammer the lid back on and store in a cool, dry place. “I’ve had paint last for years and years,” says Richter.

A normal interior painting job is fine for most homes, but some people like to take an extra step. Through rag painting walls, you will be able to add an extra layer of creativity to your home paint job. Rag Painting is a great way to make your room a little more “homey.”

Don’t know exactly how to rag paint a wall? No worries, that’s what we’re here for, read on!

How to rag paint a wall

STEP 1: Preparing the Room for painting

We have already made a video about how to prepare a room ; but if you’re still a little lost (or just don’t want to go to another page), follow these steps:

  • Clear all furniture and wall decorations out of the room
  • Cover the floor with plastic or a drop cloth in order to catch any paint that may (and will) spill.
  • Cover all electrical outlets/light switches with plastic or painters tape.
  • Cover all doorframes and window frames with painters tape to prevent the paint from spilling over

STEP 2: Painting the Room

How to rag paint a wall

When rag painting walls, you need a base layer of paint on the wall before you add in the stylistic paint (Rag Paint) job. Now we’ve already done a tutorial on how to paint a wall , so you’ll want to take a quick look at that. Here’s what you’ll need to do when putting a base layer down:

  • Using a Paint brush and/or paint with s roller , put down a layer of primer.
  • Leave the wall for a few hours to let the primer dry.
  • Pour a bit of the latex paint that you’ll be using into a paint tray.
  • Again using a paint brush or a roller, put on 2-3 layers of the base coat onto the wall, allowing a few hours to dry between coats.

STEP 3: Preparing and Applying the Glaze (Rag Painting)

Next up, you’ll have to prepare the secondary layer of paint. What you’ll want to do is:

  • Get a separate bucket and mix the latex paint that you used for the base and a water-based glaze.
  • When complete, apply the mixture to a rag and dab it onto the wall as required
  • This is where you get to be creative; go nuts and be creative!
  • Allow to dry for several hours

And there we go. As always, make sure to wash all of your brushes and rags immediately after you complete the job.

Do you need a quote on your rag painting project?

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Painting can be a TON of hard work. See how I managed to paint our stairway wall WITHOUT a ladder or scaffolding AND without hiring a professional painter.

How to rag paint a wall

Skip the ladder and professional painter – with the right supplies, you can paint tall walls on your own.

After moving into our home a little over two years ago, I have been slowly and steadily painting every square inch of this place. Seriously – ceilings, walls, trim. It’s all getting a fresh coat of paint.

When we moved in, every room was painted the same shade of dated beige… ugh!

Big Changes Upstairs

Over the winter, I decided to make a pretty big change in our upstairs bedrooms and hallway. We ditched the beige walls and golden oak trim for something bright, fresh, and clean: gray trim and white walls.

The Problem

After having a handyman install new bedroom doors and trim….which was, shall I say, WAY more of an ordeal than it should have been, and painting everything myself, I was exhausted. So when I looked at that tall, beige wall lumbering over our upstairs stairway, I just couldn’t bring myself to tackle it.

So, I did what any good homeowner does: I finished 98% of the project and let the final 2% sit unfinished for months on end. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right.

How to rag paint a wall

I used a roller with an extra long extending handle to paint as much of the wall, as high up as I possibly could. If you have any amount of painting to do, I highly recommending investing in a good roller.

Then I sat for an embarrassing amount of time just staring at that little bit of unpainted trim, too afraid to climb up on a ladder and too proud to hire a pro.

The Solution

I was waiting at the paint counter in Menards one day, and I spotted this pad edger gadget. Now, I’m not normally one to buy into these “as seen on TV” type of gimmicks, but I really did NOT want to climb up on that ladder.

How to rag paint a wall

I think there are different versions out there, but the one that I bought can accommodate an extension pole. Problem solved!

I headed out to the garage to grab a broom handle, walking right past that ladder I’m afraid to use. Because this gadget attached to a pole, you can paint trim from the safety of the ground.

Like I said, I had already painted as much of the wall as I possibly could with my roller. I also painted as much edging by hand as well. I suppose you could switch the order, but I honestly didn’t want to have to use this gadget any more than I possibly had to.

I stirred up my paint well and got to work.

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

How to Paint Stairs Without Scaffolding

Supplies Needed

How to rag paint a wall

Pad Edger

For this project, I shopped at Menards. They often have similar products, but different brand names. The gadget that I used was QuickSolutions, but if you shop at another home improvement store (like Home Depot, etc.) you will probably see a Shur-Line brand. That works well, too. You can also order one on Amazon if you like.

Extension Pole – something with a screw end. I just grabbed a broom handle from the garage. However, if you don’t already own a roller with an extending handle, I would highly recommend you buy one. Your arms and back will thank me on your next painting project.

Paint + Paint Stick

Other Painting Supplies: Drop Cloth, rollers, and brushes – if you are painting the whole wall.

Edging Tips:

Here are a few tips to help make edging a bit easier:

Practice Makes Perfect:

Don’t think you’re going to come right out of the gate with perfect technique here, especially on a project where mistakes are incredibly difficult to fix. Get to know exactly what angle you should hold the pole, how much pressure you need to use, and how much paint to apply to the pad.

If you have another area of trim to paint, that works. You can get comfortable with the edger before trying to maneuver it at an oddly high angle. You can even start out on a large piece of cardboard if you like.

You’ll Need More Paint Than You Think

The little edger tool has a bristled rectangular pad on it. Gently dunk just the bristles in the paint can. Hold the pad flat perpendicular to the surface of the paint and dunk just a bit.

I was surprised by how much paint I needed to apply to the pain in order to get good coverage, so you may be surprised too.

How to rag paint a wall

Before you begin painting, take a paint stick and gently scrape it over the pad. This will ensure the paint is evenly applied and there are no unnecessary pools or drips.

Watch Your Angles

Cut in carefully at about a 45-degree angle. Remember, you can always get closer to the ceiling on another stroke, but you can never recover if you go too far. So, be cautious and methodical. Take your time.

How to rag paint a wall

Beware of the Guides

There are two little rollers on one side of the edger. I think these are in place to prevent you from getting too close to the edge.

My problem: the people who painted this wall before got really close to the ceiling… In fact, they drifted on to the ceiling at some points. So, I had to flip the edger around and use the side without the roller guard.

This wasn’t a huge deal, since the ceilings are white and the walls are now white. I just really wanted that old beige paint covered up.

Who doesn’t love a good before and after?

I can’t tell you how good it feels to have a fresh coat of white paint in throughout the upstairs. The stairs before/after is pretty anticlimactic and poorly lit, but here’s what the upstairs hall looked like when we moved in vs. today:

How to rag paint a wall

What’s Next?

I really want to replace our old stairway gallery wall with something a bit more clean and simple. I’m thinking about trying my hand a making my own stained picture frames with canvas prints.

So, stay tuned for more of my DIY journey in our home.

How to rag paint a wall

Illustration: The Spruce / Theresa Chiechi

If you feel like your design has grown stale or outdated and could use a refresher, look no further than your walls. With the seemingly endless list of creative painting techniques available today, it’s easy to completely transform the look of your room without adding clutter via extra decor or encroaching on your square footage. The following ideas are all you’ll need to give any room in your home a fresh and inviting vibe, no matter your aesthetic leanings or style sensibilities.

How to rag paint a wall

Stencils

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DIY enthusiasts, this one’s for you. Wall stenciling is a simple and easy way to add sophistication and intrigue to your space without the cost of hiring a professional. All you need to do is order the stencil that strikes your fancy and spend an afternoon giving love to your walls. And if you’re stuck for ideas, the internet is overflowing with stencil inspiration, like this gorgeous bathroom from Greg Natale.

Harlequin

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The classic harlequin wall pattern will instantly add life and movement to your room design, and it can work just as well in the kitchen as it does in the primary bedroom or a nursery. Choose colors with subtle contrasts for a more sophisticated look, or opt for higher contrasts in bold hues, like this look from Linda Ahman, for a more vibrant and contemporary feel.

About This Term: Primary Bedroom

Many real estate associations, including the National Association of Home Builders, have classified the term “Master Bedroom” as discriminatory. “Primary Bedroom” is the name now widely used among the real estate community and better reflects the purpose of the room.  

Read more about our Diversity and Inclusion Pledge to make The Spruce a site where all feel welcome.

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How to rag paint a wall

Bring a more inviting look and feel to any room by using a technique known as color washing or glaze painting. Benjamin Moore’s Studio Finishes ® Latex Glaze (N405) is directly mixed with the paint color of your choice to create the solution needed to color wash walls and create a beautiful faux finish. Drawing from Tuscan roots, color washed walls are ideal for dining rooms and other areas where guests will gather, and its decorative look will exude warmth and charm anyplace in your home.

Start your color wash journey by choosing your paint color. Selecting shades from the same color strip is the best way to combine hues that complement one another. Use one of the lighter shades from the strip as your basecoat, and choose a satin or semi-gloss finish to start building the finish.

Color Washing Brushes and Supplies

One of the keys to a successful color wash, sometimes referred to as “faux painting,” is to have the right supplies. Color washing can be achieved by sponge painting or brushing the latex glaze onto walls. A paint brush will provide a more textured look, while sponges or soft rags will create a softer, more diffused appearance.

Studio Finishes is available exclusively at local paint and hardware stores authorized to sell Benjamin Moore. Start with this checklist, then visit your local store for more information, or use our store locator to find a retailer near you.

You will need:

  • 3-inch or 4-inch Benjamin Moore paint brush or soft rags/sponges
  • High-quality acrylic or latex paint, like Regal ® Select Interior or Aura ® Interior Paint, in two or more paint colors, in satin sheen for the basecoat, and eggshell sheen to mix with the glaze
  • Studio Finishes ® Latex Glaze(N405)
  • Disposable latex gloves
  • Drop cloth
  • Paint tray
  • Painter’s tape
  • Water for cleanup

Step #1: Prepare Walls for Color Washing

Surfaces must be properly prepared before you begin glaze painting walls. Clean your walls thoroughly and repair any protruding nails or other imperfections.

For best results, use Fresh Start ® 100% Acrylic Primer (N023) before applying your base color. Be sure to tape off any edges you wish to protect, such as those along ceilings, windows, and doors.

After you have prepared your walls, apply your selected base color, taking care to follow the label directions. Allow the base color ample time to dry. We suggest waiting at least 48 hours before moving on to the next step.

Step #2: Glaze Painting Your Walls

Once your base color is dry, you can select the color washing paint technique of your choice, using either a brush or rag/sponge. Begin by mixing Studio Finishes Latex Glaze with a latex or acrylic paint with an eggshell sheen to minimize glare. A good ratio to start with is four parts glaze to one part paint (adding an additional one-half to one part water will further the transparency of the glaze). The more glaze you add, the more transparent the effect. Using less glaze will allow more of the base color to show through.

Next, dip a soft cloth or sea sponge into your glaze mixture. The soft cloth will give glaze a more subtle appearance, while sponge painting walls will give a more textured look.

Apply the glaze mixture to your wall using a crosshatch motion, creating large, overlapping X-shaped stripes. Continue this wiping technique until the entire surface is covered, and feather out any harsh brush strokes by lightly sweeping over the glaze with a clean, dry brush. For a gentler finish, apply the glaze in a random wiping or circular motion, as if you were washing the wall. Be sure to let the glaze dry thoroughly.

Tip: When you color wash an entire room, glaze walls opposite from one another first. This will allow adequate time for drying and avoid smudging the wet glaze.

Step #3: Discover More Color Wash Painting Techniques

There are different wall painting techniques that will make your color washed walls stand out.

  • For different visual effects, vary your wiping motions as you apply the glaze.
  • To achieve the look of an aged patina, apply a lighter glaze over a darker glaze.
  • For a look with richer color depth, glaze walls with different paint colors: a base color, a glaze darker than your base paint color, and a third deeper glaze color.

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

To add texture and depth to the color on your walls, reach for a plastic bag

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How to rag paint a wall

How to rag paint a wall

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

You’ve heard of manipulating paint with sponges and rags. But a plastic bag? “You’d be surprised,” says decorative painter Ingrid Leess. “It works great.”

To start, put down a latex base coat with a satin sheen (it makes working with the top coat easier). Once it’s dry, mix equal parts clear acrylic glaze and latex paint at least two shades lighter or darker than the base coat. Cut in with a brush, then use a roller to apply a generous coat in an area no bigger than 4 by 4 feet so that you’ll have time to rag-roll before it dries. Press a crumpled plastic grocery sack into the wet glaze, and tumble the bag back and forth in overlapping angles.

“You want to let some background color through to give it a three-dimensional look,” says Leess. Move to the next section, overlapping the edge of the first. Check the effect before an area dries. If it isn’t right, reroll and rag it again.

Paint: Sherwin-Williams’ Lounge Green (base coat) and Benjamin Moore’s Nile Green (top coat). Glaze: Benjamin Moore’s Studio Finishes Latex Glaze 405