Painting Stripes

Monday, June 11, 2012

As promised, here's a how-to on painting vertical stripes on your walls.  Painted stripes are super trendy right now, but did you know they have been used for centuries to jazz up walls?  The French, for example, used stripes to give their walls interest in the centuries before wallpaper became affordable enough for anyone but the very rich to use.

My how-to is pretty detailed, with lots of words and not a lot of pictures.  I tried to compensate with the photos above to inspire you.  I hope it worked.

1.  Choose your paint colors.
I wanted a subtle effect, so I used Sherwin Williams 'Wisteria' in flat and high gloss.  The room is definitely striped, but by going tone-on-tone, I avoided an overly busy effect.  If you want something more dramatic, black and white stripes are very striking, as are other high contrast combinations.

2.  Do your prep work.
My woodwork needed to be repainted to match the rest of the house (Sherwin Williams 'Dover White', duh), so we spent the first weekend painting the baseboard, crown moulding, and shelves.  Since we used oil based paint, we let it cure for a full week.  This was probably overkill, but painting woodwork is a pain and you don't want to mess it up and have to redo it (or in my case, bribe your mother into redoing it).

3.  Tape off your woodwork.  
I use plain old blue painter tape, and it has never failed me.

4.  Paint your base coat.  
Your base coat should be the lighter of your two colors.  You may need two coats of your base coat.  Check the paint can for dry times; mine was an hour to the touch, 2 hours to recoat.  I put two coats of the base on all the walls, and once I had my second coat up, I let it dry for a couple of days.  By letting it fully dry, you don't have to worry about any tape (see the next step) pulling up the paint.  I (and the rest of the internet) recommend a 48 hour minimum drying time.

5.  Tape off your stripes.  
This is the absolute most time consuming, most annoying part of the process, but also the absolute most important.  I would not suggest starting this process if you are feeling homicidal, suicidal, or really, any word ending in "cidal."

A quick search on Google will tell you your stripes need to be between 4 inches and 12 inches.  Any narrower and it's too busy, any wider and you lose the cool striping effect.  My bathroom is 7' 8" x 5' and my stripes were 6 inches each.  There's a nifty formula online for calculating exactly how many stripes of how many inches you should have in order for everything to go easily and not end up with two stripes of the same sheen touching each other.  Unfortunately, according to this formula, my stripes would have had to have been like 9" each, which was much wider than I wanted to go.  So I just chose 6 inch stripes and got lucky.  I only had to cheat the last stripe by less than an inch, and I challenge any future visitor to notice.  You, however, might not be so lucky, so give the formula a shot.

Anyway, back to the incredibly annoying taping process.  What you'll do is start in the least conspicuous corner of your room.  I chose the corner behind the door (you look straight at it when you're on the toilet, but when walking by the bathroom, you can't see it).  Slowly but surely start putting your tape up.  You can make tiny marks on the wall in pencil at the top, in the middle and on the bottom to help you keep an eye on where the tape should go to be straight.  Put the right edge of the tape along your lines (so, if you're doing 6 inch stripes, you'll actually only see 5 inches of your base coat, assuming you're using 1 inch painter's tape).  Then, take a step back and look at it.  Hard.  If any part looks off, take your tape measure and double check the distance from the wall, making adjustments as necessary.  Since you'll be measuring from this tape, any deviations will track throughout your room.  If you look at the photo below, you'll see where my stripes got off as we moved from the wall to the shelves and how we had to go back and fix them.

Once you're satisfied with the first tape, measure the width of your stripe from the right edge of the tape and repeat the process, this time putting the left side of your tape alongside your marks.  It took us around 5 hours to fully tape the room off, and by the time we were finished taping, we were exhausted.  Therefore, I suggest doing this the day or night before you actually want to paint so you'll have time to recover.

As you work your way around the room, it will look like you have two sizes of stripes.  This is correct.  Think about it.  The narrow stripes will be your light color and what you're doing is protecting them from when you paint over with your darker color.  When you peel the tape up, you'll gain a whole other inch of lighter color and the stripes will be even.  To remind yourself not to paint the "narrow" stripes, put a little bit of painter's tape on each one.

5.  Paint another coat of your base coat on the "wide" stripes.  
I used a 6 inch mini foam roller.  You don't want to get a roller wider than your stripes, or you'll have issues not getting your paint over the tape and onto the other stripe.

One of the biggest problems with painting stripes on a wall is paint seeping under your tape, resulting in wobbly, unattractive stripes.  By painting over the tape edges of your "wide" stripes, you're effectively sealing the tape.  Any seepage under the tape will be fine, because it will be the same color as the stripe it seeps onto.  Let this dry for however long the recoat time is on the can (mine was, as I mentioned above, 2 hours).

6.  Paint your darker color.  
On the "wide" stripes that you just painted in the third coat of base, take your roller and roll on your darker color.  Here's where you'll really start to see the striping effect.  This was probably the most entertaining part.  Be sure to immediately wipe up any little smudges of your darker color that you might accidentally get on your lighter color.  The higher the contrast, the more noticeable this will be.  With mine, it would just result in a little shiny spot, but if you did black and white, it would be super obvious.

7. Remove your tape.
While the darker color is still wet (maybe give it ten minutes or so but not the full hour), begin to remove your tape, being careful not to get in your darker color.  You will be amazed at how straight your lines are and how fantastic it looks.  I mean, I was, at least.

8. Allow to dry and enjoy!
Let your paint dry for a full evening before rehanging any pictures to ensure complete dryness.  Then, congratulate yourself on a striping job well done.

[ignore the gaping holes in my walls, please. the electrician is coming on thursday, and he needs access to the wiring to install my new scones.]

1 comment:

  1. I saw on Twitter where you were doing this - it sounds like a lot of work! It looks great though. I love that they're kind of subtle, and I love the purple! You are so awesome with all your home improvements!


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