How to color wash walls

Updated February 21, 2017

Colour washing, or glazing walls, is one of the most popular faux finish paint techniques. The final results are translucent wall surfaces with a hint of colour. Besides walls, colour washing techniques can be applied to architecture columns, ceilings and decorative accent pieces. Remember to practice your colour washing technique before painting your wall surface. Because the technique must be preformed before the glaze dries, having a friend assist you is ideal.

Move all furniture away from the walls to give a minimum 4-foot workspace. Place painters tape on all adjoining surfaces, such as baseboards, window sills and ceiling lines to protect surfaces. Ensure the tape is solidly attached to the areas by rubbing with a plastic putty knife. Unscrew all outlet and light switch covers and remove. Fill in all nail holes with joint compound and lightly sand until the patched area is undetectable. Cover patched areas with a small amount of paint primer.

Put dust sheets or plastic painter's drops on the floor for added protection before you begin painting. Roll on the base coat latex paint in eggshell or satin sheen using vertical strokes. Any areas you cannot reach, use a paint brush to apply paint to these areas. Let the wall dry for about four to six hours.

Stir together one part glaze and three parts latex paint. Start at the top corner of the wall and roll on glaze mixture in an uneven section with jagged edges. Do not apply the glaze in solid square shapes. Roll on no more than a 4-by-4 foot area. Manipulate the glaze with a damp sea sponge. Pounce or dab the sponge into the wet glaze to manipulate the product until the technique matches the desired look.

Continue the same technique moving down the wall. Blend sections together using the sea sponge. Once you reach the bottom of the wall, start back at the ceiling line where the last section has ended. It is important to work quickly when colour washing. The sections cannot dry, or else they cannot be blended together.

Allow colour wash to dry. Glaze does not dry as quickly as latex paint and some brands even take more than 24 hours to dry. Do not allow anyone access near the project area until the glaze has dried. Remove all painter's tape and reposition furniture. Add outlets and light switch covers back into place.


Wear latex gloves to protect your skin and fingernails when painting. Open all windows when painting and colour washing to prevent fumes from accumulating in the room.


Do not go back into any colour washed areas after you have manipulated a section. Once a section has been colour washed, the glaze begins to become tacky and dry. By re-entering the work area, you may ruin the entire project. If this does occur, the entire wall often needs to be repainted the base colour and you must start the colour wash process over.

Things You'll Need

  • Painters tape
  • Plastic putty knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Joint compound
  • Light grit sandpaper
  • Paint primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Dust sheets or plastic painter's drop
  • Latex paint
  • Glaze
  • Paint roller
  • Sea sponge
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About the Author

Julie Hampton has worked as a professional freelance writer since 1999 for various newspapers and websites including "The Florida Sun" and "Pensacola News Journal." She served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and nurse for over six years and recently worked as the Community Relations Director for a health center. Hampton studied journalism and communications at the University of West Florida.