How To Paint a Room With a Feature Wall

Painting a room to look its best takes a bit of patience and the right techniques. I'll provide the techniques, you provide the patience

Watch the video for the main points, read below to get more...

Don't think you're in the right place? This is Step 2 in a 2 part course covering painting. Go back to the first step if you need to apply mist coat on bare plaster.

This post covers painting the basecoat & the final, coloured coats of paint on walls, and takes you through the techniques to achieve really good results.

I'm confident you'll get a lot of benefit from everything on this page. However, if you're in a hurry, you can jump straight to...

INTRODUCTION

What's this about then Sam?

I’ve already covered painting onto fresh plaster, so it’s not about that. It is about the next step though – painting on top of the mist coat, right through to the finishing touches. I’ll take you through the process of painting on the base coat and the proceeding coloured coats, including painting the inner and outer corners. There’s not a huge amount to it, but worthy of a blog post.

What Colours Did You Use?

My room is a square 3.6m x 3.6m shape. Three walls were painted in light grey, with one “feature wall” in dark grey. I know this sounds a bit… er… grey, but that feature wall is to be a “shelf wall”, made from some very nice Sapele hardwood. The idea with the grey is that it makes the shelves stand out, so that they become a bit more of a feature.

What Paint Colours Would You Recommend?

I’ll be honest, I’m no interior designer, and I cannot recommend any particular colours or styles for your own home – every house and the people who live in it are different. That said, I know there are some basic “rules of thumb” to follow when choosing colours and styles, but that’s a separate blog post to be fair, which I will cover in time.

Should I Do This Myself?

Yeah, definitely. Just follow my steps and you'll be alright. As long as you're patient and take your time, you'll be OK.

TOOLS FOR THE JOB

What tools will I need?

No spray gun this time folks, just some good old painters tools:

  • Painters brush – goes without saying really, you won’t get far without one, just a 1-2 inch wide brush will do the trick
  • Paint roller – I used a smooth surface roller, just a short pile. It’ll need a handle too
  • Roller tray – make sure it’s wide enough for your roller
  • Masking tape – to protect the bits that you don’t want to paint, such as architrave and your kids...... Although I'd just keep them out the room, covering them in masking tape might land you in jail
  • Dust sheets – to protect the floor, preferably plastic if you’re the messy kind.

Materials:

  • Coloured Paint – for the finishing touch. Without it, you’re pretty stuffed!
  • Base coat paint – I used Polycell 3 in 1 white Basecoat. Only because I had a load knocking about but it’s not the cheapest. Just a bog standard white matt emulsion will do the trick, no frills stuff.

PREPARATION BEFORE PAINTING

As mentioned in my previous post about applying the mist coat, it’s good to check the walls for any lumps and bumps before putting on those final coats. By doing this now, it’s far easier to get a final finish that blends with the adjacent wall. If you do find any lumps, sand ‘em out and put on a mist coat before continuing. If you find any depressions, there’s a little bit more work involved I’m afraid.

So, here’s a depression I found in my paint:

picture of painted wall with indent in it

Apply a 1 part PVA to 3 part water mix to the depression, using a painters brush. Make sure you keep an eye on it whilst it dries because it could collect on the bottom of the depression and run down the wall, leaving another problem to get sorted. Don’t apply it too thick, nice and thin.

Let that PVA go tacky (slightly dry but still sticky), completely dry. The reason for the PVA is because I fill the depressions with Thistle Multifinish plaster mix, which seems to struggle to stick properly to the paint without it. Once tacky, use a scraper or trowel, or even an old credit card, to smear the plaster into the depression, squeeze it in ensuring it’s completely filled. Allow to completely dry.

If you don’t have any plaster, Polly filler will do. However, I find that plaster is easier to work with, especially when it comes to sanding down.

Leave for a day or two until completely dry, then sand it off with a 120 (or greater) grit sandpaper, the fine stuff. Don’t press too hard because it’s easy to sand it back down to the paint, just light strokes.

Remove the dust with a painters brush, or vacuum cleaner with a brush nozzle, then apply a mist coat. Just one coat will do here, it’s probably wafer thin plaster so the mist coat will easily seep into the plaster to full depth. Do this using a paint brush.

Once done, leave any mist coat to dry completely, usually overnight, and you’re good to go onto painting the walls

CHOOSING THE PAINT

Choosing the right paint depends on a few factors, such as the room’s use, the finish you want to achieve, what it is your painting (walls, skirting or architrave) and whether you have children with grubby hands. I’m not going to cover skirting and architrave in this post by the way, but they serve as good examples for the points I raise below.

I’m not an expert on paint types and certainly don’t have enough experience with all of them - there are loads out there. If you do want to read more, there is a really good website that is packed full of info. Here’s the link (opens in a new tab).

Briefly, my personal preference is usually to go for a matt emulsion, I find that the velvety finish produces a warmer, cosier feel. Because this stuff doesn’t reflect a lot of light, it helps to hide any imperfections too, so is ideal on old walls. An alternative to Matt emulsion is “flat matt emulsion”, which reflects even less light and so hides imperfection even more.

If a matt finish is not your thing, you can step up the sheen (shine), in the following order and carrying on from matt:

  • Eggshell finish is slightly shinier than matt and, not surprisingly looks like eggshell. It’s common in older buildings as it gives a “heritage” look. It seems to be more and more popular these days, especially with windows and doors, it’s also very commonly used with furniture.
  • Satin & silk finishes are known as mid-sheen finishes. Half way between matt and gloss, these reflect some light and are washable, so adds some practicality there, especially if you have kids. However, it will show up bumpy walls a bit, so there’s a balance to be struck. A silk finish is usually reserved for walls and satin for woodwork, such as skirting and architrave.
  • Very common is gloss, which is shiny and therefore reflects a lot of light. This will show up imperfections much more than matt, so the surface has to be smooth as a baby’s bottom. Gloss is usually reserved for woodwork, such as architrave and skirting, or even shelves.

PAINTING OVER THE MIST COAT

So the mist coat will be patchy, definitely not a consistent white colour. This is normal, as the mist coat is designed to provide a suitable foundation for the proceeding layers and not a consistent colour. With this in mind, you’ll need to even out the colour a little. You can go straight to painting the mist coat with the final colour of your choice, there’s no need for any intermediate type of paint/colour. However, I find that I would need a few coats of the final paint to make sure it evens out nicely. Obviously, this all depends on the brand of paint you buy, some are better than others when it comes to coverage.

If your final paint is expensive (I’ve head of some costing upwards of £70 for 10 litres), then it makes sense to apply a further coat of un-watered white paint on the mist coat. This will ensure the finish is consistent and will reduce the number of final coats required. To do this, use that bog standard matt emulsion you used for the mist coat, just don’t water it down, put it on neat.

I’m taking you through the steps I used when painting my Dining room by the way, which has one wall as a “feature wall”. A feature wall is one that is meant to contrast with the other walls. It can either stand out or make the other walls stand out. Basically, the feature wall is different from the others.  Sometimes painted differently, sometimes wall papered.

For my Dining room, I painted three walls a light grey, and the feature wall a dark grey. Sounds pretty dull right? Well, there was a reason for this. The feature wall doubles up as a shelf wall and full length desk, made from beautiful Sapele hardwood, I wanted these to stand out and be the feature of the room, not the walls. Here’s a picture (the desk is still being built as I write this by the way)

the feature wal with the shelfs up. Yu can see the wall ha been painted dark grey, which makes the shelves stand out

So, back to painting. I’ll assume you’re going to paint a white, un-watered coat of matt emulsion on before the coloured paint. If not, follow these steps anyway because the same principles apply for the coloured paint.

I tend to paint the corners first, and I’ll explain why. Start off with the corners and around things like the architrave and window sills. Do this using a painters brush because a roller won’t be able to get right into the corners. Why do this first I hear you ask? Because the roller creates the stippled texture you want for your walls and by using the roller over the brushed areas (i.e. last), ensures you don’t end up with brush marks on the final coat.

Vertical corner of two walls with the corner having been brushed with paint

This is a real close up and you can just make out where the roller couldn’t quite reach the corners. In all honesty, no one has noticed and prior to taking this photo, neither had I. You have to get up really close to spot this.

You don’t have to wait overnight for the corners to dry before going ahead and painting the rest of the wall with a roller. I’ve always found the corners dry quick enough so that rolling the paint on can commence straight away.

When painting the corners, keep the paint thin. In other words, spread it out as far as it’ll go. The reason for this is to avoid paint brush marks as much as possible. Yes, it’ll take a few coats with the brush, but we’re going for quality here, no short cuts in this blog!

the same vertical corner of two walls but the paint is wet
With the shot of the paint whilst it's still wet, you can see how the paint has been applied thinly so that the stippled texture shows through - no brush marks

Do the same around features such as:

  • window sills
  • skirting
  • architrave
  • windows
  • around plug sockets and light switches

Whilst you’re at it with the brush, I’ll also advise that you paint over the corner angle beading so that they get a good coverage. With angle bead, I find that a roller struggles to get a good coat to completely cover the metal.

Once you’ve done this, it’s time to get out the roller. I mentioned in the tools section at the beginning of this post that I used a short pile roller. This gave great results, a lovely consistent stipple finish, here we go:

picture of wall face showing a lovely stippled finish

Fill the roller tray with paint. Well, not completely full, just the sump in the lower half. Drag some paint over the raised flat part with the roller and roll until you get a consistent coverage on the roller. Not too much and not too little, which requires a bit of experimentation but you’ll get the hang of it quick enough.

picture of roller tray with paint in the sump and a roller within it

Using long, slow sweeps, begin rolling onto the wall. You’ll want to watch the video for this bit, after all, a picture is worth a thousand words so a video is worth…. Well, a bloody lot of words and I haven’t got that much time to type, I have got a house to do up you know! The video is at the top of this page in case you missed it.

Take your time at first, there really is no rush. If this is your first time, that’s great, so start somewhere easy, in the middle of the wall would be good. I found that the perfect amount of paint on a roller would cover the equivalent of a room height by one rollers width, roughly speaking.

Lightly press the roller the first time, I mean really lightly. The first roll isn’t about getting good coverage, it’s about spreading the bulk of the paint out evenly so that when you go over it the next few times, you don’t end up with more paint at the start and less at the end. Again, watch the video.

Then, with the following rolls, spread that first roll out by going over it again and again until you’re happy. Nice and slow here guys, take your time.

With the edges of the paint you’ve just rolled on, these want to be spread out so that they blend with the next round of rolling, much the same method as I described when applying the mist coat. I've got a good picture for this, it does show the grey paint but it still serves to reinforce the point:

wall with white basecoat on and a roller applying the coloured grey coat

See how the edges of the paint I just rolled on have little paint? This is to ensure the next round of rolling blends with the previous one.

Repeat all this for all the walls. Remember, we’re still applying a white emulsion throughout here, before the coloured coat.

I found that one coat of neat emulsion did the trick. Leave this to dry overnight before applying the coloured coats. If you don’t, then there may be some wet white paint in parts that will only serve to mix with the coloured paint. If you’re coloured paint is red, then this’ll produce a lovely pink colour, nice!

PAINTING OVER THE BASE COAT

Ok, so you’ve had a good night’s sleep and you’re impatient to get that colour on! Have a coffee, drop the kids off at school and get cracking.

There’s some repetition here:

  • paint those corners first, around features and over the corner angle beading.
  • Then roll the walls.

However, we’ve got two different colours of paint, either side of the corners next to the feature wall, so we need to take some extra steps here.

Typically, one colour will be much darker than the other. In my case the feature wall is darker, yours may be lighter. With this in mind, it makes sense to get the lighter wall painted first, because the darker paint will completely cover the lighter paint. That doesn’t make a great deal of sense so let me put it another way. If we just stick to painting the lighter wall first, then it doesn’t matter if we overrun the corner with the darker wall, because when it comes to painting the darker wall, we’ll cover the lighter paint. (if this still doesn’t make sense please get in touch, I am trying my best)

picture showing feature wall with edges still to be done

The photo above shows how I’d painted my light colour over the corner first, overrunning it slightly onto the feature wall. Only after I’d painted all the lighter coats did I then apply the darker coat right up to the corner, like so:

close up of paint brush painting on the darker coat along a wall, right up to a corner

You’ll notice on the above photo’s that I’d rolled on the dark colour on the feature wall prior to painting right up to its corners. This was for one main reason – it saved time. There’s no point in waiting until the light coats have been done before addressing the darker coats, you can do them simultaneously. Well, not exactly at the same time because that would be logistically impossible on your own, but you get my meaning.

Helpful Tip

Temporarily store your roller, brush & roller tray in a carrier bag and tape it up. It won’t be completely airtight but you will be able to leave that for 48 hours or so without the paint drying. There’s no need to wash the tools between coats here, rollers take ages to clean!

So, paint the light and dark colours two, maybe three times, whatever it takes until you get a consistent finish. Then go onto the corners. For this, you absolutely need to take your time, you’ll literally be going at snail’s pace.

Use a good quality soft painting brush, about 1 ½ inches wide and get minimal paint on it. Bring your brush to the wall, about half an inch from the corner and angle the bristles diagonally. Lightly press it onto the wall at first and begin your stroke. Then, as you’re making your stroke, gradually press harder until after an inch or so, the paint brush bristles are bent, pointing backwards away from the direction of your stroke. Do this whilst simultaneously bringing the brush into the corner, so that the ends of the bristles touch the corner but don’t go onto the lighter wall. See how the bristles are bent on that last picture above? Take a quick look, you’ll see what I mean.

You’ll need to blend this paint with the remaining wall, so keep the coats thin, which will also help to avoid brush marks.

Depending on the colour difference between the two walls, you may need anything between one and three coats of the darker colour to mask the lighter colour. I only needed to do mine twice, because the darker colour was just a darker shade of grey than the lighter colour…. This reminds me about a book, its name escapes me though…. Anyway, really take your time and concentrate on getting a straight line. The more care you put into this, the better the line between the coats will be.

When the corners are sorted, get the roller out and roll on the darker colour as close to the corner as possible to ensure it's all got that stippled finish.

This method of painting a corner also applies along the join with the ceiling and walls, if you are not installing coving that is. You’ll notice on my video that I left about 2 inches at the top of my wall unpainted. That’s because that’ll be covered in coving, when I get round to it.

REMOVING THE MASKING TAPE AND TIDYING THE EDGES

I’ve not covered putting masking tape over the things that don’t want a coat of paint, I covered that in my previous blog, the one about painting on mist coat. Hopefully, you left the masking tape in place after the mist coat, no point in doing this twice! Now though, it’s time to remove the masking tape.

Gently peel it away, pulling the masking tape back in on itself. Be warned, the paint dries much slower on masking tape compared to the wall, so it may still be wet and could make a mess of your new paintwork. Again, take your time, being careful not to get paint on the walls or the thing that you were protecting in the first place.

There will inevitably be some gaps to the edges of the paint when removing the masking tape, maybe some damage, like this:

picture showing inside corner of two walls with the edge having been damaged from removing the masking tape, showing bare plaster underneath

That’s fine and totally fixable, no worries! Using my method of painting corners, do this for these edges, just remember that mist coat.

Helpful Tip

Even when you think you’ve finished the painting. Keep the roller, roller tray & paint brush in a taped up bag for a couple of days before washing. There will likely be some bits you’ve missed and this makes it quick and easy to whip them out and sort it.

And finally, stand back and admire your hard work, this is the reason I love DIY. Make yourself a well earned cuppa and send me a photo, I genuinely want to see how you did.

This is Step 2 of my course on painting walls and completes the course for now, until I do another room at least and feel there’s more to add. The previous post was all about painting onto new plaster, and went into detail to ensure you have a good foundation for painting on the final coats.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this page, I appreciate it. If you have a comment or would like to get in touch, fill out the email form below and hit subscribe, I look forward to hearing from you.

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