Types of Paint Effects

Types of Paint Effects for Decorating Home Interiors

Here is a brief definition of the different types of paint effects available to interior designers for home decorating. They are useful tools for adding extra flair to an interior. Understanding what the different types of paint effects are allows you to be able to specify to your painter what type of look you want and because you know how to achieve that look you will also be able to specify the colors and process for it to be done.

Lacquering (Japanning)

Lacquering is the layering of numerous coats of varnish, sanding in between coats. This creates a smooth lustrous effect. The original technique came from Eastern cultures and the sap of the Lac tree was used. It is popular for use on furniture and can be used on walls.


Crackle-Glaze imitates old peeling paint and provides a cobweb look. The crackle glaze is applied between two water based coats of differing colors. This then produces a series of cracks on the top layer and exposes the base coat color underneath.

Paint effect - crackle finish
Crackle Glaze


Craquelure is a process that was developed to imitate the crazing of very old varnish. It is achieved by applying two varnishes to a surface that dry at different rates. It achieves a finer crazing than by using the crackle glaze but is a more expensive method.


Antiquing is the process of artificially aging paint. It can be achieved by rubbing over the new paint with a darker glaze or color wash. This creates a dirtier color. Burnt umber, umber or raw sienna are popular dirty colors to use. It is then rubbed into and off the paint in an irregular manner. Using steel wool and rubbing off the new paint to create a patchy worn look can also achieve it. It can be used on furniture and walls.


Dragging is a process which creates fine vertical irregular lines, a soft textured look to walls generally. It is achieved by applying a translucent color glaze over a base coat and then using a dry wide brush, dragging it over the glaze before it dries.


Stippling is achieved by dabbing a stippling brush over a wet glaze or layer of paint. It creates a soft dappled grainy texture and is ideal as a wall finish.


Colorwash is a diluted layer of paint or proprietary product that is applied over a base coat to provide a wash or “glimpse” of color. Used often in country homes.


Sponging creates a mottled, granulated, knobbly, distressed finish and can vary greatly depending on the colors, method ie sponging on or off, and the type of sponge used i.e. sea sponge, artificial, large holes or small. Sponging on is the method of dabbing a thinned glaze or wash over the existing base coat. Sponging off is covering the base coat with the glaze and using the clean sponge to distress the wet surface. Using two or more colors sponging on can start to create a marbled effect. It can be used on walls and knickknacks.


Rubbing starts with a base coat of color, a glaze is rubbed over creating a soft cloudy film of color, which imitates the aged look of fresco paintings. It is ideal to use over stencils to slightly distress the look.


Stamping is where designs can be converted into rubber stamps or proprietary stamps can be purchased to achieve a look similar to stencilling but is much faster to perform. Stamping can be used to add pattern to walls, by dipping into paint or translucent glaze (or painting onto the stamp) and applying pressure to the stamp onto the wall. It provides a handmade slightly random look.

paint effects - stamping


Ragging is an irregular flow of verigated texture, usually a wall finish, that can vary enormously depending on the colors ie contrasting creates a 3 dimensional look, monochromatic creates a soft muted look, and the rags used ie firm hard fabric rags create a crisp sharp textured edge. A base color is applied, when dry a translucent colored glaze is applied and then removed by the rag, which is bunched up and dabbed over the surface. (Rag rolling entails rolling the scrunched up rag over the wall).

Paint effects - ragging


Wall Painting (Mural)

Wall Painting is as it sounds, painting a picture or pattern directly onto the wall using great artistic flair.


Combing is similar to wood graining, a notched card or comb is dragged over a painted or translucent glazed surface to achieve lines, squiggles, zig zags or any pattern that is desired.

If patience is on your side you can divide up spaces and create combed tiles, these are very successful for decorating a timber floor.

Trompe l’oeil – (To deceive the eye)

Trompe l’oeil is a form of wall painting that suggests a three dimensional illusion. It is often used to make a room appear to carry on outdoors, i.e. by the painting of a window with a landscape in perspective beyond. It can be used as a theatrical decorative feature or to balance architectural features in a room. It requires a skilled artist to be able to fool the eye by using shadows and highlights and with the combination of clever lighting can be a very successful addition to an interior space.

Trompe l'oeil paint effects

Trompe l’oeil depicting a scene on a wall partition which provides more depth to the space.


Bagging is a textured finish, which is created by working a glaze over a base coat, using a cloth in a plastic bag and working over the glaze in a random pattern removing the glaze as you go.


Distressing is making a finish look older that it really is or time worn and rugged. It is achieved by using two different colors, base and top coat and partially removing the top coat to expose the base underneath. It looks as if it has been worn of by years of wear and tear.

Bagging - Paint effects

Bagging a textured paint finish


Gilding is essentially the application of a gold finish. It can be achieved by applying gold leaf, or by using metallic powders.


Limewash is similar to a color wash but uses lime instead of whiting. It is used to create a translucent “chalky” wash.


Spattering is a decorative finish that is applied over a dry base coat. It is achieved by spattering the surface with tiny dots of color (one or more) ie flicking an old toothbrush for fine dots or a paint brush for larger dots. It creates a speckled effect.

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