How to Paint Accent Walls Like a Pro

Yep, you read that right – today’s topic is not exercise, healthy eating, or recipes, but something else that is near and dear to my heart: Painting!

I did a little painting over the weekend – even in a perfectly fine new house I can’t help myself – and as I was listening to podcasts and doing my thing, I realized that I know a thing or two about painting. After two full gut remodels, I should. I have painted my fair share of walls, millwork, cabinets, siding/shingles, and you name it. As a slightly Type A personality, I am particularly picky about paint finishes. So, I thought I’d share a few tips with you today that will take your weekend projects to the next level!

1. Prep, prep, prep. A quality paint job is 80% prep and 20% painting. That means caulking, spackling, and sanding before you touch a paintbrush. Sanding? Yes, for interior projects, if you want a quality job, you’ll want to rough up whatever it is you’re painting before you paint – even if it has paint on it already. Here’s the foyer in our Seattle house – all that trim work had a thorough sanding before I even started painting it, even though we were the ones that installed it and it was pre-primed MDF. I probably spent two full days caulking, spackling, and sanding all the wainscoting in the living room on the right before a drop of paint came out.


2. Blue tape is your friend – if you use it right. Here is the trick and the payoff the title of this post. Blue tape can do magical things. But, you have to do a few things:

  • Carefully apply it in as long of strips as you can possibly muster – continuous lines produce continuous lines. If you have to use pieces, be careful to overlap them exactly to maintain a straight line. Press firmly to ensure good adhesion.
  • Instead of just painting right up to to the tape from the get go, make a first pass with a very, very lightly loaded brush. I’m talking hardly any paint, right at the edge of the tape between the two walls you are separating. Let this dry.
  • After the first pass against the tape is dry, cut in like normal with an adequate amount of paint.
  • When you are done,pull the tape off slowly to avoid ripping paint off the wall you were protecting

This technique of lightly coating the seam of wall to tape and then really painting will do something incredibly amazing for you. The first coat seals the wall to the tape, to prevent seepage and those annoying bleed-throughs we all hate, which cause a continuous cycle of touch-ups. The second (and maybe third) coats give you the coverage you need. People will ask you how you get your paint lines so straight. Trust me! I get more comments from people wondering who our painter is.

3. Always cut in before you paint the body. Following the blue tape technique, above, you’ll want to cut in twice (light coat, and then real coat) before you roll the body. If you need to do two coats (and you almost always do), repeat the process of cutting in before you roll, and roll as close as you can to the edges. This will let your roller even out as much of the brush strokes as possible.

4. Like with food, you get what you pay for in brushes and rollers. Buy a nice brush (at least $10) and a nice roller cover, and clean them well, and you won’t see brush marks or roller marks on your walls and you will have tools that will last a long time. I’m still using paint brushes I bought in 2003! A 2 inch angled sash brush is my painting tool of choice.

5. To clean a brush, soak it in a cup of water for about an hour, and then use a stiff bristle brush under running water (for latex paint) and brush away from the handle to remove any dried paint. This will save you a ton of water and a ton of frustration. You can even add about one tablespoon of fabric softener (like Downy) to the cup of water to soften the bristles while it soaks. This works like a charm! You can soak roller covers in a bucket to achieve similar results, but don’t scrub them with the bristle brush or add the fabric softener. I use old Big Gulp cups for the brush soaking, by the way.

My Weekend Project!

This weekend’s project was inspired by our Seattle dining room. I felt my office needed something, so I put the walls to white from gray (our whole house in Bend has medium gray walls…for now) and went with an accent wall of Mulling Spice by Behr. This “desk” is where the magic happens for this blog…though, someday I hope to have my real desk and office furniture back from Seattle! The lines on the accent wall are perfectly straight – just the way I like it! Not many things make me happier than a straight paint line – sad but true.

I spent quite a bit of time caulking all the corners as well as doing drywall touchup before painting. The original painter clearly pulled a lot of paint off the wall with his tape when he masked for the trim paint and then touched it up, leaving an obvious 1.5” track around all the doors and windows, and it was driving me batty! I had to fix all the drywall before I could paint! Sadly I took this picture in the dark, but, you get the idea…


The inspiration room – our dining room in Seattle.


I know that was a diversion from our regularly scheduled programming around here, so I hope you found some helpful info to file away for future paint projects!

I’ll be back on Wednesday with more normal topics – Test Kitchen Tuesday results!

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