Using paint to decorate a room or furniture has never been so popular, probably because it's never been easier. Even the not-so-artistic do-it-yourselfer can create paint finishes and glazes that rival the professionals. All it takes is a little imagination and some paint to transform Plain Jane walls into an interesting and appealing accent. A piece of discarded furniture can become the focal point of a room with a little creative painting.
For an interesting effect on painted surfaces, try sponging or ragging them with a topcoat of paint. The techniques are good coverups because they give a surface depth and dimension and distract the eye from imperfections. Use a tone-on-tone effect by top coating a color with a lighter or darker shade that blends with it. For example, on pale pink wall, choose a more intense shade of coral or rose to deepen the color. Cover a dark color with a lighter shade to brighten it. For these glazing techniques use latex paint because it's easy to work with and clean up afterwards. Before you try these special effects, experiment on paper and practice creating the effects you like best.
Start with a clean painted surface and apply the glaze coat to one area at a time, which helps keep the pattern uniform. If you are working on a piece of furniture, glaze one leg or drawer front at a time, if it's a wall, work on a 4-ft. wide section from top to bottom.
To produce a stippled effect, apply the paint with applicators made of small pieces of sponge. The random holes in the sponge create an interesting relief-like pattern. Pour the paint in a flat open container, i.e., a Styrofoam food tray. Dab the sponge applicator in the paint and squeeze it out to remove excess paint. Then push the sponge pattern on the surface. Try to be consistent with the pressure you apply and turn the sponge over several times to vary the pattern. When the pores of the sponge fill with paint, it's time to change to another applicator. Cut small sponge wedge to get paint into tight corners.
Ragging a surface produces a completely different effect, which is very attractive. The preparation is the same as for sponging but use rags or wads of plastic food wrap as an applicator. Change them frequently as they become soaked with paint.
Pickling is a technique used on unfinished wood to create a transparent finish that highlights the wood's natural grain patterns. It's best achieved using flat alkyd (oil-base) paint that dries slower than latex so there's time to work with it before it sets up. Some alkyd paints are thick and can be difficult to wipe off. Spread the paint on a small test area, and if it doesn't wipe off easily, add a few ounces of mineral spirits (not more that 2 oz. per gallon) to thin the paint.
To pickle a surface, brush on a light coat of paint to a small area and then wipe it off with a scrap of burlap or other heavy material. The more paint you rub off, the more the wood grain shows. If the paint begins to set up and gets too sticky to wipe, switch to a rag dampened in mineral spirits. It is better to remove more paint than you think necessary because if the finish is too light you can always go back and add another coat. The opposite is not true if you allow a heavy coating of paint to dry.
When you've pickled the surface entirely, let it dry completely. For added protection apply a topcoat of satin water-based polyurethane.