Here are six great paint treatments designed to ease the pain of living with dated paneling. From knock-your-socks-off color and pattern combinations to country crackle and cottage whitewash finishes, these techniques turn pedestrian partitions into winning walls.
Make sure your walls are free of dust and grease. We used 60-grit sandpaper and a palm sander to rough up the surface and remove the paneling's shiny finish before priming. For some types of paneling, you may be able to skip the sanding step and simply prime the walls. Ask your paint dealer which primer will work best on your paneling.
After sanding, wipe the walls to get rid of the dust and use a roller with a 3/8-in. nap to apply a coat of primer. When the primer dries, fill the nail holes with putty, sanding the putty for a smooth surface. Apply your base coat color with a 3/8-in.-nap roller.
After the base coat dries for two days, it's time for the fun to begin. Look into our designs for painting inspiration or come up with your own special treatment. Remember, it's only paint - if you're not happy with your design, paint over it and start again.
Create charming cottage appeal with a simple rag-off technique. Base-coat the paneling with a latex flat or eggshell paint that matches the wood tones in your home. If your wood finishes are warm, use colors that have a yellow undertone; if they're cool, use deeper putty-colored browns.
For whitewashing, start with white or off-white oil or alkyd paint and a pile of lint-free, cotton rags. Alkyd paints have a prolonged drying time, allowing you more time to work.
Working in 2-ft. sections, apply paint to the wall with a roller. Dampen a rag with paint thinner and place the wrinkled (but not balled) rag on the painted section. Pull the rag off. Because it's important the paint stays wet, this technique works best with two people; one rolls on the paint, the other follows with the rag. Experiment, removing the paint until you get the texture you desire. If you apply too little or remove too much, simply roll more paint on and rag it off. As you go around your room, keep the look evenly random, making sure that you can't tell where the sections start or end.
Tone on Tone
Paneling provides a perfect template for a vibrant striped paint treatment. Our designers say this technique works best when you use variations of the same color. Choose three to five shades nearest each other on a paint card, and you're ready to go.
Base-coat the walls with the lightest shade of paint. Let dry two days. Apply painter's tape to the panel lines to mask off your stripes. (For not-so-perfect stripes with slightly wavy edges, skip the tape and just paint between the lines!) Use a 3-in. latex or nylon-bristle trim brush to paint between the strips of tape. Apply the paints in a set sequence (say, light blue, medium blue, and dark blue) or mix up your stripes in a random manner (medium blue, medium blue, dark blue, light blue).
This treatment works as well with pastels as it does with jewel tones. If you want to make a room appear larger, try using off-white tones mixed with creams or light taupes.
Vibrant and Funky
Color-splashed and pulsating with pattern, this paint treatment supplies feel-good, bright-as-a-rainbow cheer. Okay, it might be a bit too much for your living or dining room, but it's perfect for a kid's room, a basement rec room, or a small breakfast nook. If you like the look, but are afraid it might overpower a small space, try using it on just one wall and paint the rest of the walls a solid color that coordinates with your design.
Start with a base coat of a medium-tone latex paint. Plan your design on a piece of paper; incorporate stencils or finger-painted curlicues if you wish.
Using the panel lines as guides, alternate freehand diamonds and vines painted with an artist's or foam brush and acrylic paints. Paint the diamonds a deep orange and the vines a blue green. Inside the first row of diamonds, paint a solid purple diamond accented with a splash of metallic gold. Dab green paint dots between the diamonds. Add red circles with gold dots in the center of the second set of diamonds. For the vines, alternate green leaves with red stems and light green stems or bright purple dots.
Give your outmoded paneling today's fashionable old-fashioned, rustic farmhouse look with latex paints and gum arabic, available at paint or art supply stores, or a commercial crackling medium. The trick to a great-looking crackled finish is to choose two contrasting colored paints. Think combinations like red and white or yellow and blue. (We base-coated our walls with a yellow green latex and topped it with a darker blue green.)
Once your base coat has dried for two days, roll on a coat of gum arabic. Make sure you brush a coat of gum arabic around the top of the walls and in the corners where walls meet. Let the gum arabic dry for about 30 minutes and roll on your topcoat. The finish will immediately begin to crackle.
After the topcoat dries, dip an artist's or foam brush, slightly larger than the panel lines, into red acrylic paint. Run the brush down the lines, painting your way around the room. Next, use a thin artist's brush and gold-leaf acrylic to paint lines on the outside edges of the red lines.
Diamonds Are Forever
Fashion a fanciful yet formal look by incorporating the panel lines into your design. After base-coating the panel, paint free-form diamonds in a vertical pattern, using the panel lines as guides. With a foam or artist's brush (experiment until you find the brush type and size that works for you) and acrylic paints, alternate large and small diamonds between the lines. We "drew" large and small diamonds with putty-colored acrylic, accenting them with charcoal, gold, and white lines.
In the center of every other large diamond, paint a solid green diamond with a gold-leaf fleur-de-lis in the center. Place a green dot in every third small diamond. Dots of gold leaf acrylic mark the points where the diamonds meet.
Leery of drawing the design freehand? Use a ruler and a pencil to mark the diamonds. Don't like diamonds? Use the lines as guides for squares, rectangles, or even giant Xs.
Here's a paint treatment that's as flexible as they come. Whether you like bunnies, hearts, twining ivy, or tall-stemmed flowers, stencils make it easy to outfit your walls with personalized style.
Base-coat the wall in a neutral hue so your stencil will show up. Next, choose a stencil or a mix of stencils that work well together in a vertical stripe. Measure the different areas on the paneling you'll be stenciling to make sure the stencil will work in all of them. Choose your colors; use acrylic paints or stencil paints, creams, or crayons. Tape your stencil to the wall and apply paints with a stencil or foam brush. Make sure you dab some of the paint off the brush on a plate or paper towel before stenciling. Let dry.
Working in sections, roll on a transparent oil glaze. Remove the glaze with a dry cloth to create texture. Have your paint store customize your oil glaze with earthy umber liquid tints. The glaze ages the look and softens the colors of the paint.