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When a decorating budget is tight yet you want something more special than plain old paint, try your hand at special painting effects, called faux finishes, like sponging, ragging, strie, or striping. A person doesn’t have to be artistic to get desirable effects.

Most of the tools you’ll need are found in your house. The techniques are simple. Experiment with colors ahead of time before attempting the entire project. Some of the most charming projects combine unlikely color combinations. Paint stores offer many ideas here, so if color isn’t your thing, advice is readily available.


Tools needed: Paint, sponge, bucket, rag

To apply: Paint base color on walls. Thin the sponging color with water for latex paint and paint thinner for oil-based paint. A little paint goes a long way when sponging, so pour about two cups of paint in a bucket and add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup liquid. Dip sponge in bucket and apply to base coat. Use the rag for cleaning mistakes. Work the sponge on the walls by dabbing. The color when dry will look slightly different than when applied.


Tools: Ragging material, paint, bucket, mist sprayer

To apply: Paint base color on walls. Thin the ragging color as indicated in sponging. Ragging materials can be a number of things: rags and crumpled tissue work well. Try different types of rags. The rougher the rag, the smoother the textures generally. Dab the rag haphazardly on the walls. Mist the wall lightly with water and dab again. This will make the effect smoother. Again, the finished product will be different when dry.

Strie (pronounced stree-a)

Tools needed: Paint, bucket, paintbrush, saw, rag

To apply: Paint the base color on the walls. Thin the second color with less liquid than indicated with sponging. Apply the second color on a section the length of the wall. Run the saw blade lightly over the paint along the length of the wall. Combs can also be used to achieve this effect. In addition, paint stores have tools to purchase to create strie effects. Wipe excess with rag. A clear or lightly tinted glaze over the paint can add a nice finish to a strie project.


Tools needed: Painter’s masking tape, paint, paintbrush, level

To apply: Paint the base coat on the walls. Mark the width of the stripes on the wall lightly in pencil. A level is handy for getting straight up and down lines. Tape the lines with the painter’s masking tape. This is made with lighter glue that will not peel the base coat of paint off. Paint the second coat of paint on the untaped area. After dry, peel off masking tape. Now there are stripes. This idea can be used for a variety of other patterns on walls as well.

The equipment isn’t fancy but the results are. Start with smaller projects first. Have patience and enjoy creating a work of art using simple tools and instructions.