Paint tricks – 10 painting tips and techniques loved by the experts

Creative paint tricks and effects can bring unique beauty to a home – and the more inventive they are, the better

Paint tricks
(Image credit: Future)

Decorative paint tricks and finishes are becoming increasingly popular in interior design. 

Paint and color, as Dulux creative director Marianne Shillingford reminds us, is more than just the rainbow: ‘When we say paint, we don’t mean saturated jelly bean shades – we mean color and paint in all its glory, from organic off-whites and subtle petal shades to the deepest night blues, greens, golds and reds.’ Marianne notes that decorating our homes with paint became a lot more creative during lockdown – and it’s a trend that continues to evolve. ‘

'Using paint tricks on the ceiling, forgetting the corners of the room as junctions between colors, and opting for mid-wall splits as well as painting kitchen units and furniture in shades that bring us joy – all of these have revolutionized the way we look at and live in our homes,’ she adds

Interior designer Kate Guinness agrees: ‘I think we’ll see a continued enthusiasm for paint and pattern this year. We are continuing to introduce paint details in our homes to incorporate extra points of interest.'

We've curated our favorite paint ideas and paint tricks, showing how to introduce color in a variety of interior design settings to help you create a completely new scheme in your home. 

Paint tricks – for every room and surface

We've teamed up with a host of color and design experts to bring you the most exciting paint trends for the year ahead. These paint tricks will inspire a whole new look for your home. Brushes at the ready...

1. Double up to make a room look bigger

Bedroom with two-tone pink painted wall and ceiling

(Image credit: Paint & Paper Library)

If you’re looking to experiment with bedroom paint, the choice of color is as important as the finished effect. Among Irene Gunter’s (opens in new tab) current favorites are blush shades, to create an incredibly soothing atmosphere. Irene heads her own design practice and for bedrooms she recommends these warm, cozy colors that don’t distract or stimulate the mind. 

‘In the main bedroom of this Notting Hill home, we used Paint & Paper Library’s Rouge II on the bottom part of the wall, and the same color with 50 per cent white mixed in to create a lighter shade for the top. This paint technique not only adds interest but also blurs the edges of the room, making the ceiling look higher and the room look bigger.’

2. Turn your headboard into a piece of art 

Bedroom with painted headboard

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Resourcefulness, a little bit of imagination and a limited budget led interior designer and Sascal Studio (opens in new tab) founder Sarah Stemp to create this unique and striking headboard. 

‘We saved a lot of money by making the headboard fabric ourselves,’ she explains. ‘We sourced canvas fabric from eBay and then used sample pots of green paint to create the pattern. We started with Vert De Terre by Farrow & Ball as the base color and built on this with lighter and darker Farrow & Ball shades of green.’ 

The overall result is very textural – the brushstrokes give a sense of movement that adds depth and makes this headboard idea look more like a piece of art. A piece of vintage linen behind adds softness to the metal frame.

3. Give a fireplace a faux marble finish

Living room with faux marble painted fireplace

(Image credit: Astrid Templier)

The living room is the perfect place to experiment with paint tricks and techniques, as these living room paint ideas suggest. Working with a paint expert can be a wise move. Interior designer Brandon Schubert (opens in new tab) invited Lara Fiorentino from The Paint Effect to give a fireplace a faux-marble finish. 

‘Lara did a brilliant job of making the fireplace look like it is crafted from red marble,’ he says. Just be sure to spend the time required to get a really nice, smooth finish.'

4. Introduce a tactile touch to your walls

Green room with textured wall using paint

(Image credit: Damian Russell)

Subtly textured walls are clever choices when deciding on the best hallway paint ideas. Color pigment can be combined with different materials to create washes applied using brushes or sponges by various techniques. The project shown here is by designers Chan & Eayrs (opens in new tab)

There are so many ways to use paint creatively. If you want to go further, explore specialist paint effects to give your wall depth beyond what ordinary paint can achieve.

5. Use paint to create zones within a room

Blue kitchen with painted walls and white cabinets

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

As well as color, contrasting paint finishes for a painted kitchen can be used to zone a space,’ says Andy Greenall, head of design at Paint & Paper Library (opens in new tab). For this backsplash area, Paint & Paper Library’s Architect’s Satinwood creates a striking contrast with a matt finish in the same shade. Two-tone walls can transform a space, bringing depth to a wall. It is also easy to do and a cost effective way of adding character to an otherwise simple scheme.

6. Trick the eye with painted borders

Dressing room with painted pink cabinets

(Image credit: Louise Roe)

Proving that detailed design need not be so costly, designer Louise Roe says, ‘I wanted to be a little more daring with my bedroom color ideas. I found a rich, warm maroon paint tone, Lady Bug by Earthborn, for the doors and Amy Balfour painted one of her beautiful borders onto the panels, which look much like expensive bone inlays. 

7. Use paint to create a 3-D effect 

Ceiling ideas with mottled painted ceiling

(Image credit: James Mcdonald)

'When thinking about paint tricks, the 'fifth wall' is a great way to add layering and a three-dimensional aspect to the design of a space, says Elnaz Namaki, creative director, Elnaz Namaki Studio (opens in new tab).

For this small room, interior designer Elnaz Namaki chose a completely bespoke plastered paint color solution, working with a plaster finish artisan. This was overlaid in the corners with bespoke paisley stencils around the spotlights.

8. Use paint to visually expand the walls

Ceiling ideas with blue painted ceiling

(Image credit: Paul Massey)

‘Clever ceiling ideas are a great way of adding another layer of interest and making a space feel cozier. All too often they are an afterthought but we make sure to consider their potential,’ confides interior designer Nicola Harding. ‘Using statement paint tricks and ideas on the ceiling helped extend the walls in this dining room.’ 

Nicola starts by thinking how she wants the room to feel, ultimately, and she also takes into consideration the amount of natural light – which comes here from the floor-to-ceiling glazed doors. With that in mind she specified a simple emulsion – Farrow & Ball’s Stone Blue – to visually expand this small dining room.

9. Use paint to conceal flaws

Ceiling ideas with white painted beams

(Image credit: Paul Massey)

The beauty of smart paint tricks is that when done well, they can hide a multitude of sins. 

In old houses it can pay to investigate the original ‘bones’ of the house though it is important to consider the condition ceilings may be in if you expose them. The use of white paint helps to conceal flaws as well as create a softer effect that blends in with the room below. 

‘Decorative paint finishes are becoming increasingly popular, says interior designer Kate Guinness. 'We are continuing to introduce paint details in place of solid mouldings, for example, or to incorporate extra points of interest and disguise architectural flaws.'

10. Trick the eye

Kitchen with blue cabinets and wood cabinets

(Image credit: Frank & Faber)

Introducing paler finishes at eye level is a well-known ploy for improving spaciousness and preventing wall units from overpowering, particularly above hard-working areas like the hob or sink. 

‘We would generally recommend opting for dark shades at the bottom and lighter tones at the top, especially if the natural light isn’t great or the ceilings are low,’ says Sarah Ellison, founder and creative director at Frank & Faber (opens in new tab). ‘In a kitchen that is really dark, we often forgo wall units altogether, if storage needs allow, or paint them in the same light shade as the walls so that they virtually disappear.’

Are paint tricks and techniques outdated?

If you are thinking about the wall stencilling and textured ceilings of the seventies, than yes. But today's paint tricks are much more sophisticated and contemporary.

There are so many ways to use paint tricks beautifully says interior designer Brandon Schubert. ‘You can choose an unusual finish like gloss paint for walls. This can work really well with dark colors where you want to keep the light bouncing around the room, but it also works with paler colors. Just be sure to spend the time required to get a really nice, smooth finish.' 

'If you want to go further, explore specialist paint effects to give your wall depth beyond what ordinary paint can achieve. I think this is best done by a professional specialist decorator, but if you’re adventurous, try it yourself.'

Paint tricks for the modern era are all about bring interiors to life in a tailored way. 'We are embracing a new freedom of expression that has a beating heart of color,' says Marianne Shillingford, creative director, Dulux.

How do you paint special effects on a wall?

Kit Kemp is highly regarded for her use of color, showcased in the various Firmdale hotels she designs. If you’re unsure about where to begin with color in the home, Kit has plenty of ideas and recommends a door frame as one of the easiest places you can start. 

‘It’s the perfect canvas for applying a fun shock of color or even just a soft complementing hue to the rest of the room,’ she explains. ‘Door frames are the borders between one room and the next, from a cozy drawing room to a bright kitchen, so why not have something that frames the room beyond and is a fun and colorful addition in itself?’

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.


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