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Decorating techniques for your home

Ragging, bagging, spattering, sponging - they sound like dodgy dance crazes from the 1960s.

But anyone big on DIY will know that walls aren’t just made for a coat of magnolia paint. Using a few simple techniques, you can create a variety of looks for your home without the hassle of hanging wallpaper or getting the experts in.

Of course, spending time and effort doing up your home has become big business. A survey by Abbey National revealed that during a bank holiday recently, 43 per cent of people in the UK were getting stuck into DIY projects.

Painting and decorating came out among the top activities, which is not surprising since one of the simplest ways of achieving a new look is to add some interest to the walls in each room.

Ragging and bagging are among the most well known techniques - where a rolled up cloth or bag is dipped in paint and applied over a base coat - but here are a selection of others to try.


Before any of these paint effects can be achieved, a base coat must be applied to the walls - plaster will need to be sealed first.

DIY advisors say that matt emulsion is too porous for a base coat and recommend using a thinned application of emulsion before applying two full-strength coats. They add that oil-based paints will need a proprietary primer before applying two coats.

The glaze (or top coat) also needs to be prepared. If you are not buying a ready-made glaze, you might want to experiment with the mixture first.

Bear in mind that water-based glazes will dry quicker than oil-based ones.

Colour washing

This is a great cover for uneven walls and is one of the simplest effects to achieve, creating texture by allowing different colours to blend together.

Once the base coat is dry, apply a different-coloured glaze in rough criss-cross patterns, softening brush marks with a damp paintbrush and leave to dry. Apply the second coat in the same way but apply the strokes in a different direction to the first and so on with each subsequent coat.

Make sure that each coat is more dilute than the proceeding one, building up the layers until you achieve the desired affect. You could even add a third colour.


An even simpler way to achieve texture is to ‘comb through’ your paintwork. When the base coat is dry, apply the glaze and drag a plastic comb across the surface while still wet.

You can choose straight or criss-cross patterns across the whole of the surface or just in a few selected areas. Using combs with different spacing between the teeth will also alter the pattern.


This is great for achieving a wood-like effect on cupboards but can be quite tricky to perfect straight off, which is why it’s best to try it out a couple of times before going for the real thing. Oil-based paints are most effective.

Use a paintbrush to apply the base coat in straight lines. When dry, apply the glaze in the same way.

As this starts to dry, drag a paintbrush over the surface in the same direction as the paint, then use a graining tool (available from DIY stores) to apply deeper grooves.

To give a true, imperfect wood effect, rock the grainer slightly as it is pulled down to add a few ‘knots’ but remember to always keep it moving. If you need to soften the effect, drag a soft, dry paintbrush over the top.


For a bubbly, mottled effect, apply the base coat and dry. Dip a damp natural sponge into a different coloured glaze and press onto a newspaper to get rid of excess paint before lightly dabbing onto the wall, slightly over-lapping each time.

Again, you can build up the layers and use different colours to achieve a more dramatic look. Just make sure you regularly clean the sponge or you could end up with unsightly splodges.


This has to be the most enjoyable of the paint effects and will be familiar to enthusiastic children!

When the base coat is dry, dip a paintbrush into the glaze - be careful to saturate it too much. Then knock the paintbrush against a short stick so that paint ‘spatters’ against the wall.

It’s a good idea to practice first to get an idea of the optimum paint needed on the brush and how hard you should hit the stick.

Once you have perfected the art, you can use different colours and brushes of varying size to really go to town! Just remember to let each coat dry before attacking the wall again.

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