CREATING A COLOR WASH EFFECT

As promised, today I am sharing a very easy and very beautiful painting effect.
The technique is called 
COLOR WASH
With very little practice you can create some stunning outcomes…

Here is a chair I am working on using the color wash technique…
A color wash should be done with one dark and one lighter paint. It leaves a striated or striped effect. It can be very subtle as in the dining room chairs I am painting…
Or bolder and more pronounced, like the buffet I recently painted…
The same two colors were used on both pieces.  
Each piece was base coated in Country Grey and washed in Pure White.  The lines are more pronounced in the buffet. It is a matter of pressure applied when removing the wash. 
Painting a piece with a color wash is a very creative and satisfying process.
Supplies
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in two different colors (I chose Pure White and Country Grey)
*practice boards , see the end of the post for more information
paintbrush
small containers to hold the wash (I use plastic cups)
cheese cloth gauze (I buy a big roll that has pull off sheets through my ASCP stockist)
bucket of water
optional:
latex free gloves
Creating a Wash
I used the same colors to paint both boards… but reversed the colors in the base coat and  in the color wash process…
One board was painted Pure White (PW) and the other Country Grey (CG).
1. Mix a small amount of PW in a cup. For every 1 part paint add 1/2 to 1 part water. Mix well. A little goes a long way.
2. When the base coat (PW) is dry, paint over the whole board with the wash (CG)
3. Use one length of cheesecloth and fold it over four times. Every time you wipe down an area on your board, use a clean side of your cheesecloth.
4. Gently swipe down the practice board in a straight line. As the cheesecloth removes some of the color wash it will make interesting lines or stripes on your board. You can go over your board if your lines are wavy. Just don’t overwork it.
5. Let it dry completely
 Use the opposite colors to create a different look (see image bottom left).
Applying Dark Wax To A Wash
Apply a coat of clear wax to the board, let it dry and buff with a clean white rag.
2. To see the effects of applying dark wax, tape the middle of the board with two strips of painter’s tape.
Scuff up the right side of the board with sandpaper.  Add a layer of clear wax and immediately add a heavy coat of dark wax. Rub it off with a clean white rag and buff.
To the left side of the board, add a layer of clear wax and immediately add a light coat of dark wax. Rub it off with a clean white rag and buff.
3. Remove the tape… you can see how the applications of wax will change the appearance of the wash. This will help you decide the look you desire when painting and waxing a piece of furniture.
4. Now you will have several examples of wax application for each color technique.

left, light application of dark wax; middle, only clear wax applied; right, sanded and heavy dark wax application.

As you can see a color wash can have some beautiful and interesting results! It is my favorite technique to use when painting furniture.
back of the dining room chair done in a color wash
*A note about practice boards:
I buy a long length of baseboard or crown molding and have it cut into 5″ pieces where I buy it.  Then I can practice on it to see the result of the colors and effects I choose before painting on a piece of furniture.
Label the back of each practice board with the color of paint and the steps you used to create each board’s effect.
To see a post on practice boards with lots of tips, click HERE.


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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Yvonne,
    What a great tutorial! The pictures are so helpful in explaining the technique and seeing the results. I haven’t used Country Grey, so I really enjoyed seeing how it looks. The dining chairs are beautiful!

  2. says

    I never used to use wax on my pieces but finally did and sure see difference. I used a light finishing wax and will get some darker wax also. I can’t afford to be buying all the finishes, chalk paint, etc. but use what I can, really work at doing a good job on pieces. The practice boards are excellent idea. I make my own chalk paint, works pretty well. You are a great inspiration. Love your home it is truly beautiful. Love your swan tureen. Great tutorial on painting, washes.

  3. says

    Hi Yvonne, you always serve to be such an inspiration to my creativity! I love this technique and might just give it a go on my dining room table and chairs that I’ve been thinking about re-doing. Already being white it wouldn’t be difficult to make the change… hmmm!
    I also just discovered your post on tea cup bird feeders! OMGosh! Just in the throws of starting my garden beds I can certainly envision those beauties scattered throughout my beds! I bet the copper as it ages looks fabulous as well!
    Hugs and enjoy the upcoming weekend,
    Beth P

  4. says

    This is so helpful. My hubby and I just bought our first cans of ASCP and are whitewashing furniture with the pure white and french linen(base coat). But we don’t know what were doing! It has been turning out nice but this will definetly help us the rest of the way. Thank you!

  5. says

    I have been doing my own ‘self taught’ version of ‘washing’ for some time now and your article has some very awesome points and tips…thanks so much for sharing!

  6. says

    Enjoyed this post. I have white oak cabinets that were originally glazed with an off-white wash, but then the painter sprayed them with an oil-based sanding sealer and immediately they started darkening and losing the color-washed look; 15 years later, they now just look like oak. Do you think that I could achieve the look of the color-washed wood by using off-white chalk paint? If I do, is that hard to maintain or will it come off easily around knobs when I wipe away fingerprints? If you know the answer or have a recommendation, I will appreciate knowing. Thank you.

  7. lilli says

    Yvonne,

    Great tutorial! Is the ratio of paint to water the same in both colors?

    I’m doing a piece for a friend for her salon which will get a lot of use, so I will use polyacrylic or varathene on top. I definitely need to practice on some boards!

    Thank you – let me know about the ratio if you could!

    • says

      The ratio will be determined by how opaque you want the color wash to be. The more water the lighter the wash. I probably used 4 parts water to 1 paint.
      Hope this helps.

  8. Vicky says

    Yvonne,

    You’ve inspired me to try a color wash! I was wondering on the buffet above if you used a dark wax? And on the buffet the combination is pure country grey base and pure white top coat. It turned out beautiful and I want to try it on a dresser. I’ve been working on sample pieces of molding all afternoon. Thank you for your great tutorial!

    Vicky

    • says

      Vicky, the first 2 coats were Country Grey and then a colorwash of Pure White. I did use a light hand with a small amount of dark wax too.
      Good for you!!!! Working on sample pieces is always the best!

  9. Stella W says

    Love this tutorial – thank you! Do you mind sharing where you bought your gorgeous dining chairs? Thank you.

  10. says

    Excellent post, I use colour washes too I think they add more depth to a piece. I have just painted a large mirror in pure white but not happy about it and this post is a reminder to me that I should add a wash so I think I will do one with Paris Grey.

    Thank you for such a great post and also the great idea of making up some pieces of wood with different effects.

    Lee

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