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How to Paint a Decorative Twig Design

Soften the look of a formal room with hand-painted branches and gold-washed leaves

an interior wall patterned with hand-painted branches and leaves
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Wall-frame molding can help make a large room feel more intimate, but those rectangles can also be a challenge to work with. Interior designer Meridy King, who likes to give period rooms a contemporary touch, originally decided to simply paint the paneled dining room walls in this Atlanta home a soft French blue with linen-white baseboards and chair rail. Artwork didn't sit right within the frame molding, and wallpaper inserts would have looked too fussy.

But something was still missing, so she turned to local decorative painter Brian Carter to provide the needed finishing touch. "The furniture and draperies were in; we just needed to enliven the space," he recalls. The solution came in the form of gentle tree branches, a natural motif for a room with a garden view. He let the branches grow up naturally, as if rooted in the dark oak floor, their leaves bumping up against the wall moldings as if they were framed by windows. "It looks random but has a sense of order," he says of the pattern. Just like the tree branches growing outside.


Steps // How to Paint a Decorative Twig Design
1 ×

Sketch Outline in Chalk

 
Step One // How to Paint a Decorative Twig Design

Sketch Outline in Chalk

hand shown sketching branches with leaves on a wall with chalk
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

The walls already had a base coat of interior latex with an eggshell finish, which is ideal. "Oil paint or latex with a higher gloss might make it hard for acrylic craft paint to stick to it," says decorative painter Brian Carter. Before you begin, paint a large piece of foam board with the same base color to provide a practice surface when you're working with thinned craft paint. On the walls, use painter's tape
to create an edge along the bottom, right where the branches start, to give you a clean line.

Starting at the base of each wall frame, sketch the branches with chalk, erasing mistakes with a damp sponge. "Imagine how something would grow from the ground, and play with it until you get a look you like," says Carter. Establish the structure by sketching all the branches first, then add the leaves.

 
2 ×

Thin Acrylic Craft Paint with Water

 
Step Two // How to Paint a Decorative Twig Design

Thin Acrylic Craft Paint with Water

paint being mixed with water in a bowl
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Carter chose acrylic craft paint for the branches and leaves because it delivers good color intensity and he needed only small quantities. Then he thinned it 4-to-1 with water to achieve a soft, semitranslucent line. "You want it sort of sheer so that you don't get a solid brushstroke," he explains.

Paint Palette
Starting with walls painted Benjamin Moore's Woodlawn Blue, decorative painter Brian Carter chose two tones of FolkArt's acrylic craft paint for the branches: Barn Wood for the twigs and Metallic Pure Gold for the leaves.

 
3 ×

Paint Branches and Leaves

 
Step Three // How to Paint a Decorative Twig Design

Paint Branches and Leaves

paint applied to chalk sketch of leaves and branches
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Practice loading a small, round artist's brush (No. 795) and applying the brown paint on the foam board before moving to the walls. It's fine to paint over the chalk; you can erase any errant marks later. Let the branches dry thoroughly.

 
4 ×

Paint Leaves

 
Step Four // How to Paint a Decorative Twig Design

Paint Leaves

gold paint applied to leaves sketched on a wall
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Practicing on the foam board, use gold paint thinned 4-to-1 with water to get the right translucency for the leaves. Paint leaves; let dry. Then add a second coat. "You want the structure of the leaves to show through," says Carter. "It keeps the pattern light and airy, and more natural-looking too."

 
5 ×

Clean Up

 
Step Five // How to Paint a Decorative Twig Design

Clean Up

finished wall painted with leaves and branches design
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Wash the brushes and containers with warm soapy water; let dry. Replace furniture and drapes. Enjoy your painted—and framed—work of art.

 
 
 

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