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How to Paint a Striped Wall

Create a bold accent wall with painter's tape and a menu of complementary colors

Photo by Kolin Smith

You know that a pop of color on an accent wall is a great way to bring new hues into your palette. It makes a splash without pricey accessories or wall coverings. But why stop at one color when a striped pattern can pull in an entire array of cheerful options? All it takes is a little strategy. Read on to see how This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers gets away with two rounds of taping to put up this five-stripe pattern.
 


Steps // How to Paint a Striped Wall
1 ×

Overview of How to Paint a Striped Wall

 
Step One // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Overview of How to Paint a Striped Wall

illustration of materials needed to paint a striped wall
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Project Timeline

Prep Day:
Lay out a pattern and create the story stick.

Saturday:
Tape and paint the first set of stripes.

Sunday:
Tape and paint the second set of stripes, and touch up the entire wall.

Download the layout for this striped wall pattern.

 
2 ×

Clean the surface

 
Step Two // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Clean the surface

man sanding a wall using a sanding pole and sandpaper
Photo by Kolin Smith

First, turn off the power, remove any receptacle faceplates, and cover each receptacle with painter's tape. Using a sanding pole fitted with 120-grit sandpaper, smooth the wall to remove any rough texture that could prevent the tape edges from fully adhering to the wall. Wipe the wall clean with a large, damp sponge and allow it to dry completely.

 
3 ×

Design the repeating pattern

 
Step Three // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Design the repeating pattern

hands measuring a completed pattern to repeat when painting a striped wall
Photo by Kolin Smith

Create a pattern of stripe widths and colors to repeat across the wall (the pattern here is about 4 feet wide). This brings visual order to the sequence of stripes and makes the project manageable. To design the pattern, print pages of each paint color and cut them into strips equal to the desired width of the stripes, such as 1, 3, and 5 inches, as shown. Your pattern can have any number of colors, but they should complement one another when viewed as a whole. We chose five colors, including white.

 
4 ×

Create a story stick

 
Step Four // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Create a story stick

person creating a story stick to help orient someone painting a striped wall
Photo by Kolin Smith

Rather than fumbling with a measuring tape, cut a thin strip of lumber the length of one full stripe sequence, and measure off and mark the stripes' boundaries. Use tape to extend each line evenly around the stick. Be sure to keep the tape to the same sides of the lines, and, for good measure, draw an arrow indicating which edge of each tape wrap serves as the line. Label the left and right ends of the stick, as well as the color for each stripe, to remind you how to orient it each time you pick it back up.

 
5 ×

Mark the wall

 
Step Five // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Mark the wall

person using a story stick to mark the wall where stripes will be painted
Photo by Kolin Smith

Hold the story stick against the project wall with the left end abutting the adjacent wall. Align it with a level, then transfer the pattern lines onto the wall with light tick marks. When you reach the end of the stick, circle the last tick mark so that you know where to start the stick on the next sequence.

 
6 ×

Transfer the lines

 
Step Six // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Transfer the lines

hands using a level to transfer the lines to the wall for the painted stripes
Photo by Kolin Smith

Using a 4-foot level, draw the stripes' boundaries with light pencil marks at the top, middle, and bottom of the wall (being mindful that pencil can peek through even dark paint).

 
7 ×

Tape the stripes

 
Step Seven // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Tape the stripes

taping the stripes out in order to paint a striped wall
Photo by Kolin Smith

On the first round, you'll tape off and paint every other stripe and let them dry. For round two, you'll mask along the edges of the painted stripes to bracket off the unpainted ones. Before you start, put X's of painter's tape over the stripes you want to skip. Then, from a step ladder, start at the top of each stripe and work your way down, creating solid lines with tape along both borders of the stripes to be painted. Let the tape extend at the floor and ceiling for easy removal. Draw arrows on the tape pointing toward the area to be painted.

 
8 ×

Seal the tape

 
Step Eight // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Seal the tape

seal the tape in order to paint a striped wall
Photo by Kolin Smith

Run a plastic putty knife down each strip of tape as you work to be sure the tape edges fully adhere to the wall (a metal blade could mar the wall). This will keep the paint from bleeding underneath.

 
9 ×

Cut in and roll on the paint

 
Step Nine // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Cut in and roll on the paint

using a brush to cut in the stripes between arrows to paint a striped wall
Photo by Kolin Smith

On the first round, paint the stripes between the arrows, avoiding the ones blocked off with X's. Using a paintbrush, cut in the paint along the ceiling and baseboard, and along the wall adjacent to the first stripe. For skinny stripes, stick with the paintbrush for the entire length. And when painting with the brush, keep your strokes vertical and pull paint away from the tape to avoid pushing paint beneath it. For larger stripes, use a small roller to coat the open area between the tape.

 
10 ×

Remove the tape

 
Step Ten // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Remove the tape

remove the tape before the the paint dries from the first round of painting a striped wall
Photo by Kolin Smith

Remove the tape before the paint dries. Otherwise, paint can bridge the seam between the wall and the tape, and removing the tape may remove paint, too. Start at the ceiling and pull downward on an angle, as shown.

 
11 ×

Apply the second round of tape

 
Step Eleven // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Apply the second round of tape

apply a second round of tape for painting a striped wall
Photo by Kolin Smith

After the paint on the first set of stripes has dried for at least 24 hours, tape off the second set of stripes by aligning tape on the edges of each painted stripe, as shown. Seal the tape with the plastic putty knife.

 
12 ×

Finish painting the field

 
Step Twelve // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Finish painting the field

finish painting the field when painting a striped wall
Photo by Kolin Smith

Cut in and paint the remaining stripes with a brush or roller, removing the tape while the paint of each stripe is still wet.

TOH Pro Tip: Hold the story stick up to the wall as a reference before you paint each stripe to ensure you're using the right color.

 
13 ×

Touch up the stripes

 
Step Thirteen // How to Paint a Striped Wall

Touch up the stripes

touch up the stripes to finish painting a striped wall
Photo by Kolin Smith

Using a paintbrush, carefully touch up any gaps or overlaps. Create a clean line by holding the paintbrush at a 45-degree angle away from the wall, as shown, then press the tip of the brush to the wall and steadily guide it toward the line. Run the paintbrush along the line until the gap is coated.

 
 
 

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