How to Paint a Color-Washed Plank Wall
Use latex paint and glaze to bring out a wood's grain and add translucent layers of color
Paint is normally used to hide wood grain, especially the noticeable streaks in poplar. The planked wall here breaks with tradition by showcasing that wood's unique characteristics; other types of wood would yield very different results.
Mark Chamberlain, a decorative painter in New York City, says that at one time he would have reached for oil-based paint and mineral spirits to get a coating thin enough to let the wood grain show through. But these days you can get similar results with low- to no-VOC latex paint and glaze. "Glaze provides a translucent look with a subtle sheen," Chamberlain says, "and latex means easy cleanup."
For the most nuanced look, he suggests layering two slightly different shades and formulations. First, "prime" the planks with a wet towel to slow drying time and prevent visible brush marks. Then brush on equal parts of the paler color mixed with water, and let dry. Next, mix 3 parts of the darker shade with 2 parts glaze and brush it on. Aim to work steadily so that wet brushstrokes meet wet brushstrokes, Chamberlain says. "And experiment with a sample board first so you get just the right color and translucency for your space."