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How to Create a Faux Fabric Effect With Paint

With a little practice and a dry brush, you can create the look of textured wall coverings

Dragging, or strie, is a way to add interest to a smooth surface. The technique is as simple as pulling a dry brush through a coat of wet tinted glaze. It allows a range of looks, including striking, fabric-like "weaves." One thing to know before getting started: "You've really got to work quickly," says decorative painter Ingrid Leess, who recommends having one person roll on the glaze while another one does the dragging. The effect is pronounced when there's a clear contrast between the base- and glaze-coat colors; tones of similar intensity can yield a subtler look. Witness the play of color and texture shown here. Below the crisp white chair rail, Behr's Cornflower Blue is topped by a crisscross pattern of Mesmerize over Starless Night, evoking the warmth of your favorite jeans. Above it, Behr's Ashwood is topped by a one-way pattern in Ultra Pure White for a look that's closer to starched linen.

Tip: Dragging the brush from top to bottom is easier when a wall is divided into sections.

Step 1

Mix the Glaze Coat for the Upper Walls; Roll it On

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Once the base coat is dry, use disposable cups to mix equal parts glaze and the first color, in satin latex. Stir, and pour into a paint tray. Beginning at the top corner of the upper wall, cut in and roll the glaze from the ceiling down to the chair rail. To keep the glaze from drying before you drag it, don't go wider than 3 feet.

Step 2

Drag the Glaze Vertically

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Press your brush into the wet layer at the top corner and pull down. The bristles should cut grooves through the glaze to expose the base color. Continue in one uninterrupted stroke to the chair rail. On the next section, overlap the first dragged area slightly to avoid a visible seam.

Tip: Hang plumb bobs—you can make your own by tying washers to household twine—just off the wall for a visual guide as you apply the vertical strokes.

Step 3

Wipe off Excess Glaze

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Use a clean rag or paper towel to wipe excess glaze off the brush.

Step 4

Roll and Drag the Wainscot Vertically

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

When the wainscot base color is dry, mix glaze with the second color, as in Step 1. Starting at the top left corner, cut in and roll on a band of glaze between the chair rail and baseboard. Drag the wet glaze, pulling steadily from top to bottom without stopping. Roll the next patch, overlapping the first by several inches. Repeat.

Step 5

Roll and Drag the Wainscot Horizontally

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

With the first dragged layer completely dry—a day should do it—mix glaze with the third color. Roll it on in a manageable strip running left to right beneath the chair rail. Be sure to get paint between the grooves of your first layer with the roller. Now drag the full width of the wall. Roll on the next strip and repeat to the baseboard.