Linear Blended Housepaint
May 7, 2007 2:59 PM   Subscribe

How can I paint my living room wall with a smooth gradient from X color to Y color?

I'd like to paint a wall (or several) in my house with a smooth graduated fade from one color to another, like the Gradient tool in Photoshop or like the Skinner Blend technique used in polymer clay. How can I achieve this with house paints? Is it even possible? Is there a well-known technique?
posted by ostranenie to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I did a gradual fade on a wall, somewhere in between the stepped and ramped color gradient. It was not a smoothly ramped blend, but you could not see a clear line between the colors either. I used a powerpainter with an attached paint reservior, started with one color, painting a small area, adding some of the second color to the mix, painted some more. The powerpainter was adjusted to use a wider, less-dense spray pattern, so there is some blending/overlap between the different mixes of color. You can make as many different color mixes as needed to emulate a continuous blend.
posted by yohko at 3:10 PM on May 7, 2007

Try this House & Home discussion on the subject.
posted by acoutu at 3:12 PM on May 7, 2007

If I wanted a look like this, I would do it with stripes. Paint the whole wall the lighter color, then use painter's tape to mark progressively thinner bars from one side to the other. A gradual, meticulous progression may be enough to satisfy your craving for this look, and it will be many miles easier than any real color cross-fade someone may suggest.

You can be a real stickler for even spacing/straight lines, or let your creativity take over. While it won't have the smooth blended look you're seeking, it will give the same general effect and blend the colors pleasantly. And since you'll have the whole thing done in tape before you start, it's easy to visualize the final product (and change it before it's too late). If your walls, ceiling, and floor are at actual right angles (as a Brooklynite, I miss this luxury) then making straight lines with tape is easy, as is adjusting them afterward.

I did this with orange paint on a white wall in my last house, it looked awesome and really broke the room's four-corners feel-- and it got rave reviews from visitors.
posted by hermitosis at 3:22 PM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

A major source of trouble seems to be the paint drying before it can be blended on the wall. Is there a slower-drying type of paint that could be used?
posted by amtho at 3:22 PM on May 7, 2007

Just contract it out.
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:30 PM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by IronLizard at 3:32 PM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Perhaps an industrial paint sprayer, you know, the ones that are used to paint cars and other large surfaces? They have a reservior built in, just add color #2 to color #1 progressively as you work your way up or down the wall.
posted by lekvar at 3:38 PM on May 7, 2007

One thing to keep in mind about what you want is how difficult this will be to patch if it gets scratched, gouged, or scuffed. You'll have to be able to mix paint to match the area perfectly, and afterward it will still most likely be visible because of the subtle difference. If you're planning on hanging artwork or putting furniture against this wall, or if it's in a high-traffic area, it will be guaranteed to require constant maintenance.
posted by hermitosis at 3:39 PM on May 7, 2007

If you don't like the idea of solid stripes on the wall but aren't dead set on a pure blend, you could try making a large halftone pattern stencil and using it to do transitions between several paint colours. It'd be a nifty effect from a distance and close up, especially if the colours weren't too far apart (or if the wall was fairly long) and it solves hermitosis's problem because you're only using a couple of discrete paint colours and no blends.

But that might be too design-geeky for your tastes, and it would be a bit of a pain to do properly.
posted by chrominance at 3:51 PM on May 7, 2007 [4 favorites]

I asked my sister (an interior designer) if this could be done. She said: "the short answer is no, the long answer is hire somebody."

It can be done, but it would be difficult to do it smoothly. She says that you could do it with two or three colours and a glaze. What you do is paint the whole wall with the lightest colour, then take a darker colour and mix it with a little glaze and paint that at the point where you want the darkest colour. Then you continue adding glaze (or if you're working with two really different colours, you might want to mix them together to make a medium colour that will go between the darkest and the lightest points. If so, you'll do most of the glaze with this colour).

You'll have to do the gradient by hand with brushes or cloth or something. You slowly increase the amount of glaze in the paint as you get closer and closer to the light part, smoothing with the cloth or brushes to get the gradient effect.

Her opinion is that unless you have some artistic ability, it will be very hard to do this in a way that will look good. She estimates a couple hundred a wall in order to have it done professionally.
posted by carmen at 3:58 PM on May 7, 2007

A halftone pattern would be awesome!
+ for chrominance!
posted by lekvar at 4:00 PM on May 7, 2007

Oh, and in case you don't know what a halftone blend looks like, it'd be something like this. You wouldn't do a straight transition from your start colour to your end colour like that (unless you like the looks of it, in which case go right ahead!) and you'd probably want the pattern itself to be a little longer (i.e. the dot sizes would change quite so abruptly). You'd probably do several transitions between intermediate colours as well. I think the key would be to pick the colours so that from a distance you wouldn't be able to tell at all, and then close up you'd see the dots and think "neat op art!"
posted by chrominance at 4:07 PM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're not set on having incredibly different colors, the easiest way to do something that will look the same is through meticulous lighting and a couple of gels, which will set you back $10 or so. By shifting the hues of the light, you can make the colors appear quiet different, and they'll blend naturally.
posted by klangklangston at 5:19 PM on May 7, 2007

Before they went to vinyl this used to be not uncommon paint technique for cars where it would have been sprayed on. You might want to call around some of the custom paint places in your area to see if there is anyone around with the skill set.
posted by Mitheral at 5:42 PM on May 7, 2007

If you want to do a halftone/zip-a-tone dot effect, it might be helpful to feed a gradient into the rasterbator and use the resulting output as a stencil. Might want to get a Circle cutter to ease cutting out the dots...
posted by Orb2069 at 6:41 PM on May 7, 2007

For the best looking result you should create a high-res file with the gradient you want and get it printed as wallpaper on a wide format printer. This will not be the cheapest option though: expect to pay anywhere between $6 and $12 per square foot.
posted by fourstar at 10:11 PM on May 7, 2007

... actually I've learned that if you print the wall like its a billboard you can do it for $1.50 per sq ft or less. This would certainly be cheaper than hiring someone as suggested above.
posted by fourstar at 10:27 PM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I just heard about this post on the podcast. I've done this on a big canvas and i'm pretty sure i'd work on a wall. here's how:

1. pick two colors that are pretty close together. ex. Red -> Yellow, Blue -> Lighter blue. Something like Orange -> green will get all gross in the middle.

2. divide & premix the colors into 6 or 8 containers. 1st bucket would be pure color one, last bucket pure color 2. Middle bucket would be 50/50. example:

1. pure red
2. 80% red / 20% yellow
3. 65% red / 35% yellow
4. 50%/50%
5. 35% red / 65% yellow
6. 20% red / 80% yellow
7. pure yellow

This will need to be adjusted a bit. one thing to watch out for is dark colors will impact light colors more than you think. What you want is a nice even steps in between to end colors.

3. Now start at the top with and paint a patch of color one, *while* it's still wet paint a patch of the next color *leaving a small gap* in between. quickly blend work the paint into the gap blending from the top and bottom as you go.

4. repeat until finished.

5. Profit!

6. wow. I did a bad job of explaining that.
posted by rschroed at 12:36 PM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

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