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Decorative Comb Painting


Add a faux or whimsical wood grain to walls with the comb painting technique

Decorative painting covers many techniques that are easy for the average do-it-yourselfer. You can purchase special paints and supplies that make the job even easier. Choosing a decorative paint style is not easy with so many options, including comb painting, which we're going to cover here.

Adding a wood grain look to painted walls is easy. All you need are a base paint, a second paint color with glaze added, a topcoat of varnish, and any tool that has comb-like teeth. Ideally, this a two-person job that requires steady hands, but it's also easy for one person to accomplish by working in sections.

You can make one single line of squiggles with glaze or create a cross-hatch pattern with one glaze color or more. You can use the comb to create zigzags, squiggles, or wavy-looking lines. With the right combination of paint and glaze colors, you can also create a satiny moire pattern that will look like expensive wallpaper.

As with any painting project, preparation is important. Make sure the area to be painted is clean and free of blemishes. Tape off and cover all areas that should be protected from paint. It's always easier to remove furniture if feasible.

When choosing paint for combing, you can go for a tone-on-tone look or for a complementary or contrasting striping effect. Typically, the wall color will appear darker after the final combing, so your base coat should be somewhat lighter than what you choose for a flat wall.

Latex satin paints are the most popular types for decorative combing. Do not use a flat paint for this technique as it will soak up the glaze in the second layer of paint or a semi-gloss, which will make the glaze bead. Rubberized or steel combs are available with teeth in different widths and they may have one or more sides.

You can use a brush or roller. Paint the wall and let it dry overnight or - at the very least - 4 hours. Take the second paint color and add a recommended glaze and mix thoroughly. You should have a large bucket and power mixer for the best results.

Work in 2- or 3-foot wide sections to give the glaze a chance to set up but not dry. Roll or brush on the second layer from ceiling to floor. Keep the second layer thin. Comb from top to bottom in one smooth motion. Wipe excess glazed paint off the comb. Repeat until you have combed within three inches of the edge of the upper layer.

To begin the next 3-foot section, you'll overlap over your ending point to eliminate start-stop lines. Once the combing is finished, you'll will need to let it dry thoroughly before the final step. You should wait at least 24 hours.

A finishing coat of low-lustre varnish will protect your decorative paint job.

Now that you have the basic instructions, you can also think about the many options for different combing styles, including the ones mentioned in the first part of this article.

Another idea is to add a third paint shade. After the first combing layer has dried, add another dimension with a third color and repeat the combing process for double stripes. You can also use a darker paint on the walls and lighter shades for the top combed layer.

If you're unsure about colors, buy paint in similar colors, but in small quantities and practice on a piece of wood. This will also help give you a feel for using the comb.

Of all the decorative painting techniques, this one may be the easiest to accomplish. Combing creates such a beautiful effect that requires very little skill.

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