How To Paint Stripes

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Estimated Time: 
2 Days
Little Known Painter's Trick Helps lay down a Razor Sharp Line


Is your home plagued with stark, white walls? Are you tired of trying to camouflage those boring, plain surfaces with artwork or tapestries? Really there is no reason to live like you're back in your dorm room, you can conquer your problems with paint! Not only was Ellen, our Jane-in-training, battling bare white walls, she was faced with two adjacent rooms that would work better as one. Fed up with living like a plain Jane, Ellen was ready to go bold with paint.

When we mean bold, we don't mean the color. Ellen decided to paint wide, horizontal stripes in slightly green hues. The color spruces things up while the lines create movement, making the two rooms look like they are joined together. Plus, the stripes worked with Ellen's penchant for a contemporary, angular look.

What paint color you go with is entirely up to you. We chose a light green for our base coat with a similar, darker color for the stripes. The bigger the difference between your two colors the more dramatic the look.

So, where to start? If you have already painted a room or two, you are ahead of the game. If you haven't, no worries. This project is super-easy and rewarding!

Project Steps

Jane Tip: The key to a successful paint job is all in the prep work. Follow these steps carefully and you will save yourself a ton of time, not to mention headaches!

Step 1

Using blue painter's tape, mask off all adjacent surfaces, such as the baseboards and the ceiling. Cover your floor and nearby furniture with drop cloths, taping them down if necessary. You also may want to wear a painter's outfit, available at your local home improvement center, to protect your clothing. A garment to cover your hair is also recommended; paint can linger in your hair for weeks!

Step 2

Before you get to the fun stuff, you should really prep your walls with a coat of primer. The primer will allow the base coat to go on smoother, make the finished product look better and extend the life of your paint job.

Step 3

Check the drying time on your primer; you should be able to start applying your base coat within a couple of hours. When you are ready, make sure you stir your paint thoroughly before applying because it tends to settle in the can. Apply the paint with rollers to the wall. Paint the edges where it meets the ceiling with a brush. "Cutting in" with a brush will give you more control and a straighter line than a roller can provide.

Step 4

Apply a second base coat once the first one has dried.

Step 5

Once your base coat has dried, you are ready to begin preparing to paint your stripes. For Ellen's room, we used her window to determine where the lines would go. You can use a feature of the room like this, or you can simply measure your wall and divide it into perfectly even stripes.

Step 6


To ensure perfectly straight lines we used a laser level. This nifty AirGrip tool suctions to the wall and shines a straight line across the room which you can use as a guide to place your tape. A laser level will bounce around corners so that you can tape adjacent rooms at the same time. Don't get us wrong, you will probably still need to do some measuring!

Step 7


Ready for the trick on how to paint perfect lines? Once the tape is on the wall, go over the edges with paint-able latex caulk. You won't need a whole lot-just a thin layer will suffice to ensure that the paint from the inside of your lines doesn't seep under the tape and onto your base coat.

Step 8


Wait for the caulk to dry per the manufacturer's instructions. When it's time, paint in your lines with your complementary color.

Step 9


For the stripes, you won't have to apply a second coat of paint. The reason behind this is that you must remove the tape while the paint is still wet to avoid chipping. So, before the coat reaches the full allotted drying time, carefully pull the tape off in a smooth, angular motion. If you really feel a second coat is crucial, remove the tape after the first coat, let that coat dry before you tape and paint again.

Now you are Linear!


Not only will your new lines add interest to your once yawn-inducing room, you will also get a feeling of movement across the wall. With the alternating horizontal stripes in place, Ellen's two rooms looked like one big room, allowing her to entertain her friends and family. Remember, even if you are a painting novice, never fear! This is a project you can do.

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I would like to suggest that when painting stripes (or trying to create a crisp clean edge where two colors meet) you can eliminate sealing the edges of the tape with caulking by sealing the edge of the tape with the original or base color. This will elimate the mess from the caulking as well as the expense of purchasing the caulking, a caulking gun, etc. By using the base coat paint to seal the edges of the area where the accent paint will go you can utilize the materials which are already in use. No extra set-up or clean-up required. The base coat will "leak" under the tape, but it will also dry the same color as the base coat. Now you can brush or roll to the edge of the tape with your accent color and apply two coats with out removing and retaping. When removing the tape always pull the tape back on itself at about a 45* angle and away from the accent color. Always pull the tape slowly. Having a razor knife or utility blade handy just in case you need to cut the edge should the paint begin to pull. good luck! Mike

Good advice, saves a lot of time and works just as well. I just finished painting horizontal stripes on my wall and eveyone asks how I did my stripes so straight. There is also a purple tape you can buy in the painting section that helps you to achieve great results without leaking.
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