Monday, February 4, 2013

Adding Texture With Paint and Color

Textured and Glazed Wall

 "The glamour of texture is the invitation to touch...surface texture sings a siren's song."

- Jamie Drake, New American Glamour

What Is Texture?

Texture in design refers to the way a surface feels, or is perceived. Occurring in both man-made and natural objects, texture can be produced by repetition and variation of form, colors, value, patterns of line, etc. All surfaces have texture, whether it's coarse or fine, rough or smooth, shiny or matte. Texture can be used for comfort, beauty and interest, or for practical purposes, like a rough finish on a stone walkway that prevents falls. 

Emotional Impacts of Texture

  • Rough texture suggests informal, warm and natural design, and often feels heavier. 
  • Smooth and shiny texture suggests more formal, cold, glamorous or modern design, and often feels lighter. 
  • Combined coarse and smooth texture, such as a  silk wall covering with coarse slubs, has an edge of heaviness, yet is quite elegant. Texture is versatile.

How Texture Affects Paint Color

Texture isn't limited to fabric, wallpaper or natural materials.  Texture also can be added with your paint and color choices to enhance style and add impact. 

When it comes to paint, texture plays a crucial role because it determines how much light and color is reflected, and how much is absorbed. A color in a high sheen paint (smoother texture) has a greater reflectivity, intensity and richness than the same color in a flat sheen paint (rougher texture). The downside of the higher sheen is that every little surface imperfection is more likely to show.  A flat finish paint absorbs more light, and the remaining light is refracted back in many directions, making the color appear darker. When you have an imperfect surface, a flat finish paint is the best choice because it makes the imperfections less noticeable. 

Adding Texture With Paint Techniques and Color

Here are just a few of the many ways to create texture with paint techniques and/or with the way you use sheen and color. 
  • Use a variety of sheens from flat to high gloss. The most common way is by painting the ceiling and walls in a flat paint and using a semi-gloss for the trim.
  • Combine sheens to create a decorative finish, such as by painting stripes in a gloss finish (paint or varnish), or using a sponge dipped in a gloss finish, to create a pattern on a matte wall. Use the same color as the base for a more subtle effect. For inspiration,      Striped wall designs on 
  • Add glaze in layers using one or more coordinating colors. This is especially good for damaged walls because the imperfections become part of the finish, and for cabinets, trim and furniture. 
  • Buy ready-made texture paint in a special finish, such as sand, stone, marble, suede, etc. Or, add texture to regular paint.
  • Use different colors for the ceiling, walls and trim.
  • Use accent colors in special areas, such as the back of bookcases, an accent wall or on a mantle. Depending on the look you want, the colors may, or may not, be subtle.
  • Use joint compound with stencils, then paint. 
  • Use two or three paint colors with similar light reflectance values (LRV's) to create a subtle texture. 
  • Apply any of the hundreds of painted finish techniques, from strie to rag-rolling, color washing, trompe l'oeil, a mural, etc.
  • Create your own design with masking tape, stencils, wall art appliques, by drawing, or with a combination of these and other techniques. 

Stenciled lattice
Texture is often overlooked as a component of interior design, but when you consider how much texture adds to the beauty and enjoyment of a space, it's a good idea to be conscious of it, and look for ways to make it work for you. 

A word of caution: if you're an amateur, a subtle and simple approach with low contrast colors is best. There's way too much really bad faux finishing and other misguided efforts out there! You can always add, but it can be much more difficult to subtract if you go too far or do it poorly...


  1. I’m a new reader and have been very impressed with your recent post and thought to drop a friendly note. It is really great information related to texture paints. Waiting for more posts, is there a way to subscribe to your blog via email?

    1. Thank you for writing. Yes, you can subscribe by email. There's a box on the right side of the screen where you can sign up.