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PROJECT 8: How To Master The Technique Of Ombré Painting

Tools you'll need for this project:

  • Hammer
  • Flat head nail
  • String
  • Level
  • Measuring cup

Maia's shopping list:


1. Shop for paint

Select a gradated paint chip in the colour of your choice, and choose a gallon of the lightest colour (i.e. the one at the top) and a gallon of the darkest colour (i.e. the one at the bottom) prepared at the paint counter.

Maia opted for Behr Citron 400B-4 M and Behr Lemon Grass 400B-7 D, both in an eggshell finish, which contributes a subtle sheen to the finished ombré circle.

2. Create your circle

To draw a perfect circle, borrow a trick from high school geometry class: Determine where you’d like the centre of your circle to be situated on the wall, and lightly hammer a small nail partially into the wall. (Tip: Maia placed her circle off-centre on the wall for a visually pleasing dynamic.)

Tie a length of string to the nail, then cut the other end of the string so it measures roughly half the diameter you’d like your finished circle to be.  (Maia's circle was 4’ in diameter, so her string was cut to just over 2’).  Tie the loose end of the string to a pencil. Keeping the string taught, hold the pencil perpendicular to the wall and trace a full circle.  If your hand is steady, you should end up back in the spot you started.

Randomly draw horizontal lines across your circle using a level.  Apply the painters tape along these lines.  You can layer a couple of pieces of tape to get stripes of different widths.  Make sure to firmly smooth the edges of the tape for a crisp line.
Using the circle as a guideline, apply the Scotch Blue Exterior Tape (made to go around curves) along the exposed edges of the circle.  Gently cinch the tape as you go.  Having the breaks for the stripes will make this easier.

3. Paint

To pull off the ombré look, the darker paint colour will gradually fade into the lighter one.  Fill each of 5 roller trays as follows using a measuring cup and stir the colours well:

  • Tray 1: 100% darker colour
  • Tray 2: 75% darker colour/25% part lighter colour
  • Tray 3: 50% darker colour/50% lighter colour
  • Tray 4: 25% darker colour/75% lighter colour
  • Tray 5: 100% lighter colour

For Maia's 4’ circle, she used approximately 1 cup of paint for each colour. (i.e. 100% = 1 cup, 75% = 3/4 cup, 50% = 1/2 cup, 25% = ¼ cup.) To simplify the process, fill the trays with the light colour first, then wash the measuring cup and fill the trays with the dark colour. You may find it helpful to label your trays with a sharpie to avoid confusion as you’re painting. Each tray will need its own brush and roller head.

Divide your circle into five horizontal sections marking each on the wall with pencil.  In the top section, use a roller to apply the darkest colour (Tray 1).  In the second section, roll the colour from Tray 2 into the top half of the section.  While these areas are still wet, dip a brush in Tray 1 and blend the colour from the first section down into the second section using X strokes.  Using the brush from Tray 2, use the same X stroke blending upwards into the first section.  Blend evenly from one section to another continuing the paint smoothly over the taped stripes.  When you are satisfied with the look you have achieved, take the roller from Tray 2 and paint the bottom half of the second section.  Take the roller from Tray 3 and paint the top half of the middle section.  Blend with the appropriate brushes and continue on in this way to the bottom of the circle.

Once the circle is painted, let it dry for 15-to-20 minutes before gently removing tape. You’ll want to remove the tape before the paint gets too dry, in order to avoid flaking and cracking.

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