When it comes to paint, walls are literally a blank canvas! Whatever room you're decorating, there are plenty of creative paint ideas for walls to suit. From the huge scope of colours, to paint effects, and unexpected colour pops, paint is a brilliant way to add character to your space. Even in a room lacking any architectural details, being clever (and imaginative) with how you apply paint and colour can result in a scheme full of depth and interest.
The other big plus point in paint's favour is that you can use it to create a big impact on a small budget. There's a host of paint ideas that can be done with tester pots or paint you have leftover from other DIY and decorating projects so you don't need to spend a fortune to add the wow factor to your space. So if you're looking for a quick and easy project, paint offers stacks of potential. Aslong as you know how to paint a wall correctly you can grab your paintbrush and you can give any room a new look in a weekend (or less!).
Imaginative paint ideas for walls
1. Give panelling a tricolour freshen up
Separate panelling with the addition of a shelf along its length. This allows you to separate colours just like you would above and below a dado. Choosing colours that are tonally the same but from different colour families works well. Think about how to use the colour wheel – a grey, a brown and a green blend perfectly.
The addition of a painted up-cycled table, in a darker grey, adds to the look. Leave a fun circle of its original colour in the centre.
2. Go for vertical colour blocking
Create a colour-block wall of uplifting blues and greens by dividing the area with an off-centre stripe of white. Choose colours from the same colour spectrum, and look at colours that sit next to each other to create a sense of balance.
Continue the colour blocking living room paint idea through the scheme with graphic rugs, cushions and bold accessories.
3. Create a painted fireplace focal point
Paint a fire surround a bright, uplifting colour. This idea works brilliantly to add a pop of colour to a room. Use an eggshell paint so that the surfaces are easy to dust and clean.
Co-ordinate the scheme by painting log ends. You could even paint a circular canvas a flat colour too as an alternative to hanging wall art. Add colourful candles and vases to create a fun mantel display.
4. Try ombre stripes on shelving
Follow the trend for faded ombre finishes by choosing three to four shades from the same colour family. Paint the shelf and its background the same colour working from pale to dark as you go from bottom to top.
Display objects of similar colours to the shelf. This will provide a feeling of calm. Try this in dining room alcoves or across a narrow wall for a fun kitchen wall idea.
5. Paint a canopy over a bed
Take a statement headboard to a whole new level. Continue a painted area behind the bed, over and onto the ceiling surface when planning how to paint a ceiling. The painted panel creates a canopy of colour for a cocooning effect. Use chocolate, coffee and caramel tones for a bedroom scheme that is both warming and restful. Mix velvets, slub linens and textural cottons to add to this welcoming scheme.
6. Frame a vanity area with a painted arch
Paint a panel in an accent shade to give the impression of wall architecture where there is none. This also makes a look-at-me feature in a room where there isn't a natural focal point. Use a painted arch to emphasise a feature, like this oversized circular mirror over a dressing table for a bedroom paint idea. It elevates the room and gives it a boutique hotel feel.
7. Highlight architectural details with colour blocking
Paint colourful blocks so that they break into a fireplace, or continue over a section of coving, or door architrave. This is a clever paint idea that gives a real designer look to a room. Choose between three or four shades of paint in striking contrasting colours for a bold statement. Or go for subtler pastel shades for a more soothing scheme. Make sure you cut in paint using masking tape and a set of good brushes.
Try using large circular shapes, or arch shapes as an alternative to rectangles and squares. Remember to choose furniture and accessories that have bold and sculptural forms. They'll sit more comfortably with this eye-catching technique.
8. Enlarge the scale of a framed print above a fireplace
Love the print but feel it’s drowned out by the size of the wall you want to hang it on? Painting a square or rectangle behind it will give it the impact it needs. Whether it's for an idea above a fireplace, sofa, or behind a bed, enlarge the space that the print will sit on. Use masking tape to edge the shape, then paint carefully within the tape.
If the framed print is rectangular in shape then paint a matching larger scale rectangle. Pick out a colour found in the artwork for your painted panel to complement the artwork. Alternatively, choose a contrasting colour to make the print really pop.
9. Paint bold squares in a hallway
For a modern wall display or gallery wall idea, create the illusion of an in-built cubby by painting vibrant squares on a white background. Then hang picture ledges the same length and arrange your favourite accessories.
Try bold shades of blue and orange for an urban vibe. Perfect for narrow spaces, like hallway ideas, try adding a couple of cup hooks under the picture ledge for hanging keys etc.
10. Enhance a bed with a painted canvas headboard
Make a statement above the bed with your very own art. Choose four shades of the same colour and start by painting the base with the palest tone. Then drip saucer shape amounts of the other shades onto the canvas at random. Using a wooden paint-mixing stick (on its side) drag the paint down the canvas at an angle, overlapping the different shades as you go.
This bespoke paint idea is super easy and can work with any colour as long as you stick with shades of one rather than trying to mix contrasting colours.
11. Paint walls using a scallop stencil
For the most up-to-date living room paint idea, look no further than simply painting a scalloped shape motif along the length of a wall. Ever wondered how to paint a scalloped wall – well it's super easy!
Start by painting the top section of the wall, extending down slightly further than the line you want your scallops to fall at. Then paint up towards the scallop stencil in your base colour, carefully painting up into your stencil shape as you go.
Change the scale of the stencil to alter the effect. A smaller scallop will create a pretty country feel, whilst an oversized stencil will give a bolder, more contemporary look.
12. Add drama to panelling with bold stripes
No need to splash out on expensive wallpaper when a couple of paint tester pots will give you the same look for half the price. Creating fun bold stripes is a super quick wall panelling idea. First, paint the inside of the panelling white and then mask off areas to paint in the rose-pink stripes on top.
Keep the furniture simple with a wooden trestle table and black woven chairs, so that the stripes are the star of the show. You could try other wallpaper designs that can be duplicated by using paint - like terrazzo, polka dots or checks.
13. Create a piece of two-tone artwork
First, paint a two-tone wall and then using the leftover paint from the walls make a reverse-out masterpiece. All you need to do is paint two thirds one colour and one third the other (in the reverse to the colours you have on the wall). Hang so that the dividing lines line up!
Alternatively, use contrasting colours to your wall colour. Pick two shades of terracotta, for example, to make an even bolder art statement.
14. Balance the room using two-tone walls
Splitting a room in half using colour will make it feel cosier without dominating and keeping the top half white will give the appearance of height. Painting the bottom half a soft shade will act as fun DIY headboard idea and save on budget too. Take the two-tone effect all around the room including any architectural features such as architrave and even doors. Here the colour changes along the bottom line of a row of cabinets, it's the perfect trick to make storage blend.
We recommend FrogTape to help achieve the perfect clean line when painting with two different colours.
15. Add a subtle slice of colour to divide open-plan living
Open-plan living is hugely popular thanks to benefit of making smaller rooms feel bigger and creating a more inclusive space. While it makes sense to paint the original spaces in the same colour, to provide a sense of continuity, it does present the problem of not having defined zones for different activities. A great way of subtly zoning distinct living areas within the same open-plan living room idea is by adding accent colours on architectural points of interest – such as archways.
Given it's only a limited slice of paint coverage you can afford to change the colour seasonally, or when you switch up accent accessories within the room without huge expense.
16. Zone areas with an accent colour
How's this for an imaginative way to add colour and character to a room? In this living space, the dining area is highlighted by the use of an accent colour painted as a backdrop on one section of the wall – which is then continued onto the ceiling above.
This thoughtful use of colour creates a dedicated zone. In this instance it's for dining, but it could also work well behind a sofa or TV unit to signify a zone for relaxing or entertaining.
17. Get creative with shapes
To add an instant sense of fun to a painted wall try using alternative shapes. This fine example uses a semi-circle of soft pink to create the perfect backdrop for a bed in a bedroom. Using paint in this way in a bedroom provides a brilliant budget idea in place of a headboard idea.
18. Paint the ceiling for ambience
This is a winning bedroom paint idea, particularly effective if you choose a dark colour to emulate the night sky, encouraging a sense of being enveloped by the darkness to aid a good night's sleep. In modern new build properties simply paint the ceiling as you would a flat wall, taping off the adjoining fours walls to ensure a crisp line of separation. If you live in a period property with high ceilings you can afford to take the colour down to the picture rail, if you so wish.
19. Stencil a rug onto the floor
If you can't find the perfect rug to suit your space why not try painting one instead? If you have wooden floorboards the decorating world is your oyster. Use specialist floor paint to fashion a rug design when planning how to paint floorboards. It adds a unique decorative touch for any room with wooden floors.
Here we see a geometric chevron design skilfully painted in an array of bright blues and corals with a pale grey border. Painting a rug is ideal in rooms with high traffic, such as kitchens and hallways because there's no danger of slipping – unlike on the real thing.
To adopt this imaginative idea we suggest planning your design first, measuring the space and marking it out with tape ready to paint. Paint as many coats as necessary, be mindful not to make it too heavy as this is more likely to get scratched. Ensure you allow the colour to dry thoroughly before you place furniture back – lifting, not dragging to avoid scratching the surface.
20. Paint on a chalkboard
Add an element of fun to a family room with a chalkboard idea. Paint a noticeboard with the specialist paint to create a family planner, for calendar events and weekly reminders. This idea is ideal for a kitchen or a child's playroom to allow a little creative freedom.
21. Add texture with paint effects
To make maximum impact with your paint choice try using creative paint effects, which can add depth to any colour combination. By carefully mixing two colours, in this case neutrals, from the same colour palette you can create a textured effect for your walls. This skilful painting method is ideal for making a statement without having to use patterned wallpapers.
This textured paint effect on the walls was created using 'Stone III' and 'Stone V' pure flat emulsion, both by Paint & Paper Library. The muted tones are offset against the strong contrast of the black metal accessories, while hints of orange and light grey on soft furnishings inject a warming, softer quality.
22. Fake architectural details
Don't let architecture stand in the way of your design dreams – what is it they say, fake it until you make it! Create the illusion of alcove or archway with a clever application of paint. Simply measure out your design and type with a masking tape, then carefully apply your accent colour to create interest.
'Create a cocooning effect for intimate dinner parties, with a rich-coloured feature wall, like this arch painted in Dulux Simply Refresh Ink Well' says Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director at Dulux.
23. Pick out a picture rail
Create the illusion of ceiling height by painting above a picture rail. This simple, yet clever splash of colour helps to draw the eye up, stretching the walls up. It works best with bare walls, rather than decorated with wallpapers and pictures. Choose a bright colour to make even more of a statement.
24. Frame architraving with colour
Draw attention to decorative woodwork such as doorframes and cornicing by picking it out in an unexpected colour (not white!) and carrying the colour further up the wall to give the illusion of depth. Pick a striking, contrasting shade to add pops of colour around the room by painting a chair or a lamp base in the same paint.
This idea helps to break up a solid expanse of painted wall, while adding an uplifting accent colour in the room scheme. You could also consider colour as an option when looking at how to paint skirting boards.
25. Position a half point with paint
If the dream is to own a home with period features, but you live in a modern space you have to think outside the box when it comes to decorating. For instance, if you don't have picture rails, dado rails or cornicing adding interest to walls consider other ways to add these decorative details. We say fake it with simple paint ideas. As seen above we've created the illusion of a dado rail by simply using two contrasting paint colours – a striking green underneath a warm white. The effect creates a more characterful finish to an otherwise plain wall.
26. Make a statement with a painted panel
Create a zone of colour around a room's main focus, around a desk area, a bed or a sofa. Using squares or rectangles mask off the area for painting and choose your shade. Indulge yourself with a colour you love but may be feel is too bold to use on all four walls, this is a great opportunity to give some braver, bolder shades a go.
27. Paint a continuous line for definition
Use an accent wall colour to break up a decorating scheme. This idea is most effective in a room where you have a clear defined eye-line from top to bottom, such as in a kitchen where the cabinets determine a base level. Using the bold of two colours on the bottom half will help to create the illusion of one continuous line around the room, even when the wall is free of storage. Choose a matching wall colour to that of the kitchen or utility room cabinets to help balance the space.
This method is an ideal small kitchen idea to give the room a sense of greater height, resulting in the compact space feeling bigger than it is.
What changes can I make with paint?
'Painting a room in contrasting colours is a great way to create a dynamic space with plenty of personality' says Judy Smith, Crown Colour Consultant. 'Whether drawing a geometric shape on a bare wall or highlighting features such as radiators, skirting boards and window frames with colour. Using contrasting shades will add a playful and quirky feel.'
'Versatile and impactful, the effect can be achieved by mixing bold and neutral shades, creating a variety of moods that will suit different styles of interiors.'
'Contrasting colours can be introduced in a number of ways. Use natural breaks such as corners, alcoves, shelving, dado or picture rails to start and stop the different colour choices' Judy advises. 'Alternatively, a simple and effective way to use different shades is to paint up to a certain level in one colour, mask with tape and then paint above in a different shade.'
Whether looking to add architectural detail for a thoughtful dining room paint idea or creating a striking contrast with a dark ceiling as part of a bedroom paint idea, there's an imaginative solution for every room.
And, of course, paint isn't just limited to the walls, use the best paint for furniture to add a splash of colour to an old dining table and chairs, sideboard or chest of drawers.
Is it cheaper to paint or wallpaper a room?
Both wallpaper and paint can range in price from low to high but generally wallpaper is more expensive to purchase. Wallpaper often needs an expert to install it, whereas paint is on average a cheaper option and doesn't need an expert to apply it.
Should I use a brush or a roller to paint walls?
A roller is much quicker to cover large areas but will give a slightly stippled effect due to its foam or wool finish, whereas a paint brush will give a smoother finish. You may find that rollers can cause a small mist of paint to spray around the room, so more care needs to be taken with covering furniture and flooring, than with a brush where you can control the paint a little more.
Always use brushes to cut in the edges before filling in the main area with a roller as rollers cannot get into corners easily. It's quicker to wash and clean brushes than rollers, due to the fact they do not absorb as much paint.
Additional words by Tamara Kelly
Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.
- Nicky Phillips Style Editor
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