How to Paint Horizontal Stripes

I am completely in love with the new striped wall in our master bedroom (I posted the big reveal here). It took a while, but it was totally worth it. It’s subtle but fun and makes a huge difference to the room.

It’s really not hard to paint stripes, but it can be time-consuming. Here’s how I did it…

You will need:
Two colors of paint (I used Sherwin Williams Rainwashed and Window Pane, only a shade apart)
Painter’s tape
Drop cloth
Level
Ruler
Pencil
Roller (I’ve heard that there’s less chance of bleeding with a foam roller but I used a regular one and didn’t have any issues)
Good quality angled paint brush (I like Purdy)

1. The base color
If you are just adding stripes to an already painted room, this step is already done for you. If not, paint your wall and give it at least a few days for the paint to cure before you start taping.
Our bedroom was green, and I thought I might want green stripes (I could always retape and repaint later if I didn’t love it, which is exactly what happened…more on that in a min), so I just skipped straight to the next step…

2. How many stripes?

First, figure out how big you want your stripes to be, and whether you want them to be even or not. Roughly mark out a couple of stripes to see what looks good in your space using painter’s tape. Measure your wall and adjust your stripe width if necessary.
My wall is about 9.5 feet tall. I liked the look of alternating 8″ and 11.5″ stripes. Dividing the height of the wall by those measurements gave me 6 stripes of each color. It didn’t divide exactly, so I decided to make life a little easier for myself and tacked on the extra fractions of an inch to the bottom stripe. I had a slightly wider bottom stripe but nice round measurements on all the others. It’s not noticeable.

3. The first stripe is the most important

Start by measuring the bottom stripe. I measured 11.5″ (plus that little bit extra) from the skirting board and made a mark. I did the same in intervals along the bottom of the wall. I then took my ruler and level and drew a straight line, using the marks as my guide, across the entire wall. (It would have been easier to use a combo level rule, but I didn’t have one, so I improvised.)

This should show you whether your skirting board is level or not. If it’s not, this line is going to be your guide for marking out all the other stripes, so it’s really important to take your time and do it right.

4. Mark out all the other stripes
This is the bit that can take way longer than necessary if you let it. The easiest way to measure all the other stripes is to start on one side of the wall. Measure from your skirting board or that first line, mark the appropriate intervals, then tape out a small section of the line, making sure it’s level.

So I marked at 11.5″, then 19.5″, then 31″ and so on, all the way up the wall.

Then run your tape all the way from one side to another, matching up with the markings on both edges of the room.
{From here, I just unraveled the tape and walked it across the
room until I met the markings on the other side – not the best
photo but there was no-one else around to take a better one}

 Repeat until all your stripes are taped.

Update: Tip for Textured Walls

To avoid the paint bleeding under the tape, paint over it first in your base color to seal it. When that’s dry, paint with the color of your stripes. It’ll save you hours of touching up.

5. Paint the edges
As with any paint job, it’s better to paint the edges (against the ceiling, other walls, and around windows or door frames) before you roller in the rest – this helps the brush strokes blend in better.

6. Roller in the rest and remove the tape
Fill in the rest and give it a second coat if necessary. Wait about half an hour so the paint isn’t completely dry then remove the tape.

If you take the tape off too soon or too late, it’s likely to peel the paint off, which might make you cry. Like this.

7. If you’re not done…
After all that, I wasn’t loving the green stripes. (If I did like them, obviously I would have painted back over the test patches I made before I started on the stripes.) I wanted a more subtle look, so I waited for the paint to cure (I gave it six days), re-taped to leave all the green stripes exposed, and repeated steps 5 and 6.

I picked up more paint, a shade lighter and tested it.

There was still more contrast than I wanted (although it’s not that obvious in the picture), so I mixed 2/3 of the lighter colour (Sherwin Williams Window Pane) with 1/3 of my original colour (Sherwin Williams Rainwashed). The result was more subtle.

The last step was just peeling off the tape. To recap, here is the before:

And after:

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