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Creating an Accent Wall
Project Checklist
  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP) or substitute
  • Appropriate chemical resistant gloves
  • A painter's hat, goggles, dust masks
  • Vacuum with brush attachment
  • Cloth or plastic drop cloths
  • Painter's tape (narrow and wide)
  • Plastic bags (large and small)
  • Newspapers
  • Paintbrushes, at least one of each of the following: 1", 2—3", 4—5"
  • Rollers and roller covers in widths and fabrics for the surface and finish you choose
  • Paint trays and liners
  • Extension poles and/or a stepladder
  • Buckets, cans and jars
  • Stir sticks
  • Lightweight patching compound
  • Wide-blade scraper
  • Putty knife
  • Edge pads
  • Sponge mop
  • Sandpaper—medium and fine grit
  • Sand-sponge for trim and molding

 
Whether you're looking to create a bold contrast or a subtle shift, accenting a wall with a different color than the rest of the room is a simple way to add an interesting dimension to your project.
 
 

Step 1 —Select Your Color Palette

The biggest challenge with painting an accent wall is often deciding on a color. We help make it easy for you. Go to Explore Colors for tips on how to achieve your ideal look and feel.

Because an accent wall takes up a smaller area than many painting projects, there's a risk of underestimating the amount of paint you'll need. Remember to purchase enough paint for at least two coats. We'll help you estimate how much paint you'll need to get the job finished.

Valspar also offers a variety of online tools and resources to help you select the right look and colors for your accent wall:

Idea Gallery
Online Painter
Paint Calculator
Interior Decorative Painting Tips


 

Step 2 —Choose a Paint Finish

Accent walls are just as much about finishes as they are about color as you'll want to complement your existing finish.

In general, for formal areas we recommend you choose an elegant matte or eggshell finish. If the space is informal, a satin or semi-gloss finish may be your best option.

Perhaps you'd like to explore a decorative finish. If your home is older, with visible wall imperfections, you may prefer a low-sheen satin or eggshell finish with added durability.


 

Step 3 —Planning

An accent wall is generally a smaller, worry-free painting project and should therefore be an easy day project.

Choose the right painting clothes. Wear something that you won't mind getting paint on, like an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Don't forget to reward yourself (and anyone who helped). Make sure you wash your hands after your prep and paint work and then consider ordering a pizza to celebrate your progress after a productive day.


 

Step 4 —Clean and Clear the Room

Move the furniture. You may also want to remove wall displays or decorative shelving.

Remove any hardware. Take off electrical outlet covers, keeping all screws and fasteners together in a zipped plastic bag for easy replacement. Tape all electrical fixtures with painter's tape. Tape a small plastic bag around doorknobs.


 

Step 5 —Protect the Floors and Woodwork

Floors

Cover the floors completely with drop cloths. Try to lay the drop cloths as close as you can to the baseboards. We recommend you use cloth drop cloths because plastic doesn't absorb paint; a spill on plastic can create a slippery situation and quite a mess, too. If you do choose to use plastic, cover it with newspaper.

Woodwork

Tape along the top edge of the baseboards using a quality painter's tape with at least a 2" width (look for products that contain specific properties to handle your unique job or surface). Also tape any door or window frames or moldings that are not going to be painted.

Tip: By taping your baseboards and other framing, you make cutting in faster and easier. We recommend painter's tape because masking tape dries out too quickly and becomes difficult to remove. Once you have applied the painter's tape to the baseboard, pass over it with a putty knife, or a credit card, to smooth out any bubbles and ensure adhesion. This will keep any paint from getting underneath the tape. Remove the tape while the paint is still wet.


 
Helpful Information
Prepping Trim and Special Surfaces
Prepping Trim and Woodwork

Woodwork and Molding

Proper preparation is critical when painting woodwork —the touch ups you do here will create the smooth surface you seek once it is painted.

  • Fill in dents and rebuild chipped corners with wood filler.
  • Use patching compound on scratches and smaller cracks.
  • Sand the dry surface with 180-grit sandpaper and wipe away the dust.
  • Use a hand vacuum with a brush attachment to clean dust and debris from woodwork and door frames.

Tip: With contoured or intricate trim or molding, use a sanding sponge rather than sandpaper. The sponge gets at places the paper can't reach, resulting in a more uniformly smooth surface.

Bare woodwork: Use a latex or oil-based specialty primer that is formulated to block stains.


 

Glossy Painted Surfaces

Prime your glossy surfaces to promote adhesion of the top coat.

There are three ways to prime a glossy surface:

  1. Use a latex or oil-based primer formulated for glossy surface adhesion.
  2. Use a liquid deglosser, following all label instructions.
  3. Scuff the surface with 180-grit sandpaper. The scuffing will help the new paint adhere better. Before painting, wash the surface with trisodium phosphate (TSP) or substitute according to the manufacturer's instructions; rinse with water and let dry.

 
 

Step 6 —Remove Old Paint and Prep Walls

Use a scraper to remove any flaking paint and make sure to wear goggles to avoid falling paint chips from getting into your eyes. Clear away debris from any holes or cracks with a dry paint brush or a vacuum with a brush attachment.

Using a sponge mop, wash all surfaces with a solution of TSP and water (according to the manufacturer's instructions). Rinse with water and let dry thoroughly.

Tip: TSP is typically found in the paint department near the solvents. We recommend TSP because it is a non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner that can be used on practically any type of surface. It is also a concentrate, which makes it a bit stronger than most ordinary cleansers.

Masking an accent wall can be tricky. because corners and borders between walls aren't always even, extra care is needed to make sure your masking job is straight and even. Double-check your masking job before you proceed, and redo it if you're not satisfied.

Want to learn more on masking?


 
Helpful Information
Masking
Masking Interiors

Spread Drop Cloths and Newspapers

Move out of the room what you can, using good lifting techniques, material handling equipment and team lifting as appropriate. Cover the rest. Then use painters tape "the blue or green stuff—masking tape dries out quick and is hard to remove" to attach plastic drops to the floor and woodwork. Cover drops with newspapers. Paint soaks into newspapers. It doesn't dry on a plastic drop cloth—which means you're more likely to track paint around your house, or slip, if you don't spread newspapers.
 

Tape off Woodwork and Electric Plates

Use painter's tape to protect door, window frames and moldings. Tape off electrical fixtures and cable TV fixtures plates. Use small plastic bags to cover doorknobs.
 
 

Step 7 —Fill Cracks and Holes

Apply a lightweight patching compound to surface cracks or holes, using a putty knife; cover a little past the edges. Use your putty knife to smooth your surface. Let it all dry thoroughly. If more smoothing is desired, sand with fine grit sandpaper. Repeat these steps, being careful to let each layer of compound dry until you've achieved a perfectly smooth surface. For large areas, traditional drywall patching techniques are recommended.

It will be necessary to prime over the patching compound. Make sure the compound is fully dry before priming.


 

Step 8 —Clean and Dry Surfaces

Walls:
Moving from top to bottom, and using an ordinary sponge mop, clean the ceiling and walls thoroughly with TSP and water (according to the manufacturer's instructions). Rinse well and let dry.

Get rid of dirt and dust. Vacuum and dust as much of the room as possible, especially along baseboards. Particles can get in the paint or on the brush and create quite a mess —leaving a bumpy result on your walls.

For large areas, use a mop to wash all surfaces with a solution of TSP and water (according to the manufacturer's instructions). Rinse with water and let dry thoroughly.

Tip: TSP is typically found in the paint department near the solvents. We recommend TSP because it is a non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner that can be used on practically any type of surface. It is also a concentrate, which makes it a bit stronger than most ordinary cleansers. (Please note: Due to regulations, TSP may not be available in all areas.)

Trim:
Clean moldings and window sills with sponges or rags before you paint. Get rid of dirt and dust. Vacuum and dust as much of the room as possible, especially along baseboards. Particles can get in the paint or on the brush and create quite a mess —leaving a bumpy result on your walls.


 

Step 9 —Prime the Walls

Primer is essential to achieving professional-looking results. Bare wood, drywall, patching compound and plaster require primer to seal the surface. With proper priming, you will use less topcoat and the final color will lay rich on the top layer.

Check out our enamel undercoat and multi-purpose primers.

Tip: If you are repainting walls or woodwork in excellent condition, and/or you are not making dramatic color changes, priming is usually not needed.

Need to prime? Not sure which type to use? contact our Valspar technical support team, or call 1-888-313-5569 in the United States. They can help you determine if you need a primer as well as what type of primer you should choose.


 
Helpful Information
Loading Brushes
Loading Brushes
Loading a Brush
Moisten the brush with water (for latex paint) then squeeze out any excess fluid.
 
Dip the brush in the paint carefully, placing no more than 2/3 of the bristles into the paint and move the brush around a bit the first time to saturate the brush with paint.
 
Pull the brush up and let the excess paint drip off—overloading leads to drips, runs, and spatter. You can also remove some excess paint by pulling the bristles against the edge of the paint can.
 
Loading a Roller
Loading Rollers
Loading a Roller
First get the roller a little damp. Use a thinner for alkyd-based paint and plain old water for latex.
 
Roll off any excess. Fill the roller well about half way and lower the roller into the middle.
 
Roll up and down the slope of the pan to saturate the roller and roll off any excess.
 
Cutting In
Cutting In

“Cutting in” is a technique that helps you achieve clean lines at the corners and edges. Using an angled 2" trim brush, make a series of short strokes away from the edges where the walls or ceiling and wall meet. Work in 3-foot sections so you maintain a wet edge.

Tip: Paint pads make cutting in around door and window frames a cinch! They save time and deliver a reliably uniform edge. Keep the wheels very clean to prevent marking the wall, and work in 3-foot sections to maintain a wet edge.


 
Priming Stained Surfaces
Painting Stained Surfaces

Stained walls and ceilings need primer to lock the stain from migrating to your top coat. Some woods naturally bleed tannins, which are natural color compounds in wood. Smoke and water can also leave stains, which will come through the top coat no matter how many coats you apply. Select a stain-blocking primer that is best for the type of stain, either an oil-based or latex-based product.

Learn more about stain blocking primers.


 
Spot Priming
Spot Priming

If you've sanded down to a bare surface, you will need to prime those spots. For some stains, spot priming is the best way to save time and lock in the stain from migrating to the topcoat. Don't forget to feather-sand edges so the topcoat applies evenly.


 
Priming Glossy Surfaces
Priming Glossy Surfaces

Prime glossy surfaces to promote adhesion of the topcoat.

There are three ways to prime a glossy surface:

  1. Use a latex or oil-based primer formulated for glossy surface adhesion.
  2. Use a liquid deglosser such as Prepaint, following all label instructions.
  3. Go over the surface with 180-grit sandpaper. The scuffing will help the new paint adhere. Before painting, wash the surface with TSP and water according to the manufacturer's instructions; rinse with water and let dry.

Learn more about multi-purpose primers.


 
Dramatic Color Changes
Dramatic Color Changes

You can achieve a professional result with dramatic color changes when you use the right primer. Use a "high-hiding" primer if you want to paint a light color over a dark color.

Learn more about high-hiding primers.


 
 

Step 10 —Paint the Trim

It is best to paint the trim work before the walls are painted. Beginning with your baseboards, use a 2" angled tip/sash brush and paint around the room in one direction, so that you do not miss any areas. Next, paint the window trim, door trim and any molding. Remove tape before the paint dries.

Need a refresher on loading a brush?


 
Helpful Information
Loading a Brush
Loading Brushes
Loading a Brush
Moisten the brush with water (for latex paint) then squeeze out any excess fluid.
 
Dip the brush in the paint carefully, placing no more than 2/3 of the bristles into the paint and move the brush around a bit the first time to saturate the brush with paint.
 
Pull the brush up and let the excess paint drip off—overloading leads to drips, runs, and spatter. You can also remove some excess paint by pulling the bristles against the edge of the paint can.
 
 

Step 11 —Cut In

"Cutting in" is a technique that helps you achieve clean lines at the corners and edges. Using an angled 2" trim brush, make a series of short strokes away from the edges where the walls or ceiling and wall meet. Work in three-foot sections so that you maintain a wet edge.

Tip: Paint pads make cutting in around door and window frames a cinch. They save time and deliver a reliably uniform edge. Keep the wheels very clean to prevent marking the wall, and work in three-foot sections to maintain a wet edge.


 

Step 12 —Paint the Ceiling and Walls

After you have completed all of your cutting in work, the next area to tackle is the ceiling. Using a roller affixed to an extension pole, glide the paint in one direction, moving quickly to maintain your wet edge and avoid excess pressure.

Tip: For easy cleanup, line your roller tray with a garbage bag.

Roll a 3-foot wide shape of a "W" on the wall. Without lifting the roller, fill in the "W." Move vertically across the room, moving from side to side.



Tip: If you have to take a break from your painting project, instead of rinsing the brush or roller, tightly wrap the tool in that plastic wrap or an airtight plastic bag. The plastic wrap will keep the paint wet so the roller can be reused later that day.

Check your product label for dry times. Remember not to put anything against the walls until the paint is completely dry; otherwise, you'll be back to step one.

Need a refresher on loading a roller or brush?


 
Helpful Information
Loading a Roller
Loading Rollers
Loading a Roller
First get the roller a little damp. Use a thinner for alkyd-based paint and plain old water for latex.
 
Roll off any excess. Fill the roller well about half way and lower the roller into the middle.
 
Roll up and down the slope of the pan to saturate the roller and roll off any excess.
 
Loading Brushes
Loading Brushes
Loading a Brush
Moisten the brush with water (for latex paint) then squeeze out any excess fluid.
 
Dip the brush in the paint carefully, placing no more than 2/3 of the bristles into the paint and move the brush around a bit the first time to saturate the brush with paint.
 
Pull the brush up and let the excess paint drip off—overloading leads to drips, runs, and spatter. You can also remove some excess paint by pulling the bristles against the edge of the paint can.
 
 

Step 13 —Finishing Touches

A professional decorator would advise you to carry your color scheme to the smallest detail.

Spray paint is an easy way to change the color of electrical covers, light switch covers, light fixtures, vases, picture frames, and chairs —Almost anything in the room that you want to keep but need to update in order to complement the newly painted room.

 

Step 14 —Clean and be Green

More painting to do tomorrow with the same color? You don't have to clean brushes and rollers when you take a break. Wrap them in sealed plastic to stay moist until you are ready to paint again.

Tip: If paint has hardened on the handle or along the edge of the bristles, soften it with warm water so you can remove it before you begin to paint. Make sure you dry the brush before you dip it.

Project Finished? Don't throw away the rollers and brushes. With proper cleaning and storage, good painting tools can be reused many times. Reusing them saves you time and money, and also helps the environment, because you're generating less waste.


 
Helpful Information
Cleaning Rollers
Cleaning Rollers
Latex Paint

To remove excess paint, scrape the tool thoroughly or wipe it across cardboard or newspaper.

If you are removing latex paint, partially fill a sink with warm water and roll the applicator back and forth. You can also remove paint in a bucket of water. If necessary, add detergent to remove partially dried material. Rinse the roller until the water is clear. Let dry.

Spin the roller to release excess moisture and then place it in a clean plastic bag (food storage bags work great).


 
Oil-Based Paint (Alkyd)

To remove excess paint, scrape the tool thoroughly or wipe it across cardboard or newspaper.

For oil-based paint, roll the applicator in a paint tray containing mineral spirits (petroleum distillate) or paint thinner. Next, wash the roller in soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.

Spin the roller to release excess moisture and then place it in a clean plastic bag (food storage bags work great).


 
Cleaning Paint Brushes
Cleaning Brushes

Latex Paint

If you used latex paint, remove the excess paint in a bucket or container while the paint is still wet. It is much more difficult to remove dried paint with soap and water —if necessary, use a brush comb to remove it. Wash off the remaining paint under running water.


 

If you're going to use the brush again within a day, suspend the brush in a coffee can full of water making sure the bristles don't touch the bottom of the can. You don't want a brush with bent bristles. For long-term storage, hang brushes from a hook.


 

Alkyd/Oil Paint

Oil-based paint should be removed in a bucket or container with mineral spirits (petroleum distillate), rinsed in tap water and then washed with soapy water. Rinse the brush until the water runs clear. Keep alkyd paint containers closed when not in use. Do not transfer contents to other containers for storage or disposal. In case of spillage, absorb with an inert material such as sand or kitty litter. Dispose of contaminated absorbent, container and/or unused contents in accordance with local, state and federal regulations.


 
 
DANGER: A spontaneous combustion hazard exists when cleaning up after using products that contain drying oils, such as linseed oil or tung oil. Rags, steel wool, sanding dust or waste soaked with oil-based products may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately after each use, place rags, steel wool, sanding dust or waste in a sealed, water-filled metal container.
 
Storing Paint
Disposal, Storage and Recycling
 

Store It

First, prepare your paint for storage. Label the paint can lid with the color and location where the paint was used. To properly store your paint, make sure you tightly seal the can. First, wipe away any excess paint from the rim. Then cover the can opening with plastic wrap. Put the lid securely in place and tap it down with a mallet. Store the can upside down. If the can is leaking, place it in a leak-proof container.

Store paint where temperatures are moderate. Temperature extremes can negatively affect paint and make it unusable. Never allow paint to freeze.

Quick reference your stored cans by brushing a small amount of paint onto the outside surface (body of can or lid) and writing the color name and number in permanent ink. You can also identify the room or wall that was painted with that color.

You may also want to create and save a file on your computer of the paints you have placed in storage; that way, if someone tosses it by mistake, you still have the information at your fingertips.

Keep paint in a safe location, away from children and pets.


 
 

Paint Disposal

Proper paint disposal contributes to a more efficient use of our landfills and, ultimately, safer groundwater and soil. We recommend the following tips:

  • Check local ordinances and waste hauler regulations.
  • Read paint can instructions for proper disposal.
  • Get rid of properly dried latex in your regular household trash; however, follow these steps prior to disposal:
    • Cans with leftover paint should be left open so that the paint dries before disposal.
    • Make sure you place the drying cans in a well ventilated area. Cans with less than a quarter of the paint remaining will require a few days of drying time. Cans with larger amounts will take about a week.
    • You can also add shredded newspaper, sand, sawdust, cat litter or solidifier to the paint, which will absorb the excess paint. These materials also work well in stopping paint spills from spreading on most surfaces.
    • Another solution is to punch holes in the top of the can and then place it in a dry area for a couple of weeks.
  • When the cans are ready to be thrown out, make sure the lids have been removed to let waste haulers know the paint is dry.
  • NOTE: Oil-based paints, varnish or paint thinners are considered hazardous waste. Check with your municipality about any local ordinances and read label instructions before disposal —Another good reason why you never want to spill paint on the back of your paint can label. Only dispose through your locally designated household hazardous waste program. To locate a recycling facility in your area, you can visit earth911.com and search their database. They also offer a toll-free, bilingual resource at 1-800-Cleanup.


 
 

Recycling

The Valspar Corporation takes environmental sustainability and responsibility seriously. For instance, we're doing our part both in how we formulate and how we manufacture our paints. Our architectural paints meet or exceed national, state and local ordinances for low VOC in consumer products.In addition, we have saved over a million gallons of water usage in our latex plant operations through optimization and reuse programs.

Recycling metal and plastic paint cans should always be considered to reduce landfill usage. Paint cans should be thoroughly clean and dry. Metal cans are recyclable. Plastic cans may be recyclable, if your waste hauler accepts them. Check your local ordinances or with your waste hauler to see what is allowed.


 
 

Tool Tips

Good painting tools can be reused many times —saving you money and time spent shopping for new tools, as well as helping the environment by generating less waste.

  • Rollers:
    • To reuse a roller the next day, place it in a plastic bag for storage to prevent it from drying out.
    • With latex paint, partially fill a sink with warm water and roll the applicator back and forth. You can also remove paint in a bucket of water. If necessary, use detergent with the water to remove difficult paint. Rinse the roller until the water is clear. Let dry.
    • For oil-based paint, roll the applicator in a paint tray containing mineral spirits (petroleum distillate) or paint thinner. Then wash the roller in soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.
    • Spin out the excess moisture and place rollers into clean plastic bags, such as food storage bags.
  • Brushes:
    • With latex paint, remove most of the excess in a bucket or container while the paint is still wet. It is much more difficult to remove dried paint with soap and water. Wash off the remaining paint under running water.
    • Oil-based paint should be removed in a bucket or container with mineral spirits (petroleum distillate), rinsed in tap water and then washed with soapy water. Rinse once more.
    • Moist paint brushes can be wrapped in wax paper and sealed with a rubber band or aluminum foil to retain their shape. Hang the brush upside down to maintain its shape.
    • DANGER: A spontaneous combustion hazard exists when cleaning up after using products that contain drying oils, such as linseed oil or tung oil. Rags, steel wool, sanding dust or waste soaked with oil-based products may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately after each use, place rags, steel wool, sanding dust or waste in a sealed, water-filled metal container.
  • Other Tools:
    • Follow the directions on the paint label for tools used.
    • Applying the excess paint to cardboard or newspaper, or carefully scraping the tool, should remove excess paint.

 
 
Congratulations! You have successfully transformed a room in your home. Order in, take out, put your feet up and bask in the glory of a job well done.
 
 
 
 
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