Painting Stripes

Painting stripes is one of the most popular faux techniques. Stripes can add visual interest to any room or space, and can accomplish a variety of different looks.

Painted Stripes

In recent years, painting has gained popularity over wallpaper. Paint is easier to apply, easier to remove, easier to change, and easier to clean.

Some of us, however, still like the look of wallpaper, particularly that of a repeated pattern such as stripes. Hence the popularity of painting stripes.

Striping is a slightly more complex technique than most of the faux painting techniques. It requires some patience, but you can do it.

This page will concentrate upon vertical stripes, which is the most popular.

There are several variations of color selection available for painting stripes. They are:

  • using a tone-on-tone technique (subtle)

  • using alternating stripes of flat/glossy finishes of the same color (very subtle and elegant)

My personal favorite is the flat/glossy stripes, which I believe looks both very elegant and restrained.

All of these looks are achieved using the same general steps. The difference lies in your personal selection of colors.

Stop! Very Important! Before beginning, be sure your walls are properly prepared. Not sure? Take a look at our paint preparation instructions (opens in a new window).

Here’s what you’ll need:

Necessary Paint Products

This varies depending on what look you decide to apply. For either look, you will need to purchase enough of the “lighter” colored paint to completely base coat the walls (more than one coat, if necessary), and then enough of the darker (or glossier) paint to cover the “striped” areas.

“Tone-on-Tone Technique”

  • Latex Eggshell Finish Paint (base coat color)

  • Latex Eggshell Finish Paint (complimenting stripe color)

“Flat on Gloss Technique”

  • Latex Eggshell Finish Paint (for base coat)

  • Latex Semi-Gloss Paint (for striping, in the same color as the base coat)

Necessary Paint Supplies and Applicators

  • 3/8” Nap Roller Cover

  • Roller Frame

  • 2” Angled Nylon/Poly Brush

  • 2” Painter’s Tape

  • Chalk Line

Additional Equipment

  • A Partner to Help (at least with Step 2)


Painting Stripes: Painting the Base Coat

Begin by taping around the ceiling, windows, doors, floor trim, and any other woodwork or trim that is present. Use a high-quality nylon-polyester brush to “cut in” around the ceiling and trim work.

Using a moderately-loaded 3/8” roller, roll on the eggshell base coat. When rolling, finish each section with a smooth ceiling-to-floor stroke to help eliminate roller marks.

Per paint manufacturer’s instructions, wait at least six hours before applying the necessary second coat. Allow the base coat to “cure” for at least 2-3 days before painting the stripes.


Taping off the Stripes

Here’s where things get a little bit tricky, so hang with me.

  • First, we need to calculate the total circumference of the room, or length of the wall, you will be striping.

    For example, if you are striping a 12’x12’ room, you have a grand total of 48’ total wall length (12+12+12+12). Break this down to the number of inches (48x12) to get 576”.

    Now, we need to find a uniform size for the stripes you are going to paint. We can do that by finding your preferred size (let’s say 6”), and dividing 576 by that number (576/6) which is 96.

    Warning: This number must be whole and even, like 96 is. If the number is not whole, you will finish with a partial stripe, which will look bad. If the number is odd instead of even, the final two stripes will be the same color, instead of alternating.

  • The second thing to keep in mind is this: the wider the stripes, the more casual the look. Narrower stripes have a more formal appearance.

Now that you’ve chosen the width of your stripes, measure in an inch or two from a corner at the top and bottom of the wall and mark this lightly with a pencil.

Now, with your partner’s help, snap a chalk line between the two marks. Continue to across the wall in this way, measuring the width of your stripe from the last chalk line, marking, and snapping chalk lines until you’ve sectioned off an entire wall.

This step can also be accomplished with a level and a pencil, by marking the top and bottom lines, then running a light pencil mark between them along a straight level (see photo right). You choose which method you are comfortable with, as long as the lines are straight.

Once you’ve finished placing plumb chalk lines along the wall, begin taping those sections off with 2” painter’s tape.

Keep in mind, you want to place the strip of tape outside the area to be painted. Your partner can help you keep this piece of tape aligned with the chalk line (one of you at the top of the wall, the other at the bottom).

Tip: Place your tape alongside your chalk line, not over top of it. Once your tape is applied, wipe away your chalk line and erase any pencil marks before painting the stripe.


Painting Stripes

Once you’ve taped off one wall, go back the beginning of the wall and begin painting stripes within the taped-off areas. Use a brush to “cut-in” and apply paint to the striped areas.

Painting Stripes

After you’ve completed 4-5 of these stripes, go back and gently remove the tape from around these stripes while the paint is still wet. This will make them much easier to remove than waiting until the paint has dried.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 all the way around the room. As you round corners, continue as if the corner was not there. For example, if your stripes are 6” wide and you have started a stripe 2” from the corner, measure 4” in from the corner on the next wall to finish the stripe.


  • The tape can be plumbed without a helper using the same “measure, mark” concept as the two person team, but you will need to use a 4’ level to mark out your plumb lines instead of a chalk line.

  • One way to add interest to stripes sections is to add a sponged or ragged effect to the striped areas. See the instructions for sponge painting or ragging paint for those particular techniques.

  • Remember when painting stripes, wider stripes have a more casual appearance, while narrower stripes have a more formal look.

  • Use only low-tack painter's tape. Masking tape will pull your new paint off the wall when it is removed.

I hope these instructions have been a help to you in your painting project. While painting stripes is not the simplest or easiest of painting projects, the finished results are well worth the time and effort. Good luck.

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