Painting an accent wall is a great way to give flavor to a room you spend time in. In one apartment I was living, I had the option to hire a painter in the apartment complex to paint one of my living room walls for $50 as long as I provided the paint. Since I would have to buy the paint anyway, I decided to take on the home improvement task myself instead of hiring someone else. Here's how you can paint an accent wall yourself in 7 steps.
Step 1: Select the paint color
This is the easiest step. Many local hardware stores and any other stores that sell paint have a selection of color samples that can be taken for free for the purpose of selecting a color that you can use in painting an accent wall (or any interior walls, for that matter).
You can bring the color samples with you and tape them to the surface you are hoping to have painted. It is a good idea to take a look at how the desired color looks in the natural and artificial light conditions that will be striking your accent wall. This is because one color may have a different appearance between, for example, being viewed in a hardware store under fluorescent lighting and being viewed on an accent wall that may receive a lot of natural light.
Step 2: Acquire supplies
If you are on a shoestring, see if you can borrow any painting supplies you may need from friends or relatives. Homeowners often have extra primer or paint supplies from prior paint jobs that are not getting any use. You can also check ads on sites like Craigslist to see if anyone in the area may be willing to part with any used paint supplies for free or for a steep discount.
What supplies do you need to paint an accent wall yourself? You can get by with only a roller (with a brush on the roller), a trim brush, and painter's tape. If the surface you are painting is not primed, you may want to pick up some primer as well. And of course you will want to pick up the paint itself in the color and type you want to use. You may or may not need a screwdriver (see step 3). You can generally pick up a stirrer and paint can opener for free when picking up the paint itself.
What kind of paint should you use? For interior walls in living rooms or bedrooms, latex paint in eggshell or satin varieties are generally safe bets. For kitchens or bathrooms, where the surfaces may receive more moisture, you may want to opt for semi-gloss. To avoid the accent wall standing out in an undesired way, you will likely want to match the paint type with the other walls in the room. If the others were painted eggshell, for example, it's generally a good idea to stick with eggshell.
Flat paint is the least reflective of the options and may have an attractive look, especially on a surface directly facing a bright light source. That said, flat paint is notoriously difficult to wash if any scuff marks appear on the surface. Having lived in an apartment where most walls were painted with flat paint, the bottom half of the walls, especially in the hallway, ended up with innumerable scuff marks over the years that were difficult to wash out. I ended up just repainting the walls to cover the scuff marks.
How much paint will you need? A quart will cost about $10-15 and will generally allow for two coats for a wall that is as large as 100 square feet.
Step 3: Prepare the accent wall for painting
This step is about avoiding getting any paint where you do NOT want it. Use a screwdriver to remove the plating around any electrical outlets on the wall. Use the painter's tape to tape around the perimeter of the wall and over any trim so that paint does not end up on the neighboring walls, ceiling, or trim. Tape over any wall outlets as well.
Cover the floor below the wall with something to avoid paint ending up on the floor. You can use old newspaper, flattened cardboard boxes, an old bedsheet you do not mind potentially splattering, or some plastic tarp.
Wear clothes that you do not mind getting accidentally painted, and shoes or socks that you do not mind stepping in paint (if paint splatters on the floor covering). You will want to be careful when painting that you do not accidentally track any spills from the floor covering to the floor when you walk around.
Last, make sure the wall is clean and ready before painting. Wiping the wall with a damp cloth to remove any dust will help the primer and paint apply more easily.
Step 4: Prime the wall
Primer generally acts as a bonding agent, allowing the paint to adhere to the surface of the accent wall more easily.
If the wall was originally another (non-white) color, priming the wall has the added advantage of lightening the wall color and making it easy to paint over.
In other words, without priming, if you paint in red over a wall that was originally tan, the tan color may show through the red paint, affecting the final perceived color of your accent wall. You may need to apply more than two coats of the red paint to completely block out the tan underneath.
If you use one coat of primer before applying the red paint, in this example, you can get away with using less red paint. Since primer is generally cheaper than paint, using primer ends up being cost effective for this reason as well.
To prime the wall, pour the primer into the paint tray. Roll the roller in the tray to soak up the primer and then apply the roller to the wall to roll the primer onto the wall slowly. If the roller is wet, rolling the wet coat onto the wall too fast may cause primer to splatter onto other surfaces or onto yourself.
Cover the entire wall using the primer. You can use the trim brush to paint the trim in the corners of the accent wall that the roller is unable to easily reach.
Step 5: Paint the wall using your chosen color
Once the primer is dry, apply the colored paint the same way -- using the roller for most of the surface area and the trim brush for the edges. After applying one coat, wait for the coat to dry and apply additional coats as needed over the dried surface until the color is uniform across the surface.
Step 6: Deconstruct your project space
Once you have finished painting the accent wall with the final coat, you can remove the tape and the floor covering, close the paint can for storage (or disposal) and wash the supplies. Once the final coat is dry, you can reattach any outlet plates as well.
Step 7: Enjoy your new accent wall!
You've finished! Adjust all the furniture in the room to take advantage of the new appearance of the room, sit back, and enjoy (opening a refreshing post-work beverage of choice is optional).
Painting an accent wall yourself is not only a rewarding way to add a personal touch to your own home or office space, it can often save you money as well.
By borrowing supplies, I was able to create an accent wall in my living room instead of hiring someone else, saving the $50 it would have cost to hire someone else. It took about an hour of my time (not counting the down-time in between coats of paint), so for this project my time was worth $50 per hour. Not bad for a non-professional!