How to Paint Stripes on a Wall

Update boring walls with a pretty stripe design. Whether you want horizontal stripes or vertical stripes, we have step-by-step instructions—plus several expert tips—for painting stylish striped walls.

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In a sophisticated tone-on-tone color scheme or delightfully bright blend of hues, stripes add interest to plain walls. A steady hand and the proper brush yield a charming hand-painted look, while using painters tape lends the feel of precision with a crisp line.

The possibilities are seemingly endless when learning how to paint stripes on walls. We've broken down the process into simple, easy-to-follow steps. Our how-to, coupled with expert advice, will have you striping it rich in no time!

Tips for Painting Stripes

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What You Need

  • Paint for base coat and top coat. We used Behr paints: Fountain Sprout 2059-70 (base coat) and Spirit Whisper 420A-2 (top coat). Semigloss finish is preferred, but any sheen will work.
  • 9-inch paint roller and tray for base coat
  • Low-tack painters tape (optional)
  • Yardstick (optional)
  • Colored pencil to match the stripe color
  • Long carpenter's level
  • Trim brush

Before You Begin: Paint Base Coat

Using a paint roller, apply base coat on a clean, dry wall; let dry. Apply a second coat if needed, and allow to dry. Use painters tape to mask around the doors, windows, ceiling, and floor, if desired.

Step 1: Measure and Divide

Measure the desired width of the stripes. Divide the wall into even increments. The stripes shown here measure 5 inches, but you may need to adjust the width to fit your wall or for the look you want. Using a colored pencil that matches the stripe color, make a light hash mark at each increment.

Step 2: Trace Lines

Draw the vertical lines. Using a carpenters level, lightly extend the hash marks vertically from ceiling to baseboard. Periodically measure the stripes to make sure they remain parallel and even. If desired, now is the time to apply painters tape along the edges of the traced lines.

Step 3: Cut In Left Side

Cut in the left edge of each stripe. Cut in along the ceiling with a trim brush. Paint the left edge of the stripe design, covering the pencil line. Reload the paintbrush as needed so the color is opaque and even.

Step 4: Fill In Center

Fill in the center of each stripe. Paint the center of the stripe using long, vertical strokes.

Step 5: Cut In Right Side

Cut in the right edge of each stripe. Edge the right side of the stripe, covering the pencil line. Cut in along the baseboard. Repeat for each remaining stripe. Touch up any uneven spots.

Picking Stripe Colors

Picking out paint colors is the most important part of painting stripes on a wall. These tips for choosing hues will help you achieve your desired results.
  • Paint one or more sample boards to explore your color options. Adjust the amount of contrast between the colors and the overall brightness, if necessary. High-contrast stripes such as black and white or red and yellow can overpower a room. They can, however, be used successfully in small areas, such as below a chair rail.
  • Keeping the colors similar in value, both light or both dark, is easier on the eyes and prevents one stripe from popping out against the other.
  • For a high-end look, use closely related hues of the same color—two shades of tan or three shades of blue, for example.
  • Try using more than one color for the stripes. Look to striped fabrics for ideas about combinations of colors and widths.
  • Combine different paint sheens for even more interest; for example, if the base coat is flat, paint the stripes semigloss.

Our Top Paint Colors

Choosing a Stripe Design

Stripes are as fashionable on walls as on clothing, and the same fashion rules apply to both. Keep these tips in mind before committing to a stripe design.

  • Vertical stripes can make a wall look taller. While this is desirable in most rooms, a small space with high ceilings may look awkward and gangly with vertical stripes.
  • Horizontal stripes can make a short wall appear wider, causing the whole room to seem larger. The width of the stripe is key, too.
  • Narrow stripes in a large room may seem to disappear or blend together.
  • Wide stripes in a small room can be overpowering and make you feel boxed in.

Bonus Painting Tips

For a cleaner, sleeker result, read these tips before painting stripes on a wall. 

  • Use a colored pencil that matches the stripe color for marking the wall. Regular graphite pencil lines are harder to cover and may smudge.
  • When measuring the wall, start in the least noticeable corner of the room so uneven stripes will be less obvious. You may need to adjust the last few stripes so you don't end up with one narrow stripe at the end. When you reach a corner, you can adjust the stripes' width or wrap the color around the corner.
  • For a crisp line, tape off the stripes using painters tape. Place a line of tape just outside each pencil line so the stripe will cover the pencil line. Using the back of a plastic tool handle or an old credit card, press the edge of the tape down hard to seal it to the wall.
  • To prevent the stripe color from bleeding underneath the tape, first paint over the tape edge with the base coat; let dry. If any paint bleeds under the tape, it will be the base color and not noticeable.
  • Paint the contrasting stripe, and remove the tape as soon as possible, and always within 60 minutes.
  • If a stripe has an uneven edge, touch it up with a small artists brush.

More Interior Paint Tips

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