How to Paint Stripes on a Wall

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

How to Paint Stripes

Whether a sophisticated tone-on-tone color scheme or a delightfully bright blend of hues, striped walls add interest to plain spaces. 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.

Before you commit to painting stripes, make sure you take the time to pick out the perfect paint colors. Experiment by painting one or more sample boards to explore your color options. Adjust the amount of contrast between the colors and the overall brightness, if necessary. A high-contrast black-and-white striped wall or red and yellow color scheme can overpower a room. They can, however, be used successfully in small areas, such as below a chair rail. Plan to keep 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. Or, try using more than one color for the stripes. Look to striped fabrics for ideas about combinations of colors and widths. 

In addition to color, you also have to consider the striping paint design. Stripes are as fashionable on walls as on clothing, and the same fashion rules apply to both. That means 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. On the other hand, 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, while wide stripes in a small room can be overpowering and make you feel boxed in.

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

  • Working Time 8 Hours
  • Start to Finish 1 Day
  • Difficulty         Select Projects Kind of Easy
  • Involves Painting, Measuring

What you need

Tools

  • 9-inch paint roller
  • Paint tray
  • Yardstick
  • Colored pencil to match the stripe color
  • Long carpenter's level
  • Trim brush

Materials

  • Paint, in desired colors
  • Low-tack painters tape

How to do it

Step 1 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 2 Measure and Divide

how to paint stripes level

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—regular graphite pencil lines are harder to cover and may smudge.

Step 3 Trace Lines

how to paint stripes level vertical line

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. For a crisp line, tape before painting. Place a line of painters 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.

Step 4 Cut In Left Side

painting vertical stripe

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 5 Fill In Center

filling in vertical stripe

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

Step 6 Cut In Right Side

vertical stripes

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 with a small artists brush. Remove the tape as soon as possible, and always within 60 minutes.

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