How to Paint a Tropical Ombre Wall

Updated on November 24, 2017

Creating This Look Is Actually Pretty Easy

Just have:

  • patience
  • 2-3 colors of paint
  • patience
  • paint rollers/brushes
  • patience

A little patience doesn't hurt, either! The more time you give yourself to blend, the smoother the final look will be, so give yourself a few days to complete the project.

I admit that this is a little "do as I say and not as I've done." Moving along too quickly, I definitely made mistakes, which I'll show you so you can avoid them.

Spend Some Time Exploring to Find Colors You Love

I really wanted a warm dusky sky, but wasn't sure how to get there, so I bought a package of inexpensive canvas boards and started playing with craft paints. It took some time to discover that, although I thought pinks were the way to go, I actually prefered the blue/purple side of the spectrum.

It also gave me time to learn to blend on a small scale, something I thought would help in the long term.

Expectations vs. Realities

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the sort of palate I thought I wanted to go with.I ended up closer to these colors.After a lot of playing, I decided to go with a calmer palate. These are the craft paints.I recreated the board with the actual wall paints and it started out well, but I should've added the pink at the outset. It would have ended up saving some headaches.All taped up and ready to go!
This is the sort of palate I thought I wanted to go with.
This is the sort of palate I thought I wanted to go with.
I ended up closer to these colors.
I ended up closer to these colors.
After a lot of playing, I decided to go with a calmer palate. These are the craft paints.
After a lot of playing, I decided to go with a calmer palate. These are the craft paints. | Source
I recreated the board with the actual wall paints and it started out well, but I should've added the pink at the outset. It would have ended up saving some headaches.
I recreated the board with the actual wall paints and it started out well, but I should've added the pink at the outset. It would have ended up saving some headaches.
All taped up and ready to go!
All taped up and ready to go!

Prepping Your Project/Choosing Your Tools

I chose Glidden's Diamond paint for my project for many reasons.It goes over everything, is super scrubbable, is very affordable and is easy to work with. Although the wall looks pre-primed, it wasn't, and Diamond stood up to everything I threw at it- in come cases, literally! I did wipe it down with Simple Green, but otherwise it was ready to go and I knew the paint would handle the job ahead.

Disclaimer: no, I don't work for Glidden, Diamond or their parent company PPG nor do I profit in any way from plugging their paint- I'm just a fan!

This was the first time I used a paint sprayer, because I really wanted to blend the colors well, and, thinking I was being proactive, used plastic over the window. I didn't worry about the floor because I was replacing it, but really should have gone the extra step and used plastic over the baseboards and along the ceiling.

Given what happened to my clothes, hair and shoes, I might've considered wrapping myself up in it! Even used on a narrow setting, it gets everywhere, including up your nose and down your throat- breathing masks are a must.


Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Do not assume professional paints will respond the same way craft-store paints do. They are manufactured very differently and can blend in unexpected ways. After testing your craft paints, you may want to purchase sample sizes of the corresponding paint-store paint before diving in and investing in larger quantities.

I wish I had.

Divide Your Wall by Your Number of Colors

Most ombre walls are darkest at the bottom and lighten as they rise. Because of the look I wanted, I went the other direction with dark at the top, light at the bottom.

Whichever side is going to be the lightest color, paint that half of the wall (top or bottom) your lightest color.

I used three main colors, but wanted a small pop of pink toward the bottom. I rolled a stripe of the darkest color at the ceiling, about 15% of the total wall height- don't drive yourself crazy, just eyeball it. Then a second stripe of the mid-range color about twice as wide as the dark color. The creamy white came up from the bottom and reached under the teal.

Mix and Blend, Mix and Blend, Blend, Blend, Blend

In a separate paint pan, mix half of the dark color with an equal amount mid color, then fill in between the stripes, overlapping a bit on each side. In this case, it was purple and teal.

If you're doing three colors, do the same with your mid color and your bottom color, and start blending downward. Here it was teal and a hot pink, but I didn't get the expected result..

Houston, we have a problem.

Paint Store Paint vs. Craft Paint

See that big stripe at the bottom that looks pretty much exactly the same color as the second stripe from the top? When I blended the craft paints, they looked great. Wall paint gave entirely different results.

What was supposed to be a pink that faded down to white at the bottom just didn't work, because of how the tints in the paint interact.

I didn't realize that the dark purple paint used the same colorants as the pink, just in different proportions. When added to the teal, the results became nearly identical. The more pink I added, the worse (and blotchier) the problem became.

Remember being a little kid doing water colors and how easy it was to accidentally turn everything mud brown? Same problem, but with purple. No matter what I did...more purple.

You Don't NEED a Paint Sprayer to Do This!

You can absolutely do this with a brush! The fewer colors you have, the easier it's going to be, but because I wanted to get a smoother blend with 4 colors total, I decided the extra expense was worth it.

Time to Break out the Paint Sprayer

I decided to fix it in the blending, Besides, that was going to be the fun part, right?

I'd already bought an inexpensive sprayer through Amazon, and figured I should be able to get at least a few uses out of it. Most you'll see in the box stores start at around $100, which I wasn't willing to part with.

I was very impressed with this unit for this purpose. It worked well, and was easy to clean. The biggest difference between this unit and the more expensive ones is that this is pretty simple, with few options for you to control.

Also, importantly, there is no screen the paint has to pass through, which would filter any particulates out and keep the machine from clogging. This is something some customers have complained about, but since I knew I'd be changing the colors pretty often and cleaning it out, so it didn't concern me very much.

There were a few less expensive ones than this, but they want you to thin the paint, which is a bad idea.Thinning can destroy the paint film, making it less durable/cleanable with unpredictable results.

Also, it voids the warranty, which many people don't realize paints have- if you have a problem with application or it doesn't last, the companies will be happy to help you resolve it. With Glidden, for example, if I have an issue I know that there's a representative assigned to each store that I can call and speak to directly, and you never know when something strange will arise. In the case of this project, I spoke to the rep about my "everything's purple!" problem, and he's the one who discovered the tint issue and helped me decide how to work around it.

The blending begins

The bottom layer of purple has started to sink down under a pink/white mix, but the brush mark from where I got impatient is very visible. It would take quite a few passes with the sprayer to eventually hide it.
The bottom layer of purple has started to sink down under a pink/white mix, but the brush mark from where I got impatient is very visible. It would take quite a few passes with the sprayer to eventually hide it.

That Patience Thing Rears Its Ugly Head Again

Starting with about 75% purple to 25% teal, I started spraying stripes slowly, gradually changing toward more teal, less purple as I got lower, then teal with mostly white and a drop of the pink.

This shows the purple starting to be swallowed, but I also wanted to show you another boo-boo I made: see those shiny patches on the photo above? That's where the sprayer spit out a big glob of paint in one place. I used a brush to spread it out, and the enamel in the paint was brought to the surface. I didn't realize it until the paint dried, and then it took quite a bit of effort to (mostly) hide it.

Lesson learned: Brush or spray- one or the other, never both because despite being the exact same paint they leave a very different finish on the wall.

Almost there...

The purple is still there, but much reduced and I took a few more passes, but decided this was almost as good as it would get.
The purple is still there, but much reduced and I took a few more passes, but decided this was almost as good as it would get.

One Step More

Since it was missing my palm trees dancing in the sky that started this project, I decided to add some of my own.

Unfortunately, the only place that made sense was in the corner where the vent overhang is, but I went with it anyway.

Using a few different shades of dark green, I re-positioned and taped the stencil 3 times per side, cleaning it each time before reuse. The stencil was really well made and sturdy, made of a quite thick but flexible plastic that stood up to being scrubbed down, leaned on and stretched out multiple times.

Palm tree stencil progression

Click thumbnail to view full-size
If you have to use adhesive over a surface painted fewer than 30 days ago, use either yellow Frogtape or the "delicate surface" painter's tape or risk pulling the paint off with the glue.Adding more fronds.Using more craft paint I sketched in a basic palm trunk. Palms expand as new fronds come up from the center and older fronds die off, leaving a criss cross pattern, which I sort of approximated.When I thought about the palms we had, I realized they felt lighter, brighter. So one last step:Added a little parchment white here and there. Here the floor is done, too, and things are coming together!
If you have to use adhesive over a surface painted fewer than 30 days ago, use either yellow Frogtape or the "delicate surface" painter's tape or risk pulling the paint off with the glue.
If you have to use adhesive over a surface painted fewer than 30 days ago, use either yellow Frogtape or the "delicate surface" painter's tape or risk pulling the paint off with the glue.
Adding more fronds.
Adding more fronds.
Using more craft paint I sketched in a basic palm trunk. Palms expand as new fronds come up from the center and older fronds die off, leaving a criss cross pattern, which I sort of approximated.
Using more craft paint I sketched in a basic palm trunk. Palms expand as new fronds come up from the center and older fronds die off, leaving a criss cross pattern, which I sort of approximated.
When I thought about the palms we had, I realized they felt lighter, brighter. So one last step:
When I thought about the palms we had, I realized they felt lighter, brighter. So one last step:
Added a little parchment white here and there. Here the floor is done, too, and things are coming together!
Added a little parchment white here and there. Here the floor is done, too, and things are coming together!

Overall

I was pretty happy overall with the final result. There a few things I'd have done differently, but I like the effect. It changes colors dramatically based on the light, so it always looks a bit different. At night, through the window, the palm tree even looks surprisingly real!

A side note: as part of the room makeover, I changed out the light fixture from a basic contractor-type fixture to one I liked the look of better. Unfortunately, the fixture is lovely, but the light it puts out is not- it's LED light and very cold. I'll be changing back soon. If you haven't noticed what a difference light makes in the way we perceive color, take a look at this example of a single wall shown in different lights: Lighting Does Make a Difference.

A few last photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The metallic paint in the sunI happened to glance up at night and caught the palm tree in the light- it actually looks real from there!The rest of the room I painted tealThe small room from the outside, where I'm redoing the bedroom. The outside wall carries the teal across, while the rest of the room is a creamy white.
The metallic paint in the sun
The metallic paint in the sun
I happened to glance up at night and caught the palm tree in the light- it actually looks real from there!
I happened to glance up at night and caught the palm tree in the light- it actually looks real from there!
The rest of the room I painted teal
The rest of the room I painted teal
The small room from the outside, where I'm redoing the bedroom. The outside wall carries the teal across, while the rest of the room is a creamy white.
The small room from the outside, where I'm redoing the bedroom. The outside wall carries the teal across, while the rest of the room is a creamy white.

Have you tried anything like this? Tell us about it! Need more info? I'll help as much as I can, and thanks for reading!

© 2017 Paige

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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Amazing photos! An insightful hub learning to do such painting with patience.

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