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How to (Accidentally) Paint an Ombré Wall

So, remember that time I said I was really good at picking paint colors? Turns out I’m also really good at jinxing myself. 


I spent the first month we were in this home picking up paint chips and trying to figure out which light grey would be our all-over grey. My vision for our house was to paint all the dingy white walls to a crisp light grey, paint all the orangey wood trim a shiny white, paint the ceilings the same light grey, and paint a few accent walls here and there. I picked a medium dark grey to go behind our pipe bookshelves in the loft and what I thought was a nice light grey for our “main” wall color that would go throughout the house. I was ready with all the painting supplies when my parents showed up in November and asked “what can we help you with.” 


As the darker grey went on the wall where the bookshelves would go, I was loving it. Then, as the “main” grey went up on the stairwell wall, I was starting to worry it was too dark to be our all-over grey. We painted the entire stairwell and the upper half of opposite wall that goes all the way down into the entry/living room. After two coats, I knew it was too dark and went back to the paint chip pile. We tried out three colors and went with Icy Avalanche. 


Because tall stairwell walls are so hard to paint, we decided to leave that wall the darker light grey and pondered what to do with the opposite wall that connected to every wall on the main floor. While sitting on the couch with our glasses of wine looking at all our hard work and trying to decide how to do redo what we’d already done up top, my mom suggested we ombré (I think you can use that as a verb??) the wall, blending from dark to light. I called her crazy. We had another glass of wine. She suggested it again. I rolled my eyes. There was NO way we could do that and make it look seamless. I figured we’d have to repaint. I should define ombré – I know my dad will ask what that means. I gotcha Dad. 

Ombré: Gradual blending of one color hue to another. It’s often done on hair, clothes, cakes. It’s not so often done on walls.


The next morning, I had a brilliant idea. Let’s ombré the wall! Not really…but we all know those people who say no to an idea and then “come up” with it a couple days later. I will totally give this one to my mom. I had no interest in repainting, so I ombréd ( I think you can also used it as a past tense verb?). To be clear, I totally winged this. Also to be clear, I did not want this wall to look super ombré, meaning I didn’t want an obvious dark upper area and light lower area; I was hoping that with the height of the room and a smooth enough color transition, you wouldn’t know I started significantly darker at the top.  To give you an idea of the transition we had to make, here’s a corner at the bottom of the stairs (on the opposite wall) where the light grey meets the darker light grey.


Here’s how I painted an ombré wall, with some tips on what I’d do different:

Prep: have both colors of paint on hand, two roller refills, a paint tray for each section of color (see point 2), and plastic wrap. You may also need a hairdryer. Obviously. And, patience – there will be lots of mixing, touching up, waiting for paint to dry etc. And faith, this will work if you are willing to work it out. 

1. Accidentally pick (or intentionally start) with a darker color in the shade you want to end up with at the bottom and paint an upper section of the wall.

2. Break you wall into sections (either mentally or with tape/pencil lines) to gauge how many chances you have for a color transitions. In my case I had 5 color zones.

3. Paint the section at the top a second coat. 

4. As you start to blend the colors, you want to enable a transition to the next section without being so light that it’s obviously your lightening the wall. For my first next section (that makes sense right?), I mixed at about a 7/8ths dark – 1/8th light ratio. Put this color into a new paint tray. **this is a lesson learned, I just kept lightening what was in the tray, and didn’t have any of each shade left to go back for touchups**

5. Roll your lighter color onto the wall below your dark color. Blend up into the dark color about a half a roll stroke. When you’re painting over the dark color, don’t push hard on the roller – this helps to blend it a bit.

6. Lighten up your paint again (I went to a 3/4:1/4 ratio) and put into a new paint tray. Again, blend about a half a roll stroke (that’s definitely a new phrase I’ve coined) up into the darker color.

7. Repeat these steps until you reach the bottom section – by that point you should be using mostly, or all, the light color. I learned that color transitions are hard to tell between walls, so even though the bottom of my ombré still contains a little darker paint, you can’t tell it’s different that the adjacent walls. See?


8. Wrap up each paint tray with plastic wrap as well as the roller. Number the paints in the order you used them so you know which belongs to which section. Let the paint dry on the walls and look for points that need retouching. Use the fresh roller refill for the darker areas up top and the old roller for the lighter areas at the bottom.

TIP: This is where I learned what NOT to do. I didn’t have these handy paint trays on hand and when the top section needed retouching, I tried to guess at the blend, and got it REALLY wrong. It was waaaaay lighter than the upper section paint. If you get into this situation or need to match the color for some other reason, I recommend making a paint blend in a small container and then painting a small section of the wall with it. Act like you work in the paint department at at Ace (which I used to, sort of) and use a hair dryer to dry that section of paint. This will tell you if you need to go lighter or darker. I did this about 6 times to find the right shade for the upper section I botched.





RESULT: It totally worked! You really can’t tell that the upper section is MUCH darker than the lower section (the darkness in the picture below actually comes from shadows, it’s lighter in person), nor can you tell that the adjacent walls are slightly lighter. Mom, you were right. Nice work. Also, a thanks to Larry for moving the ladder over and over for me. And, if you missed the post on how to hang antique wooden skis, check it out here.


Have you every attempted an ombré wall?

p.s. It turns out it’s really hard to take pictures of paint on walls – apologies for the ever changing photo quality!