Why Settle for One Color? Two-Tone Paint Ideas

Why paint a room’s walls just one color when you can experiment with two-tone painting? Two-tone painting creates visual interest by using two colors on one wall, divided horizontally, for example. This technique allows you to be creative in your rooms’ color schemes and can even make neutral colors more interesting by using different shades of the same hue. Keep reading to learn how to successfully implement two-tone painting in your rooms this weekend and create an intriguing, custom look.

Step 1: Choose Your Colors

Decide on which two colors you want to use. The color combinations you choose matter, so you must put some thought into what type of color scheme you want.

A monochromatic color scheme uses shades of the same hue. This approach has a subdued effect but also stands out more than using just one color. Colors from the same color family always look good together. An example would be painting one section of your wall light blue while painting the other a darker blue; or a cool gray with warmer shade of gray.

Two-tone walls in living room with shades of green

Consider analogous colors. These are colors that are related (next to each other on the color wheel) such as greens and blues or oranges and reds. Usually, one color is dominant while the other is used to enrich the effect.

Complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel, or those that almost clash. This scheme puts colors together that strongly contrast one another (but don’t fully clash) to create a stimulating effect, such as oranges with blues. When using a complementary color scheme, you must always remember to make one color dominant. Lighter colors often give the illusion of space in a room, while darker colors can shrink it and make it feel cozier. For this project, we’re going to describe how to complete a two-tone painting job horizontally, with the two colors on the wall divided by top and bottom. In this case, the darkest or strongest color usually works better on the bottom part of the wall.

Do your color research and check to see how your color choices might look in your rooms. Paint samples in small areas or tape swatches on the walls to see how they will look. Decide which colors might work best together. Do any colors work as transitions from one room to the next? Consider the furnishings and accessories in your rooms, as well as finish on any wood trim.

Helpful Tip

Always check how the colors you choose look in both natural and incandescent light, during daytime and at night.

Don’t forget to consider the sheen, or finish, of your chosen colors. Paint sheen is basically the surface texture the paint creates and a measurement of how much light bounces off the painted surface. Whether you pick a flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss or gloss finish, it can affect the overall look of your two-tone paint job.

Step 2: Prepare the Room

Get the room ready for painting. Remove furniture from the room or place it in the center of the room and cover it with drop cloths or tarps. Cover the floors at the base of the walls with drop cloths or tarps and secure them to the floor with painter’s tape. Remove fixtures, window coverings, switch plates and outlet covers. Use painter’s tape to protect windowsills, baseboards, door hinges, the ceiling perimeter and anything else that you don’t want to get paint on.

Properly cleaning and repairing surfaces is extremely important when painting since paint doesn’t adhere to dirt or damaged areas. Use a sponge or cloth to wipe down your interior walls with an all-purpose household cleaner and water, and then allow it to dry. If your wall has any cracks, holes or other damage, apply spackling compound with a putty knife. Once the compound dries, sand the repaired area with fine-grit sandpaper. For extensive drywall damage or larger drywall repairs, see How to Patch Drywall for repair instructions.

Step 3: Mask the Wall

To achieve a two-tone paint effect you need some kind of border or dividing line between the two wall sections. If you don’t have molding or another permanent feature that does this naturally, you can create a clean, distinct line by masking the wall with painter’s tape.

Using a yardstick or measuring tape and a level, mark where you want the line to be using a pencil. The middle of the wall (horizontally) is an ideal, general location. Measure up from the floor about 36” to 40” and place a mark at this spot. Hold your yardstick or measuring tape horizontally against that mark with one hand while placing a level against your measurer. Adjust until your horizontal guide is level and trace a line with your pencil along the top of the measuring tape. Continue creating this line in the same way across the length of the wall. Place painter’s tape along your pencil line. For example, if you start with the bottom of the wall, you will place the painter’s tape above the line you marked.

Score the outer edge of the tape with your fingernail or the dull edge of a small knife so the paint will not bleed under the tape. Keeping each color from bleeding into the other is essential for a neat, professional-looking job.

Two-tone walls in dramatic white-and-blue dining room

Step 4: Paint

Now it’s time to start painting. With a brush, paint pad or roller, apply True Value EasyCare Ultra Premium Interior Paint widthwise, starting from the top of the first section you’re painting, going down, using a “W” stroke. Once at the bottom of the section, load the roller and start at the top, rolling down to the bottom again, and then repeat, filling in the “W”. This ensures that all of the paint has been “faced” in the same direction, providing even coverage across the wall. Use an angled brush to paint in corners and other areas where you need smaller strokes and attention to detail. If necessary, apply a second coat, following the recommended drying times on the label. You don’t have to let the paint completely dry between coats, but your results will be better the longer you wait.

Safety Alert!

Make sure your work area is well ventilated. Use fans to circulate air and open windows where you can.

Once you paint one color or “tone”, remove the painter’s tape carefully at a 45-degree angle. Before painting the next section, let the one you just painted dry completely and then reapply painter’s tape on the other side of the line using the same technique you used for the first section. Then begin painting the second area as you did the first.

Step 5: Clean Up

Pick up your drop cloths or tarps and close up your paint cans. Dispose of used paint cans appropriately. Clean your brushes and other tools with warm, soapy water. Thoroughly rinse your roller covers and brushes in water until the water runs clear. Store them in their protective sleeves or hang them on nails or hooks. Pick up drop cloths carefully, making sure you don’t spread around any paint that may have dripped on them. Next, remove the final strips of painter’s tape at a 45-degree angle to avoid removing any fresh paint. Remember, the longer the tape stays on, the harder it is to remove.

Looks great! Your walls’ new two-tone makeover really makes your rooms sing.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.