Painting an Ombre Wall in 5 Easy Steps

Accent your room with a two-color effect

Ombre-effect wall in pretty pink tones
Photo via Resene

An Ombre wall treatment begins with a single paint color and slowly melts into another, creating a dreamy, water-colored effect as it covers the spectrum between two colors.

Sound complicated? It’s not as hard to pull off as you might think. All you need is a little patience and a good set of directions.

These simple, step-by-step instructions will take you from start to finish, offering plenty of helpful tips and tricks along the way. Whether you’re wondering about what colors to choose or simply searching for the perfect brush stroke, we’ve got you (and your walls) covered!

Supplies Needed

  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Ladder or step stool
  • Masking tape
  • Two colors of paint
  • Disposable measuring cup 
  • Five-gallon bucket (for mixing)
  • Large mixing stick
  • Three large paint trays
  • Three medium-sized paint rollers 
  • Small paintbrush
  • Several large paintbrushes


1. Choose Two Colors That Blend Well

Choosing shades that blend well can be tricky, especially if you hope to fade from one color into another. If you’re not sure which colors will work, try consulting a color wheelAnalogous colors, or colors that share a single base color and sit beside one another on the color wheel, will always blend well. Choose two adjacent shades for a subtle effect. Looking for a more dramatic result? Skip one shade, choosing the colors on either side.

If you’re planning on sticking to variations of a single color, you’ll need to choose a light shade and a dark shade of that color. Remember the greater the difference, the more dramatic the result.

For a soft, soothing effect, pair a pale pastel with a medium hue, or choose a single shade of paint to blend with white. Prefer a bold look? Go a little deeper into the spectrum, starting with a pale-to-medium shade and finishing with something a little richer.

2. Section Your Wall

Using your pencil and measuring tape, separate your wall into a minimum of three, equal sections. If you are working with two different shades of the same color, three sections should suffice. If you’re blending a single color with white or two completely different colors (i.e. blue and green), you will need more sections. Shoot for an odd number, like seven or nine. This will be useful in helping you establish a starting place later. The more sections you create, the more gradual the change will be.

3. Establish Your Color Flow

Before you can start painting, you’ll need to decide which way to direct the flow of color. Transitioning from dark to light makes the ceiling seem higher and the space appear larger. By the same token, a transition from light to dark can make a large room feel cozier.

4. Prepare Your Wall

Start with a clean, dry wall. Tape off floorboards, windows and other trim work as necessary, and then throw up a quick coat of primer. When the paint has dried, begin cutting in around the base of your wall using a small paintbrush and your darkest shade of paint. Use your lightest shade of paint to cut in around the ceiling.

5. Get Your Ombre On

How to Paint Three-Section Walls:

  1. If you are working with just three sections, it’s best to prepare all three paint trays in advance. Pour each of your original paint colors into its own tray. Then, using your measuring cup, mix a third color by combining the first two shades in equal parts.
  2. Working in small sections, roll the bottom-third of your wall with the darkest shade, the top-third with your lightest shade and the center-third with your custom-mixed color.
  3. With a large, dry paintbrush, immediately begin blending the boundaries between each color using large “x” strokes. (Do not wait for the paint to dry.)

How to Paint Multi-Sectioned Walls:

  1. If you have many sections, you’ll need to mix colors as you go. Start by combining equal parts of your two original paint colors to create a custom half-and-half blend. (Using your measuring cup, add one cup of each color for all but one of your sections. i.e. Seven sections = six cups light + six cups dark.)
  2. Paint the center section of one wall.
  3. When you are finished, add one cup of the darker paint to the remaining mixture. Paint the section below the center section. Continue to add one cup of your darkest color for each section until you reach the bottom section, using a clean, dry brush to blend as you go. (For best results, use large, “X” strokes.) Paint the bottom section with your original, dark color.
  4. Once you have reached the bottom, mix up another batch of the half-and-half blend, and repeat the previous step, adding one cup of light paint for each section until you reach the top section. Paint the top section your original light color.

Helpful Tips

  • Leave a couple of inches between each color for blending. This will ensure that the transition effect is gradual and that the boundaries between colors are not obvious.
  • Paint blends best when wet, so be sure to work in small sections (certainly no more than one wall at a time).
  • Avoid latex and other fast drying paints. Oil-based paint dries much slower and blends much easier. 
  • Good blending requires a dry brush. Keep extra paintbrushes on hand, and change them out as needed.