Weekend Project: How to paint rectangle wall panelling

Inspired by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s spectacular, multi-coloured painted panels in the first episode of Changing Rooms on Channel 4? It’s easy to create your own in a few simple steps. Watch our video with Georgie Baker, one of the Changing Rooms pros and a Dulux Select Decorator or follow our guide to get a panel-perfect result!

Panelled walls are all the rage, but it can be challenging and time-consuming to set about gluing MDF panels to your wall. With stuck-on panels, it’s also tricky to backtrack further down the line if you want to change the look. Happily, however, there’s an easy (and reversible) way to get the same fabulous effect with minimal effort: use paint!

Painted panels are a brilliant way of adding an extra dimension to your space and, by using just three or four colours, you can create a trompe l’oeil alcove effect – ideal for framing shelves, a mirror or your favourite objects. Choose colours that complement the rest of the room and play with different combinations and finishes to get just the result you want. Try out your scheme on an old board or large piece of cardboard to see how your chosen colours work together, and how different finishes react with the lighting in your room. 

You'll need

  • Dust sheets
  • Paint
  • Paint stirrer
  • Paint kettle
  • Large roller and tray for base coat
  • Small medium pile roller and tray for details
  • 2" synthetic brush
  • Spirit level
  • Pencil
  • Good quality decorators' low tack/clean edge masking tape
  • Tape measure

Get ready

1.    Put down dust sheets and mask up woodwork, plug sockets, switches etc. to prevent paint splashes.

2.    Apply a coat of the base colour (here we used Flamingo Flock matt emulsion) and allow to dry for between 2-4 hours. Don’t forget to stir the paint before applying.

3.    Decide on the location and size of your panels. Then, use a spirit level and pencil to mark them on the wall. To make sure your vertical lines are straight, you can use a plumb line or create your own (see Expert tip).

4.    Place masking tape around the edge of the rectangle, rubbing the edges well down.

Expert tip: To make sure the vertical lines are straight, it’s useful to create chalk guidelines. Using a drawing pin, attach a length of string to the wall at the point where you want the top of your panel to begin (make sure the string is long enough to reach the bottom of the planned panel). Tie a small weight to the end of the string (a set of keys is perfect), rub the string with chalk and then ‘ping’ it against the wall so that the chalk leaves a light, straight guideline for you to follow. 

Paint your panels

1.    Using a brush, seal the inside of the masking tape with the base colour to avoid the next colour bleeding through. 

2.    Leave to dry and then paint the panel inside your masking tape with the second colour (here Berry Whip in matt emulsion) using a roller. Remove the masking tape while still wet and leave to dry.

3.    Repeat the process for the next colour (here Salsa Mix in matt emulsion), remembering to remove the masking tape while wet. Leave to dry. 

4.    Repeat the process again to complete the panel with the final colour (here Coral Flair in quick drying gloss). Job done!

Expert tip: Always fill the panel in completely with the base colours. This gives the final colour a uniform base and makes for a smooth and even result. 

Clean up 

1.    Remove as much paint as you can from your brush, roller and tray.

2.    Give your roller, tray and brush a thorough wash in water. There’s no need to use white spirit, as these wall paints are water based.

3.    Firmly close the paint tin and store in a dry and frost-free environment. 

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