04 April 2012

Faux Paint Your Walls To Look Like Ikat Fabric

I have been painting faux ikat "fabric" in a room I've been redoing this week (more on the whole room redo coming soon) and I thought I'd share how to do it with my readers. While the process is somewhat complex, the finished effect is amazing, and well worth the time it takes to complete!

As I considered the look I wanted, it occurred to me that I could take advantage of the threaded nature of the existing grasscloth and paint over it, making use of its pronounced vertical texture. The pulled thread look that is the hallmark of ikat would really pop on the texture of the grasscloth.
It's hard to see in the photo (above), but the grasscloth has very evident ridges.

My first design step was to pick paint colors. I decided to go with neutral colors that were in the backgrounds of the fabrics I had picked for the room. I chose all Benjamin Moore Aura paints in matte for the walls, semi gloss for the woodwork.
The base color was rolled on first. Often with Aura paints, second coats are unnecessary (totally justifying the high cost of this paint), however this grasscloth soaked up the first coat like a sponge, so I ended up doing two coats of the base color.
For my repeating pattern, I took inspiration from one of my favorite traditional Provençal prints (naturellement!), La Petite Fleur des Champs, from Souleiado. 

La Petite Fleur des Champs, in three colorways, (above).

I also drew inspiration from this slipper chair by Urban Outfitters (below, left) which is upholstered in Kiliman Ikat by Duralee, and calls to mind old Provençal repeated medallion designs. And I incorporated  the wavy element from my favorite ikats of all time, Pierre Frey's Toiles de Nantes (below, right). (The chair fabric is also available as at Calico Corners.)

I first stenciled the medallion shapes, and later put in the details by hand. To create my stencils, I printed out a size-appropriate black & white version of the pattern I wanted to use. Using an X-acto knife on a cutting mat, I painstakingly cut around the medallion, delineating lots - but not all - of the "pulled thread" lines. (Too many would have run together when the paint was applied.) I used 12" x 18" blank sheets from Stencil Ease, which I found at A. C. Moore (also available on their website).
This is what the cut stencil looked like before paint was rolled over it. Note that I marked the borders of the surrounding medallions for placement.
I used a small roller with a 3/8" nap to roll on the medallions. Normally with stencils, a foam roller is better, as it lays on a minimum of paint, but once again, this grasscloth needed extra paint (although I only had to do one coat here). It is necessary to roll inwards toward the center, all the way around the open design. Otherwise, paint collects in the small openings around the edges and pools under the stencil, creating unwanted blobs. It is also important to wash the stencil frequently, to avoid drying paint to build up and alter its outlines.
Once I had mapped out the distance I wanted between the medallions, I took some dark thread and pulled it across the wall, using a level to make sure the line was straight across, horizontally. I taped it in a couple of places to keep it from sagging.

After painting over the thread in even intervals, I pulled it off the wall (left) and was immediately struck by how much the thread resembled ikat dyed threads (right) - an expected coincidence which had no bearing on the design, but which I thought was really fun.

Ikat weave is created when the warp threads are first resist dyed before being strung on the loom, creating an uneven pattern (as in the example, below). This is what gives ikat its distinctive pulled thread look.

This is what the medallions looked like after painting them along the guide line.
I did all of the wavy lines (above) and the chevrons (below) by hand, just eyeballing where they should go, without measuring exactly. By its very nature, ikat is imperfect, so my random hand painted accents look natural.

Next, I cut a second stencil for the pattern inside the medallions. When cutting a stencil with various openings, make sure to leave little connectors between the various parts so that the whole stencil comes out as one piece. (If you forget, you can always tape a loose piece into place.)

After painting over the inner stencil pattern - this time with a flat stenciler's pouncer brush... 
...I went back by hand and connected the parts that had not gotten painted in, due to the connectors. I also went around and pulled out some of the lines, randomly with a thin artist's brush, to accentuate the ikat look and to individualize all of the medallions.

Immediately after stenciling (left) and then after adding details by hand (right).

The wavy lines after I went back and accentuated the "threads" by hand with a very thin artists' brush (above).
The finished pattern, after I added a border to finish the room.

I will admit that this process took me MUCH longer than I had anticipated, but I am really happy with the end result. Also, this can certainly be done without a base layer of grasscloth. I would love to hear from readers who try this in their own homes!


  1. This is quite amazing! Gorgeous! I love the pattern you've imitated and created - this looks like a lot of hours of attentive work - I would have to have serene music playing in the background!
    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Bonjour Chere Kate!
    I have just one word....AMAZING! Oh my goodness, you did such a gorgeous job...I don't know if I could ever muster up the patience for something like this. Wow, you inspire me! So beautiful...
    So great to see your post!
    - Irina

  3. Oh my goodness. That is so beautiful. I admire your fortitude. I have done many decor projects that solicited oohs and ahhs, but this is fantastic! The "homemade" stencil shows great patience and your love for the outcome that you had pictured in your head. This post is a great source of inspiration for me. Thanks for sharing! Kathy

  4. WOW, what an amaaaaaazing project. That is so incredible. I'd love to find an ikat stencil to buy since I don't trust myself to cut my own! It seems like ikat would be the perfect print to stencil, too--when I've tried stenciling a wall before, it was too textured (orange peel finish) and the paint seeped under the stencil and looked terrible, even when I used spray adhesive. Those medallions you did look AMAZING!!


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