DIY Painting Frugal Colorful Accent Walls -- My Successful Cheapskate Experiment

Where I live, apartments nearly always come painted a stark white. Wallpaper isn't really a thing here, nor is colored walls. You see, when you rent an apartment, you have to return it fully painted, and the standard is white, so most people don't bother painting their walls another color, especially since painting jobs aren't so cheap. However, coming from other countries where non-white walls are standard, people often want colored walls or at least something to bring a pop of color into the room instead of industrial standard white.

My friend and I were talking and she was looking for ways to inexpensively bring life and color into her house. She theoretically liked the idea of painting one wall in a room an accent color, but paint is expensive here and colored paint is even more expensive. I knew from experience locally that while colored paint wall paint is expensive, white paint is cheaper, and whitewash is even cheaper than that, by far. The cheapskates locally use whitewash to paint the walls, but whitewash can possibly come off onto you if you lean on the wall, so they recommend only using whitewash to paint ceilings. 

I had an idea to maybe mix whitewash with a bit of the type of paint used here in craft projects with kids. They call it gouache here, but it isn't the gouache you have in the states- it's more like tempera paints or acrylic paints, or maybe poster paint. I'm just going to call it tempera for this post though. I had no idea if it would work or not, but suggested it to her as an experiment. My friend didn't want to experiment with her walls, so I said that I'd try it out.

It took me a few months to actually try it.

But before I talk about that, I want to mention costs.

I know that whitewash is cheaper than acrylic paint locally. I'm having trouble finding exact cost comparisons on the internet though. So you'll have to actually check local pricing before being assured that this is indeed cheaper where you live. 
However, I found this recipe for making homemade whitewash. I have no idea if it will work as well as with the store-bought whitewash that I used, but again, it's worth an experiment.

When I painted my dad's apartment, I ended up with some leftover whitewash. So I didn't need to buy that for this experiment. I already had tempera paints as well for crafting with kids. I also had a paint roller, paintbrush, and paint rolling tray. So when one of my girls asked me when I can get a start on making their room more girly, I decided it was the perfect time for an experiment.

One of the walls in the kids' room and part of the ceiling was no longer white. Because years ago I was trying to do something with puffy paint and it wouldn't come out. I squeezed it harder and harder and finally it exploded, all over the wall and the ceiling. I tried cleaning up the paint but it just smeared the green onto the wall, so I smeared it purposefully, into the shape of palm trees. But it wasn't the most beautiful thing. And when we got a spare freezer we put it in that room, blocking part of the ad hoc trees.

I figured that the perfect place to experiment was behind the freezer, where it would be blocked anyhow, and if that worked, over the trees which looked bad anyhow. It definitely couldn't make things worse, even if it didn't work out.

We decided to go with the color pink. Ike who still shares a room with the girls isn't too thrilled about that, to be honest. But hopefully, soon we'll be able to make him his own room.

I knew that one of the biggest potential issues with making my own color is ensuring that it is uniform throughout. So I made sure to write down the "recipe" so that I could recreate it if it worked out.

For this recipe, I used 3 paper cups filled with whitewash, and one squirt of red tempera paint. It made a medium pink. If you'd want a paler pink, go with 4 or 5 cups of whitewash.

Mix it well. Very well. Very very well. The first time I did this I didn't mix the stuff well enough on the bottom and I got some red speckles that were hard to get rid of. 

Then roll it onto the wall. I started with a pretty uniform layer.

And then I let it dry.

I had no idea if it would dry ok. Would it crack? Would it peel? Would it look ok?

But fortunately, so far so good. 

Once I saw it worked ok I tried painting over the green. Whitewash is thin, and the green was dark, so it took 4 or 5 layers to cover the green, waiting in between each time for it to fully dry before applying another layer.

Mid painting. Still needed 2 more layers to cover up the green "tree".

It worked so well that we ended up expanding the area and going up to the ceiling and over the door frame to our stockpile/pantry and down an adjacent strip of wall. 

I didn't do a perfect job because the masking tape I had wasn't working properly (that's what I get for leaving it outside in the rain) so I'll have to paint over the pink that got onto the ceiling and wall with white, using the masking tape.

But overall, I'd say this experiment was a smashing success. I'm tempted to make a light grey to paint one of my living room walls now. For that I'd probably use a teaspoon of black tempera to 5 or 6 cups of whitewash. 

This project is far from done, but it doesn't need to be done for me to share this cool idea with you.

In terms of texture, I did want to mention that the wall that I painted with my homemade pink paint is a bit rougher to the touch than our other walls in our house, but not noticeably, and the color doesn't come off onto my hands or clothing once dried.

Since I can't promise how this experiment will work for you with the equipment you have available, I'd suggest trying with paints you have available- poster paint, tempera paint, acrylic paint, etc... and the cheapest white paint you have, whether its homemade whitewash, milk paint, or white wall paint, and see how it works, experimenting on a little area first, and if that works, moving on to bigger areas.

Also, this reminds me that I still never got around to my post about what I learned painting my father's apartment- I'll try to write that post soon!

Are your walls in your home colorful? With paint or wallpaper? If you've redone walls in your home, did you paint them yourself or pay someone else to do it? Did you end up going with white because it is cheaper, or did you go with color? If you looked into the price difference, how much was the difference between white and colorful? What is the cheapest type of white paint you can get locally? What is the difference between whitewash and white paint where you live? Does this look like an experiment you'd try?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. What a lovely pink. I hope the girls enjoy it. I have painted every wall in my house. Master bedroom is blue-gray. Guestrooms are blue and the other is mauve. Hallway and living room is a very pale green. Dining room is a khaki green. I also did a accent wall in the living room with the leftover khaki green so it matches up with the dining room. Kitchen and bathrooms are light blue with a white wash I did using white paint, water to thin it out and a plastic grocery bag to smudge it all over the walls. Looks cool.
    I'm in the USA so a gallon of any color paint can be had for around $20. Walmart will discount their take backs down to $10.
    I've never hired out for painting and next time I do paint, it will be white because I play to spray it on the ceiling and everywhere else while I change out the carpet to laminate wood flooring. Then in another few years when it's time to paint again, I'll go with colors again.
    I try to paint the entire interior house about every 10 years or whenever it starts to show grunginess.

    Great post, thanks for sharing.

  2. Most new homes are painted in magnolia. I had mine repainted in a similar colour. When I was a child my mum always used whitewash as she couldn't afford paint. When our children were young and we moved to a new house we found the most economical way to buy good paint was to get a huge tin of white then colour it. Once we used homemade elderberry wine to paint our daughters room. It was a pretty delicate shade of pink. It didn't take much wine. Another time my husband received loads of tins of paint free from a shop clear out. They were awful colours like bottle green and dark brown but a little of one colour mixed in white was fine. I think your painting looks great.

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