Faux Finishes: How to Paint a Sky


If you don’t have a window with a view to the sky, fake it with paint. Transform your ceiling into a soft blue sky with billowy clouds to give a "breath of fresh air" to a dull, cheerless room. Allow your sky to spill from ceiling onto a soffit or midway down the walls to blur the room's boundaries. A faux sky will look especially dramatic on a cathedral ceiling, or when washed by the glow of wall sconces from below. Best of all, a painted sky has versatility; it can be suitable for a baby's nursery or lend sophistication to other living spaces. A room’s ambience will depend both on the furnishings and the blend of colors chosen to render the sky.

Two colors alone — blue and white — will create an effective sky. However, you can do so much more with complex color blends. Instead of a white base coat, for example, try a creamy pale yellow to simulate sunshine peeking through the clouds. And when shading, use several tones of blue, or even deep purples, greens, and grays. Blend them by stippling the boundaries until there are no hard edges. Although the basic application of the technique is simple, painting overhead can be tedious work and may require some kind of scaffolding, especially if you’re working on an extremely high or large ceiling.

The following shows you the details on how to create a faux sky.


1. Create the Background

Using brush or roller, apply a base coat of warm off-white flat latex paint to the entire area where you want your sky, and then allow it to dry. Apply a coat of sky blue flat latex paint in the same manner and let it dry.

2. Add the White Paint

Holding a 4-inch-wide brush at a 45-degree angle, and using short, random strokes, slap some white paint over a section about 2-feet-square. Pull the paint out until it's thin in some areas, but overlay the strokes at other points, to create uneven color overall. If you wish, imitate the natural color gradation found in the sky by leaving more blue at the tops of walls and the center of the ceiling.

3. Mottle the Surface

Keep working the paint so that it has a mottled effect. This mottling will suggest where you should place the clouds (Fig. 2). Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until the entire surface is covered. Let it dry.

4. Create Billowy Shapes

Again, work a 2-foot section at a time, using a 2-inch-wide brush tipped with the white paint to establish cloud shapes in the light sections. Making random, flowing strokes, smooth and blend the two colors. Be loose, and don't think of cloud shapes as such; your goal is to create billowy shapes with a mottled effect. Follow up by brushing on more blue wherever it's needed to create the right balance. Let the surface dry.

5. Apply the Wash

To complete the finish, make a thin wash, mixing 8 parts water with 1 part warm off-white flat latex paint. This will have a softening effect, breaking up the blue and pulling everything together. Brush this wash over the entire surface, and let it dry.

Tools and Materials:

  • Warm off-white flat latex paint
  • Sky blue flat latex paint
  • Mixing sticks
  • Paint roller and roller pan
  • 2-inch-wide and 4-inch-wide synthetic bristle paint brushes
  • Water
  • Drop cloths
  • Stepladder
  • Clean rags
  • Gloves

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