Like dragging and rag rolling, stippling can have a number of different looks within the scope of the technique. The effect depends on the type of paint, the stippling tool and the infinite variations of color.
The size of the pattern is very small, so it is well suited to furniture and woodwork as well as to large expanses of wall. Like the effects previously described, it is created by painting on a glaze and then lifting it off the base color. It makes an excellent base for other paint effects and for such techniques as shading and distressing.
Stippling creates a very soft finish that can range from tiny, delicate flecks of broken color to a larger mottled pattern with more distinction to the marks. It is sometimes referred to as having an orange peel texture, although the overall finish on a large area can appear soft and cloudy or like the velvety blush on a peach skin.
Color combinations are important, because the ground color is not as distinct from the glaze as in rag rolling and the colors therefore merge. It is best to keep to two or three colors or shades and test them to see whether they work harmoniously together. Strong contrasts between the glaze and the base color can also look stunning. However, before you embark on such a project it is worth comparing the types of mark made in the glaze by different tools. Sometimes the contrast is lost, or it can merge to an overall muddiness when you stand back from it.
Typically the bottom hall of a wall, known as the dado, would be dragged (or papered) and only the top part stippled. It can be quite a tiring technique to apply, so il is fortunate that it can be combined so well with other paint effects.
There are invariably surprises in store from a couple of hours spent experimenting with stippling on a sheet of hardboard, painted in eggshell and hung on the wall. The usual stippling brushes, which are available in a number of sizes, create the most traditional effect. Strictly speaking, stippling is done with a brush – but it does not have to be a stippling brush. A household brush or a shoe brush for smaller areas will work too.
A roller can be used (mohair or wool, not sponge) to lift off the glaze, which makes the task much faster and easier. However, it takes some practice and the glaze must be thin or you may skid over the surface.
A wad of cloth, dabbed as you would a stippling brush, will give a softer fleck than the tiny sharp marks of a brush. These will vary according to the type of fabric used – a large weave such as sacking will produce a very different effect from a linen or muslin rag.
Experiment with a variety of tools to arrive at the pattern that works for your chosen colors and area to be painted.
A transparent oil glaze over oil-bound paint such as eggshell will give the best results and will be more forgiving to work with, as odd skid marks and lines or patches can be more easily stippled out before it dries. The glaze is applied with a throw-away sponge roller and then stippled with a brush or a wool roller.
Shading and distressing are relatively simple extensions of the stippling technique which give the subtlest of finishes to mouldings on fireplaces, covings, ceiling roses, door panels and woodwork. These are painted, glazed (using a brush to ensure that the glaze gets well into the corners), stippled and then gently wiped with a rag that lakes the glaze oil only the most prominent parts of the surface.
This leaves the glaze color to lie in the ‘creases’ or ‘folds’ at the base of the moulding or in the lines of the door frame. Shading can offset stippled and dragged walls or panels beautifully and these techniques can be used together very successfully.
Stippling everything, including walls, woodwork and doors, can, however, be a little overwhelming as all the decoration merges into an indistinct blur. Simply adding plain or distressed color to woodwork and doors, or combining two paint effects, will give the room shape and distinction.