Terms and tools used in painting and decorating

This page contains a glossary of the main terms and names for various painting and decorating techniques. It is by no means a comprehensive list but does go some way to explaining the vocabulary of my trade. As with all specialist trades, painting and decorating has its own unique tools and terms. The idea of this page was to help people understand a little of what is done and used in large scale painting and to give them a reference point from which to work if they are commissioning any of the more readily available specialist types of painting and decorating.

Bagging Simiar technique to ragging, using bags. See below
Broken colour The term for when a second colour or tone of paint or glaze is applied over a base coat allowing the base coat to show through. This can be achieved by locally applying the second colour or by applying the second coat and then partially removing it. Seen in techniques such as rag-rolling.
Check roller The check roller replicates open grain wood pores such as oak.
Chiaroscuro The term for light and shade without regard to colour, the interplay of light and shadow on a surface
Clouding Subtle blending of colours, shades or tones on a surface. Used sometimes as a base for some marbles and often executed with the aid of a stipple brush.
Coach liner Brush similar to a rigger but with longer bristles and usually of a wider diameter, often with a short handle. Traditionally used for painting lines on coaches and cars. The long bristles enable the brush to be “loaded” with paint in order that the line is painted in one flowing motion.
Comb Combs made of rubber or metal used to drag through glazes to produce wood grain effects.
Dragging Painting and decorating technique that produces thin, vertical stripes on the wall. It works best on wood paneling or a smooth wall surface.
Faux The french word for false or fake.
Faux finish The art of painting one surface to appear like a second material. Seen in wood graining and marbelizing in particular.
Feather 1 To fade a piece of paint work to nothing creating a gradual fade-out.
Feather 2 Painting and decorating with the use of feathers, usually goose feathers.
Filbert Paint brush has a thick ferrule and hairs that are, on average, medium to long hairs in the shape of an oval. Filberts are particularly effective in blending work
Fitch A small thin paintbrush with a long wooden handle; used to reach recessed areas. Often made with angled bristles for lining.
Flogging A woodgraining technique which is used to create wood pores. The name comes from the striking action. Flogging brushes are typically flat and have long bristles.
Fresco The art of painting and decorating on fresh, moist plaster with pigments dissolved in water.
Glaze The term used for a thin, transparent layer of paint, particularly in oil painting and acrylics. Glazes are used on top of one another to build up depth and modify colors in a painting. A glaze must be completely dry before another is applied on top.
Over-glaze Painting style where colour is stippled into a moulding and then the relief is wiped clean leaving the colour in the crevices. This adds colour to the shadows and is use to enhance ornate mouldings etc.
Paint effect Usually when two or more colours, shades or tones are used on a surface to create movement, depth or interest in the surface.
Patina 1) a gloss or sheen on wooden furniture produced by age and polishing. 2) a green or brown film on the surface of bronze or similar metals, produced by oxidation over a long period.
Pencil An artist’s brush made of sable hair
Pencil over grainer A sable brush with multiple heads for painting wide grain lines.
Pounce A light pounding action with a paint brush such as a stipple brush or stencil brush usually to create and even tone of colour.
Rag rolling A painting and decorating technique were a rag is rolled across a surface to apply, or to remove paint or glaze from a surface. Referred to as “ragging on” or ragging off”.
Ragging Painting with rags. See also straccio.
Rigger Fine, long bristled brush traditionally used for painting the rigging on pictures of ships but frequently used for painting long thin lines. See also Coach liner
Rocker Plastic or rubber tool for creating wood grain
Round Round headed paint brush
Scumble A technique similar to glazing, except that the coating is opaque, and is just painted on very thinly to allow bits of the paint below to shine through.
Softener Brush used to soften and blend multiple colours, shades or tones. The brushes are usually made of badger hair but any soft brush can be employed. Paint is not applied with these brushes but moved on the surface after application.
Sponging Painting with sponges, usually natural sea sponges.
Stipple Normally defined as to draw, engrave, or paint in dots or short strokes. In painting and decorating it is taken to mean finishing a surface with a stipple brush to produce and even coat or change of tone, shade or colour. The stipple brush does produce fine dots but they are hardly visible to the eye.
Stipple brush A large brush used to pounce gazes. These brushes are not used to apply paint but rather to even out coats of glaze or paint. Usually made of hog bristle and come in sizes varying from 3″ x 1″ up to 6″ x 8″ (1·5cm x 7·6cm to 15·25cm x 20·3cm)
Straccio Italian term for painting with rags. See ragging
Trompe l’œil From the french for “trick or fool the eye” In art applied to the technique where objects are painted in order to deceive the viewer into believing the object is real.