Combing Painting Technique


When it comes to painting techniques, combing is the process of dragging a rubber comb through a wet paint glaze to create a pattern. The combs used for this technique differ from those used on hair in both shape and appearance. Many paint combs are square with a different tooth pattern on each side to help you accomplish multiple effects. If you are new to combing techniques, practice your skills on a piece of scrap wood or cardboard before you begin your project.

Things You'll Need

  • Latex paint
  • Paint thinner
  • Alkyd glazing liquid
  • Oil-based paint
  • Plastic bucket
  • Paint roller
  • Rubber comb
  • Rag
  • Paint a base color onto your wall or piece of furniture with latex paint. This color will be visible in your finished pattern so choose a color that works with your design. Wait for the base coat to dry before you continue.

  • Combine one part paint thinner, two parts alkyd glazing liquid and one part oil-based paint in a plastic bucket to create a paint glaze. Keep in mind that the other ingredients will dilute the oil-based paint and soften the final color, so choose paint a few shades darker than your desired glaze.

  • Pour some of the glaze carefully into a paint tray. Take care not to overfill the tray or spill the glaze.

  • Apply the glaze to a small section of your dry painted surface with a paint roller. The glaze should remain wet for approximately 30 minutes after it has been applied to the surface, so do not apply more glaze than you can comb through in 30 minutes.

  • Hold a rubber comb firmly in one hand and drag it through the glaze from top to bottom or side to side. Wipe away the glaze from the teeth of the comb with a rag after each vertical or horizontal pass.

  • Continue to apply the glaze and comb through it until you have covered the entire surface. Avoid touching the surface until the glaze is dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Look for alkyd glazing liquid at art supply stores if you cannot locate this product in the paint department of a home improvement or hardware store.
  • If the glaze dries on the wall, remove it with paint thinner. The paint thinner will remove the oil-based paint but not the water-based latex base coat.

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  • Photo Credit brush in paint image by Vladislav Gajic from
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