How to Smudge on Paint


A variety of methods can give you a nice smudge effect when painting, but to ensure that you are in control of the final product, learning a few techniques can save you from making an unintentional mess. Especially if you are considering a large scale project, such as home decor, the tools you use can be the most essential component of success. Careful consideration must also be given to the type of paint you select.

  • Select a paint type. Know that most oil-based paints take longer to dry, and therefore allow you additional time to get creative with texturizing them. Paints in the acrylic family keep their texture better, but dry fairly quickly. Select acrylic paints for small- scale projects in which you want the smudge effect to be dramatic. Select oil paints or traditional home-finishing paints for a subtler, less textured smudge effect, or when working on large-scale home improvement projects.

  • Choose your tools. Have a sponge handy for stippled smudging. Purchase a paintbrush to use for more controlled smudging. Use the resources section below to determine which paintbrush shape and type will produce the desired effect, or select a brush that feels comfortable to you. Consider using a large paintbrush to create a base coat, and a smaller brush to add smudges on top or within the paint. Get creative by compiling fabric rags and other textured items that you can use to make a smudge effect. Purchase latex gloves if you plan to smudge with your fingers.

  • Apply any base coats and primers, and allow to fully dry. Apply the second coat of paint and use a brush or other tool to smudge the paint while it is still wet. Use different colors of paint for a more dramatic effect. Try using a slightly darker or lighter color for your second coat. Apply paint liberally when working with acrylic paints to allow for textured smudges to be preserved. Take advantage of oil paints to adjust smudges to an exact design, as they take longer to dry. Consider working in a pattern, by applying smudging in a circular pattern or other set design, to create a more controlled effect.

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