Painting an indoor brick wall can lighten a room, make it more elegant or illustrate its purpose. Painting an outdoor brick wall can add character to any structure. The texture of brick provides an interesting background for paint jobs of all kinds.
White is a classic color for painted brick, especially interior exposed brick. White brick gives an open, airy feel, compared to the warm, light-sapping, autumnal look of unpainted brick. Use a flat white on interior brick (rather than glossy). For an outdoor wall, use a glossier paint, which is more weather resistant. Use a bright white for open lofts or a warm white if there are warm whites on your other walls. For super-light walls, start with a mix of 1:1 plaster and joint compound. Spread this on your walls, sand it and then paint white over it.
Old, worn brick can be painted to make it look newer and more tidy. In this case, you can use a brick color--pink, red or maroon, depending on your preference--to paint over variegated or ugly brick. For the finishing touch, use white paint where the mortar would be. Painting the mortar is a painstaking task, but a careful job results in a painted brick wall that is, from a distance, indistinguishable from an unpainted brick wall.
Choose a single color of paint and use three shades of that color to get a tiled look. This can also mellow out a bright color. If, for example, you want your house to be green, use green paint mixed with a small amount of white, green mixed with a little more white and green mixed with even more white. Paint each brick separately a random selection of the three greens. The result will be a slightly rustic yet fresh wall that you will barely recognize as brick from a distance.
Use unabashed, bright colors to paint the bricks in a child’s play room or a funky hangout space. You can use a repeating pattern or paint the bricks randomly different colors, but make sure you choose a color scheme ahead of time that fits the purpose of the space. Paint a playroom, for example, with energetic primary and secondary colors. Paint a workshop with three matching colors that aren’t too jarring--say, gray, lilac and purple. Keep in mind that an intense paint job invokes action and may not be suitable for a relaxing place like a living room.
Murals are huge works of art that you paint directly onto a wall. Both indoor and outdoor brick walls can be good surfaces for painting such large-scale art. Different murals are suitable for different brick walls, however. For a community center, you may want to depict an inspiring montage of activities taking place at the center; in a commercial kitchen you may want a food-themed mural; outdoors, you may want a political message; and in your living room you may choose something abstract and soothing. Hire an artist to paint the mural or do it yourself, but if you want the mural to be on the outside of a building, check with your local planning committee or neighborhood association about painting regulations.