Let’s talk about checkerboard patterns. The first thing you need to know is that no matter what kind of paint or primer you use, it will take FOREVER to dry. So make sure to block off enough time for your project; you’ll want the paint applied, drying and then paying it certainly can’t be done in one day (at least not unless you like doing things quickly).

First things first: Prep. Prep. Prep! I can’t stress this enough. Before you start painting, make sure your surface is completely clean; anything left over will show up through the paint especially if it’s a lighter color against a dark background color. Use some kind of deglosser on your walls so that the paint sticks. I used Krud Kutter (a deglosser) but you can use Turtle’s Wax too.

Now that your walls are prepped, it’s time to paint!

Start with the background color first; it doesn’t matter if you choose light or dark. For my checkerboard patterns, I chose a light grey for the white squares and black for the black ones. In order to measure out your lines, you can use a pencil and level/T-square if you have one; but I chose to go the freehand route. For me this works best and really gives a random (not perfect) look that still looks good. If you’re not happy with the way it looks after the first coat, wait until it dries completely and take down all of your measurements before putting on another coat; otherwise, they’ll be locked in there forever!

There are several ways you can mark off where your lines will be:

1. If possible, use string or yarn and mark off your lines using a pencil; when dry, make sure to erase any left over marks from the string/yarn.

2. If the squares aren’t large enough for string or yarn (or whatever else you choose) to fit through easily, just eyeball it! Before you paint though, make sure you’re happy with how it looks. And remember: if one square turns out larger than the others, that’s ok! It just means there will be a space open in that square for whatever you choose to go into the square (a plant, decoration, etc.).

3. Use chalk or something similar to draw straight lines between each box; when you paint make sure you don’t move your line and again: after painting wait until completely dry before removing them. This is especially helpful if your walls are already white and not prepped with a deglosser (see above).

After your background color dries completely, it’s time to paint the next color; this will be the squares on top of or directly adjacent to your background color. You’ll want to do this section in small sections. My wall was big so I did one box at a time instead of trying to squeeze too many into one area/section at once. Again, eyeball it but you can use string if you’re particularly OCD just be sure you don’t move it while painting!

Next comes the fun part – adding in the accent colors! When choosing an accent color, keep in mind that they need to be different than each other so they show up nicely. If both colors are weak, then neither will show up well. For my checkerboard, I used red and a yellow for the squares – both of them are vibrant colors but obviously, the yellow is going to be more prominent on that wall.

For a smaller room or apartment, you might want to keep your patterns subtle so they don’t steal too much attention from other aspects of your decor/furniture etc. You can also check out our post on how to paint furniture with chalk paint; which has some really cool ideas as well as tips and tricks!

Here’s an example of a checkerboard pattern in a small room: notice that we kept the actual squares fairly small and didn’t cover upthe entire wall.

You can also do a two-tone look by painting one color onto the wall, going over it with a semi-transparent wash (letting some of the first color show through), and then going over again with another color. This looks super cool when using contrasting colors like black and white or grey and red. You can see what thistwo-tone technique looks like in this one:

As a final note, you might have heard the saying “measure twice cut once.” Well this is very true when it comes to painting something on a wall! When you’re drawing out your design, use a pencil and don’t be afraid to erase; there’s no such thing as erasing too much when it comes to walls.

And never underestimate the power of masking tape! It will save you time and paint in the end. Finally, if at any point things aren’t looking quite right (like maybe you didn’t plan enough time for the paint to dry), simply stop painting. You can always come back to your project later and fix it up – we won’t tell anyone!

And there you have it! Just follow these steps and you’ll be a pro at checkerboard pattern painting in no time 🙂


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