Decorative painting is a broad category that encompasses numerous painting techniques and mediums applied to a variety of surfaces. Contemporary decorative painting includes tole painting, folk art, and faux finishing.
Originally, tole painting referred to decorative painting specifically on tin. Tole is a French word meaning lacquered or enameled metalware. The original tole painting medium was oil paint and common elements included fruit, flowers, and leaves. Traditional folk art originated with peasants and the style incorporated the use of natural-bristle round brushes, primary colors, and a great deal of stroke work, such as the comma stroke, C-stroke, and S-stroke. The style of traditional folk art varies according to the culture that it represents.
Contemporary decorative art is applied to many surfaces, including plastic, wood, glass, fabric, and fiber board. Other possible surfaces are tiles, porcelain, ceramics, and pottery. Frequently, acrylic paint is the medium used for painting because it dries faster than oil and because it's water based, and therefore easier to clean up.
Decorative painters use many specialty brushes, along with extenders, glazes, and gels, to create special effects. Contemporary painting does not involve as much stroke work as traditional folk art. Common subjects include flowers, animals, fruits, birds, people, and scenery. Decorative painting is relatively easy to learn, and therefore quite popular.
In the 18th century, artists taught apprentices a method of one-stroke painting to decorate pottery or furniture. In this method, the brushes were loaded with multiple colors of paint so that the highlight, body color, and shadow were applied simultaneously. This method provides depth to the element, but is quicker than applying each layer individual. One-stroke is still a popular method of decorative painting.
Several methods of painting are common in home décor. Faux finishing simulates stone, leather, marble, wood grain, and other finishes. Various faux finishing techniques include antiquing, crackling, smoking, sponging, and wood graining. Trompe l'oeil is a technique that creates the appearance of reality. Stenciling, in which paint is applied through a cut-out image, is commonly used to decorate walls or furniture.
Other methods of painting used on walls or furniture include ragging, stippling, and pickling. Ragging creates texture as a crumbled piece of cloth is used to apply or remove small amounts of wet paint. In stippling, a stiff brush is used to apply paint over another color to create a blended look. Pickling, also known as a wash, gives wood a white or washed out appearance.