Glossary of Decorating Terms

Some terminology can be confusing ... our easy to use Glossary of Terms below will help! 

See our list of painting and decorating terms below ..
Simply click on the name and the explanation will appear!

Acrylic

Acrylic

This term describes water-based decorating materials.

Acrylic Filler

Acrylic Filler

This is a water-based filler that remains highly flexible when cured to allow movement. It is particularly useful for filling ceiling cracks and junctions between plaster and wood.

Ageing

Ageing

This means giving something an aged appearance. A variety of techniques can be used including staining and denting. It is also referred to as Antiquing or Distressing.

Alkyd

Alkyd

This is an oil based paint made from synthetic resin instead of natural oils.

Anaglypta

Anaglypta

Originally this was a trade name but it is now used generically to describe any wallpaper which has an embossed surface pattern.

Antiquing

Antiquing

This means giving something an aged appearance. A variety of techniques can be used including staining and denting. It is also referred to as Antiquing or Distressing.

Bleed through

Bleed through

This describes a painting fault resulting from a wood knot, solvent or other contaminate which occurs under the paint and shows stains in the paint.

Blocking

Blocking

This is a technique for applying a design to a wall, floor, or other area. It employs a cut-out, shaped object, the surface of which is dipped in paint and then applied to the specified area.

Brushing out

Brushing out

This describes spreading paint or another liquid finish to provide a surface with even coverage.

Colour washing

Colour washing

This is a traditional paint technique whereby paint is diluted and used to create a semi-transparent finish rather than an opaque one.

Combing

Combing

This is a paint effect which utilises a decorator’s comb. This is dragged across a glaze to produce a series of lines.

Cut in

Cut in

the painting of the edges of a wall or ceiling thereby completing the coverage of a surface. It is often used when a paint roller or pad is being used that cannot itself reach into the corners.

Distemper

Distemper

This is a traditional unstable 'paint' comprising water, pigment and glue. It has now been largely replaced by emulsion paints. Any old distemper will usually need to be either removed or sealed before redecoration.

Distressing

Distressing

This means giving something an aged appearance. A variety of techniques can be used including staining and denting. It is also referred to as Antiquing or Distressing.

Dragging

Dragging

This is a paint effect using a flogger, a type of long-haired paintbrush. This is dragged across a glaze to create a series of fine random lines.

Dulux Weathershield

Dulux Weathershield

This range of products has been formulated to provide a high resistance to all types of extreme weather conditions. It comprises masonry and wood care products, each of which is offered with a varying amount of yearly guarantees.

Eggshell

Eggshell

This is an oil or water based paint with a semi-gloss finish.

Farrow & Ball

Farrow & Ball

A company founded in the 1940s which specialises in eco-friendly paints. These contain up to 30% more pigment than other leading manufacturers and are environmentally friendly, hard wearing and washable wallpapers.

Fire proofing paint

Fire proofing paint

Also known as an intumescent paint, this product has been specially designed to expand and create a fire protective barrier, insulating the surface from heat and oxygen.

Flexible filler

Flexible filler

This is a type of filler which can accommodate some minor movements in wood or plaster surfaces without cracking. It is particularly suitable for repairs which will be covered by paint.

Flogger

Flogger

This is the long haired paintbrush used to create the Dragged paint effect.

Frieze

Frieze

A narrow band of decoration along a wall. Specialised frieze papers can be used or it can be stencilled or painted.

Gloss

Gloss

This is a hard wearing, high sheen paint which is mainly used as a top coat on woodwork.

Graining

Graining

This paint effect gives a realistic hardwood appearance to softwood.

Grinning

Grinning

This occurs when paint has been applied too thinly over a darker surface, allowing the paint below to show or ‘grin’ through.

Grout

Grout

This is a paste used to fill the gaps between tiles and mosaics. It is often waterproof.

Inset tile

Inset tile

This is a tile which is a different colour or design to the other tiles surrounding it.

Knotting

Knotting

This is a shellac-based solution which is used to seal knots in wood before priming.

Laying off

Laying off

These are the final, light brush strokes, usually all in the same direction, which produce a smooth surface.

Liming

Liming

This is a technique using liming wax for staining softwood to a whitish colour.

Lining Paper

Lining Paper

This wallpaper is used to cover over poor surfaces before applying paint or wallpaper. If it is being used to cover existing wallpaper, it is usual for the lining paper to be put on at right angles to the final paper.

Low-tac

Low-tac

These are types of masking tape with a low level of adhesion. They are designed to be removed easily without damaging the surface.

Make good

Make good

This describes preparing a surface for decorating by filling in holes, smoothing etc. A common saying is "90% of the time to make good, 10% for the actual decorating".

Marbling

Marbling

This is a special paint effect which is used to create the impression of a marble surface.

Muraspec

Muraspec

A leading designer and supplier of commercial wallpapers, available in narrow, medium and wide widths.

Non-drip

Non-drip

This is a Thixotropic paint which has gel-like consistency which means it tends not to run or drip.

Oil

Oil

This describes paint based on an oil solvent, such as linseed and tung. The final surface is a hard wearing one but the paint gives off strong fumes and brushes need to be cleaned with white spirit.

Primary colour

Primary colour

This describes the three 'pure' colours - red, blue, and yellow. All other colours are a combination of these three

Primer

Primer

This is a type of paint used to seal and stabilise a surface before further coats are applied, often with very little colour content to hide the underlying surface. There are different types available for different surfaces, such as wood, steel and non-ferrous metals. These ensure there is good adhesion to the specific surface. Combined 'Primer and Undercoat' is also available for wood.

PVA

PVA

This is an acronym for polyvinyl acetate. It is the basis of many types of adhesives and paints. These are often used diluted as a stabilising solution, especially on powdery surfaces.

Rag rolling

Rag rolling

This is a paint effect is similar to ragging but with the rag made into a sausage-like shape and then rolled down a glaze or emulsion, producing a directional pattern.

Ragging

Ragging

This is a paint effect which is achieved with a crumpled rag. This is then used to create a pattern on emulsion or a glaze. Alternatively, the rag can be dipped in paint and then applied directly to a surface.

Size

Size

This is a thin adhesive applied to walls which then seal the surface before wallpaper is hung.

Soaking time

Soaking time

This is the time which wallpaper needs to be left after pasting before it is hung. This time will allow the paste to soak into the paper and prevent the formation of bubbles. The time required will vary between wallpapers and is normally specified on the label.

Solvent

Solvent

These are chemicals used as the base for certain types of decorating materials. The solvent evaporates, releasing fumes, enabling the material to 'go off', so good ventilation is normally essential.

Sponging

Sponging

This is a paint effect achieved by using a natural sponge to produce an impression in a glaze or emulsion. As an alternative the sponge may be dipped in paint and then applied to the surface.

Stabiliser

Stabiliser

This describes a liquid which is applied to flaking or dusty surfaces in order to bind the surface prior to decoration.

Stencilling

Stencilling

This is a decorative effect which can be achieved by applying paint to the cut-out areas of a paper, cardboard or acetate template to produce a design on a surface.

Stippling

Stippling

This technique requires paint or other finishes to be applied by using just the extreme tips of bristles of a brush.

Stripper

Stripper

This is a solution, either liquid or paste, which can be used to chemically remove old layers of paint from a surface.

Stripper - Machine

Stripper - Machine

This piece of equipment produces steam through a flat plate held against the wallpaper. It results in the adhesive being released so that the paper can then be easily scrapped off the wall.

Thixotropic

Thixotropic

These are materials which have a gel-like consistency until stirred, so they tend not to run or drip.

Top Coat

Top Coat

This is the final coat of paint, which can be laid off or subjected to a painting technique, resulting in the final finish.

Undercoat

Undercoat

This is the paint which is applied after the primer to mask the underlying material and to provide a key for the top coat. Today it is often replaced by a combined 'Primer and Undercoat', especially for wooden surfaces.

Varnish

Varnish

This is a resinous or water-based solution which seals and protects a surface.

Verdigris

Verdigris

This is the greenish-coloured coating that occurs on copper, bronze or brass. It is a natural result of aging caused by atmospheric corrosion.

Vinyl

Vinyl

These are wallpapers which have a front surface of vinyl which is usually water resistant.

Vinyl Paint

Vinyl Paint

This is a type of emulsion paint which is hard wearing and easy to clean. It is available in a number of finishes including Silk and Matt.

Wet-and-dry paper

Wet-and-dry paper

This is a type of waterproof abrasive paper made with silicon-carbide particles glued to backing. It is used wet to provide an extremely smooth finish.

William Morris

William Morris

This is a famous wallpaper and paint company founded in 1861. They guarantee authentic versions of Victorian designs alongside their own modern interpretations to create up to date wallpaper and fabric designs.

Wood stain

Wood stain

This is a wood finish which is absorbed into the outer surface to provide both colour and protection.