Hooked on Harlequin: A Tutorial

I've taken all of you on my kitchen cabinet journey.  You've seen the before's and the afters.... and then ya'll started asking questions... hard ones.  Ones that make me scrunch my nose and sweat and give me flash backs to high school math class or long car drives when my dad would ask, "If Train A leaves the station at 8am going 76 mph and Train B leaves the station at 10am going 102, what time will they and the Candadian Geese who left for winter migration all intersect?"  {eyes close, head rolls, THUD!} So, I was happy to let the expert do her job. Jen is the owner of The Magic Brush and is an amazing faux finisher... I'm just a faux faux finisher.  Go check her out!

First of all I want to thank The Pretty Organizer for inviting me to guest blog today on one of my favorite patterns...HARLEQUINS! I am honored that she thinks I am "expert" enough to do a tutorial for you!

Keep in mind, diamonds aren't just for wall finishes. Here are some other applications we have done:

A children's window bench

A bathroom in a golf course theme...

Children's wall hangings (done with a diamond stencil from Lowe's)...

Same Lowe's stencil... Notice how it "runs off" the edges... but I didn't care.

Home made torn paper cut into diamonds in my own house...

A girl's bathroom vanity...

A antique store find...
I have owned my own faux finishing company for over 8 years.... so I do have some experience with what TO DO and definitely what NOT to do. I wanted to share my steps with you in hopes of helping you feel confident about attempting a harlequin pattern in your own home. It is really all about the math and the taping. Once you get the hang of it... it can be so much fun! Let's start at the beginning..... and stick with me through this post.... I hope you will find "a diamond in the rough".

You first need to decide what "finish" you would like for your diamonds. You need at least 2 selections. Do you want them all to be painted? If so do you want them tone on tone or very different in color? Do you want them half painted/half faux finished? You could do your background in flat paint and your diamonds in shiny paint (all in the same color). Or you could completely mix it all up. It's entirely up to you. Whatever you decide...you need to get your background done first. When it's all said and done, your background is half of your diamonds!

For the particular harlequin project shown below... we used a
fauxing finishing product called Lusterstone troweled over the entire wall first.

I really want to encourage you to get out some old graph paper from our high school and college days (or borrow from the neighbor kids like I do) and graph this out on paper. It helps SO MUCH to see it on paper before putting it on the wall! You can even color in your diamonds so you can follow your diagram when you actually start on the wall!

Next, you begin your measuring. If you are doing diamonds on only
one wall.... measure the wall's height first and determine how many diamonds high you would like to see on a wall. Only measure from the baseboards up to the ceiling or the molding. Don't factor in the height of your baseboards in your wall height. So when I say "floor to ceiling", I really mean baseboard to ceiling/crown. So if for instance,
you have no baseboard and no crown molding (I am trying to make the math easy to demonstrate) and if you have standard 9 foot tall ceilings that equals 108 inches of wall from floor to ceiling. If you would like 3 diamonds going floor to ceiling... then each diamond would be 36 inches tall (108 inches divided by 3 diamonds high).

Next you need to figure out the width of each diamond. This is a little trickier. But stick with me.... as soon as this measurement is done... it's on to the fun stuff. A good rule of thumb is that your diamond width should be just over 1/2 the size of your diamond height. So... if you have a 3 foot tall diamond... you'd want it to be approximately 2 - 2 1/2 foot wide. If you go any skinnier... it can look awkwardly skinny and may even look "southwest-ish" (I made that word up).

So... back to doing diamonds on just one wall... you want the diamond to end nicely at each wall and not get cut off in some weird spot on the diamond. So let's pretend your wall is 12 foot wide (or 144 inches). You need to work the math backwards. Your diamonds are 36 inches tall... so it would be good if your diamonds are somewhere in between 22-30 inches wide. This is where experience kicks in and any mathematicians reading this will cringe. I literally start to just pick a random number of diamonds that may go across the wall and see if the math works. Take your wall width of 144 and divide that into let's just say 8 diamonds...your diamonds would be 18 inches wide. Too skinny. (remember we are aiming for 22-30 inches wide). So try 144 inches divided by 7 diamonds across the wall... each diamond would be 20.57 wide. Better. How about 144 inches divided by 6 diamonds wide? That would be a 24 inch wide diamond. Perfect!!!!

Knowing your diamond size is key to your wall grid. For this tutorial... ours are 36 inch tall diamonds by 24 inches wide.

Next comes laying out the grid on your wall(s) with a chalk line. This is a 2 person job. Ladies, (and men if you are following).... chalk lines are FUN!!!!! Something about using a tool like this feels very empowering (think Paige on Extreme Makeover Home Edition)!!! So grab a girlfriend and get to chalking!

Making a grid of squares on the wall that looks like a checkerboard helps you to tape off perfect diamonds. So go with me here. If your diamonds will be 36 inches tall, we will snap a horizontal chalk line every 18 inches (1/2 of your diamond height up the wall).
Make little tick marks with chalk at both corners of the wall (I use my kid's sidewalk chalk). You stand in one corner with the end of the chalk line and have someone else stand at the other end of the wall to snap your chalk. Do that at 18 inches, 36 inches, 54 inches, 72 inches and 90 inches. You wouldn't chalk the last line because it is either at your ceiling line or trim line. Remember, if the chalk color in your chalk line tool is similar to your wall color, it will be harder to see, but easier to clean up. Chalk GENTLY.... dark chalk lines can ruin a finish.

(You could use a laser level like the one below to help you on this step... but that could be another tutorial on it's own. If you are handy with a laser level.... go for it. You will know what to do.)

Then we need to mark our vertical lines up and down. Our diamonds are going to be 24 inches wide. So start in one corner of the wall and snap your chalk line every 12 inches from one side of the wall to the other. If you are doing an entire room...you really need to start in the LEAST noticeable corner of the room. Usually, that is right above the door or close to it. This way, if you get around the room and aren't quite perfect at the end... you will "fudge" your measurement in the least obvious spot (not that that has EVER happened to me- HA!)

Basically your wall should look like a grid or a checkerboard of chalk right now.

Next comes the taping. If your wall is freshly fauxed or painted... I would do a test on my tape first in an inconspicuous spot to make sure my tape is not going to pull off my faux/paint . I prefer Diamond Vogel brand tape. You can also use 3M's blue tape for faux finishing.

This is where the diamonds come to life. The grid was created so that you can tape corner to corner for perfect diamonds. Remember to tape on the OUTSIDE of your chalk line so that you can use a damp rag or sponge to remove the chalk once the tape is up and before you paint. You don't want chalk to show up on your beautiful finish!

Since I wanted 3 different color diamonds on this project... we marked some of our diamonds with a big "W" so we would know those were the diamonds we were fauxing white. It helps just to "x" out or mark what you are doing in each diamond so you don't get messed up. And trust me... it's easy to get messed up... especially if you are doing a whole room in harlequins!

One thing to keep in mind is this... if your tape is light enough in tack to not ruin a faux... it may not be heavy enough in tack to prevent bleeding. Does that make sense? There is nothing worse than going to all the work of taping off diamonds and then your paint bleeds and they don't have CRISP painted edges. UG!

You can do a couple of things to prevent bleeds. First... if you have straight paint as your base coat for the diamonds, you can tape off your diamonds and then paint inside of them with the same base color as is already on your walls. Then the bleeds will match what is already there and you won't be able to see them. Then after that dries, proceed with whatever faux or paint you want on the diamonds right over top of that color.

Since we had faux finished diamonds on faux finished walls, one of my girls just put the Lusterstone product on her finger and ran the length of all the tape before staining some of the diamonds dark. Again... then the bleeds would be tone on tone and wouldn't be seen. And just for the record....we did try to skip this step. We stained our first diamond brown and it bled everywhere. I will share a tip that has taken me 8 years of business to learn: Shortcuts will always make you pay in touch-ups later.

If you do need to do some touch-ups.... keep a box of Q-tips handy!

So faux finish or paint every other diamond. You are only able to paint every other diamond each day... otherwise you will be taping over diamonds that are still wet! Rip off (or cut if you need to) your tape immediately unless the diamonds need a second coat. Let the walls dry overnight.

Then the next day,
faux finish or paint every other diamond. Un-tape the entire wall or room.

We use upholstery tacks to stick into the wall where ever a diamond touches. It dresses up the finish and helps to hide little places where your measuring or taping may have been off just a bit and the top or your diamond doesn't exactly touch the next diamond. You can also use buttons or small stencils or crystals. I have even seen little round mirrors that Hobby Lobby sells hot glued onto diamond intersections. Be creative.

Of course, remember if you have a small diamond pattern to do on a small project, you can purchase harlequin stencils online or at stores like Lowe's. It will probably never lay out perfectly corner to corner for you. But often people don't mind that at all.

Also, if you are super ambitious...you can make your own stencil by purchasing a piece of mylar and cutting it yourself. This works great for some people, but I am apparently a mylar dork. It always LOOKS like I cut my own. stencil Therefore, I just measure and tape it all out myself.

I hope I have done a decent job of trying to communicate how to lay out and execute a harlequin pattern. If you are a math teacher... I apologize if I have completely given you anxiety over my imperfect ways of measuring. If you are a "math-o-phob" (yes, I made that up too)... grab a friend who loves math to help you. Or, send me an email. I will do my best to answer any questions I may not have covered.

If you need inspiration for any other faux finishing or cabinet projects around your house... come visit me at The Magic Brush Blog!

Thanks again Pretty Organizer for the invite!

Happy Harlequins!

Be Blessed,

Jen and I are both Hooked on Harlequins and decided to enter this in Julias Hooked On party!  If you're looking for what is all the rage in blogland these days go give her a visit!
Don't forget to check out my new ad space at the Pretty Organized Boutique post!  Yesterday was a great day and I have a few more ad spots left!

How many of you are hooked on Harlequin?... Is there another tutorial you'd like to see on Pretty Organized Palace?


Arleen @ Seasons for All at Home said...

I love harlequin, too. Thank you for including photos of so many great examples how how this design can be applied. It's so striking! ~Arleen

Mel said...

Homemade torn paper harlequin pattern on her own walls! That looks just gorgeous. I loved the suggestion of using upholstery tacks in the corners! I can't wait to get started in the bathroom. This was wonderful. Thank you!!!

Pam said...

OOOH - I have been waiting for this tutorial! Thank you so much for doing it. I have always loved harlequin but am too severely math challenged to figure out how to do the pattern on my own. I'm looking foreward to using this on one (or fifty) of my planned projects. Your blog is such an inspiration to me. Thank you!!

XO, Pam

Kristen said...

These are all gorgous! Oh, how I wish I could paint my plain white apartment walls!

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...


I don't think I have the patience to figure this all out on my own! So thanks!

Happy day!

Puna said...

I did harlequin on my daughter's wall when she was a baby. It was a lot of work but I so loved it.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Beautiful! Have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

This is a great tutorial--and with such beautiful results! I love it. Thanks for all the inspiration today. Hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend with your family! :-)

Laretha said...

I want this! I love all of it.

Great tutorial!

Wood Crown Molding said...

The room looks great. I love the decorative painted accents on the wall. It really enhanced the wall and brings out the crown molding. Great job and thanks for the tips.


-Julie said...

I am loving that girly bathroom vanity! I'm saving it for my inspiration file!

Amy said...

I LOVE the harlequin projects pictured and am excited to plan my next project after such wonderful inspiration! Would you mind sharing your base Lusterstone color and stain color/typed used to darken some of the diamonds?? I'm so happy I stumbled onto your blog - I know I'll spend hours here... Gorgeous work - thank you!!

Anonymous said...


It's so amazing. I love your blog so much! Thank you for sharing this wonderful job.

Wen from Silicon Valley Ca

Courtney said...

Hey there!
I love the colors that you did!!! They would go great with my bedroom, care sharing what colors you used?! If so please email me back


thank you so much!

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