How to Paint the Perfect Polka Dot

Polka dots make a charming pattern to paint on walls and furniture. Once you know the technique, you'll be able to paint polka dots anywhere. The secret is in preparing carefully and having the right materials -- from then on the painting is easy. Start small and soon you'll be able to paint a polka-dotted room in an afternoon.

Polka dots are a popular pattern for everything from walls to clothing.
  1. Paint the room in the color you've chosen for the polka dots. Let it dry and paint a second full coat. Use a lighter color for the polka dots if you want to do only one top coat in the final stages of the process. If your polka dots are darker, you'll need to do two full coats of the top color at the end. While the paint dries, go and prepare the stencils for the next portion of the painting.

  2. Choose a size for the polka dots and find a round object of that size. Use the rim of a cup, the bottom of a shotglass, a bottle of nail polish, or anything round that's the size you want. Trace the circle on a piece of thin cardboard about 100 times, and cut the circles out with a utility knife or scissors. Spray all the circles with an aerosol shellac.

  3. Start with the smallest wall in the room you're painting and decide how far apart to put the polka dots. A general rule is to make the polka dots about four times their width apart. If the polka dots are 2 inches wide, for instance, space them 8 inches away from each other horizontally.

  4. Make a loop out of painters tape around your fingertips. Put it on the back of a polka dot. If the dot is more than a couple of inches wide, use several pieces of tape. Place the dot on the wall. Measure out the distance to the next polka dot horizontally. Hold the level steady under the bottom of the first dot and make sure it's completely horizontal. Place the next dot, using the bottom of the circle against the level to make sure you have a straight line.

  5. Continue placing the horizontal lines in vertical rows until you have a complete grid, with the same height vertically as horizontally. Align the level with one side of the dots to make sure they're in a straight vertical line. Make more paper dots if you run out. Stretch the measuring tape between dots diagonally and put a small dot of painters tape in the center of the "X" made by every square of dots. Center a dot over the piece of painters tape, and repeat until you have a series of diagonal lines. Once all the polka dots are placed, you're ready to paint your main color.

  6. Paint the main color for the room on top of the stencils and let it dry completely. Apply a second coat if necessary. The aerosol shellac you applied to the dots should prevent any paint from leaking underneath. Remove the dots after the final coat dries for 24 hours and you'll have a perfectly-spaced polka dot pattern. Repeat on the other walls of the room.