Courses: Just give me a paintbrush and a plant pot, and I'll give you verdigris

You don't have to be an artist, or an expert, to create your own paint finishes, writes Catherine Stebbings. And it's fun

Decorating tends to be a passion. You may have tried the minimalist look, played with vibrant acrylic limes and lemons, dabbled in deep greens and regal reds, and ended up slapping on any old thing. You may, on the other hand, always have felt dubious about special effects. The fabulous interiors shown in glossy magazines can be a far cry from all that effort of messing around with paints and polishes, only to find it looks wrong when it's all dried and varnished. To see whether I could rag and drag with the best of them, I took a day course with Paint Magic, just off Portobello Road in north London.

Paint Magic courses are devised by a team of experts led by Jocasta Innes, the maestra of paint effects and author of the phenomenally successful Paint Magic. There are many courses to choose from; the company suggested "Basic Paint Effects", an introduction to decorative techniques for walls, woodwork and furniture.

The course was slickly presented by the shop's in-house teacher, Jacqueline Pederson. The day began with a cup of coffee and a slide presentation showing the various effects we would be discussing and practising later in the day.

Gradually Jacqueline introduced us to all the different media, from oil- based products to the more versatile water-based primers, paints and varnishes. Within an hour I was painting a picture frame with its first coat, and dreaming of where my masterpiece would hang.

Then it was time to try our hand at paint effects: washing, ragging, sponging and dragging. As I pondered over my board of lettuce green, gently stroking the brush across its surface as if it were a precious stone, I realised why paint effects are so appealing. This is not about slapping on paint to covering old blemishes and scars; this is about lovingly tending to your walls, putting your energy and care into creating something original and highly personal. As Jacqueline remarked, "Paint effects need to be subtle, to create a feeling or a mood rather than a clever look."

Throughout the day we were guided from one project to another, following a demonstration, then attempting it ourselves. There was no arduous washing out of brushes and collecting of paints. The mess was conveniently dispersed in a sink behind the screen, and fresh brushes and materials would be laid out for the next project. As a result we achieved a great deal.

My primary trophy was a distressed picture frame - a rather impressive effect created by smothering the undercoat with candle wax, painting over it in top coat and rubbing the dry frame down with wire wool. While the others put the finishing touches to their frames, stencilling on fleurs- de-lis and delicate marine life, I waxed and polished mine for a more rugged look.

While we learnt about both oil- and water-based paint, we used only the latter, because they dry quickly. As Jacqueline explained, "water-based products are much easier to use, mistakes can be washed off or painted over and drying times are quick - creating special effects is much easier than it used to be."

Courses generally take between six and 10 people, to give time for individual tuition. People's reasons for joining vary from wanting to decorate their own homes, to professional decorators, both men and women, wanting to learn new techniques. Rachel, a researcher in the City, saw it as a pleasant way to spend a Saturday: "It's very therapeutic to do something creative that doesn't require a lot of artistic ability or intellectual input."

Our final artistic venture was a small terracotta pot painted in verdigris, stippled in two shades of green and finished with a fine line of copper- coloured wax. The result looked remarkably like ageing copper. That's one I will definitely do again, to transform all those plastic pots at home.

Perhaps one of the most refreshing aspects of the course was its objectivity. Naturally, we used the in-house products during the day, but Jacqueline gave us a good overview of what is on the market in both specialist and DIY stores. It was also not assumed that we all had dreamy houses; the course was geared towards giving you confidence to go home and do what you wanted.

Can I now earn a fortune decorating the homes of the rich and famous? Probably not, but I am now confident enough to give my home the sort of face-lift I thought I could never afford.

Paint Magic Courses run throughout the year in shops around the country. They run for one to five days; prices start at pounds 60 for a full day's tuition, 10am-4.30pm, plus materials.

For details, contact Paint Magic, 79 Shepperton Road, London N1 3DF. Courses around the country: London (0171-792 8012), Richmond (0181-940 9799), Islington (0171-359 4441), Bath (01225 423040), Arundel (01903 883653), Guildford (01483 306072), Marlow (01628 477707), N Ireland (01232 421881).

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
i100
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Teacher Required We are curr...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 5 Primary Teaching positionRands...

Nursery Room Leader

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: JOB DESCRIPTION - NURSERY ROOM LEADER...

Nursery Room Leader

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: JOB DESCRIPTION - NURSERY ROOM LEADER...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution