Then I applied Varathane wood stain in Weathered Gray. I wanted the grain to show through really well so I brushed it on, and within a minute or two rubbed it off with a clean towel.
This is how the wood looked with the stain applied an then rubbed off:
I then used 1-inch Scott painter's tape to create a box around the edges. This tape sticks really well and removes really well, you definitely need painters tape and not regular masking tape. As you are applying the tape run your fingers firmly over all the edges to make sure it all adheres to the tape. If your paint runs, there is not a good way to fix it!
I used a framer's square to measure four even sections along the bottom. When you make a measurement the tape needs to straddle the mark so that each space between the pieces of tape are the same. I only made marks on tape, never on the wood. I used the framing square and butt the tape right up against it and ran it from the bottom of the wood to the top of the wood piece. On a side note, I love this framing square, it is super old. It belonged to my Grandfather, and when he passed away, I inherited it. So now every time I use this square to make a project (which is more often than you'd think) I think of him. :-)
This created four equal columns:
I then made marks on the left outside edge of the tape every 6 inches, and then the second piece of tape from the left and used the framing square to make lines from left to right, going down the board, every six inches, making sure the tape straddles the mark (the mark hits the center of the tape)
And then I started from the bottom of the second column. Instead of making marks this time, I used the framing square to make sure that the herringbone pieces were even across the two columns.
I repeated this up the third column, and then down the fourth column until I was finished taping the entire board. Although this seems like a lot of work I think it only took me an hour to do it.
Again go over every square inch of tape with your fingers and make sure it is adhering to the board. Look for shadows under the tape. Shadows = seeping paint! I then painted one section at at time, being super careful not to go over the tape lines to the other color. **
**Note on the paint colors: I simply picked a Behr paint chip card from Home Depot that had 5 different shades of the same blue color on it. Then I picked the three lighter colors right above it on the paint chip rack. Home Depot mixes color samples for less than 3 bucks a color. So that's how I got perfect gradiating color! No mixing at home involved. Which is awesome when you tend to be a super big mess maker like myself :-).**
This is a shot of the piece painted with all of the blue, before I added the red stripe:
And then again with the red paint and (yeah!) all of the tape removed. It is such a good feeling when you remove tape and the paint lines underneath are super crisp. That gets projects nerds like myself all worked up in a fuss with excitement.
To make the frame I miter-cut four 1 x 2's the exact same length. To get the right length, I measured all four sides of the board (to make sure they were the same) and added 1/8" inch to the measurement. This is because I added the frame to the piece on the wall AFTER I mounted the piece to the wall.
I found these awesome miter-corner brackets at Harbor Freight tools a few years ago that are great for making frames. It makes keeping your frames true and square super easy. I applied glue to the mitered corners, screwed the clamps to the boards tight, and then nailed the corners with my pneumatic nailer.