If you smear paint on a wall, the combination of surface-tension and viscosity makes it trickle down in little “stalagtites” of paint instead of all at once:

enter image description here

Do these little “stalagtites” of paint have a name?

I would like to distinguish them from, say, the drops of paint which drip from a painted ceiling, and have detached entirely from the mother smear.

  • 2
    I would add that the word you're looking for as a simile is stalactite (and the opposing formation is a stalagmite).
    – Paul Rowe
    Dec 30, 2015 at 14:13
  • 2
    This image is from Canstock. I don't believe their licence terms allow this use, given that SE has a CC-BY-SA licence. A picture is good, but please find one which can be used here [and ensure it's referenced correctly!]
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 30, 2015 at 14:30
  • I've heard older painters call these "holidays." When junior painters did a poor job it was an insult implying they weren't paying attention to their work because they were "on holiday."
    – Tim
    Dec 30, 2015 at 20:36
  • 1
    If it was wine on a wine glass they'd be called legs :) Dec 31, 2015 at 15:18
  • Sometimes newcomer answers can be enlightening, but I wish they would explain their answers, otherwise "older" users might believe they are time wasters. Tim's comment also proved to be very helpful.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 3, 2016 at 8:47

3 Answers 3


If you accidentally repaint a car too quickly, without proper flash times, huge paint sags and runs can flow down and ruin the finish, especially on vertical panels.

sag noun 2a. A sagging or drooping part or area: tried to brush out the paint sags.

They're also often called paint runs.

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    I'd say there are some sags at the top of the picture but the dominant feature is the runs where the paint makes a break for it and forms a long thin "stalactite". These are common in both sprayed and brushed oil- and water-based paints. When brushed, water-based paints tend not to go on thick enough/surface-dry fast enough for sags to form.
    – Chris H
    Dec 30, 2015 at 15:38
  • @Chris: Personally, if I was going to distinguish sags from runs, I think probably I'd say there are some sags at the bottom of the picture. That's because I tend to think of the raised bobbly bits as the "essence" of what we're talking about. Which is usually thought of as something highly undesirable (rather than "artistic"), so as a painter your problem is you need to sand the surface to level it. And the "sag" at the bottom of each "run" is the most awkward bit to sand down because it's thick, meaning you have to wait ages for it to be fully dried and "sandable". Dec 30, 2015 at 16:15
  • There are sags at the ends of the runs as well, that's true.
    – Chris H
    Dec 30, 2015 at 16:20
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    @Chris: There may be a US/UK split, and almost certainly there's a usage split between artistic painters (for whom this effect may actually be useful), and those in the painting & decorating trade (for whom it's just a sign of incompetence). I've heard many of the latter use sags, sagging in reference to the whole thing, not just the bobbly bits themselves. Dec 30, 2015 at 16:26
  • A paint sag is something different from what the OP pictures. A paint sag occurs when an entire (vertical) surface has been painted and some of the paint slides down and merges with paint below, forming a bulge in the fully-painted surface. (And it's not simply a sign of "incompetence", as there are many disparate factors that combine to determine how well paint will stay in place once applied.)
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 30, 2015 at 23:24

In the graffiti culture they are just called drips, and are often used intentionally for artistic effect.

Drips - At first drips are the sign of a novice painter who does not have good can control. Over time a writer can get so good that he or she intentionally drips their tags in order to show style....This style originated early on in New York subway graffiti with home made markers (here)

  • +1 This term is used outside the graffiti culture as well, although more conventional painters usually avoid these drips, and regard them as a sign that the paint was applied too heavily. I remember a commercial from a long time ago where the Hall of Fame baseball catcher Johnny Bench did an ad for a brand of spray paint, touting its ability to spray on evenly. The clever tagline was, "No runs, no drips, no errors," which of course was a pun of sorts derived from, "No runs, no hits, no errors," a phrase commonly used by television announcers at the end of a half inning of baseball.
    – J.R.
    Dec 30, 2015 at 22:32

Yesterday, a newcomer named Pen posted the following answer:

We grew up calling them 'holidays'.

The answer has since been deleted. It seemed an odd answer, but it didn't sound offensive or gratuitous to me. So, I looked online and found the following definitions:

Painting and Coatings Terms and Definitions

Holidays: Application defect whereby small areas are left uncoated. Synonyms: Misses, Skips, Voids, Discontinuities, Vacations.

and from Coating Defects-Common Coating Failures and Causes

  • Coating Defects: Runs, Sags, Curtains, Wrinkles enter image description here
    Runs, sags, curtains, or wrinkles may be caused or worsened by: applying the coating too thickly, using too much thinner or using the wrong thinner, surface too hot to apply the coating, applying a coating at the end of its pot life, wrong thixotrope used in manufacturing , improper spray technique.

  • Discontinuities: Skips, Holidays, and Missed Areas
    These defects are exposed areas of the substrate or previous coating, caused by poor application technique, lack of stripe coating, and/or lack of or poor inspection. Quick recognition and repair means the repair is easier and it will blend in better.

If the drips or ‘sags’ are large then the term curtains, used in the painting industry, is also appropriate.

Large sagging or runs of paint due to improper application.

  • The picture in the Original Poster's question doesn't seem to mean Application defect whereby small areas are left uncoated. Can it be even called defect?
    – user140086
    Mar 3, 2016 at 9:29
  • @Rathony I'm sick of your bold type abuse. It really comes across as patronising. If you haven't understood why I posted this answer, I'm not going to waste my time to explain it to you.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 3, 2016 at 9:31
  • Holiday was deleted by commmunity votes. I don't think it is synonymous with sags or drips. I am sick of your editing worthless questions and correcting. How about that?
    – user140086
    Mar 3, 2016 at 9:33
  • @Rathony and I am sick of seeing you protect every question when answers from newcomers are not spam, offensive or saying "me too" or "thanks". How about that?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 3, 2016 at 9:36
  • That's my right at 15,000 reputation points. I have the right to make important words bold as much as you have the right to save the blatantly off-topic and ELL question. You are the one who complained about the low quality questions. Why are you helping learners? I am very curious to know your true intention. Will it be really helpful to current and future users? If you have a problem with my protecting all those questions answered by one rep users, please write a Meta post. As far as I am concerned, nobody, no moderator told me I should stop it.
    – user140086
    Mar 3, 2016 at 9:41

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