AD It Yourself

How to Add Wall Texture in Your Home

Whether you need to cover up imperfect walls or want a one-of-a-kind faux finish, textured paint can take a surface from flat to fantastic
How to Add Wall Texture to Your Space
Photo: Rich Stapleton

Does the idea of wall texture instantly transport you to the popcorn ceilings of your childhood home? Though popcorn texture is certainly a common example, it turns out that your DIY project with textured paint can go far beyond that dated interpretation. Whether you’re a home improvement all-star or just an aspiring DIY enthusiast, textured paint has a lot of great features that can take a space’s aesthetic to the next level.

“Textured paint is ideal for rooms where you want the walls to tell a story,” says Lisa Rickert, cofounder and principal designer at Jolie Home. “Maybe it’s a story of age and patina, or maybe it’s simply to bring texture and warmth to a space. The most common textured paint finishes can look like suede, plaster, or layers of paint to emulate a long history.”

Textured paint goes far beyond popcorn walls and ceilings.

Photo: Miguel Flores Vianna

Whether you’re raring to go or hesitant to kick off your textured paint journey, take a look at several of our FAQs that will take you from a newbie to a seasoned DIY’er in no time.

Why Textured Paint?

Think of your wall surface like a photograph. In the same way an Instagram filter can transform how a picture is interpreted by the viewer, wall texture is a unique means of transforming how an entire wall is seen in the space.

“Apps will help you add filters to your photos, and textured paint will filter your wall surface by diffusing light differently than a smooth, flat finish,” says Kate Ziegler, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Lifestyles in New London, New Hampshire, and Arborview Realty in Boston. “In a less pragmatic case, textured paint can also add visual interest, especially in spaces with [not a lot of] ornate architectural details.”

There are also plenty of functional benefits to textured paint. Consider its ability to disguise the flaws you don’t want to emphasize in your plaster walls or drywall texture. Perhaps you’re not able to re-drywall or don’t want to bother. “Textured paint is great for surfaces that have existing imperfections,” Rickert says. “Instead of fixing them, you can hide them.” It’s a means of embracing the unsightly blemishes and transforming them into something new. Often, the pursuit adds uniqueness to an interior wall that could use a little pop.

Types of Textured Paint

One of the greatest assets of textured paint is its tremendous potential. There is no singular way to add texture to your walls. Instead, you can embrace an interior design style from across a wide gamut. Perhaps you’re looking to create a skip trowel texture, which uses a thin layer of joint compound and a trowel to add dimension with a fun decorative appeal.

A similar aesthetic is created using the knockdown wall technique, which creates a surface with a slightly raised texture, jumping out at the eye. The orange peel wall is a splatter texture that’s sprayed onto walls with a hopper gun or compressor. Venetian plaster, which uses a putty made from fired limestone combined with water, creates a soft, earthy feel that gives the appearance of depth. Finally, in the same way texture can create depth and tell a story on walls, it can be used on the ceiling.

Texture adds depth and interest to a room, almost like an IRL photo filter.

Photo: Shade Degges

One way to cultivate these diverse textures is by using an additive mixed into the paint and applied to the walls. The additives come premeasured and ready to add to a gallon of paint. Silica sand can also be mixed into the paint to add varying effects, depending on the amount added.

There are textures that are applied directly to the wall. If you’re looking to avoid using additives, Rickert suggests using an ultramatte water-based paint like Jolie Paint and letting it thicken first by pouring some out into a dish or taking the lid off the can. “Water will evaporate from the paint, giving it a thicker consistency,” she notes. “This is a great way to avoid having to use additives to the paint to achieve texture.”

Another option is applying joint compound to the walls with a compound knife or roller and using sponges or different trowels to create texture by hand.

How to Apply

In the same way that homeowners can create diverse types of wall texture, there are also several means of applying it. “Application will vary based on the specific texture and product,” Ziegler says. “But at a minimum, expect to need a specialty roller and a robust brush that can handle texture additives.” The additives are often mixed into the paint color and applied to the walls. In other cases, additional tools like trowels or a knockdown knife may be needed. Other options include a stomp brush or stippling brush, which are also available for purchase at your local home supply store. Constructed out of coarse hair or fibers, they each make unique patterns on ceilings and walls to add dimension.

Instead of an application that uses a brush, some people make use of additional equipment like a texture sprayer for a quicker finish. On the shelves at stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s, or in some cases available for rental, it allows you to add a diluted drywall mixture to paint for distribution that is even across the board.

Like many things in life, textured paint is often best after several practice rounds. Instead of tackling a Spanish-style stucco texture or a sand swirl on an entire wall on your first try, head to a smaller space where your DIY mistakes won’t show. Ziegler recommends starting in a closet, or on a practice wall.

Test out your texture technique in a small space before committing to an entire room.

Design: Maestri Studio Photo: Jenifer McNeil Baker

“Get acquainted with your tools and materials. Learn how fast they dry and how robust the texture is. Consider texture just on a low-traffic accent wall first, and don’t bite off more than you can take in a few hours, because it is likely to take longer than you think,” she advises. “Don’t forget to rest your posting colors with the texture added! The texture will change the way light is refracted and impact the color presentation.”

Pros and Cons

Think of textured paint as the guest star on your favorite television show. As Rickert previously noted, it’s a way of adding depth to your interior design aesthetic. “It’s about creating character or turning the walls into a design story,” Rickert says. But it also functions as a problem solver to take a difficult wall area to the next level, whether it’s softening difficult patches or plaster on walls, paneling, and ceilings.

But, though textured paint has plenty of benefits, there are also some components that make it more challenging to work with. Creating wall texture is often a more time-intensive project than the typical paint job that requires nothing but a paint roller and a paintbrush. Ziegler compares textured paint to being “more like an installation compared to traditional paint, requiring unique preparations and tools.” It’s often harder to remove or repair it as well, she notes. “If a textured wall is damaged, patching may be impossible without retreating the entire wall, and reapplying will also require removing the old texture in many cases. Even a smooth textured paint like chalkboard paint will need special priming treatment before repainting.”

Ziegler shared that when she moved into her current kitchen, the walls had been done over with textured paint by the previous owner in an attempt to cultivate a French countryside vibe. To create a sand texture, they had mixed Silica sand into the paint to add varying effects. Unfortunately, the removal required sanding the existing sand off before they could clean, prime, and paint. “A high-build primer won’t be sufficient!” Ziegler added.

Rickert echoes Ziegler’s sentiments, noting that the greatest challenge of using textured paint is that it’s both time-consuming to apply and difficult to remove.

“There is much handwork in a textured paint finish, so it takes time. You may want to consider doing an accent wall or a small space instead of a larger interior. When you are ready to change the finish to something smooth, you will have to sand the surface down or replace the drywall if it is walls,” Rickert says. “If the walls are flawed in the first place you would potentially have to do this anyway, so the textured finish may buy you some time.”

Where to Use It

Consider textured paint behind a headboard for a little extra oomph.

Photo: Anson Smart

The universality of textured paint is one of its greatest assets since it can be used on any flat surface from walls to ceilings. But it can also be embraced in less traditional settings. Rickert noted she loves textured paint on walls featuring a modern fireplace or as a decorative hood above a beautiful kitchen range. “Both areas are conducive to limestone or plaster finishes, and using textured paint is an easy alternative to achieve this beautiful look. Textured paint could also be used as an accent wall behind the headboard in a bedroom,” she says. Its flexibility is truly one of its best assets. But it’s also vital to be cognizant of how busy the space is. Ziegler recommends using textured paint in low-traffic areas that won’t take much wear and tear from the elements, because its ability to last will be compromised.

“Don’t add texture to walls you’ll need to touch up often,” she recommends. “If you anticipate renovating your first-floor powder room every year, maybe make it easier on yourself and skip the texture in that spot.”