Beyond the Basics: Decorative Plaster Finishes


In a world of subdivisions and cookie-cutter manufactured homes, sometimes you want something unique to mark your home as your own original dwelling. But short of driving the homeowner's association crazy, how can you get beyond plain, painted walls and boring ceilings? By adding texture to your home with decorative plaster finishes. Let's take a look at some simple fixes that will help you make your home a little more you.

Spray Texture

2085VP_Spray.jpgThe simplest of all decorative plasters, a spray texture involves using a texture gun, brush or trowel to fling small bits of plaster at your walls or ceiling. Your technique is going to have a lot to do with how fine or coarse the final texture will turn out, but for the most part, just have some fun with it. It's also one of the least labor-intensive ways to add some texture to your walls or ceiling. Be aware, though - if it's on the walls in high-traffic areas, there's a possibility it may be knocked flat again as the protruding portions break off more easily. Also, a highly textured wall can create issues for cleaning later, a good thing to know if you have children, and can hold a small amount of dust or be a starting point for cobwebs if you have insect issues.


This is the first type of plaster we're going to add some hand finishing to complete the look. After a spray texture has gone up, and before it dries completely, you'll take a trowel or putty knife and draw it across the surface of the texture, knocking down the highest parts. This will flatten the high points and fill in some of the deepest low points, giving you an orange-peel texture that provides a unique appearance without being overwhelming or hard to manage and keep clean. To get a finer finish, flatten the plaster by pushing it down against the wall instead of running the tool parallel to the wall, then pick it up and go to the next spot.


porter-cable-7800-drywall-sander.jpgThis technique involves spraying on your plaster, about 1/8" thick, and then taking a paintbrush or similar somewhat soft brush and forming the surface of the plaster by brushing it. This creates a very fine texture in the wall without being overwhelming and is great to soften surfaces in rooms that get a lot of reflective sunlight. Because it turns the surface from one flat piece into a thousand slightly different directions, it does a great job of cutting down glare.

Mud Swirl

I first saw this technique at my uncle's home in Arizona, and it was both amazingly beautiful and astonishingly easy. He'd sprayed the ceiling with plaster, then started in one corner with a broom, twisting it to create an arc in the corner with the pivot point then being covered over by the next arc of the broom. He continued working this way until he'd reached the opposite corner, where the somewhat less-than-perfect pivot point was hidden in the corner.

Crow Stomp

This is another simple finish that looks much harder than it actually is, but creates a lot of old-fashioned texture for your home. Like mud swirl, it tends to work best on the ceiling where it won't be bumped. Though it calls for a slap brush or crows foot brush, a sponge or fine wadded cloth works well too. Once you have your plaster up, take a sponge or wadded cloth and daub the texture into it, being careful to not miss any areas or overlap and destroy the texture in areas you've already worked. If you need to get into smaller areas, just use a smaller sponge or cloth wad to texture that specific area.

Faux Old World Plaster

To create an old world plaster effect, just plan on spending a bit of extra time hand-troweling your mud to create an somewhat uneven surface that is slightly polished on the high areas. By continuing to work the plaster, you'll create the varied look of plasters usually seen in Italy or France.

Ready to get started? At Wallboard Supply Company, we have the materials and tools you need to rock your decorative plaster finish. Contact us today for more details!

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Photo credit: crimfants / Foter / CC BY-SA

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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.