Venetian Plaster: How to Apply it to the Walls in Your Home

Anyone who has ever watch an episode of Trading Spaces that featured Doug Wilson as one of the two guest designers is well acquainted with the faux-painting technique called Venetian plaster. Venetian plaster is a paint treatment that adds a multi-tonal element to your walls, stimulating both the look and the shine of Italian marble. Although there are many steps involved in achieving this look, you do not have to leave it up to the professionals to do. Instead, with a little time and patience, you, too, can apply Venetian plaster to your walls.

Step One: Gather Your Materials.

There are several materials you must have on hand to create the Venetian plaster effect:

A can of Venetian plaster like the Home Depot’s Behr Premium Plus with Style Venetian Plaster or Lowe’s Valspar Signature Colors Venetian Plaster.

A large and small trowel. You will use the small trowel to apply the plaster to tighter spaces like corners and the area around your windows and doors and to scoop the plaster out of the can. You will use the larger trowel to apply the plaster to more open spaces. While you can use a steel trowel to apply all colors of Venetian plaster, a plastic trowel will ensure that the steel does not leave behind gray marks or rust on lighter colors of plaster.

Paper towels or rags to wipe the trowels clean.

Drop cloths for your floors and furniture.

Painter’s tape for your trim or molding.

Additional items may also be used with this paint technique:

A roller

A paint tray

A spray bottle of water

Sandpaper, 400 and 600 grit

Steel wool, fine grit

A power sander

Furniture wax

A can of Venetian plaster topcoat like the Home Depot’s Behr Premium Plus with Style Venetian Plaster Topcoat or Lowe’s Valspar Signature Colors Venetian Plaster Topcoat

Step Two: Prep Your Walls.

If wallpaper is present, remove it from the wall. Fill in any holes with spackle and sand flat any imperfections. Then clean the wall of all dust and dirt. If your wall is painted with a satin, semi-gloss, or gloss paint, paint over it with a coat of primer or a coat of flat paint that matches the color of your Venetian plaster. Tape off all windows, doors, and molding-basically, any adjoining surface that you don’t want the Venetian plaster to touch. Lay drop cloths on your floors and furniture. If you plan on using steel trowels, sand their edges and corners to prevent any imperfections in the steel from marring your finish.

Step Three: Apply the First Coat of Venetian Plaster.

The initial coat of Venetian plaster can be applied in one of two ways. The first is directly with a trowel. Use the smaller trowel to scoop some of the Venetian plaster from the can and apply it to the larger trowel if you plan on working on a larger space. Otherwise, hold the small trowel at a 10 to 30 degree angle with the wall and apply the Venetian plaster. If possible, you should start your application in a corner and use random-sized and random-spaced strokes. You should also cover only one small area of wall at a time to ensure the plaster’s pliability. The first coat should be thin. If you should miss covering any areas with plaster, you will be able to fill them in later with the second coat.

The second method of application is with a roller. Pour some of the Venetian plaster into a paint tray. Then use the spray bottle of water to dampen your paint roller before dipping it in the plaster. Once you have loaded your roller with the Venetian plaster, roll the plaster onto the wall. As with the trowel method, do not try to tackle an entire wall at once. If you do, the plaster will dry, and you won’t be able to smooth out any imperfections. Go over the rolled area with your trowel, holding the instrument at a 10 to 30 degree angle and using random strokes. This skimming method will even out the plaster and ensure that the final product looks like marble.

With either method, wipe the trowel with a rag or paper towel often to keep the plaster from building up on the edges of the trowel and transferring in hardened clumps to the wall.

Step Four: Apply the Second Coat of Venetian Plaster.

After the first coat has dried, apply your second coat of Venetian plaster. The second coat must be applied with a trowel; a roller cannot be used. As with the first coat, use the small trowel to scoop the plaster from the can and to apply it to the larger trowel if necessary. Then hold the desired trowel at a 60 to 90 degree angle with the wall and apply another thin coat of plaster. Again use random, overlapping strokes to apply the plaster one small space at time and fill in any areas that were missed with the first coat. Also try to smooth out any ridges or marks in the plaster’s surface. Allow the second coat to dry.

Step Five: Apply Additional Coats if Desired.

If additional coats are desired, follow the directions for the second coat, allowing the plaster to dry between each coat.

Step Six: Burnish the Venetian Plaster.

Because Venetian plaster is intended to mimic the look of marble, the final step is to burnish the plaster, thereby giving it the shine of real marble. Burnishing can be done in one of several ways. The first way you can burnish the Venetian plaster is to hold your clean, dry, steel trowel flat against the wall and rub it against the wall in a circular motion. The second is to rub the wall with fine steel wool. The third is to use sandpaper. Start with a 400 grit sandpaper, rubbing the wall in a circular motion; wipe the wall clean; and then switch to a finer, 600 grit sandpaper. For large areas, you can you use a power sander to burnish the wall. Wipe the wall with a cloth after you finish any of the three methods.

Step Seven: Add an Optional Layer of Protection.

If your newly plastered walls are in a high-traffic area like a bathroom or kitchen, you can add a Venetian plaster topcoat like those in Lowe’s Valspar Signature Colors line and the Home Depot’s Behr Premium Plus with Style line to protect the finish. These topcoats will add a satin sheen to the plaster as well. You may also add a final coat of furniture wax. Apply the wax to the plaster with a trowel and then buff the wax with a cloth to make it shine.

Sources Cited

Decorative Paint Technique, http://www.hgtv.com
Venetian Plaster, http://www.behr.com
Venetian Plaster, http://www.diynetwork.com
Venetian Plaster, http://www.lowes.com
Venetian Plaster Project, http://tlc.discovery.com
Venetian Plaster / Strie Technique, http://www.diynetwork.com

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