How to Texture a Wall With a Roller

Stippling Ceiling With a Roller

Gary Ombler/Getty Images

Wall texture is often applied out of necessity. Given a choice, many homeowners would choose a smooth, glass-like texture for their walls and ceilings. Besides being the preferred style of today, smooth surfaces help wall color stand out better. Because there are no bumps to create a shadow effect, the surface appears brighter.

But wall texture does have the distinct advantage of being a quick method of finishing walls without the seemingly endless cycles of mudding, curing, and sanding drywall compound. Wall texture can cover up imperfect drywall or mudding work, and it dries rapidly enough that you can begin painting just hours later.

Best of all, wall texturing—also known as wall stippling—can be accomplished with a roller and with materials that are easy and inexpensive to obtain.

How Does Wall Texture Work?

Wall texture is a substance that is thicker than paint but thinner than straight drywall compound. Texture applied to walls and ceilings creates small shadows due to the bumps and depressions. While these shadows tend to disappear in direct light, they lengthen as the light source moves at a sharper angle to the wall. This darkens the overall shade of the surface, thus slightly darkening the wall.

This darkening effect does a superb job of hiding surface imperfections. If your drywall is not correctly installed—if it has seams, bulges, sags, or depressions—wall texture can go a long way towards hiding joint imperfections. This is one reason why ceilings are so often texturized: Because ceilings receive the most light, it is very hard to hide their imperfections. 

Wall Texture Troubleshooting

Wall texture effects can vary depending on how the material is applied and rolled. Practice the technique on scraps of drywall or even sheets of cardboard before moving to your walls and ceilings. Practice with both thin coats and heavy coats. Experiment with allowing the texture material different periods of drying time before you roll it.

In most cases, if you are having an issue with your wall texture, the cause is the proportion of water to the drywall compound. Too little water yields sticky, sharp-peaked textures. Too much water results in peaks that do not hold or even in water dripping down the wall.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 10 minutes for a 120 square foot
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Material Cost: $20 to $30

What You Will Need

Equipment/Tools

Materials

  • Drywall compound
  • Water
  • Primer
  • Paint

Instructions

Protect Surfaces

By its very nature, texturing is a messy operation that results in wet texture material flying in all directions. When stippling a ceiling, even the most careful painter will need to cover the floors and adjoining wall surfaces, including door and window trim. Use drop-cloths for the floor and plastic sheeting for vertical surfaces, hanging it with painter's tape.

Patch the Surfaces

Some patching of wall and ceiling surfaces may be necessary before you can apply the stipple texture. First, patch any holes or chips with either drywall compound or light-weight spackle. Use your drywall knife to force the compound into the hole and give it a quick swipe with the edge of the knife to smooth the compound across the surface. Do not spend too much time on this, as it will get covered with the texture material. It's usually not necessary to sand the surface smooth—simply smoothing it with a drywall knife is fine.

Prime the Surface

Next, apply a coat of flat white latex wall paint or drywall primer. Let dry. This pre-coat is essential because texture paint applied directly to the bare drywall will be absorbed into the wall surface, compromising your efforts.

Make and Mix the Texture Compound

Create your own inexpensive wall texture compound by thinning out drywall compound (mud) with water in a 4:1 ratio. Use a five-gallon bucket and a paint mixer attachment on your drill to mix the texture compound thoroughly. You may need a drill that accepts a secondary handle, because the drill may be hard to hold without it. Mix up and stir the texture paint or your homemade compound until it has the consistency of thick latex paint. It should be smooth and easy to roll on.

Alternatively, you can also purchase premixed texture compounds. Popular brands include Sheetrock Stipple Wall & Ceiling Paint and Behr Interior Texture Paint. Either way, once the texture is applied and thoroughly dried, it can be painted in the same fashion as any wall or ceiling surface.

Roll Out the Wall Texture

Texturing involves a two-part rolling process—an initial application, then a second rolling over the applied material once it has partially dried. Getting the timing correct is the trickiest part of the process.

Dip the roller in the paint tray, roll it out, and then apply over the wall or ceiling surface. An ordinary roller cover will produce a texture, but there are also special roller covers available that are designed for stippling.

Reach Some Areas With a Brush

Where roller cannot reach—the corners and edges around woodwork—complete the texturing by applying the material with the flat face of a paintbrush.

Let the Texture Dry

Let the texture paint dry partially—about halfway to full dryness. Test the surfaces by pressing your thumb into the surface and pulling it out. The result should be sharp spikes, almost like a meringue.

Texture a Second Time

When the applied texture material has reached the desired consistency, roll over the surface again. This will slightly pull up the partially dried material, creating the three-dimensional texture you're seeking. In places where the roller cannot reach, you can use the flat face of a paintbrush to pull the material up slightly from the surface.

Create a Knock-Down Surface (Optional)

As an option, before the surface is completely dry, you can knock down the surface by smoothing a drywall knife across the texture, with the tool held at a flat angle. This slightly flattens the peaks of the surface, creating a look much like textured plaster. Again, the texture substance needs to be the correct consistency for this to work. If it is too wet, the texture will smear; if it is too dry, it will not knock down.

When to Call a Professional

If you need to create large areas of wall texture, it is usually best to hire a painter or general contractor to create texture with an air-compressor texture sprayer. Fog, orange peel, splatter, and knock-down coats are all possible with texture sprayers. Application is rapid, and drying time takes only a few hours.