Hide Wall Flaws by Painting a Stipple Texture

Stippling Ceiling With a Roller
Stippling Ceiling With a Roller. Getty / Gary Ombler

Stipple texture ceilings and walls are an acquired taste—or sometimes a taste born of necessity.  Given a choice, most homeowners would choose a smooth, glass-like texture.  Besides being the preferred look of today, smooth surfaces help wall color stand out better.  Because there are no bumps to create a shadow effect, the surface is brighter.

Wall texturizing creates small shadows due to the bumps and depressions.

While these shadows do not matter much in direct light, they lengthen as the light source moves at a sharper angle to the wall. This darkens the overall shade of the wall, thus darkening the room.

For that very reason, textured walls and ceilings have their place: they hide imperfections better. If your drywall is not perfectly installed--if it has seams, bulges, sags, or depressions--stippling can go a long ways 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 if the surface is perfectly flat. 

How It Works

The idea behind stippling is to lay down a coat of texturizing compound that is thicker than ordinary paint.  This compound creates peaks.  But this compound is thin enough so that it does not bulk up and create the long, sharp peaks associated with popcorn or cottage cheese ceilings.

Two Mixtures

  • Make It Yourself:  Some painters recommend thinning out drywall (mud) compound with water to a 4:1 ratio.  
  • Store-Bought:  You can purchase special texturizing compounds.  Popular brand include Sheetrock Stipple Wall & Ceiling Paint and Behr Interior Texture Paint.

The Process

  1. Prepare Walls for Texturizing:  Prepare the walls with one coat of flat white latex wall paint or base coat paint.  Let dry.  This precoat is essential, because stipple paint applied directly to bare drywall will be absorbed into the wall surface, compromising your efforts.
  1. Stir and Roll Paint:  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. Dip the roller in the paint tray, roll it out and then roll over the wall or ceiling surface. Note: This technique will produce a stipple texture using an ordinary paint roller cover, but there are also stipple roller covers available with textured surfaces aimed at simplifying this process.
  2. Let Dry to Correct Consistency:  Let the texture paint dry until it is halfway between wet and dry. It can be hard to determine exactly when to do this, but since you are going to be texturizing the surface anyway, you can test out the surface by pressing your thumb into the paint and pulling straight out. The result should be sharp spikes almost like meringue.
  3. Roll Again:  Roll the surface again. Note that you are not rolling the surface with more texture paint. You are rolling the surface simply with the paint remaining on the roller from before. Your goal is to pull the surface up, away from the wall, creating the texture.
  1. Optional "Knock Down" Texture:  As an option, before the surface is completely dry, you can “knock down” the surface by smoothing a drywall knife across the texture at a sharp angle to the wall. Again, the texture paint needs to be the correct consistency. If too wet, the paint will smear. If too dry, the paint will not "knock down."