How to Texture a Wall With a Roller

Stippling Ceiling With a Roller

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Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 4 hrs
  • Yield: 120 square feet
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $20 to $30

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 has visible seams, bulges, depressions, or other imperfections, wall texture can go a long way toward hiding them. 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. Also try different drying times between coats.

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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Drop cloths
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Drywall knife
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Drill and paint mixer attachment
  • Paint roller and cover
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint tray

Materials

  • Painter's tape
  • Drywall compound
  • Flat paint or drywall primer
  • Paint

Instructions

  1. Protect the Area

    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.

  2. 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 (mud) or lightweight 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Mix the Texture Compound

    Create your own inexpensive wall texture material by thinning out drywall compound with water in a 4:1 ratio. Use a 5-gallon bucket and a paint mixer attachment on your drill to mix the texture compound thoroughly. Blend the mixture until it has the consistency of thick latex paint. It should be smooth and easy to roll on.

    Alternatively, you can purchase premixed texture paint. Popular brands include Sheetrock Texolite and Behr Premium Plus Texture Paint. Stir the paint thoroughly, as directed by the manufacturer, to prepare it for application.

  5. 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.

    Fill a paint tray with the texture material or texture paint. Dip a paint roller into the paint tray, roll it out, and then apply the texture 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.

    Note: Follow the product directions when using commercial texture paint. They may recommend a single coat.

  6. Reach Tight Areas With a Brush

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

  7. Let the Texture Dry

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

  8. 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 desired three-dimensional texture. In places where the roller cannot reach, you can use the flat face of a paintbrush to pull up the material slightly from the surface.

  9. 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.

  10. Paint Homemade Texture

    If you use a homemade mixture of drywall mud to create the texture, let the surfaces dry completely, then prime and paint them as desired.

    Don't skip the primer. Drywall mud is chalky and sucks the moisture out of paint, leading to inconsistent results and wasted paint. Primer is relatively cheap and seals the surface for the finish coats of paint.

When to Call a Professional

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