How to Paint Distressed Walls

Updated April 17, 2017

Using paint is an economical and effective way to decorate a room. Wall colour helps to determine the character of a room. Paint can also disguise flaws in walls and ceilings. There are lots of different types of paint available and a range of easy-to-do paint effects. One of the best ways to create a Tuscan, French country or estate house look is to create aged or distressed walls.

Lay dropcloths to protect the floor and tape off baseboards or moulding with painter's tape.

Prepare walls by patching any holes and sanding. Wipe off any dust with a dry cloth.

Paint on your base colour. Don't worry about getting a completely flawless application. Make sure that this coat has dried completely before continuing.

Create a textured wall by removing areas of the base coat of paint by sanding. These are random spots that are a variety of sizes. Basically the result is to make the original surface visible. Remove dust with a dry cloth.

Mix plaster if you like the look of ancient, Tuscan-type finishes. Using the trowel, apply the plaster in swirls and scrape some of it away. The goal is to have unsystematic regions of the walls (in corners, near the ceiling) where the finish looks like it has been worn away by time and, yes, even damaged by water elements. Let it dry completely even if it takes several days.

Prepare original tinted oil glaze (see Tips) or purchase a transparent glaze from a home improvement store and add colour powder there.

Stipple by painting the surface with a coat of glaze. Stab at the wall with a stippling brush to create a mottling effect. Wipe the brush with a rag occasionally as the glaze builds up.

Use a sponge technique. With the glaze in a tray, dip a sea sponge into it. Press the sponge against the tray to off-load paint. Dab the sponge on the wall to make a dappled look. Vary the pressure. You can sponge off in areas as well using a sponge dipped in turpentine (if using original formula glaze).

Apply a plastic bag. This creates a strong look as the glaze is rolled with a scrunched-up plastic bag. Overlap in circles. Wipe off any excess with the bag.

Roll a rag or rub. Apply glaze layer. Roll a lint-free cloth that has been unevenly rolled up over the glaze. Work quickly and in small areas.


Recipe for making 1 qt of your own glaze: mix 2 1/2 cups turpentine, 1 1/4 cup of linseed oil, 3/4 cup driers and 1 tbsp of whiting. Mix mineral spirits and colour powder to a desired hue. Add together. Experiment on white foam core or wallboard until you have the exact effect you need. Suggested glaze colours are raw or burnt sienna, burnt umber, blue or yellow ochre. An experienced faux painter can make an exposed brick trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) technique in high corners. An optional metallic glaze---gold or bronze---can be applied in low areas with a brush and using a cross-hatch technique to give a sheen to walls. A chamois material can be used in lieu of lint free rags but it is more costly.


Instead of using the traditional glaze blend, there are latex or water-based products on the market that eliminate the strong chemicals. The caveat with these new paints are that you have to work faster because they dry rapidly. Walls can be protected with a clear lacquer. If using water-based products, choose a water-based glaze. If the areas to be worked are gigantic, two or more people can work. Just stand back to keep assessing: the process, the loading and off-loading of colour amounts, and the procedure's effects.

Things You'll Need

  • Latex paint in any colour (satin)
  • Tinted oil glaze (recipe in Step 4) or latex antiquing glaze mixture
  • Making glaze:
  • Turpentine
  • Linseed oil
  • Powered whiting
  • Driers
  • Mineral spirits
  • Color powder
  • * * *
  • Tub of wall plaster
  • Trowel
  • 100 grit sandpaper and a block to hold it
  • Paint roller
  • Paint brushes
  • Stippler brush
  • Sponge (natural sea sponge) or lint-free cloth or plastic bags (or a combination of)
  • Drop cloths
  • Painter's tape
  • Buckets
  • Ladders
  • Metallic glaze (optional)
  • Sticks for mixing
  • Rags
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About the Author

Andrea Campbell is the author of 12 nonfiction books on a variety of topics. She is also an e-instructor, editor and columnist who has been writing professionally since 1991. Campbell, the daughter of a builder, writes frequently about home improvement. She uses her degree in criminal justice to write about forensic science and criminal law.