How to Venetian Plaster

Updated on February 1, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

What Is Venetian Plaster?

Venetian plaster is a faux finish technique for walls. The wall surface is painted with a trowel and a special thick paint. Rather than brushing on the paint it is smeared on in thin coats with the trowel held at an angle. The process is very similar to mudding a wall after putting up the drywall, and the texture of the paint is also similar.

While there is some texture to the finished surface, there is not as much as you might think. The variation in color and the play of light on the pigment gives a vintage plaster look that is surprisingly smooth to the touch.

The Venetian plaster technique is a great way to cover up less than perfect walls.

Before. All I did to prime the wall was to cover it with 1 coat of primer tinted to a slightly lighter color than the venetian plaster.
Before. All I did to prime the wall was to cover it with 1 coat of primer tinted to a slightly lighter color than the venetian plaster.
Venetian Plaster in Our Bathroom
Venetian Plaster in Our Bathroom

Choose Your Paint and Get Started

There are many ways to do venetian plaster but I chose to use Behr paints venetian plaster collection. I liked the quality of the paint as well as the fact that it was done in two steps plus a glaze. It seemed straight forward and simple for a first project.

Choosing the color was relatively easy for me. The room is narrow with 10 ft ceilings and faces west. In the afternoon it gets a lot of light from the frosted floor to ceiling window. A warm color (yellow, red, etc) would be too warm in that golden light so I went with a slightly gray toned robin's egg blue called Aegean Sea. If a room faces north, gets north light, or if it gets eastern exposure it is often a good idea to use warmer colors, while a south or west facing room does well with cool colors. That is my own rule of thumb, however ultimately you should get what you like.

Another thing that can help is to pick your wallpaper border, if you are using one, and then match the color to that.

Prime the Walls

Our house is 100 years old and had been abandoned before we moved in. Many of the walls are not in the best condition. The wall in our hall bathroom had been papered without proper priming and it was a mess. For this reason I decided that this would be where I would start my first venetian plaster project. I chose to prime the walls with a primer in a slightly lighter color than my paint because parts of the walls were bare drywall, and other parts had wallpaper backing sticking in clumps. I figured if the technique could make THIS room look good it was nothing short of miraculous!

The first day I carefully primed the walls. I let them dry overnight and went back the next morning, tentatively opening the bucket of venetian plaster. It seemed an odd color, and even while I was putting it on the walls I was worried because it looked gray. Lesson learned. The plaster changes color quite a bit as it dries.

Apply the Paint

Round the corners of the putty knife with100 grit sandpaper to minimize edges as you apply the paint. I like to start in a corner of the room that is least noticeable so if I make mistakes at first they are not as obvious.

Using a putty knife at a 30 degree angle, scrape a thin layer of the paint into the wall in a sweeping motion and spread over the area you are working on. Don't worry too much about all of your base wall being covered, this is only the first coat. The mistake most people make (as I was cautioned by my paint guy at Home Depot) was that they put too thick a layer on the wall. Keep it thin. It takes a while to get the hang of it - just keep practicing. Use random strokes, some long, some short, to cover the wall.

Go fix yourself some coffee and let it dry for at least four hours.

Venetian Plaster Trowel Technique

Second Coat

I waited 24 hours between the coats, however anything after four hours is fine.

Now you will hold the trowel at 60-90 degrees as you use the same random strokes to apply another thin coat of the venetian plaster. This time be careful that the wall surface is completely covered. Smooth edge marks as you go. Allow to dry for a full 24 hours.

How To Finish

Once the second coat of paint has dried for at least 24 hours you will finish your project in one of two ways:

You can use a clear glaze and spread it over the paint with a trowel, just as you did with the venetian plaster. This will be needed for humid areas such as bathrooms or kitchens.


You can use a technique called burnishing to bring out the highlights in the finish.

Because my project was a bathroom, and would be subjected to humidity, water, and lots and lots of traffic I bought the clear satin glaze and spread that over the second coat. Once it had dried and seasoned for a week it was washable and easy to clean.

Other projects can be burnished. This gives the final wall a unique appearance that is very durable in places other than bathrooms or kitchens. To burnish the venetian plaster you will let the second coat dry for 24 hours and then, using a 400 or 600 grit sandpaper rub the wall in a circular motion. You can use a power sander for larger areas.

Never use the glaze if you plan to burnish, and don't burnish if you plan to glaze. These techniques will not work together.

Image: Venetian Plaster that has been burnished.
Image: Venetian Plaster that has been burnished.
When the border is added, and the glaze is finished the wall color has a beautiful depth and intensity.
When the border is added, and the glaze is finished the wall color has a beautiful depth and intensity.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        ken 6 years ago

        can you use pva/uni bond for your primer or have you got to have a special primer to help with the suction

      • carcro profile image

        Paul Cronin 6 years ago from Winnipeg

        I totally love Venetian Plaster. We have applied this to three rooms in our home, it creates a real warm look, almost old world yet modern at the same time. Great hub, thanks for sharing!

      • whitton profile image

        whitton 6 years ago

        My father is a faux painter and he has taught be how to do all sorts of techniques. Venetian plaster is so beautiful. One of my favorite looks. This is a great Hub wit great tips and information.

      • profile image

        finished wood knobs 7 years ago

        The room is narrow with 10 ft ceilings and faces west. In the afternoon it gets a lot of light from the frosted floor to ceiling window.........................Nice Artical

      • suegillespie profile image

        suegillespie 7 years ago

        I live in a home built in 1840s....thanks for sharing. I am now following you!

      • kaoskakimu profile image

        kaoskakimu 7 years ago

        great hub and great info too :)

      • WallStickerDecals profile image

        WallStickerDecals 7 years ago from US

        I am looking forward for more creation.

      • lindacee profile image

        lindacee 7 years ago from Arizona

        I love the look of Venetian plaster. A time consuming project, but the results are well worth the effort. Thanks for breaking the process down into easy-to-understand steps. I have not tried it yet, but a friend of mine did this technique in a downstairs powder room and it looks divine!

      • Tapestries profile image

        Tapestries 7 years ago

        Those cornice touches are very elegant. Thank you!

      • eventsyoudesign profile image

        eventsyoudesign 7 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

        Wow! What a beautiful finish. Great job, looks very professional. Thanks for sharing. Teresa

      • henrykasan profile image

        henrykasan 7 years ago from UK

        Informative Hub!!

        Each and every human being on earth wants to live in a beautifully decorated room. Every one like good and smooth wall with shining color and other attractive features.In this regard Venetian Plaster is of great help.The view of the venetian plaster provide tremendous visual delight. I await your future hub in this regard with great curiosity. Keep on hubbing.

      • profile image

        Leath 7 years ago

        I did my bathroom in this technique and found that the mold in the stopped.

      • ss sneh profile image

        ss sneh 7 years ago from the Incredible India!

        Hi! Very informative hub! This can certainly make a house look better! -- Thanks

      • profile image

        Silent Lamb 7 years ago

        Unfortunately, you CANNOT get real venetian plaster in a can at the home box stores. I know what they call it but it isn't the real deal. I can call my pit bull a poodle, and say that his name is FiFi but that doesn't make him a lap dog.

        Venetian plaster is a mixture of lime, sand, and marble dust that needs a good deal of skill to apply properly. It is NEVER to be painted over. If you want colors, powdered pigments are mixed into the final coat of plaster.

        One of the biggest differences is that the real thing actually turns back into limestone over time as it captures carbon from the air.

      • angelaglancy profile image

        angelaglancy 7 years ago from Seattle

        I love the look of venetian plaster. Thanks for the great hub.

      • Sage Williams profile image

        Sage Williams 7 years ago

        Thanks for this hub on venetian plaster. I just finished doing a faux finish so I can vouch for the work involved. Although in the end the results are beautiful and it is all worth it.

        I love your wall with the glaze effect. It came out very nice. Great job on this hub.


      • 2uesday profile image

        2uesday 7 years ago

        Interesting informative hub, I have seen this technique used on walls but never knew how it was achieved or the name for it. Thank you.

      • Maria Harris profile image

        Maria Harris 7 years ago from Houston

        I have been wanting to try applying a Venetian plaster finish to the walls in my guest bathroom. Thanks for the great instructions.

      • relica profile image

        relica 8 years ago from California

        Great information of creating a Venetian plaster effect on your walls. Nice hub.

      • profile image

        best wallpaper collection 8 years ago

        looking forward to this info so far! thz!!!

      • RGraf profile image

        Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

        This looks great. I think I might do this in our living room.

      • rdelp profile image

        rdelp 8 years ago

        If you have the time and ability this looks way better than just a regular paint job.

      • ciidoctor profile image

        ciidoctor 8 years ago

        amazing information thnx

      • tonyhubb profile image

        tonyhubb 8 years ago

        Nice guide, thank you!

      • Dorsi profile image

        Dorsi Diaz 8 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

        Beautiful Marye. I am thinking about doing our bathroom with this technique. I have similar walls, now stripped of wallpaper and patchy drywall spots. I think this would be a nice finish for it. Thanks for the info!

        Thumbs up!

      • johnr54 profile image

        Joanie Ruppel 8 years ago from Texas

        I always thought it would be more work to finish out a room like that. Thanks for the info.

      • Envoy profile image

        Pcjunkychick 9 years ago from USA

        I would love to see a pic from the same angle in the bathroom once you were done. Looks great though :)

      • Michele Engholm profile image

        Michele Engholm 10 years ago from Hutchinson

        Marye I loved this hub! Super information.... Thanks for teaching us how to do this.