Matching Drywall Texture

Basically matching is done by experimenting and trying different approaches.  The real purpose of this article is to give you some starting points and the confidence to try.  


So far, I haven't been able to find an article on the web that covers this subject.  If you find one please let me know and I'll put a link to it here.  Until then, here's another of my "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread" articles. 

Disclaimer:  Nothing you are about to read comes from an experienced professional -- it's just what I've learned doing my own wall repairs, plus a little I know from watching Ron Hazelton House Doctor show (no longer on), and reading the newsgroup.



I really liked Ron Hazelton's old House Doctor show.  But, his new one has moved away from doing "repairs" and focused on "projects," while throwing in off-topic Bob Avila type travelogs.  Boo, hiss.  

A substitute for Ron's earlier show is Henry Harrison's show on HGTV.  Henry tends to focus on showing you how to do fixes/repairs rather than projects.

Matching a drywall pattern perfectly is nearly impossible. A building contractor I know says the only way to make it perfectly consistent is to do the whole wall over (and sometimes the room).  If you have a rolled on texture (I call stippling) redoing a wall isn't as hard as you may think.  I explain how near the end.

OK, starting with the premise that it's unlikely you can make a perfect match, I'll explain what I do. 

Matching a Patched Area

This article was written primarily to try to explain how to match the texture on a patched area.  I say try to explain because it's largely a skill you learn by getting your hands in the fingerpaint.  When I say it's a skill, I don't mean a talent.  You have talents.  You learn skills, and this one is easily learned with a little trying.  You will probably never get good at it.  I'm still not good at it, and I've done it many times, yet you probably couldn't find the patches I made vs the booboos the builder/painter made.

There's no secret way to match texture -- matching is done by experimenting with different approaches.  The real purpose of this article is to give you some starting points and the confidence to try.  When your only alternative is to hire someone, if you try and fail, you're not likely to make it any harder for the person you hire to fix it, so you have nothing to lose.

All the walls where I've lived have had rolled on texture, so that's all I've had experience with, but near the end I'll explain things I've heard are used for blown on texture.  

I use ordinary drywall joint compound/mud (not spackling) thinned to a consistency a little thicker than heavy cream -- sort of like sour cream.  I suggest starting with the pre-made compound you get at the paint store -- it's easier than mixing the powder yourself.  

I use water in a perfume mister or Windex-like spray bottle to wet the wall before I begin so the mud-glop will adhere better.  Now the experimenting begins.  I usually start with half of a 6x3x1 inch cellulose kitchen sponge.  Dampen the sponge and smear some of the glop on one side.  Then press it against the wall and pull it away in a rolling motion. If the original stipple was put on with a roller, the pattern was formed as the roller pulled away from the wall pulling/lifting the glop into irregular peaked ridges.  One way to kind of simulate this is to hold the middle of the sponge with the thumb of one hand while pulling the top away from the wall and then slowly releasing the middle as you move away from the wall.  Another way is to use a small (3-4" wide) roller.  A roller is usually the best way with an area  larger than 1 foot, but is usually only workable if the area is larger than the roller is wide.  

Here's the big secret:  The glop redissolves when wet, so to do it over just use a wet sponge to gently rub/"sand" it off.  If it's dry, start by spraying it with water, and giving this a few moments to soak in.  Once you've removed the glop, don't scrub the gray wallboard paper backing or you'll disrupt the paper.  You can keep wiping it off and trying again-and-again this way until you're satisfied with the results, or you're ready to say, "good enough."

If you have a larger area, work on a small area until you have a technique that does what you want..

Pulling the sponge away in different ways, and using different consistencies (wetnesses) of glop produce different results. You can try daubing a small area with some glop on your thumb -- pull your thumb straight out to pull peaks/ripples.   Some people have success smearing the glop on the wall (with or without the sponge) and daubing/blotting it with a piece of wadded up paper.  Different weights and types of paper (brown paper bag to Kleenex), wet and dry all give different results.  Also, try a cloth, wet and dry.  If the peaks are too sharp, misting them with water or touching them gently with a wet sponge may melt them to a softer look.  On reader got good results on a heavy texture by dipping his fingers into the glop and dabbing the flats of the fingers against the wall.  Don't keep trying to make something work when it isn't -- abandon it and try something else. 

Sometimes feathering (applying lighter-and-lighter coats) into the surrounding area works to blend the repair, sometimes it just makes a bigger, more noticeable area.  Keep trying different things until you get a look that blends reasonably well with the surrounding area.  It will never look perfect.  [Visitors don't usually examine your walls.  There are probably imperfect areas in your wall right now that you've never noticed.].  Don't count on the texture matching better when it's dry and painted. You can usually tell immediately how your efforts will look, but the glop shrinks as it dries, so it will be a little smaller, and painting it will the soften the peaks slightly.  

When the glop turns stark white it's dry.  Usually these thin coats dry within an hour or so.  Now, if you have some PVA primer handy use it, otherwise just paint. Just remember, you can't change it after you paint it.  Even if you made a good texture match it won't look right if you can't match the paint.  Next time you paint you may want to consider using flat paint -- it hides patches better.

Ceilings sometimes have a  bolder pattern, often with peaks flattened using a wide putty knife.  (Sometimes called "knocked down").  Some walls are textured by putting large globs of mud on them and toweling it around making various, often bold patterns, probably unique to the person doing it.  Probably nobody can match this well, but again you can experiment with mud and a couple of styles of drywall knives/trowels.

Alex Knepper of Sioux City, Iowa writes:

I have worked with drywall for 45 years When sprayed on orange peel texture came out, it took a while to learn how to match small repairs. I found by far the best, is to use thinned down drywall mud and a sponge. Obviously the right sponge makes it much better. It needs to be flat with good sized holes. The most important thing to keep the patch from looking worst than the damage is to wash the edge of the repair ( blend the edge with circler motions until no edge can be seen) before texturing. Hope this helps some one.

Here's How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling 


Retexturing the Whole Wall

If you have a large area to match or if you want a perfect job you can retexture the entire wall (or room).  If it's been a while since the wall was painted it should be prepared as you would for painting.  

I use ordinary drywall joint compound (mud) thinned to the consistency of heavy cream.  Then I apply it with a roller.  Different rollers give different effects, and they make special rollers just for texturing.  Long knap/pile gives bolder stippling.  

Don't backup the roller and roll over the same area twice while it's still wet.  The water from the compound may soak through into the existing paint and texture and cause it to stick to the roller.  This can result in lifting the original wall treatment off the wall, rapping it around the roller and leaving a "mowed down to the wallboard" swath behind the roller.  Thus producing a terrible sinking feeling accompanied by a godawful mess.  As you've probably guessed by now I've been there, done that.  Let it dry well (probably overnight) then prime it with a PVA ( Polyvinyl Acetate) primer, and paint it.  The same warning about rolling over it twice while wet applies to the first coat too.

Another roller applied texture called crowfoot is done by dragging the roller in a vertical direction down the wall. The more the roller slips and slides (rather than rolling), the better the crow like feet appear in the texture. 

Sand as Texture

If your texture looks like somebody mixed sand into the paint that's probably exactly what was done.  I've not had any experience with this, but I think all you have to do is mix a little sand into the paint you use to paint the repaired area.  If you get too much or too little sand, wipe off the paint immediately with a slightly wet rag and do it over.  If you intend to sand texture a whole wall see More Texture Talk.

Blown on Texture

They sell aerosol cans of wall texture you can use to match textures that are sprayed on.  I've read where people say they work OK for small areas.  They come with different nozzles to create different patterns.  It's a matter of practicing with different nozzles and spray techniques until you get a pattern that comes close. Feathering in and out of the patched area may be more likely to help when using this method. 

Ceilings are sometimes done with a kind of blown on texture call "popcorn."  The surface looks like it's covered with irregular sized balls/blobs/dollops.  On the ones I've seen the blobs appear to be about 3/8" diameter.   There are a couple of designs of gadgets made to 'throw' blobs at the ceiling to repair these popcorn ceilings.  On the one I've seen you crank a handle and blobs pop up into the air out of a hopper on top of it.  Call/ask around at paint stores and home centers.  Before you do you may want to visit the link at the end of this page.

All this may have been obvious to the most inexperienced, but I've never seen it written down, so . . .

Try it, you won't like it, but you'll probably be satisfied with it.

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How'd they do that? -- More Texture Talk