My family has been rag rolling for generations. It’s a very simple technique that almost anyone can master and it can create a very dramatic look or it can be used to give the illusion of subtle texture.

What is Rag Rolling

About ten to twenty years ago faux finishing became a fairly popular wall treatment for people’s homes. Rag rolling, one of the oldest painting or faux finishing techniques, has been done for ages and because of its simplicity and familiarity, people quickly accepted this technique. Now, rag rolling has pretty much gone the way of leg warmers and the look is really outdated. But there are ways to rag roll that can bring a fresh perspective to this very old technique.

Rag Rolling A Wall

One of my favorite rag rolling techniques is extremely subtle and creates an illusion of texture. I’ve recommended this to a friend of mine whose bathroom walls and ceiling were repaired rather poorly by the previous owner. He plans on fixing this in the future but right now it’s an eyesore.

bright white wall

To achieve this effect you will first need to apply a basecoat. For this discussion, I’m going to be talking about white walls with pearlized white paint on top. You could use any color you want but keep the two colors very similar if not the same. This look is very subtle.

The basecoat should be a flat or an eggshell finish. Something with no or almost no sheen whatsoever. This coat is simply spread evenly on the walls and allowed to dry. Generally, one coat covers well enough but remember that the topcoat isn’t going to provide much coverage so if your old base color is still showing through you’ll want to apply more basecoats.

Of course, the size of your room will dictate how long step one takes but once you’ve got the basecoat applied and the wall is dry to the touch, you can begin step two.

Pearlized paints are available in most craft stores. If you’re doing white walls a white pearlized paint works very well. In my opinion, the white on white is the best look, it’s subtle and classy. If you’ve selected another color you can get a semi-gloss or a gloss and use that as the topcoat, keep the color the same as the base coat. For a more dramatic look, you could use a metallic color over the basecoat. This look is not subtle whatsoever but can be beautiful and it hides wall flaws quite well.

For the topcoat, you’ll need a pair of rubber gloves and several smaller white rags. A 100% cotton t-shirt works best. Make sure there isn’t any printing on the shirt because this will often rub off on the wall and create ugly stains. Cut seams and sleeves off the t-shirt because these leave unattractive lines. The shirt body can be cut into four pieces, front and back, so a total of eight pieces per shirt. You may go through several shirts for this technique. You can buy rags in most hardware and paint stores or go to a thrift store and you can pick up a bunch of rag t-shirts.

woman washing rag

The topcoat does not need to be treated with glaze or flotrol, it can be used right out of the can. Pour a little of the topcoat color into the bottom of a clean paint tray and get your rag ready. You’ll want to take your small rag and crumple it up and lightly dip it into the paint. Then roll it onto the clean part of the tray. Do this a few times on all sides so there is a very small amount of paint, evenly dispersed throughout the rag. Keeping the rag crumpled, place it on the wall and use your fingers to walk/roll it up about four to eight inches. That is one roll.

To get this rag rolling technique to work best you should roll in different directions. The rag can develop a pattern so you might want to recrumple a lot or change rags often. Make sure you cover all of the walls but there will be open spots and painted spots. Once it dries the topcoat will be shiny and the bottom will be flat, giving it a slightly textured appearance.

Now, as with most, if not all techniques, you will want to tape all of your corners so you can work right up and into the corner and not leave unprofessional white strips or blots that look like mirror images in corners. Professionals always tape when doing a technique like this one.

Sponge Painting vs Rag Rolling

What is sponge painting? It’s a method that uses a sponge to produce texture. The sponge’s porous characteristic is used to produce a one-of-a-kind appearance. A sponge, instead of a paintbrush, creates a speckled and diverse texture that gives depth to the painting. Sponging is a basic and low-cost method of cooking. In fact, you may already have everything you need to create this fake finish in your home. On the other hand, rag rolling uses a roll of fabric to create a rhythmic linear pattern, unlike the random effect of loosely bunched rags in other rag painting techniques.

Final Words

Rag rolling is one of the simplest techniques to add drama to a space, whether you’re already using a color or you’re starting from scratch. Layering a single color of top coat over the base coat produces the most sophisticated results.

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