Aged Illusions

from Paint Décor
Use this faux finish to create interest in a plain room – it’s a simple and adaptable home décor idea. Troweling on thin layers of paint creates the timeworn look of aged Venetian plaster in minutes instead of centuries.

Do you love the look of the aged-plaster walls found in European country manors and old-world cottages? You can re-create that look with nothing more than paint — no messy plaster required. The secret to the textural appearance is to apply the paint with a plastic trowel, the tool used to smooth joint compound onto drywall, decorative painter Molly Spain says.

“By troweling on thin layers of paint, you create the same combination of jagged and smooth edges you see in old plaster, creating the illusion of texture even though the painted finish is actually quite smooth," Spain says.

The technique requires a minimum of three colors of interior latex paint, but you can use as many as you like. For the example below, Spain used five colors: dark brown, rust, smoky orange, yellow, and cream. “I started out with the dark brown on the bottom and roughed it in,” Spain says. “Then I went back to the top and troweled on the cream and worked my way down,” adding a bit more of the darker colors with each pass of the trowel.

To switch from color to color, Spain says, you don’t need to wipe excess paint off the trowel. “The little bit of color remaining on the trowel ends up on the wall, and that is what creates the illusion of depth,” she explains. “The randomness of the application ensures that no two surfaces you do this treatment on will ever be alike.”

The amount of dark versus light paint you use determines how much contrast you get. A deep terra-cotta sample was created with the same paint colors as a pale creamy sample: terra-cotta, mustard, and cream. “I simply used more cream paint on the lighter sample, and more terra-cotta on the other,” Spain says. “The beauty of this treatment is that you can keep working colors in until you achieve the look you desire. It’s really that simple.”

As a finishing touch for this technique, Spain often applies a final, lightly tinted antiquing glaze over the entire wall. The glaze adds depth to the layers of paint and unites the colors for a stunning visual effect.

“The translucent quality of the thin paint layers draws your attention—the more you look at it, the more you see,” she says. “It’s as if you’ve created a century’s worth of paint and plaster layers in minutes.”

Aged Illusion Panel

Gather Your Supplies
  • Sherwin-Williams semigloss latex paint: French Roast SW6069, Smokey Topaz SW6117, Tassel SW6369, Anjou Pear SW6381, and Jersey Cream SW6379
  • 2 disposable foil pans
  • Small trowel

Start to Finish
Pour French Roast, Smokey Topaz, and Tassel into one foil pan. Pour Tassel, Anjou Pear, and Jersey Cream into the other foil pan.

Dip the trowel into French Roast. Beginning at the bottom of the wall, apply the paint about one-quarter of the way up the wall; wipe trowel. Starting at the top of the wall, apply Jersey Cream about one-quarter of the way down the wall; do not wipe trowel.
2. Dip the trowel into Anjou Pear, then carefully into Jersey Cream so that there are two colors on the trowel. Starting near the top of the wall, apply the paint down the wall.
3. Continue picking up two colors at a time. Using progressively darker colors and working toward the bottom of the wall, connect the color at the top to the French Roast section.
4. After you have applied color to the entire wall, step back and evaluate the effect. Add more tones and highlights as desired.

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