It's easy to think walls must be smooth and perfect for painting, but sometimes a little texture can bring a lot of style. Think Old World Europe, the romance of an Italian villa or the perfect imperfection of a New Mexican adobe home. Maybe you're after an "orange peel" surface or you like the "stomped" walls made popular in the 1970s.
To channel that decorating magic, you'll need texture. That's where adding paint into joint compound can help take a painting project to a next level.
How much texture is too much texture? That's up to you! Texture is varied through the medium by which you apply the product. Use a large roller with deep pile for orange peel finish. Do some detailing or select smoothing with a trowel and spatula. Go for an understated look with a low-pile roller. The only way you'll know what you love is by trying different methods. Talk to a paint store pro for some tips.
Even if you try a finish you're not crazy about, don't worry. With a little sandpaper and some time, you can start anew – but figure out if you like it on a small area first! Applying texture to a whole room can be a demanding task and a chore to undo. Consider doing a feature wall, especially if there's one wall that's had a lot of imperfections over the years. You can always expand the project later.
Buy Your Paint Supplies
By mixing paint with joint compound or drywall mud, coverage reduces dramatically. It's hard to know by how much because there's no set formula, but you can expect about 200 to 300 square feet of wall surface out of a gallon of paint.
With so many brands of joint compound and paint on the market, it's hard to predict how they'll bond. Talking to a home center pro to get the right combination is a smart move. One thing is certain: Latex paint is preferred. Oil won't bond with compound, and latex is water-based, so it dilutes mud well.
Another possibility is alkyd resin, so ask your paint pro if this is available. It's ideal for high-traffic spots, such as halls and kitchens, where more wiping and scuffing will occur in the years ahead.
Choose a paint much darker than you want the final shade to be. Depending on how much you add to the compound, the shade will lighten considerably. It'll likely dry darker than it is when mixed, but there's no guarantee on that. That's why it's time to make a test batch.
The Test Batch
Ignore any finite recipe for mixing compound with paint because everything from humidity to brands involved affects the mixing ratio. Instead, go by texture and instinct on this project. That's why you need to do mad scientist-type testing a day or so ahead before you do the project.
For a test, you'll need a spatula, a mixing container, the compound, paint and clean, cold water. If you have some scrap drywall to do testing on, great! If not, pick an inconspicuous area of wall where you can apply a patch.
Put a cup of compound into the mixing container. Add paint by the tablespoon. You're looking for two things: The right color and the right texture.
Mix thoroughly after each spoonful of paint until you get a shade that looks good – knowing it could dry a little darker or a little lighter. Keep track of the mix ratio. A cup of compound is 16 tablespoons, so tracking how many tablespoons of paint you add will ensure you get the same shade when mixing the large batch – and in case you need to buy more product later.
Once you get the right color, texture depends on how you plan to apply it. Are you troweling it on with a spatula for a Tuscan plaster look? Then a thick biscuit-dough consistency will be preferred. Are you using a roller to apply it for an orange-peel finish? Then pancake batter is the consistency you're after. The "stomp" look is more like a cake batter.
With the right color but the wrong consistency, it's water to the rescue. Add water in tablespoon increments, tracking the amounts, and stirring thoroughly after each addition until you get the right consistency for your project.
Keep this "recipe" written down and handy. Make note of any changes to the mix.
Testing the Mix
Apply the mix with a paint brush or trowel on the test area. Let it dry for a couple hours.
Look for signs that things aren't right with the bond. Does it separate? Does it crack? Does it have a patchy look?
All of these could be indicators that the paint is wrong for the compound – or vice versa. If there are problems, take a photo to the paint store and consult for advice. A good retailer will know the products and can minimize your time wasted and costs.
If it looks great and you're happy with the finish, you're good to go. It's time to prep your painting space and get a music playlist ready for your efforts.
The Big Painting Day
You'll need your "paint recipe" for mixing the working batch.
Use a 5-gallon container and mix batches of 5 gallons at once using the recipe. It's best to use a power-mixer with a paint paddle for this mixing job because the number one mistake amateur painters make is failing to mix the product enough. So, mix it until you think it's ready… then mix it some more.
If the paint mix seems to dry out as painting day progresses, add a bit more water and blend it thoroughly with the paddle-mixer again.
Finally, work in 2-foot squares and always finish one wall before starting another.