Venetian Plaster

Take a design tip from the 15th century palaces of Venice, Italy, and add texture to your walls with Venetian plaster.
Take a design tip from the 15th century palaces of Venice, Italy, and add texture to your walls with Venetian plaster.

Venetian plaster is a decorative painting technique used to create an effected stuccoed surface. Invented by specialized craftsmen, the plaster finish originated in ancient Rome and has been used throughout the centuries to modern times. The term Venetian plaster derives from the use of this finish in the palaces of 15th-century Venice. Fortunately, achieving the effect of Venetian plaster is now much simpler and can be done by anyone. Venetian plaster can be put on all flat surfaces, including ceilings.


  • Venetian plaster (tinted or neutral base)
  • Steel trowels, 6 inches wide
  • Flat blades, 4 inches wide
  • Steel wool (fine grit, like quadruple ott)
  • Furniture paste wax
  • Cotton rag
  • Sandpaper (fine grit)
  • Optional:
  • Eye goggles
  • Gloves
  • Dropcloth
  • Primer (tinted, preferably)
  • Paint tray
  • Universal colorants (if using untinted plaster)

Venetian Plaster

Prep Work Required:

Any existing wallpaper should be stripped, and walls need to be smoothed out. If there are cracks and holes, fill and sand them. If the walls are really rough, skim coating is suggested. Walls should be primed in advance, either in white or tinted with the same color of the desired Venetian plaster. Clear the room and put down a dropcloth to prevent damage to the floor. Wear eye goggles and gloves, for safety's sake.


  1. Sand down the edges of the blades and trowels to make them sharper and to remove any excess materials.
  2. Open the can of Venetian plaster. (Add tint and mix if necessary.) Scoop some of the plaster onto the trowel.
  3. Starting at a corner, apply a thick coat using a 45- to 90-degree stroke. Do not press down too hard on the wall as you apply the plaster; it should mostly cover the wall beneath (but don’t stress about covering 100 percent). Continue this process, changing the angle and length of your strokes until you cover the desired wall.
  4. Let the plaster dry completely before hitting the next coat.
  5. Use the blade’s edge to scrape away any excess plaster and smooth over the edges.
  6. Load more plaster onto the trowel. This time, apply a very thin coat moving in a shorter 20- to 45-degree angle, again starting in the corner. Coat the wall or ceiling surface thoroughly, covering any absences from the first coat and smoothing over any rough areas. Let the plaster dry completely.
  7. Many manuals suggest only two coats. However, you should use four to 10 coats to achieve a one-of-a-kind stucco effect. Repeat step two over and over until you reach the desired aesthetic. All consecutive layers need to be thinly applied. In addition, you should change up the angle and length of your stroke on each pass. Don’t forget to let the plaster dry each time you’ve coated the surface.
  8. Once you have gotten the desired plaster effect, burnish the surface using a thin 4-inch blade. Fine-tune the plaster effect by gently using the edge to brush off any imperfections that result from the plastering.
  9. Next, move the fine-grit steel wool in a circular fashion to polish the surface and buff out the slightest remaining divots. After this process, the surface should be very smooth to the touch.
  10. Place a very small amount of furniture paste wax on the 4-inch blade to give the plastered surface its sheen. Neutral waxes will add a shine, and darker waxes will provide an antiqued look (as shown here). As with the later coats of plaster, apply a very thin coat of wax. This technique adds depth and deepens the color of the Venetian plaster. (Do not apply the wax thickly or the effect will appear cloudy.)
  11. Immediately after covering the surface with the furniture paste, buff out the wax with a cotton rag to give the walls their best sheen.
  12. Voilà! Adding Venetian plaster to a room's walls can heighten its dramatic flourish.

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