4 Venetian plaster tips for beginners

4 Venetian plaster tips for beginners

There are so many ways of doing decorative plasterwork that I lost count ages ago. The only reason I remember Venetian plaster is that it looks so good when done well.

Since you’re here, it’s more than likely that you’re researching how to do Venetian plastering yourself. It’s true that it’s a little bit more work than a regular plaster job, but anything can be done if we break the process into small enough pieces.

Then again you might just be curious about the process. I’ll try to keep this informative enough.

No matter the reason, here are some tips I’ve learned myself on my days doing plaster work and rendering. These are basics, but something that new decorators might easily miss as they have not done enough walls yet.

What is Venetian plastering?

Before we begin the process, let us take a small moment to define what we’re about to do. Without a proper understanding of the process of Venetian plastering, the results might lack something.

Venetian plaster gives walls the appearance of a natural stone finish, which is exactly what you might want for your living rooms or bedrooms. Most often, polished stone walls are not found in wooden houses.

To follow that, if we can imitate that architecture through work we can do by ourselves; we should be able to create an illusion that something is what it truly is not right.

As always, starting might seem a bit challenging as multiple layers of plaster have to be done and you might not be too familiar with the tools and techniques.

For that reason, here are some tips to get you started. Like any decoration, it’s important to find the key points that will turn your wall from a regular surface to a piece of art.

Materials needed for Venetian plastering

So now we know what we want. What we don’t know is what we need.

The basics that we need are the tools for protecting our room and applying the plaster. Obviously, you need Venetian plaster to do plastering, but when it comes to trowels I’d like to explain a bit.

Short trowels are obviously easy to use, but you can’t do as a level surface with these as you can with longer trowels. The same applies to mud knives, you can use wide or narrow mud knives, but the wider your tool is, the more level the result will be.

I personally use mostly trowels if not doing the borders of the wall. That’s mostly the result of getting used to it during fast-paced work, I’d say use what you feel comfortable with. Only results matter.

You can imagine it like covering a large surface and trying to make it level with something small. If it takes 10 sweeps with the trowel, there are 10 lines drawn by it. If you do it with a trowel two times bigger, there will be only 5 lines.

When it comes to sandpaper grit, you are polishing the surface of the plaster. You’re not sanding it like you would do joint compound in drywall.

You might have to sand the walls before plastering if they are painted with something with high gloss. If it’s a pretty matte surface, might be able to plaster right on top of it.

When in doubt, sand it lightly.

Short summary:

  • Venetian plaster in whatever color you choose. How much Venetian plaster do I need? Count the area of the surface and buy the product accordingly. It’s width x height. Multiply with 1.1 to get 10 % extra so you won’t run out of material mid-work.
  • Trowels or mud knives of various sizes. Or why not both?
  • 400-grit and 600-grit sandpaper or steel Venetian spatula
  • Something to protect the walls, windows, etc. Plastic, cardboard, a thin sheet of wood, etc. I vastly prefer cellular board these days as it’s light and resistant to moisture.
  • Easy to remove tape for the protection materials. Do not use anything that sticks too hard and is hard to remove.

How to do Venetian plaster tips

Now we should be ready to begin and it’s time for the tips. Following these guidelines, you will do better than your average job.

Now I assume you have made the proper preparations. The floor and windows are covered with chosen protection material, millwork is protected and walls are ready to for plastering.

Step One: Apply plaster over the walls.

Using a Venetian plaster trowel or mud knife, apply the plaster to the wall working in small sections (two to three feet sections). I personally like to apply plaster from up to down, but that is just my preference.

I start near the ceiling, spread the plaster up towards the ceiling, then apply it near the ceiling with a wide mud knife for precision work and pull the trowel towards the floor.

When I work my way down the wall I just spread the plaster from down to up overlapping the already done plaster. After that, I continue in the direction I want to progress into and trowel the last stroke where I had already applied the plaster.

The good thing about this is that the falling plaster won’t damage the surface you’ve already done. And fall it will, always. That’s why floor protection is so important so we don’t have to waste time cleaning.

This way no sharp trowel marks are left on the surface.

Apply a thin coat, overlapping your strokes, until you have covered the area in a thin coat of plaster. It is okay to miss some small spots, as this will give the decorative paint a more authentic appearance.

You will also do 3 layers of plastering so it’s not that important if the gap between layers is not too deep.

Applying plaster in two different directions between layers makes the wall more level.

Step Two: Level the wall with the second layer

After the plaster has dried, you will need to level and smooth out the high and low areas of the plaster. Now if you did the first layer vertically, now you will work horizontally from left to right or right to left.

Apply a workable amount of plaster to the trowel that won’t fall and skim over the surface to fill in surface dips. Continue to work in small areas applying a thin layer to smooth over the high and low spots. Again, move systematically.

Allow the plaster to dry before applying the final coat – – two coats provide a greater texture to the wall.

Now, if everything seemed too systematic, it’s time for creativity to shine.

As your wall is now level, for the final layer of plaster apply it thinly, overlapping and keeping the strokes random so there is no definite pattern. This will create the final texture of the wall.

You still need to start from some corner of the wall and apply wet plaster to wet plaster, but you can be random with the strokes.

How to polish Venetian plaster with sandpaper

Step Three: Sand and polish

Now, this is where the beautiful end result is made. Attention to detail 100% or all the trouble before is wasted, think whatever keeps you motivated to see this through.

To finish and polish the Venetian plaster, you can use 400-grit and 600-grit sandpaper working in small, circular patterns to buff and polish the surface. It’s the same concept as polishing concrete floors.

Why do we sand it in circles? This way, it won’t draw lines to the wall and can help it become more level and also bring out the texture in it.

You may also use a steel spatula for a more polished look. Hold it flat against the wall, apply pressure and rub in a fast, circular motion.

Continue over the entire wall until the Venetian plaster has a glossy, polished finish. It should look like a polished stone wall with a beautiful texture.

Beginner tips for applying Venetian plaster

Now if you read to this point, you might notice that 4 tips are quite many smaller tips. I tried to list some things below so it will be easier for a complete beginner to chew.

  • You can practice first. It’s easier to tackle this on a big scale once you have the method down to your bones. Use an old piece of plaster or wood to practice before you apply it to your walls. This will give you an idea of how thin to apply the plaster and how to keep the strokes random.
  • Use a colored plaster. It is much easier to use a pre-colored plaster than to paint the plaster. This takes out a step and makes the job easier.
  • Buy a Venetian plaster trowel. Do not try to save money by using any spatula. Buy a trowel that is specifically designed to apply Venetian plaster.
  • Keep the steel trowel clean while applying the plaster to avoid unwanted surface marks. You can use the mud knife to keep it clean and wash the tools in between layers. Clean tools are cool.
  • Apply a protective topcoat specifically designed for decorative paint or Venetian plaster finishes in high-moisture rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Conclusion

This 4 Venetian plaster tips for beginners guide was meant for the How to do Venetian plaster surfaces 3 steps guide. Small details are always missed because some things you only learn by doing.

By that I mean you can read and watch as many videos as you like, but before it gets to muscle memory it won’t help you much. That’s why I promote practice on a small scale.

One thing like that is the use of trowels. You can read about it, but it’s like reading how to walk. How much plaster to put in and how to spread it on the wall is best learned by doing it.

Start with a small trowel and move into a bigger one once it’s easy.

A good way to start is to place enough plaster on the trowel that you won’t make a mess. When you get better you can place more and become faster.

If you’re not confident, practicing in a small area is the most important piece here. Get a board or something else to plaster on. After you have it right, move on to the wall and do it similarly.

It’s important when you work with, plaster to do narrow enough slices of the wall. This way the plaster won’t dry before you do it from up to down or another way around. If it starts to dry, it will start rolling with the trowel, which won’t do.

For more about plaster walls and ceilings, read the link.