Want to recreate the look of plaster on your walls? Here’s the step-by-step on how to DIY plaster walls with drywall mud.

plaster walls with drywall mud

I grew up in a house where my mother and father taught us that we could do ANYTHING we set our minds to.

Anything.

The sky was the limit.

The house was busting at the seams with all of our projects.

We decorated our floors with painted train tracks.

We made our own Christmas presents.

We taught ourselves to paint and knit and build and draw and write and create whatever we could think up.

My brother installed a faux traffic light in his ceiling. My other brother built a giant entire marble machine in the garage. My sister let her friends decorate her floor with their autographs.

And my other sister?

She decorated these dining room walls with a finish so creative, so amazing, so over-the-top that after all these years it’s still standing. Still there. Still going strong.

It’s one of the first things that people ask about when they visit the house for the first time.

Up close?

It looks like this.

plaster walls with drywall mud close-up

Look at all those tiny grooves and ridges and flat places. It’s amazing.

Truly.

It looks just like plaster.

I literally laugh out loud when people ask me about it.

They think it’s original to the house.

Ummm.

Nope.

Not even close.

Just my sister and her imagination and a little drywall mud.

She created this entire finish one summer with her friend.

plaster walls with drywall mud dining room

plaster walls with drywall mud dining table

And the best part?

You can create this look yourself on a dime. I actually did this exact treatment in a bathroom in our first house and painted it white. It took me about a day to finish the entire bathroom.

Yep.

You—yes you—my wonderful creative friend can create this look with a little creativity, some patience, an honorary seat at our family table…

…and these step-by-step instructions.

Here’s how to DIY plaster walls with drywall mud.

plaster walls with drywall mud view of walls

DIY Plaster Walls With Drywall Mud

plaster walls with drywall mud supplies

supplies:

drywall mud

flat edge tool (for spreading mud)

large tooth comb

medium tooth comb

small tooth comb

wall paint (we used Naval SW 6244)

plaster walls with drywall mud application

Step 1: Spread the drywall mud

Since my walls are already done, I mimicked the process on a board.

This is exactly how you would apply the drywall mud to the wall.

Start with pre-mixed drywall mud (or you can mix it yourself if you are feeling extra creative).

You’ll want to start with a small section of the wall because the mud dries relatively quickly. I’d begin in an area no one really sees so you can get comfortable with the process before you tackle high-visibility areas. You can also practice on a board like this one.

Take your flat edge tool and scrape the drywall mud onto the wall.

Here are a couple of tips for the application process:

  1. You don’t need perfection here. Actually—you want the opposite. Have you ever seen plaster walls? They are so imperfect. That’s why we all fall in love with them. They are timeless and beautiful in their imperfection.
  2. You want parts of the drywall mud to be relatively thick. You are going to drag a comb through it and you want the comb to create ridges.
  3. Kind of trail off the mud at the sides of your section. You can see how I’ve done this at the bottom of the board. That way when you start your next section, it will flow seamlessly.
  4. Make sure your drywall mud is mixed up and not too runny. You don’t want it running down the wall before you even have a chance to run a comb through it.

Step 2: Start with a large tooth comb

Take your largest tooth comb and drag it through the mud.

Just start at the top and pull it down through the mud on the wall. Don’t worry if your lines are slightly wavy. This is just the first step.

Those lines are going to look completely different when we are done.

Keep going until your entire section has lines like these. It’s important for this to look truly authentic to make sure your plaster has different thicknesses all over the section. That way your comb lines will have different thickness too.

Step 2: Add a layer with the medium tooth comb

Take your medium tooth comb and drag it through the lines you created with the larger tooth comb.

I actually used a hair claw for this step. I just wrapped a rubber band around the clips on the back to keep it open.

Just start at the top and pull it down through the mud on the wall. Don’t trace the original lines exactly. You want to kind of mess them up slightly and create that imperfection with your finish.

You can even cross them slightly with this step.

Step 3: Add a layer with the small tooth comb

Take your small tooth comb and drag it through the mud again.

Your goal is to add even more depth to your vertical lines.

Just start at the top and pull it down through the mud on the wall. Don’t trace the original lines exactly. You want to kind of mess them up slightly and create that imperfection with your finish.

You can even cross them slightly with this step.

It should look like tree trunk when you are done.

Step 4: Drag your flat tool over the lines

This is the most important step.

It’s the one you’ll need to practice at the most.

After you’ve dragged all your lines in the mud–this is the step that makes all the difference. It’s the step that takes it from a bunch of lines in the mud to the look of plaster.

You want to take your flat-edged tool and start at the top and drag it over your lines.

Don’t press.

Don’t apply any pressure at all or you will get horizontal lines in the mud. All you do it take the tool and with the lightest of hands, just let it float down over the lines of mud.

It will flatten parts of them out and create the look of plaster.

Your finish will have small, medium and large lines with tons of depth and flat areas on the wall.

That’s how you create the look of plaster walls with drywall mud.

Step 5: Paint the walls

The best part of this finish? You can check your faux plaster walls after you are completely done with the room to check and see if. you need to go back and touch up any areas with more of the faux plaster treatment.

Then let the drywall dry COMPLETELY.

When I was recreating this for you, I actually didn’t let the drywall dry all the way through and it started glumping up in my paint.

I’d let it dry overnight before I painted.

I’d use a wall paint with a satin finish on your faux plaster walls. You don’t want any paint with a sheen because it doesn’t make the walls look as authentic as a paint with a satin or eggshell finish.

I’m so thankful for my parents.

Truly.

All that creativity made us all so curious. And even now we are all still learning and creating and growing and generally learning all about this incredible journey we call life.

It’s a wonderful way to live.

Especially when it’s full of dining room chapters just like this. 🙂

PS In super exciting news? Amazon Prime Day starts tomorrow. I’m SO EXCITED. I have been previewing all of the deals and sales and I put together an entire list that I’ll share with you all tomorrow. If you aren’t signed up for my e-mail list, you can sign up here to get the list at 7:00 am.

I can’t WAIT to shop together. 🙂

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Comments

  1. Image for Patti Patti

    What a cool post! I might do my cottage powder room like this but leave out the last step so it actually does look like a tree trunk!

  2. Image for Joanne Joanne

    Oh KariAnne you’ve given me another fun project to work on. We’re soon getting a large addition put on our farmhouse and I’m saving a lot of your posts for when it’s complete. I’m very excited about this one. I’m wondering if there’s a similar way to create a faux brick wall now. Hmmm.. Thank you as always you amazing woman you!

    1. Image for Judy Moore Judy Moore

      To create a faux brick wall, I’ve used 2 different methods. One, you can stencil using a brick patterned brick wall stencil. I did this to my front concrete porch. You can add different layers of color to achieve your preferred look. Second, you can purchase thin faux grooved brick paneling (8’x4’) at Home Depot or Lowe’s. Just nail over the dry wall. I used Romabio flat limewash (comes in different colors) per the product directions to achieve the washed look I wanted. I used this in a guest bedroom. The wall turned out great! Can send photos if wanted.

  3. Image for RayeLynn Fletcher Longhini RayeLynn Fletcher Longhini

    I did something similar to this year's ago. I used pre-mixed plaster, but I like the drywall idea. To save a step, I mixed my paint right into the plaster before I put it on. All the walls in my house were already plSter, but this one hallway needed some TLC. Worked great! Thanks for reminding me of a fun project!🌞🌞

  4. Image for Tammy Clopton Tammy Clopton

    This gives me an idea for my living room walls. I was watching an episode of Bargain Block a couple of weeks ago and they did the same technique on a wall, but used a broom to make the lines. I am going to experiment and see which "dragging" technique I like better. You are an inspiration!

  5. Image for Lori H Lori H

    So cool KariAnne! I'm wondering what else one could do with dry wall mud now. I think in my family I'm the only one who is crafty or who loves flower gardening. Nice to have some online crafty sisters to spend time with:0) I'm all in for some Amazon deals...I'm sure my husband could stand just one more box arriving daily? Ha!!

  6. Image for Kris Kris

    I have a friend who did something similar in her home many years ago. I think it would be a great thing to do on, say, the walls of a cement block basement if you wanted to make it look less cement-block-ey but didn't want to bother with drywall or paneling. Thanks for the idea!

  7. Image for Jeanine Kesey Jeanine Kesey

    I love your technique. It looks so authentic on your walls. I lived in a 100 year old home and a previous owner did a similar technique with disappointing (tome) results. The room looked like the walls had been iced with butter cream frosting. Then they painted the low spots with gray, got in all the nooks and crannies and then went over the high spots with white. It was awful. I painted the room a solid color which helped some. This brings back memories of that space. I wish they had seen this! 😂

  8. Image for Angela Boswell Angela Boswell

    Love what you did to your walls... The contrast you were able to achieve with the navy color is beautiful and dramatic. Comparing the before and after you stepped it up girl... very classy and serene. Your plaster technique just shows what you can do with an imagination and some get er done gumption! Keep it coming! Angie

  9. Image for Linda Linda

    I loved this idea ! Very neet. I had a brick wall in one of my houses . I did something like this and just loved it too. Saw it in a restaurant. They had small sections of the brick exposed. You were so blessed to have such wonderful loving parents !

  10. Image for Deb in Oklahoma Deb in Oklahoma

    Yes, yes! I'm a huge fan of drywall mud for patching or any creative texture. Messing around with the designs (like frosting!) is so much fun. I would put a coat of primer (Kilz) before painting, just so the dry mud wouldn't suck all the moisture from the paint, but my last big project was several years ago. The combo primer+paint options now might work even better these days. And do you have any pics of the family projects from your childhood? They sound so awesome! Stay cool, Chickadee!

  11. Image for Wayne Martin Wayne Martin

    Hmmm. I’ve lived in houses with plaster walls and visited many old homes and museums but they are all smooth. Where are you seeing plaster walls with grooves?

  12. Image for AnnTN AnnTN

    In all of that I was surprised to read that you have TWO brothers and TWO sisters. I knew you had one of each, but I don't remember ever reading about two of each. :-D

  13. Image for Linda Weeks Linda Weeks

    My parents had our bedrooms plastered, and each bedroom was finished in a different method; one room was plastered with a pulling technique, so that the tool left a pointy, bumpy surface, my room had the same treatment, but then he lopped off the pointy bits with another trowel, so that it was flatter, with craters; and mom and dad's room was just flat plaster, and also looked very good. Fancy that! I love working with plaster and such.

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