How to Paint Over Venetian Plaster?

By Mandy Moss

Looking for a step-by-step guide of how to paint over Venetian plaster walls?

Venetian Plaster is a beautiful, durable, and classic wall finish. Its layers catch and radiate natural light. It’s easy to clean, and it can last over 400 years when properly maintained.

The longevity of Venetian plaster is positive. However, sometimes homeowners might want a change in the aesthetic of their home. Paint is a cheap and easy way to update any room.

Paint over Venetian plaster can produce beautiful results. When done properly, the luminance and texture of the plaster are visible through the paint. Rather than masking everything completely, the paint will add color and life to the surface.

What is Venetian Plaster?

Venetian plaster is a general term that refers to the putty made from mixing together fired limestone, water, and sometimes marble dust. Once dried it reverts back into limestone, making it a particularly durable form of a plaster. When applied correctly, it creates a solid, marble-like finish once polished.

Venetian plaster is formed by laying down thin layers of plaster that are allowed to dry separately. These layers are not smooth and even, but textured. The more time that is spent working on repeating patterns into the surface, the better it will look when is finished.

Once the layers are all down, the surface is sanded to reveal the texture and layers of the plaster. This depth is what gives Venetian plaster its unique, lovely finish.

How to Paint Over Venetian Plaster?

Venetian plaster is popular for use in areas that would be expensive or challenging to fit with marble. Things like curved walls, intricate columns and carved baseboards are all common places to find Venetian plaster.

It may also be tinted using dyes and powders. This means it can have a wide range of colors and textures.

Can You Paint Over Venetian Plaster?

The short answer is yes, you can! But there are some things you need to know before diving in. Painting over Venetian plaster requires some preparation to get it right. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get started!

What paint is best to use on Venetian plaster?

Venetian plaster is mostly limestone, making it a highly alkaline surface. Regular vinyl and polymer-based paints will not properly adhere to the surface. I suggest you use Latex paint like Rust-Oleum or something similar.

The simplest solution is to buy an alkyd primer. This is a type of primer that adheres properly to the limestone, while it will simultaneously creating a surface that other types of paints can adhere to.

NOTE:  Primer and paint mask some of the luminosity and depth of Venetian plaster. This is not necessarily a negative, but it is something to be aware of when deciding to paint over venetian plaster.

How to Paint Over Venetian Plaster?

Follow these easy few steps to successfully paint over your Venetian plaster.

1. Gather Materials

To successfully paint a Venetian plaster surface, you will need a few different things. To prepare the wall, you will need:

  • Painters Tape (also known as Masking Tape)
  • Fine Grit Sandpaper
  • Mineral Spirits (optional)
  • Venetian Plaster
  • Clean Microfiber Cloth
  • To paint the wall, you will need:
  • Alkyd Primer (optional, depending on paint type)
  • Proper Paint (see above for additional details)
  • Drop Cloth
  • Paint Brush
  • Rolling Paint Brush
  • Paint Trey
  • Ladder (if necessary)

2. Inspect and Repair Surface

First, make sure your Venetian plaster is clean. Check for any signs of damage, cracking, chips or dents. I usually use a cloth dampened with mineral spirits to wipe down the walls. Trust me, you don’t want to paint over dust and grime, these should be fixed before putting any kind of paint on the wall.

Surface imperfections can be sanded down to leave a smooth area. Alternatively, dents and cracks can be filled with additional plaster. Once the fresh plaster is fully dried, it can then be sanded down to provide a smooth finish.

Also, be sure to check for any wax that may have been applied to the plaster. Wax polishing is a popular way of adding sheen to Venetian plaster, but must be removed prior to painting.

NOTE: If there is any wax on the surface, remove it using mineral spirit.

3. Preparing the Surface

Before painting over Venetian plaster, it’s crucial to properly prepare the surface. Here are the key steps I recommend:

  • Skim coat the surface. A thin layer of fresh plaster helps smooth imperfections and improves paint adhesion.
  • Thoroughly clean with a damp cloth to remove dirt, oil, and debris.
  • Sand the surface using progressive grit sandpaper. I start with 80-grit to smooth major flaws, then move up to 120-grit for a finer finish.
  • Prime with an alkali-resistant primer made for masonry surfaces. This helps the paint bind properly.
TIP: This is also a good time to lay down a cloth to collect any possible drippings or spills from the paint.  Be sure to cover the whole area, including where you will set the paint.

4. Prime the Surface

Priming is a non-negotiable step when painting over Venetian plaster. Here’s why it’s so important:

  • Creates a uniform surface for the paint to adhere to
  • Seals the porous plaster to prevent absorption
  • Provides an alkali-resistant barrier between the plaster and paint

I recommend using an alkali-resistant primer specifically made for masonry. Alternatively, some water-based acrylic primers work well too.

After taping off any areas you don’t want painted, apply a thin even layer of primer with a roller. Let it fully dry before painting.

KEEP IN MIND: The more coats are added the more texture and depth of the Venetian walls will be hidden.

5. Applying the Paint

When you’re ready to apply paint to your primed Venetian plaster surface, follow these tips for a flawless finish:

  • Use high-quality latex or acrylic paint – avoid oils that may not cure properly.
  • Work in sections – cutting in edges with a brush then rolling larger areas.
  • Apply in thin, even coats using overlapping strokes.
  • Inspect for flaws like drips or thin spots between coats.
  • Sand lightly and spot prime any imperfections before the final coat.
  • Consider adding a second coat for better hide and color uniformity.

Types of Paint Suitable for Venetian Plaster

When it comes to choosing paint, I recommend latex paint. It adheres well to the alkaline surface of Venetian plaster. Avoid using polymer or vinyl-based paints; they won’t stick properly.

6. Apply a second Coat (optional)

Inspect the finish of the surface so far. Check for any patchy or overly translucent spots.

If a deeper color is desired, apply a second coat. Again, begin with the brush in hard to reach places, and transition to the rolling brush for larger spaces.

This step can be repeated until the desired surface color is achieved.

7. Remove Painters Tape

Once the surface is satisfactorily painted, carefully remove the painters tape.

Painter tape should be removed while the final layer is still damp. If the paint is fully hardened before the tape is removed, then the tape can peel off sections of the paint. This should be avoided.

When removing the tape, you may notice a few areas that need to be touched up. Sometimes paint slips under the tape, or the tape might pull up some of the fresh paint. Touch up these spots as you go using a hand brush and leftover paint.

8. Inspect Surface

The plaster surface should now look as desired. Inspect the surface for any imperfections. Imperfections can be thin spots, missed areas, paint drips, or lumpy areas.

Thin spots and missed areas just need another layer of paint. Drips and lumps will require sanding. Sanding off drips ad lumps may create a new thin spot in the paint. If this happens, simply wipe away any dust and apply another layer of paint to the area.

If any imperfections catch your eye, take care of them now while you have all the supplies gathered and set up.

9. Clean Up

Clean up any paint spills or splatters. Inspect the baseboards and floors for any wayward paint. Cleaning paint now, before it has fully set, will be much easier than trying to scrape it off months or years later.

Wipe away any dust from sanding down drips and lumps.

Fold up the drop cloth for later use. Be sure to thoroughly wash any brushes.

Put your room back in order, hang any photos or paintings, and enjoy your refreshed space!

Related Questions

How to Paint Venetian Plaster

Painting Venetian plaster involves a series of steps that include cleaning the surface, inspecting for damage, sanding, priming, and finally painting. It’s crucial to use the right type of paint and primer to ensure a long-lasting finish. I’ve covered this in detail in the article above, so you can follow those steps for a successful painting project.

Can You Paint Venetian Plaster?

Yes, you can definitely paint over Venetian plaster. However, it’s essential to prepare the surface properly to ensure the paint adheres well. This usually involves cleaning, sanding, and priming before you start painting. So, while it’s doable, it does require some prep work.

What Primer Do You Use for Venetian Plaster?

When it comes to priming Venetian plaster, it’s best to use an acrylic-based primer. This type of primer adheres well to the alkaline surface of Venetian plaster and provides a good base for the paint. Make sure to apply a thin, even coat and let it dry thoroughly before you start painting.

Can You Change the Color of Venetian Plaster?

Absolutely, you can change the color of Venetian plaster by painting over it. Just make sure to follow the proper steps for surface preparation, including cleaning, sanding, and priming. Once the surface is ready, you can paint it any color you like.

Can You Paint Over Plaster Without Sanding?

Technically, you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Sanding helps to create a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to. It also removes any imperfections or stains that could show through the new paint. So, while it might seem like a step you can skip, it’s crucial for a long-lasting, professional-looking finish.

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