Technique for Wall Texture Tutorial

In this tutorial I am going to utilize acetate to create wall texture for a sample painting. I hope you’ll find it an interesting technique to add to your painting skills. In each series we are going to do something very simple, like a wall or ground or grass. Then by the end of the series, you’ll be prepared to do a full painting!


This technique for creating wall texture applies when using gouache, which is an opaque water color paint. Gouache is very water soluble, which means it can be easily damaged if you drop water on it, so you want to be careful.  You can use acrylics with this same technique. We start by wetting our board, making sure to get it as evenly wet as possible. When the board is first wet it has a highly glossy appearance.

You can see it’s shiny and bit reflective on the surface. Do not put paint on at this stage! Wait for it to dry to a low sheen, where you can tell it’s damp, but not sopping wet. While that is drying, you can start mixing the paint colors you want.  Make sure you have enough pigment because it’s going to be dispersed when you lay the paint onto the board.

Once you begin to lay in the color, try to be as even as you can and work fast – you don’t want your board to dry before you finish laying on paint. I’m putting in my lightest shade first, then I work towards darker shades to maintain the richness of color and the cleanest color early on. You don’t want to dirty your nice, clean, lighter areas right? Paint should be thin enough to allow light to hit the white board and let color bounce back up. If it gets too thick than you loose the vibrancy of your color because light can’t pass through well.

My board is beginning to dry so I’ll use an airbrush, which gives an even amount of water across the surface. This way I can continue working on a moist surface. I can lay in additional colors and a variety of information into that board and it still represents my first pass, or lay-in of paint. The airbrush will prevent paint from building up too heavily and still keep that bounce light coming through. Try to keep a balance between not getting too opaque nor too transparent with the paint. This is called a translucent effect: that’s what we want to achieve with the amount of paint we lay on the surface. Now we are going to use a badger brush.

A badger brush helps blend colors together, soften brush strokes, and smooth out some of the rough lay-in areas.

Every once in a while, hairs may come out of the badger brush and you have to pick them up by pushing the brush forward. This takes a little practice but you can get used to it. If it drys into the paint it will leave a line there. So if you can pick it up while it’s still damp, you’re better off.  Now I’m checking to make sure that the paint is dry.

You want it to be completely dry before the next stage. We can begin using a piece of acetate to give texture to our wall. We have established the light and shadows.

As you give texture you are going to loose some of the lightness and cleanness of your surface. Add another layer of paint that’s fairly thin–it’s a more transparent lay-in of pigment. We are just rubbing onto the acetate the colors that we want. You can vary how light or dark it becomes based on the amount of water to pigment. If you want it to be less apparent, than use more water; if you want it to show up stronger, than use more pigment.

What I’m doing is dabbing it down and letting it have random “accidents” as I lay it onto the surface. This will become wall texture that I’ll work with when I structure the wall. Creating random texture with this method is better than painting it in, which can look too contrived. It’s purposefully accidental! Now we can begin painting the stone work.

I’m painting my lines just a bit darker so it can show up in the shadow areas. The paint is more like watercolor in transparency. Since it dries lighter, I can go a little darker with my line work. I’ve built the basic structure of my stone wall, and can move on to the details. I want to put some shadows in as if light from above has cast shadows on the stone wall. To do so, I’ll take slightly darker paint (not quite as dark as my lines), add a little color to it, then build the shadowing using a thicker brush.

Keep it transparent to allow texture and color to come through. Where the light is, some of the yellow will show through; where the shadow is, some of the violet shows through. You can also add warmth to the color, as if there’s  warmer light reflecting below. That creates contrast with the cooler areas in the painting. Here’s what it looks like so far:

To give it dimension, I want to add more shadowing to this. Afterward I’ll use dark paint to define the cracks in the wall more. It helps clarify stone separation. Now the definition between the stones is more apparent. Since gouache drys lighter there still room to go darker without becoming totally black. I try not to make every line equally dark.

Pick out little spots where you accentuate the darkness. You don’t want it everywhere. Some things should only be suggested. I’m going to start painting in light as if it’s coming from above. I’ll define where light hits the top of the stone. The fun part is, as you do that, you can pick little areas to make crevices within the stone that catches the light as well. This will give us even more dimensionality.

I like to play up warm, reflective lights in my shadow area, which brings some interesting color to the piece. I’ll add a few more highlights from the top in the light area. Then put some cool light in my shadow areas. Keep highlights in the shady area dimmer than the light area. This will help define the stonework in the shadows.

My last few touches are redoing shadows in the crevices. I’ll get my darkest possible color, almost black, and give those final accents where the crevices are extra deep. This will bring out the final details that we would need for the piece to come together. It’ll look complete. So these are subtle steps to take when painting a stone wall, a brick wall, stone work on the ground, the side of buildings with texture, or anything like that. You can use the acetate to make the texture. It’s just a matter of pulling out the light and dark from the texture to get the overall structure of what you’re drawing or painting.

The next time we will use the acetate to make ground texture. Keep an eye out for it and happy painting!