Rag rolling is a faux finishing technique that gives walls a rich and elegant look. The striking flow of textured color is achieved by applying a glaze which is then ragged off (or ragged on) using a crumpled up cloth. Any combination of colors can be used, keeping in mind that the base coat will show through as the glaze is removed.
1. Apply base coat.
Use a quality latex eggshell enamel (Hirshfield's Platinum Ceramic Eggshell, Pratt & Lambert's Accolade Interior Velvet or Benjamin Moores' Regal Aqua Matte are ideal). Two coats may be necessary on some colors. It is very important to have a thoroughly and uniformly sealed base coat -- this will prevent flashing or dark spots when the glaze is applied. New sheetrock must be primed.
2. Formula for glaze.
Use a flat latex or eggshell enamel (Hirshfield's Platinum Ceramic Matte, Accolade Interior Flat Enamel, Regal Aqua Matte or Regal Wall Satin) for color and thin with Blend & Glaze. The dilution ratio is affected by heat and humidity. Experiment to find what works best for you. Start with:
1 part latex paint
3 parts Blend & Glaze (latex formula)
3. Prepare for glazing.
Use 4" Easy Mask masking tape at ceiling and baseboard. Glazes are runny and a bit messy. Take extra time to be certain that surfaces not to be painted are taped off and well protected. Do not leave masking tape on overnight. Cover all heat registers to prevent glaze from drying too quickly. Cut old cotton bedsheets into 10" x 36" rags. (Other fabrics work, too. Experiment, but be consistent.)
4. Applying the glaze.
Because latex glazes dry quickly, rag rolling is best done with 2 people -- one to apply the glaze and one to rag roll. While one applies a thin but uniform coat of glaze 18" wide from ceiling to floor (using a Shurline pad painter or paint roller), the other follows behind doing the rag rolling. This process continues until the entire wall is finished. Never apply more glaze than can be rag rolled within the working "wet time" of the glaze. If you lose your wet edge, blotting with a damp sponge will help. To get into corners & ceiling lines use an edger & dab a small crumpled head of the rag into the glaze. For tight spaces use a cotton swab or small dry paint brush to move your glaze and create a textured look
5. Rag rolling and ragging off.
Rag rolling simply removes some of the glaze, allowing the base coat to show through. Fold a crumpled rag so it's shaped like a hot dog bun and lightly roll over the wet glaze. Using both hands, roll from the bottom to the top. Or, if you'd prefer, try ragging off. This process removes the wet glaze with a blotting or dabbing motion instead of rolling. In either case, while the pattern will be irregular, one that is fairly uniform will have the best appearance. If too much glaze remains in one area, lightly blot it with your rag. When your rag becomes stiff from too much glaze, take a fresh rag crumpled in a similar fashion. Have a good supply of rags on hand and never switch fabrics. Stay with cotton sheets if you started with them. Dampen your fresh rag with the glaze to avoid removing too much glaze from the wall when you start out. Practice on sample boards painted with your base coat color to develop a pattern and rolling technique that you'are satisfied with.
6. Ragging on.
Another method of achieving a rag-rolled look is simply to use a crumpled rag to apply the glaze to the wall. This technique is similar to sponging. Instead of applying an even coating of glaze to the wall and then removing some of it leaving behind the random pattern, here the pattern is added to the wall using a crumpled rag. Moisten rag with water and wring well. Apply glaze to crumpled rag using a brush. Dab rag on wall using quick random strokes, turning and twisting it to vary the pattern, filling in as much as necessary to achieve the desired pattern. Leave as much base coat showing through as you would like, but always be consistent. As with rag rolling, be sure to have an adequate supply of rags (similar fiber content ) on hand.
Rag Rolling On is another way to achieve a rag rolled look. For this technique fold & twist your rags into a hot dog bun shape. Dip 10 - 12 rags in your glaze & ring out. Then place rags in a plastic bucket & cover. Roll your rag onto the wall surface randomly filling in spaces. You can apply more or less glaze depending on the look you want. When you run out of glaze take a prepared rag from your bucket & continue. You usually can rinse out your rags & reuse them once. You may roll on another color after you've completed your first color.
Glaze formula for step 6:
1 part paint
1 part Blend & Glaze (latex formula)
2 parts water
7. Allow yourself plenty of time.
It isn't necessary to complete an entire room in one afternoon. However, once you start on a wall, be prepared to finish that wall. (An 8' x 12' wall takes two people about 30 to 45 minutes to glaze and rag roll.)
8. Practice first.
Remember to use sample boards (all professionals do) painted with your base coat color to practice this faux finishing technique.
Latex eggshell enamel for basecoat
Flat Latex for glaze
Blend & Glaze Latex Formula
4" Easy Mask Tape
Pad Painter or Paint Roller
25 - 30 Lint free Cotton Rags
Brush & roller for base coat