Drywall Texture Types and Techniques

Different Types of Drywall Texture

Have you ever stared at a wall or ceiling and thought to yourself, 'what type of drywall texture is that?' Unless you are a drywall finisher, probably not. But if you stop to notice the different types of drywall textures used in different construction settings, you may be surprised to realize how many different options there are.

Texture for Ceilings and Texture for Walls

Some types of drywall texture should only be used on ceilings and some textures should only be used on walls. Based on widely accepted interior design best practices, it's good to stick to some of the following principles.

The list below outlines guidelines for where certain types of texture should be used. Some drywall textures are identified as ceiling textures, others as wall textures, and some drywall textures can be used on both walls and ceilings. For each type, reasons are given that include both application techniques and aesthetic design principles.

Ceiling drywall textures

Spray Acoustical Ceiling Texture (Popcorn Texture)
Spray Acoustical Texture, otherwise known as Popcorn Ceiling Texture, should only be used as a ceiling texture. The reason is due to aesthetic and maintenance considerations. Popcorn Texture consists of styrofoam balls that are knocked off when brushed up against. If Popcorn Texture was used on walls, it would scuff easily and create quite a mess.
Rosebud Ceiling Texture
Rosebud Texture should only be used on ceilings. This is because of the method of application as well as aesthetic reasons. It is very difficult to apply any type of stomp texture on a vertical surface. If you tried to apply Rosebud Texture to walls, the pointed tips of the texture would sag and drip on the area below. Even a very light Rosebud Texture applied to walls would not have the same uniform look as it does on ceilings.
Crows Foot Stomp Ceiling Texture
Crows Foot Stomp Texture should only be used on ceilings. Similar to the way Rosebud Texture is applied, this type of texture is created using a stomp brush that leaves a specific pattern in wet texture mud. The same reasons Rosebud Texture should only be used as a ceiling texture also apply to Crows Foot Stomp Texture
Stomp Knockdown Ceiling Texture
Stomp Knockdown Texture should only be used on ceilings. All types of stomped textures are very difficult to apply to vertical surfaces. Stomp Knockdown has a lower finished profile than regular Crows Foot Stomp Texture or Rosebud Stomp Texture, so aesthetically speaking, it would look ok on walls. But trying to get an even texture using this technique on a vertical surface would be very difficult if not impossible.
Swirl Ceiling Texture
Swirl Texture is best used only on ceilings. Of the ceiling textures, this one is probably most suitable for walls as well, though it is rarely found on vertical surfaces. Nothing in the application technique makes it hard to use on walls, so from that standpoint, it could be classified along with the wall textures. We consider it a ceiling-only texture since it is rarely used on vertical surfaces.

Drywall textures for vertical surfaces

Paint Roller Wall Texture
Paint Roller Drywall Texture should only be used on vertical surfaces. The technique used to apply roller texture is very simple. Nothing in the application technique prevents its use on ceilings but based simply on design aesthetics, using it on ceilings is not a good option. When a Paint Roller Texture is used on walls, oftentimes the ceiling is finished with a Rosebud Texture or Crows Foot Stomp Texture. If you go to the trouble of rolling this texture on the ceiling, you might as well stomp a nice pattern in it before it dries.

Drywall textures that work well on both walls and ceilings

Skip Trowel Texture
Skip Trowel can be used as a ceiling texture and/or a wall texture. It is applied with a long curved drywall knife. It has a low-profile uniform appearance that looks good on both vertical and horizontal surfaces.
Santa Fe Texture
Santa Fe Texture can be used as a ceiling texture and/or a wall texture. It is applied using similar techniques as Skip Trowel using a long curved drywall knife. It has a low profile uniform appearance that looks good on both vertical and horizontal surfaces. The smooth outer surface of the texture covers more of the underlying drywall than Skip Trowel so it is a more subtle texture than most others.
Hawk and Trowel Texture
Hawk and Trowel can be used as a ceiling texture and a wall texture. It is applied using a hawk and trowel, thus the name, and can be applied uniformly on both vertical and horizontal surfaces. It is usually thicker than other types of texture so it can give a room a more rustic appearance. Some people may not like the more dramatic look of Hawk and Trowel Texture so the choice to use it or not is more of a personal preference than it is an application and maintenance decision.
Spray Splatter Knockdown Texture
Splatter Knockdown Texture, or simply Knockdown Texture, can be used on both ceilings and walls. The method of application involves spraying texture through a large texture sprayer and then wiping it with a long knockdown knife to remove the high spots. This leaves an evenly distributed low profile interesting pattern of flattened globules. There is no major difference in the application technique on vertical or horizontal surfaces. Aesthetically, it looks good on both walls and ceilings.
Orange Peel Texture
Orange Peel Texture can be used on both walls and ceilings. The techniques used to apply Orange Peel Texture are similar to those used for Spatter Knockdown Texture except for the globule size and lack of a knockdown step.

More information about which types of textures are best for walls or ceilings.

Smooth Wall Finish

Although level five Smooth Wall is not technically considered a type of drywall texture, it is a popular option for finishing drywall walls and ceilings. For more information on how to create smooth walls please read this article. It discusses in detail how to roll skim drywall surfaces.

The drywall industry uses a system that refers to different levels of finished drywall. The different levels of finish outline what procedures should be used when finishing drywall. Smooth wall usually requires a level five finish.

Matching drywall texture is difficult because of the various methods and tools used. Here are five tips for matching drywall texture. If you follow these tips you can ensure that your drywall texture will match seamlessly with the surrounding drywall texture. There is also a tip on matching knockdown texture.

Textures classified by method of application

Drywall texture styles can be grouped into two categories based on their method of application. Textures that are applied manually using basic hand tools are referred to as hand textures. Drywall textures that require the use of texture sprayers are referred to as spray drywall textures.

Large texture sprayers consist of equipment that pumps texture mud through a long hose to be sprayed through a special nozzle. Many texture sprayers also supply compressed air to the spray nozzle that combines with texture mud to create unique splatter patterns.

Hand Drywall Textures

There are so many different types of hand drywall textures that it is impossible to list them all here. Even when tradesmen use similar techniques, each individual's unique skill allows for a variety of textures. Some hand textures are applied with a pan and knife or a hawk and trowel. Some drywall textures make use of special stomp brushes to make patterns in the mud.

At times drywall mud is spread over the entire surface using a paint roller or high-powered paint sprayer. Brushes, knives, or rollers are then used to create patterns in the mud. These types of textures are also considered hand textures, even though a sprayer is used for application. Hand drywall textures vary greatly depending on the skill level or techniques used. Even when using similar techniques, two different tradesmen can produce very different drywall texture styles.

The following list of hand drywall textures includes links to articles with more information on specific types of drywall textures that are created using simple hand tools. The articles linked below also contain images of different types of drywall texture as well as tips on how to apply them.

Spray Drywall Textures

Spray textures are created using machines with powerful pumps that feed drywall mud through long hoses using specialized nozzles that create different types of texture. These types of texture are considered spray textures because the style of texture is determined by the sprayer, rather than hand tools.

The following list of spray textures includes links to articles with more information on specific types of drywall textures that are created using texture sprayers. The articles linked below also contain images of different types of drywall texture as well as tips on how to apply them.

Drywall texture sprayers come in many different brands, shapes, and sizes. They generally consist of a hopper that holds texture material, a powerful pump to move the material, an air compressor to mix air with the material, hoses, and a special nozzle. Texture sprayers can be electric, gas, or air powered.

The texture pump on smaller machines may be a diaphragm pump driven by compressed air or a rotary or other style pump driven by an electric motor. Larger spray rigs have gas or diesel motors to power both the texture material pump and the air compressor. The internal combustion engines on larger texture rigs are capable of pumping more material over greater distances which allows for more uniform drywall textures.

Texture mud is pumped through a long hose to a gun operated by hand triggers. The texture gun combines texture mud with compressed air just before it is sprayed onto the drywall surface. The type of texture created is determined by the material used, the size and type of nozzle on the texture gun, and the amount of compressed air introduced into the mud.

Drywall Texture Styles Change Over Time

The options available for different types of drywall texture depend a lot on the skill level of drywall finishers in a local area as well as what is popular at a given time. Just as other construction design choices change, the types and styles of drywall textures used in a city or region tend to change gradually over time.

For example, during the nineteen seventies, spray acoustical texture, otherwise known as Popcorn Texture, was very popular on ceilings across much of the southern, central, and western United States. In the northeast, however, stomped Rosebud Texture and Swirl Texture were more commonly found. In the northeast and midwest, stomped textures would be used on ceilings and Smooth Wall would be used on the vertical surfaces.

As the years progressed, popcorn ceilings went out of fashion in most parts of the country. In the southern, central and western United States, Orange Peel Texture gained in popularity. Although it had been used on walls, it started being used on ceilings as well.

In the late eighties and nineties, Spray Knockdown Texture gained in popularity, especially in the Southwest. This was a natural progression from Orange Peel since they are both applied using similar equipment and techniques. Both Orange Peel Texture and Spray Knockdown Texture require the use of texture sprayers. The main difference between Orange Peel texture and Spray Knockdown comes down to the type of spray nozzle used and the final knockdown step that flattens out the small globules.

By the late nineties, Spray Knockdown Texture was becoming "old-fashioned" in many parts of the Southwest. Homebuilders turned to hand textures like Skip Trowel Texture and Hawk and Trowel Texture. By the turn of the century and on through the early two thousand tens, Santa Fe Texture became more and more popular.

Santa Fe Texture is a natural progression from Skip Trowel and Hawk and Trowel because it is applied using similar techniques. Santa Fe Texture covers more of the drywall paper surface than Skip Trowel but is much smoother than Hawk and Trowel. It can also be thought of as a Skip Trowel Texture that covers between 70 and 90 percent of the surface.

In the northeast United States, level five smooth wall finish is by far the most common type of drywall texture finish. Many homes in the northeast were constructed in the eighteen hundreds with plaster walls and ceilings. Plaster walls and ceilings are traditionally made with smooth surfaces.

When drywall began replacing plaster as the industry standard, smooth wall finish continued to be used predominantly in this region. In some areas of the northeast, you will find textured ceilings. Where this is the case, Rosebud Ceiling Texture, Swirl Texture, and Stomp Knockdown Ceiling Texture are the most common types.

Around 2010, something interesting happened with drywall texture styles in the Midwest. Although Splatter Knockdown Texture had been used a lot in the south and southwest United States throughout the 1980s and 1990s, it was hardly found in the northern United States, including the Midwest. By 2010, it had already gone out of favor in the Southwest. But for some reason, at that time it gained popularity and was being requested more and more in the Midwest.

Trends change over the years. Just like colors, flooring, furniture, and other finishes are all subject to changing trends, drywall texture is also affected by changing design trends, although perhaps not to the same degree.