Wall and Ceiling Drywall Texture

Choosing Wall and Ceiling Drywall Texture

When deciding what type of texture to use for a new house or renovation project, there are many options to choose from. Some textures however are better suited for walls than they are ceilings and vice-versa. The following principles are good to keep in mind when choosing wall texture types.

Wall Textures

Wall textures should generally be of a lower profile. Because walls are closer to your line of vision, the contrasts between high and low spots are easier to see. The difference between the highest and lowest spot in the texture could be less than a millimeter and still be discernable when viewed from a foot or two away. Since you probably want the texture to be more like the subtle spice added to a meal rather than the main course, having a low profile texture ensures that it doesn't overpower the rest of the design in the room.

Another factor to consider is ease of cleaning. Low profile textures don't attract as much dust or dirt than thick heavy textures. Since the walls are likely to pick up grease and dust, having an easy way to clean them will be much appreciated down the road. Some people insist on washing the walls every year. With that type of cleaning schedule, a smooth low profile texture is a plus.

Some textures commonly used on walls include:

Ceiling Textures

Drywall textures on the ceiling can usually be thicker than those on the walls. Depending on the height of the ceiling you may want a heavier texture just to make it stand out. A light Santa Fe drywall texture on a high ceiling could easily disappear off into the distance. However, if you have a lot of light splashing off the ceiling from many windows in the room, even a light skip trowel texture may show it's detail because of the contrast between light and dark areas created by the shadows of incoming light.

Ceiling textures don't tend to collect as much dirt and grime than walls since it is not as easy to bump up against them or push objects into them. However, if you have a fireplace or wood stove in a room, the small amount of smoke that enters the room rather than escapes through the chimney can gradually collect on ceilings with thicker texture.

Some textures commonly used on ceilings include:

Practicality of two different textures for walls and ceilings

Angled photo of popcorn texture on the ceiling and knockdown on the walls

Applying drywall texture is an involved process. The process of texturing an entire house or even just one room requires a person to set up certain equipment and do the entire texturing job from start to finish in one setting. To set up a work area with certain equipment and then set up the area again with different equipment to do a second type of texture adds a lot of work and coordination requirements to a job. Contractors will likely have to charge more for this type of specialty work.

The most common application of two types of texture in the same room is probably that of applying one type of texture to the ceiling and finishing the walls smooth. Smooth wall finish requires a level five finishing process. Usually when the term level five is used, it refers to the process of drywall finishing, not just the quality of the finished product. You can read more about a Level five finish in this article.

Pictures of textured ceilings and smooth walls

Rosebud Ceiling with Smooth Walls:

Photo of a Rosebud texture on the ceiling and no texture on the walls

Popcorn Texture Ceiling with Smooth Walls:

Photo of Popcorn Drywall Texture on the ceiling and smooth walls

Hawk and Trowel Ceiling Texture and Smooth Walls:

Photo of a thick hawk and trowel on the ceiling with smooth walls

Tall skinny photo of a thick Hawk and Trowel Drywall texture on the ceiling with smooth walls

Applying two types of spray textures is usually cost prohibitive. Spray textures require masking off areas where you don't want texture to be applied. To apply a different type of spray texture to the walls and ceiling would mean masking off the walls while the ceiling is textured. After cleaning up and sanding the ceiling texture, you would mask off the ceilings and spray texture on the walls only. An alternative to this is applying a splatter knockdown texture to the entire room and once dry, applying a hand texture over top of the spray texture on the ceiling only. For example a Hawk and Trowel or 50% Santa Fe texture could be applied over the splatter knockdown on the ceiling. Be warned that this type of texture adds a lot of depth to the ceiling and would not be good for rooms with lower ceilings. However if you have a large room with high ceilings, this type of texture may add the dramatic look you are going for.

Here is a picture of a hand texture on the ceiling and a spray texture on the walls:

Swirl texture on the ceiling with Splatter knockdown texture on the walls

Photo of swirl drywall texture on the ceiling and knockdown texture on the wall

Swirl texture on the ceiling with Orange Peel texture on the walls

Photo of swirl drywall texture on the ceiling and orange peel texture on the wall

Another option for combining two types of texture is using two different hand textures on the walls and ceilings. For example you could apply a nice Skip Trowel to the entire room. Once it dries and is lightly sanded, you could apply another Skip Trowel texture to the ceiling only over top of the first. This creates a Double Skip trowel texture that can spice up a normally standard looking texture. Hawk and Trowel texture applied over top of an existing swirl texture helps create depth and interest to boring outdated ceilings.


Drywall textures can add a nice touch of style to the design of a room. Textures that are too thick or attention grabbing can overwhelm the other design features of a room. Be careful not to use textures that are overly thick on walls since the wall texture tends to stand out more than ceiling texture does. Though there are no hard and fast rules to what type of texture can be used in certain areas. The above principles above can help you to navigate the many choices. Above all it is good to be familiar with what the tradesmen in your local area are comfortable with. They will probably only be familiar with a few of the many drywall textures. Having them apply a type of texture that is already in their repertoire will generally turn out better than asking them to go outside of their comfort zone.

Various Types of Drywall Textures

Overview of Drywall Textures

Matching Existing Drywall Textures