A limewash treatment can help you achieve an aged, textured look on a variety of surfaces — in particular, it can be a great way to accent one wall to create a focal point of any room. The method was originally used for brick and masonry, so it works the best on a porous surface, but with the variety of paint products available today, it’s gaining traction as a room and furniture treatment, as well.
Before you start, keep in mind that limewash can’t be cleaned with water — and, because the overall effect relies on texture, this paint technique isn’t ideal for table tops or other surfaces that should be smooth. But this expensive-looking finish is possible to pull off yourself on the right surface with some materials and prep.
What you need to make limewash:
- Two 20-litre buckets
- A mixing attachment and drill or a whisk
- A wide stain brush
- Mineral-based acrylic primer
- Hydrated lime
- Alum salt
- Natural Earth pigment
- Mixing buckets or bowls
- A roller and roller pole
- A paint brush for cutting in
- Painter’s tape
You will also need gloves, goggles, and a mask.
Applying your primer, lime putty, and primer layer
First, you need to prepare your wall surface by applying your primer. Tape off any surfaces you don’t want to paint and apply your mineral-based acrylic primer to the wall’s surface with your roller. Use the brush to paint areas the roller can’t easily cover. Allow your primer to dry thoroughly before applying your first layer of limewash.
Making lime putty for your next step will make the rest of the process easier as it dissolves more evenly in your lime wash mixture. To make the putty, fill your 20 litre bucket about a third of the way with water. Then, use your whisk or other stirring implement to mix in hydrated lime powder until it’s the consistency of frosting or plaster putty. Make sure to wear your goggles, mask, and gloves for this part.
Next, using a ratio of one part alum salt, one part natural mineral pigment, ten parts lime putty, and 40 parts water, make your primer and patina coat. This should be a thinner mixture than the wash coat that will go on next. In order to avoid a gritty mixture, dissolve your alum salt in a small amount of boiling water before adding it to your mixture. Make sure to wear your protective gear for this part, too. Apply your primer coat with your wide stain brush in a criss-cross pattern to give yourself a good base. Make sure to stir as you go so your mixture doesn’t separate. The colour might appear very light, but it will get more saturated as you go.
Applying your wash layer and patina layer
Once your primer layer is dry, mix up your wash layer at a ratio of one part alum salt, one part natural mineral pigment, ten parts lime putty, and 20 parts water. Remember to dissolve the alum salt in boiling water before adding it so you don’t get a gritty texture to your paint. The consistency of this layer will be noticeably thicker than your first, and it will add lots more colour to your surface. Now, apply the wash layer to your surface in a crosshatch pattern, noting that this layer will have the most visible texture. Once it dries, it will appear lighter than when it’s wet, so if you want a more saturated colour, you can add another layer of wash.
Once your wash coat is dry and you’re happy with the colour, the last step is to add your patina coat. Using the same mixture as your primer coat, apply the patina mixture with your wide stain brush in a cross hatch pattern. Once this coat is dry, your limewash is finished. Since you can’t wash this surface with water, you can refresh it with a new coat of limewash, as needed.