Mastering The Art Of Venetian Plaster

Plastering is an art form that requires considerable practice. Slight imperfections in a given surface can easily reveal themselves when viewed in a certain light. But in certain cases, the work is even more unforgiving. If you’re using Venetian plaster, then the results can be spectacular – but only if you’ve mastered the underlying techniques.

What is Venetian plaster?

When the city of Venice was founded by Roman refugees, they had to be creative when it came to building materials and techniques. What works on dry land isn’t always as effective in the middle of a marsh.

One of the favoured techniques was the use of lime plaster, which had actually been around for thousands of years before Venice came to be.

Venetian plaster does away with aggregates like marble and glass. It’s made from fired limestone and water. When the plaster is applied to a surface and left to dry, it turns back into limestone – except that it’s taken on the shape that the plasterer created. It tends to be much paler than modern gypsum-based plasters.

The effect can be gorgeous, particularly if you know what you’re doing. Getting the right results, however, means putting in the right amount of practice – and sourcing the right equipment.

Materials and Tools

Plastering is something that can be done using simple tools.

You’ll need a steel trowel, a bucket, and a means of mixing the plaster. Powered mixers can save you considerable time. You’ll also need the plaster itself, as well as colourants and cloth to protect the floor. Venetian plaster can be applied to many different surfaces, including brickwork. Plasterboard, however, is arguably the easiest surface to work with.

Step-by-Step Process

Let’s run through the process of covering a room in Venetian plaster.

We should start by preparing the space. Ensure that surfaces are suitably flat. Any big imperfections should be filled and sanded, and any conspicuous dirt should be removed. You can then prime the surface and start applying coat number one.

Your first coat doesn’t have to be entirely even. It should just be even enough that any bumps can be filled with subsequent coats. Clean the trowel every so often, or you risk getting dried-on plaster onto the wall, which can ruin the finish. Having done this, you can apply the second coat. Here’s where you fill in any gaps, and achieve the perfectly-smooth effect we’re looking for.

You can get a completely flawless finish using extremely fine sandpaper. In high-moisture environments like bathrooms and kitchens, you might also elect to apply a topcoat finish.

Troubleshooting and Common Challenges

If you end up with blotches and stains on your walls, it could be that you didn’t prime before you started applying plaster. The pigment is leaking through from the bottom.

If your plaster seems chunky or otherwise non-smooth, it could be that you haven’t mixed it properly. Do it with a powered mixer,  and the difference might be considerable. You don’t have to be bound by the tools available in ancient Venice.

Finally, we should be aware of perfectionism while applying the first coat. If you overwork it, then you could end up with a burnished, glossy finish. Just knock off any unacceptable bumps before you start the second coat.


Venetian plaster offers a unique look that’s fast becoming stylish again. Learn to apply it properly, and you’ll be able to offer a service that many homeowners are willing to pay handsomely for!