Ragging Paint Technique

The ragging paint technique (along with sponging and color washing) has become one of the “big three” in faux finishing today.

Why? Because it is simple, attractive, and fun.

You don’t need years of schooling or experience to create a great look with rags, sponges, or brushes. All you need are some very simple instructions (look below, you’ve already found those) and a little bit of determination.

Rag painting incorporates many of the same principles as sponge painting, only a rag is used for texture instead of a sponge. Like sponge painting, there are two separate techniques. Ragging On and Ragging Off.

As the names imply, one method involves applying glaze to the wall with the rag, while the other involves applying the glaze to the wall with a roller and removing glaze with the rag.

Ragging On allows more of the base color to show through, creating a more textured, dappled surface.

Ragging Off will create a slightly more subtle finished look.

I will cover both techniques here. You can choose which best reflects your taste and style.

Rag Rolling , an offshoot of ragging paint that uses a specialty application roller, is covered on a different page.

Like the other two aforementioned techniques (sponging and color washing), ragging paint creates a unique, textured surface that adds depth to a room. (When I say textured, I mean in appearance, not to the touch.)

Ragging paint also works great on imperfect or slightly damaged walls, since the textured appearance of the paint hides imperfections very well.

Of these “big three” techniques, ragging paint probably achieves the largest (and most visible) pattern, due to the very pronounced texture provided by the rag.

Nearly any home improvement or paint store will have brochures and flyers available (at no charge), giving the color combinations available for this technique. Again, like the other “big two”, ragging paint tends to look its best when two similar colors of different tones are used, giving the finished surface a subtle “light and shadow” finish.

As with all faux finishes, I recommend perfecting your technique on a practice board before beginning on the walls.

Stop! Very Important! Before beginning, be sure your walls are properly prepared. Not sure? Take a look at our paint preparation instructions (opens in a new window).

Here is what you’ll need:

Necessary Paint Products

  • Latex Semi-Gloss Paint (in desired base color)

  • Faux Technique Glaze (in complimenting or contrasting color)

Necessary Paint Supplies and Applicators

  • 3/8” Nap Roller Cover

  • Roller Frame

  • 2” Angled Nylon/Poly Brush

  • 2” Painter’s Tape

  • Lint-Free Cotton Rags



Painting the Base Coat

Begin by taping around the ceiling, windows, doors, floor trim, and any other woodwork or trim that is present. Use a high-quality nylon-polyester brush to “cut in” around the ceiling and trim work.

Using a moderately-loaded 3/8” roller, roll on the semi-gloss base coat. When rolling, finish each section with a smooth ceiling-to-floor stroke to help eliminate roller marks.

Per paint manufacturer’s instructions, wait at least four, and preferably six, hours before applying the necessary second coat. Wait at least 24 hours for the second coat to dry before beginning the faux technique.


Ragging Paint: Ragging On Technique

Dip a damp cotton rag into your faux technique glaze. Blot out any excess, but keep in mind, the less glaze that is applied the more pronounced the effect will be. It is important that the rag is not saturated. This will result in the glaze running or dripping down the wall.

Shape the rag into a ball in your fist, creating random patterns with the folds.

Now, begin lightly blotting the wall, working in approximately 3’x3’ areas.

As you blot, continually reshape the rag in your fist to create varied, random patterns. Your wrist should turn slightly from side to side as you pounce, like turning a doorknob.

Reload the rag as necessary. Overlap and blend each area as you move across the surface.

Be sure to continue working until you have completed the entire wall. If you stop in the middle, the glaze will dry, and this stop/start area will be visible when the painting is complete.

If you are intending to use a second glaze color over the first wait at least four hours for the first coat to dry.


Removing the Tape

Remove the tape from the trimwork, ceiling, and any adjoining sections while the glaze is still wet. Be careful not to mar your beautiful new ragged walls.



Follow the instructions from Step 1 above for applying the base coats.


Ragging Paint Off

Find a convenient starting point (such as a top corner) and roll the glaze onto the wall in a 3’x3’ section.

Bunch a cotton rag up in your fist to create a random pattern of folds in the fabric.

Now, while the glaze is still wet, lightly blot the surface of the rolled-on glaze with the rag. Be sure to wring excess paint off of the rag often. Rinse the rag with water and wring as necessary.

Continue working along the wall in 3’ sections, blending and overlapping with the previous sections to avoid visible lines in the glaze.

As you blot, continually reshape the rag in your fist to create varied, random patterns.

Be sure to continue working until you have completed the entire wall. If you stop, the glaze will begin to dry and this stop/start area will be visible when the painting is complete.


Removing the Tape

Follow the instructions from Step 3 above for removing the tape.

I hope you have found ragging a fairly simple and enjoyable process. Ragging’s unique and varied texture will provide you with a durable, stylish look for years to come.

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