Specialty paints

When color isn’t enough

Last reviewed: June 2009

You’ve probably seen some of these finishes in magazines and on TV and maybe wondered how easy are they to apply. We did, too. We also wondered how well they would hold up to normal wear and tear, and how easy they would be to cover once you tired of the look.

But before we get to what’s on store shelves, some general advice:

Check out free classes and videos

The brushwork required to apply some specialty textures requires practice. Many home centers have free workshops. Most specialty-paint manufacturers offer inexpensive DVDs on techniques, or free tips and videos online.

Don’t practice on your walls

Start on small, inexpensive practice boards available at home centers. Once you’ve mastered the technique, mount the board in the room and live with it for a while.

Keep durability in mind

As we indicate below, some of these finishes are not as tough as typical interior paint. We don’t recommend using them in high-traffic areas.

Consider the commitment

Some textured finishes are difficult or impossible to cover with just regular paint. These would require messy scraping or sanding first.

 

Chalkboard

Chalkboard paint
Chalkboard paint

Difficulty level

Easy. Goes on like regular paint. Two coats created a smooth finish that can be written on with chalk and wiped off with a damp cloth.

Durability

Durable and stain-resistant. It’s easily cleaned with a damp cloth, but extensive use might require touch-up coats.

Getting rid of it

Easy. Two coats of paint with a good score for hiding completely covered the black beneath.

Brand

Benjamin Moore.

Price

$14 per quart; covers 100 square feet.

 

Metallic

Metallic paint
Metallic paint

Difficulty level

Easy. You apply the metallic glaze over a base coat of regular paint. One coat highlights the base color; two coats create a gold, silver, copper, or pearlescent look.

Durability

Very tough and stain-resistant.

Getting rid of it

Easy. It’s just like applying paint over a standard color.

Brands

Most major companies.

Price

$40 to $80 per gallon; covers 400 square feet.

 

Crackle

Crackle paint
Crackle paint

Difficulty level

Moderate. It’s actually a midcoat between two coats of different colors that causes the top layer of paint to “crack,” giving the surface an antique look. Though the products go on easily, getting the timing right between application of the midcoat and topcoat requires a bit of practice. A roller produces smaller, more uniform cracks; a brush makes wider, random cracks.

Durability

Since the crackle finish isn’t exposed, the finish will be as tough as the topcoat. But the texture can make cleaning stains harder.

Getting rid of it

Though you can cover up the color, the crackled textured will remain.

Brands

Most major companies.

Price

$15 to $20 per quart; covers 100 square feet.

 

Textured

Textured paint
Textured paint

Difficulty level

Easy. But the sand texture splattered badly when we used the recommended loop roller, creating a rough, lumpy surface. A regular roller produced a finer texture and was easier to apply.

Durability

It stained and didn’t hold up well to scrubbing. You’d probably want to paint over it with more durable paint for protection.

Getting rid of it

Very difficult. It would require lots of scraping and sanding, especially for finishes with the rougher look.

Brands

Most major companies.

Price

$10 to $30 per gallon; covers 100 square feet; roller cover, $5.50.

 

Denim, leather, and other faux finishes

Denim paint
Denim paint

Difficulty level

Moderate. All of these finishes require practice. Faux topcoats are applied (over a base coat of regular paint) with a special tool to create a particular look. For denim, we dragged a special brush across the panel from left to right and top to bottom to create the crisscross weave of the fabric. For leather, we dabbed the surface softly with a special brush held diagonally for a random look.

Durability

Both resisted stains but didn’t hold up to scrubbing. The textured surface might make the denim difficult to clean.

Getting rid of it

The denim’s ribbed texture and the leather’s finer texture were still visible after three coats of regular paint, so you might need to sand the surface smooth.

Brands

Most major companies.

Price

$20 to $35 per gallon; covers 400 square feet. Finishing tools, up to $40 (denim brush, $17; leather brush, $28, plus $8 for small brush for corners and edges).