An expert step-by-step guide for applying mottled decorative paint finishes. Includes the best way to use a two-part roller for high quality mottling.

Mottling is a faux-finishing technique that aims to mimic the appearance of leather or parchment.

The basic idea is to first apply a base coat and then dab or swirl incomplete and irregular layers of colored glaze over it.

A mottled finish is easier than most faux finishes and so may be a good choice for a beginner.

Man’s hand, rolling a two-part roller to create a yellow mottled finish.

If you mix light colors with dark, or choose paint colors that are very different from each other, the result will be lively and attention-grabbing.

Mixing slightly different hues of the same basic color will have a more subtle effect, giving walls a sense of depth and providing interesting shading.

Experiment on scrap pieces of drywall or plywood until you achieve the color combination and application technique that most pleases you. This is an important step; otherwise, you may be disappointed once you finish painting the entire room.

Once you have applied the base coat, you can apply the glaze(s) in a decorative way.

Or, you can apply an even coat of glaze and then use a tool to partially pull it off to create texture. You may work by dabbing with a sponge, swirling with a standard brush or a special faux- finish brush, dragging or rolling a glaze-soaked rag across the surface, or even tapping with a feather duster.

Aim for a consistent look throughout the room.

Glaze dries slower than paint, but you don’t have a great deal of time, so get your technique down before you start. Work in irregularly shaped sections about 4 feet square. And work on succeeding sections before the preceding section has dried as applying new glaze to dried glaze will create an obvious overlap. Also, step back and examine the wall from time to time.

Mottling with a Two-Part Roller

With a special roller and paint tray, you can apply two colors of paint at the same time. The effect is jarring at first, but if you roll back and forth in random directions, the colors blend and create a mottled look.

Because you use only paint, the finish lacks the translucent quality that glaze offers. The trade-off, though, is speed, as you don’t need separate base and glaze coats.

Materials and tools you’ll need:

* Two-part roller with tray
* Wall paint in two colors (any sheen)
* Painter’s tape
* Newspaper
* Chip brush
* Cotton T-shirt rags

Step-by-Step Mottled Painting

1 Apply painter’s tape along the top, bottom, and side edges of the wall.

2 Pour the two colors of paint into separate sections of the tray. Load the roller by moving it back and forth into the paint and across the raised section of the tray.

Man's hand, loading a two-part roller with paint on a dual tray.


3 Roll back and forth in different directions on several sheets of newspaper until the paint colors blend on the roller. This will help ensure that subsequent sections will look similar to the first.

Man’s hand, rolling a two-part roller with paint on a newspaper.


4 Reload the roller and roll it back and forth in random directions.

Man’s hand, rolling a two-part roller to create a yellow mottled finish.


5 Use the chip brush to move paint into corners the roller doesn’t reach. Dab to blend the colors so the look resembles the rest of the wall. Remove the painter’s tape when you’re finished.

6With a damp rag, clean off any smears on the ceiling or baseboard. You don’t have to worry about smears on adjoining walls if you will be painting them.

A mottled decorative finish in yellow shade.


The final effect shows how the colors blend. Wait for one wall to dry before you paint the next. Tightly cover the roller and tray with plastic while you wait.