How to Faux Paint With Rags
Step by Step Instructions

Learn how to faux paint with a rag - the basic ragging technique below will allow you to create crushed velvet and leather-like effects on the walls and other surfaces.

how to faux paint with rags

Before I show you how to faux paint with a rag, here's some things you need to know about this decorative technique:

The process of ragging ON (the positive/additive method) can be described as a cloth-distressed version of sponge painting. It produces a similar mottled look, although the final effect is usually considerably airier.

Both painting techniques give surfaces texture and visual interest by adding a layer of paint and glaze on top of a painted base coat. However, ragging on gives you more opportunity than sponging on to experiment with and control the texture of the glaze you add to the surface.

The reason is because the way you hold the rag - in addition to the fiber type, weave, size and edges of the cloth - dramatically affect the final outcome of the paint treatment.

How to Faux Paint With Rags
- the basic technique -

NOTE: before starting, see "Ragging Faux Painting Finishes" for some important tips and tricks.

Tools and Materials:

  • paint brush

  • paint roller

  • paint tray

  • clear glaze

  • paper plates

  • stir sticks

  • painter's tape

  • rubber gloves

  • latex paint in 2 colors

  • mixing bucket/container

  • several lengths of 6' cloth


Apply 1-2 coats of latex paint to the walls with a brush and roller, and let dry. Remember that the base coat color will be one of the colors in the final finish. Once the base coat is dry, mask off the trim, the ceiling, and the baseboards with blue painter's tape.

Mixing glaze:

In a plastic container, mix one part clear glaze, one part paint, and one part water; stir until blended. Tweak the recipe if needed to get the desired color and thickness (try to reach the consistency of heavy cream). Pour a small amount into a paper plate.

Application Instructions:

1) Bunch up a piece of cloth in your hand, and keep the others nearby.

how to faux paint using a rag - technique demonstration

2) Dip one side of the cloth into the top-coat color glaze on the plate. Gently slide the cloth over the plate's edge, to coat it evenly with glaze.

If you picked up too much glaze, blot off the excess on some old newspapers or paper towels. Don't fill the first strokes with too much glaze!

3) Work diagonally down the surface in a random fashion. Gently pounce the bunched rag straight up and down over the surface, making sure each stroke barely touches the previous one.

Don't squeeze the cloth. Keep moving constantly, but don't hop around.

Before you make each stroke, shift the rag in your hand, rotate your wrist and slightly reposition your arm - to avoid creating a recognizable pattern. When pressing the cloth onto the wall no longer applies glaze, reload your cloth with glaze, blot off the excess, and continue pouncing and repositioning as before.

how to faux paint with rags example

4) After you complete a section approximately 3 feet square, step back 8 to 10 feet and evaluate the texture and consistency of your wall treatment. All strokes should show even pressure and appear to be random.

While the glaze is still wet, press a clean, slightly moist cloth onto areas where glaze appears too thick. Press a rag loaded with glaze onto areas where glaze appears too thin. Soften unwanted lines or edges by pressing a wet, clean cloth into the glaze.

5) Use a new piece of cloth with each section, and continue with the process until you've covered the entire wall. At the end, go around the perimeter of the wall and carefully touch up the corners/edges.

Now that you know the basics of how to faux paint with a cloth, here are some final words of advice before you run off to start painting:

Even though this faux paint finish appears easy, it isn't. It takes practice to touch the bunched up cloth to the surface with just the right amount of pressure, so that the cloth makes a mark without losing its shape or falling out of your hand.

Hone your faux painting skills on a sample board first. Practice makes perfect.

Paint Color Cheat Sheets
Paint Color Cheat Sheets

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