Decorating: Rag-Rolling a Wall

Rag-rolling is a variation of a ragging technique in which a cloth is rolled down over a surface to create a finish that displays a great sense of movement and liveliness. As with ragging, the effect is dramatic, resembling the texture of crushed velvet or crumpled silk, and suits formal applications such as in dining rooms. Because the finish could easily become too insistent, it is best to use, rather than bold contrasts, shades of pale colour offset with plain woodwork. Rag-rolling is inherently rhythmic, and for this reason it can be a very effective way of decorating furniture.


Although the finish can be achieved by rag-rolling on using a cloth dipped in glaze to apply a layer of broken colour, it is much more subtle to rag-roll off — distressing a wet surface using a clean cloth. Because of the need to work quickly before the surface has a chance to dry, it is easier to use oil-based glazes rather than the swifter drying washes. It is also simpler to enlist the help of a partner so that one person can apply the glaze while the other follows closely behind distressing it.

Practice is essential to achieve a fluid movement down over the wall. It is better, if there are two of you, not to be tempted to swap roles from time to time: if a single person does all the distressing, the pressure and the print will be consistent.

Experiment by folding the cloth in different ways, and try out different dilutions of glaze to get the effect you want. The cloth should be rolled in a variety of directions so that the finish does not look mechanical.

Using the Cloth

As in ragging, the type of cloth will determine the texture of the finish. Soft cotton is a good choice for rag-rolling — the closer the weave, the crisper the print. Whichever you choose, you must have a good supply of clean cloths, as you must take a fresh one frequently when each becomes sodden with glaze. Cloths can be used dry or dipped in solvent; wet cloths give a softer effect and do not clog up as readily.

Materials and Equipment

• oil- or water-based paint for the base coat

• oil- or water-based paint for making glaze or wash

• appropriate solvent: white spirit or turpentine for oil-based paints, water for emulsion (latex)

• artists’ colours for tinting glaze or wash, if required

• paint container

• wide paintbrushes

• rubber gloves

• supply of clean cloths

• polyurethane varnish


1. Apply base coat using a wide brush. Allow to dry overnight.

2. Make a glaze or wash by diluting paint with appropriate solvent in ratio between 1:1 and 1:3 of paint to solvent; experiment to get the right dilution. Tint with artists’ colours if desired.

3. One person should then apply the glaze, working in vertica1 strips 60cm/2ft wide, so that paint is worked while it is still reasonably wet.

4. Soak rag in solvent if you want to achieve a soft effect..

5. The second person should then form the rag into a sausage shape and roll it down over the wet glaze. Vary the direction and bunching of the rag to keep the prints irregular. Be careful not to skid across the surface. The more you dab at the paint, the softer the effect you will create.

Change rags as they become soaked with paint.

6. Complete an entire wall at a time in order to avoid hard edges. Dab into corners using the end of the rolled-up cloth.

7. Surfaces that need protection, such as kitchen walls, should be coated with polyurethane varnish.

* Let discarded cloths dry out thoroughly before disposing of them — they are highly inflammable, particularly when stored in a confined space.

02. June 2011 by admin
Categories: Decorating, Painting | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Decorating: Rag-Rolling a Wall


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