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How to Rag On or Rag Off a Faux Paint on a Wall

By Edited Jan 20, 2015 1 0
Ragging On Paint Designs
Credit: Opensource

Ragging a wall is a technique that you have probably never heard of, but you would probably recognize it if you saw it in a home. It creates a textured look that is sometimes referred to as faux painting. It is a good choice for walls that are rough or uneven because it hides imperfections better than paint alone.

The process of ragging, or rag rolling, is really not all that complicated. Ragging on is an additive technique because the rag is used to roll the paint/glaze mixture over a base coat to achieve a textured, random effect.

Ragging off is the opposite in that it is a way to subtract color from a second coat to reveal more of the base coat. A related process known as “stippling ” is another way to subtract by using a tool called a stipple brush.

While all of the techniques can be used to hide imperfections, you will still need to thoroughly prep the wall before beginning the priming and painting process.

Before You Begin

Before you begin to rag or stipple, you will need the following items:

  • Based coat latex paint
  • Second coat of latex paint in a different color
  • Latex glaze
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Lint-free cotton rags, several old t-shirts or a cheesecloth
  • Measuring cup
  • Paint bucket marked for measurement
  • Ladder
  • Roller with extension pole
  • Edging paint brush
  • Rubber bands
  • Paint tray for roller
  • Latex gloves
  • Stipple brush (if applicable)

Base Coat

The process will require a base coat on a well-prepped wall free of defects and imperfections. Make sure you have filled any holes with putty or surface compound, then lightly sand the area with 120 grit paper. Wipe the wall with a damp cloth to remove any leftover dust.

Next, apply blue painter’s tape around the trim and ceiling corners, and remove any wall or receptacle outlet covers.  Place a drop cloth on the floor and tape to the baseboard.

  1. If the wall has never been painted, prime it first. You may tint the primer slightly by adding a small amount of the base coat color to the primer. If the paint on the existing wall is an oil based paint, use a stain blocking primer.
  2. After the primer dries, apply a base coat.
  3. After the base coast dries, examine it with full natural light to make certain there are no light spots in the color. If so, apply a second coat. Normally, if you tinted the primer, a second coat will not be necessary.

Mixing the Second Coat and the Glaze

While your base coat dries, you can create your second coat by mixing the second color you chose and the glaze color. The glaze will make the second color more translucent and will slow down the time it takes the paint to dry.

The standard ratio is one part paint to four parts glaze. The higher the proportion of glaze, the longer it takes the paint to dry so take that into consideration if time is an issue. Experiment with different ratios in disposable cups then test them on a spare piece of wood or drywall using the rag on or rag off process.

Ragging On

The process of ragging on is an addictive technique because it rolls the second mixture over the base coat for a unique design.

  1. Prime your rag by submerging it in water, then wringing it out. A damp rag will absorb the glaze mixture better.
  2. Wrap the cotton rag around a nap roller and slip rubber bands on the ends to hold it to the roller. Make sure you hide the rubber bands in the creases of the rag so their patterns do not appear on the wall.
  3. Pour a small amount of your paint/glaze mixture that you prepared in the previous step into the roller tray.
  4. Saturate the rag with the mixture by rolling it around the tray, then apply it to the wall by rolling in an up and down motion at a slight angle to avoid creating columns or lines in the wall.
  5. After rolling a large enough segment of the wall, move away from the wall to get a long view in natural light to make sure you are not leaving any roller patterns.
  6. After you have rolled on the entire wall, remove the painter’s tape from the edges and allow the rest of the wall to dry.
Shur-Line 08500 One Coater Roller Set, 9-Piece
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Ragging Off

Ragging off is considered a subtractive method because it removes more of the second color while it is still wet. After following the same process above for the prep, base coating of the wall and mixing of the second color and glaze mixture, do the following steps to rag off:

  1. Using an edging brush, brush the glaze mixture into the corners of the walls  making 3 inch strips in the places where it will difficult for the roller to get to. However, only do about 5 feet of area at a time so the glaze does not dry.
  2. Roll the glaze on that area of the wall using a short-napped roller in 2 to 3 foot wide diagonal strips on the wall. Use a top to bottom motion. Be sure to roll into cut-in areas where you used the paint brush to remove any potential brush marks.
  3. Work quickly because the glaze can dry in as little as 20 minutes, depending on the amount you used in the color/glaze mixture.
  4. Roll a rag into a cylinder shape and roll it along the wall in the glazed areas before it dries.  Start at the bottom of the wall and work your way up with a step ladder if necessary. The wrinkles in the rag will form patterns on the wall as it removes portions of the glaze.
  5. As the rag becomes covered with paint/glaze, turn it inside out and roll it back into a cylinder and continue. When the rag becomes completely covered on both side, switch to a new rag.

How to Rag Paint a Wall


The process of stippling is also a process of subtracting the second mixture to reveal more of the base coat, just in a slightly different way using a stipple brush to create a different texture.

  1. Allow the base coat to dry, then mix and apply the glaze using a short-napped roller.
  2. To create the stipple effect, use a stipple brush to pounce or bounce along the wall on the glazed surface before it dries. As you dab with the brush, you are removing some of the second color leaving a texture look.
  3. Work from the top down making sure to use the same pressure on your bounce as you go along the wall. This process will take much longer than the first two methods because you have to cover (pounce on) every inch of the wall so the effect is universal.
  4. When the brush becomes clogged with glaze, use a spare rag to wipe away the excess from the brush. You will need to do this after every 6 or 7 pounces for the look to remain consistent.


Prepping and priming the wall is crucial to getting a professional look. Each method of faux painting will accomplish the goal of creating a unique look to any wall, so the one you choose will depend on your personal taste.

Mix different combinations of paint and glaze first, then practice ragging them  on or off to see how they will look on the base coat before you begin the entire wall.

Rust-Oleum Zinsser 4204 1-Quart Blend and Glaze, Latex
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(price as of Jan 19, 2015)


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