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I am taking down several items hung on our walls; this will leave about two dozen holes ranging from small nail holes to anchor holes about 3/8" in diameter. I am looking for a way to fill these holes that will look reasonable without painting – we have no matching paint, the walls have other imperfections, and the space is destined for a full paint job sometime in the not too distant future anyway.

It's a finished living space and the walls are drywall painted off-white. The point is to avoid attention-grabbing holes and have a finish and color match that's reasonable but by no means perfect (i.e., if it's noticeable from a foot or two away, that's fine, but noticeable from across the room is bad).

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

For small holes like you describe, I'd use Light Weight Spackle rather than standard vinyl Spackle. The Light Weight Spackle is very easy to apply, will almost disappear in small pin holes, and you can smooth it off with a damp cloth apx 15 minutes after application. using a damp cloth also removes excess Spackle from surrounding paint so the only patch material is in the hole, not on the surrounding paint. You can get small sample size containers of paint at HD or Lowes for a couple of bucks. Pick a close color from the cards and touch up your fixes without having to buy a gallon of paint.

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After filling a few holes: Light weight spackle works fine. (It did seem like I was buying an empty tub compared to regular spackle.) It doesn't cover up colors from within the wall super well (e.g., gray bits of paper from the drywall), and it's quite a lot brighter than the paint. So my goal of not requiring painting is probably not workable, unfortunately. –  Reid Oct 24 '11 at 1:34
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I would just get a small container of vinyl spacking and go for it. Maybe open one in the store and see if its too white. You could check the mistake bin for some off white paint to mix in.

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+1, also spackle can be coloured to match the wall, although it will be rather hard. –  sharptooth Oct 18 '11 at 6:15
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A quick fix for small holes is to use a bit of tooth paste. It dries very hard and can be touchedup with paint

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I'm pretty sure this is why all the dorm rooms have a minty fresh smell on move-out day. –  BMitch Oct 19 '11 at 1:30
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