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I have the swirly-tiny(stress the tiny)-bump texture on my ceiling on the first floor. I will be doing some major drywall repairs on the ceiling and would like tips on how to replicate the pattern. Doesn't have to be exact but would like it to be pretty consistent.

It is not a popcorn ceiling at all. It feels like sand was mixed with paint and it has a random swirl with the pattern where you end up seeing "rainbows" of about 6 inches.

The swirl pattern whatever... I will just do what I can with that. However how do I get the sandy pattern so even?

Also mudding between new drywall and texture. Should I scrape the existing drywall down a bit before mudding?

  • 1
    A photo would be worth more than a thousand words.
    – wallyk
    Sep 24, 2013 at 18:52
  • Personally, my suggestion is to get rid of the texture. Either replace all the drywall if you're repairing a large area, or knock down the high spots and apply a skim coat over everything.
    – BMitch
    Sep 24, 2013 at 21:31
  • @BMitch - would love to do that. But sounds like a TON of work. It is only a texture if you are trying to see the texture. Will upload picture tonight. I thought about skimming it but I am pretty sure it is 2-3 days work for really no gain. I knocked down two walls - reason for some of the new ceiling - so everything runs into each other meaning the whole floor minus bedrooms would have to be skimmed.
    – DMoore
    Sep 24, 2013 at 22:15
  • 2
    Oh, yea, that's different than what I was thinking you see on older ceilings (the scallop look). Wild guess...but I'm guessing that was done with a sloppy plaster mix and 'twirled' on with a plasterers brush: google.com/search?q=plasterers+brush
    – DA01
    Sep 25, 2013 at 3:29
  • 1
    We need the construction date, and ceiling type (drywall, plaster) to best answer.
    – Bryce
    Oct 30, 2013 at 3:28

4 Answers 4


That is in fact a "sand finish", your intuition was right.

Now depending on the age of the house it could be sand added to the plaster, added to the mud, or a "sand finish" paint. The last is your best hope of matching, as you would drywall it all smooth then simply use brushstrokes to recreate the pattern. There are premixed sand paints amazingly enough.

When I've seen this done with wallboard mud, they have a mixer on site to stir every so often (the sand settles slower than blueberries). A quick google search reveals a number of pros complaining about how hard sand finishes are to match. Practice practice practice, on some scrap drywall.

Using a piece you cut off the ceiling for repair, try to figure out what layer the sand was added at (plaster, top coating on drywall, paint).

  • So if I buy a sand paint, I would just give it a once over with ceiling paint to match color - assuming the sand paint doesn't look exactly the same?
    – DMoore
    Oct 31, 2013 at 13:48
  • You buy sand, and mix it yourself, to match. The sand will project through future paint layers. The sand can be in the mud or the paint.
    – Bryce
    Apr 24, 2014 at 19:18
  • "the sand settles slower than blueberries" -- are blueberries known to settle quickly? I'm confused what this comparison is intending to convey.
    – Doktor J
    May 24, 2018 at 15:28

It sounds like you have a mud swirl pattern on your ceiling. These can be difficult to match an existing pattern to a repair.

Practice matching the pattern on scrap pieces of drywall by changing the consistency of the mix (thicker or looser) as well as how the mix applied until the pattern is replicated. Practice will enable a good match when it comes time to do the real thing.

You might need a stiff brush on a swivel to replicate the pattern as well.

If you are making repairs and don't like the pattern, just skim coat the entire ceiling and make it smooth, or apply a new pattern over the entire ceiling to make it uniform and consistent.

  • 3
    Here's a video showing how the swirl texture is put onto a wall. But I don't know how you'd blend it into a repair.
    – Johnny
    Oct 25, 2013 at 20:45
  • @Johnny Here's a idea but don't know how well it would work blending, since you "stack" the swirls could you tape the one you want it to look like you are going "under"? You could go over a little bit so it will not have a weird gap. If the consistency is right, then this will be fairly easy if you tape it out I would think. The hard part is the consistency. Oct 25, 2013 at 21:17
  • @Johnny - good video. I think I can work out the blending I hope. Have you done this before and how do you keep the sand consistency? Doesn't it want to sink in the paint? I am thinking about making blueberry pancakes and the blueberries are at the bottom of the batter.
    – DMoore
    Oct 29, 2013 at 22:31

This is simple. It's a swirl finish using a rolled on taping compound and then swirled with a brush. After, it was painted with a sand paint finish. Its tricky to patch but if you try to match up with some of the swirl patterns. To even them after the compound is dry take a wet sponge and work the edge where it meets the old. Done this before with good results.


I bought the "sand" mix-in from Home Depot. I added to plaster spackling compound. It wasn't quite gritty enough, so I grabbed some sandy-type soil and sifted it in my kitchen... Then added to my compound. I used a straight edged razor and a hand-held planer to remove the terrible previous repairs. IMPORTANT: THE SCRAPING OFF SHOULD MAINTAIN THE DIRECTION OF THE TEXTURE AS IT HELPS TO GUIDE REPAIR. I used a small hand-held plaster trowel to apply the compound in areas where it needed extra fill. To get the texture right, I then used an old 2 1/2" paint brush that was stiff from not being cleaned correctly. I also had a similar small artistic brush in case I had to maintain the pattern near the moulding, corners of wall or floor. I also had a cup of warm water that I used to apply to the wall before I scraped it and then again when I repaired it. It helps! I had also purchased the spray on texture that comes in several forms... Except the sandy plaster type. After I applied my compound, I sprayed some of this on the area and then used my brush. It really helped to avoid clumps, make the compound stick where it didn't want to... So I'm going back over previous repairs using more of this! Good luck... Not a lot of people talk about this. By the way, I used a paint mixer in my drill to stir it up. Don't worry about too much water, you can easily pour it off or it dries pretty quickly, but not to the point where you cannot use it! I also made 2 separate batches for the same wall... SUCCESSFULLY! Trust your eyes!

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