Everything You Need to Know About Limewash Paint

Learn how to channel the dreamy, romantic homes of Italy using this painting technique.

daybed with neutral-colored throw pillows and a woven rug
Photo: Courtesy of Pure and Original paints

You may not have realized it at the time, but chances are you've seen limewash paint on the walls of some of the most envy-inducing rooms on your Instagram feed. This type of paint, which has been around for thousands of years and was used to create some of the most famous Frescos in Italy, is made up from crushed limestone that's been heated and mixed with water to form a paste. Companies now also mix in natural pigments. It's been steadily gaining in popularity in the past couple of years, and that's not just due to the fact that it's non-toxic and contains zero VOCs (read: it's eco-friendly). More and more homeowners are choosing limewash paint for their spaces because of its ability to create texture and add depth to walls. Perhaps best of all, limewash paint requires little more work than regular paint does.

Thinking about bringing this romantic, old-world style into your own home? To help you decide if you it's the right finish for you, consider what what the experts have to say about this type of mineral-based paint.

Why should you use limewash paint?

Stylistically, this paint can transform even the most flat and boring drywall. "The natural, brush-applied limewash dries to create a weathered patina with subtle movement and natural color variation that softens and streaks with age," explains Jamie Davis, co-founder and owner of Portola Paints. "In light colors the effect is generally pretty subtle, while in darker shades the movement and variation in color are more obvious." Limewash paint has a chalky, almost suede-like look, and the slight contrast in shade adds the depth you would get from a textured wall while still being physically flat.

Which spaces will limewash paint work best in?

While limewash paint can be used for both interior and exterior masonry and drywall applications like plaster, brick, cement, and stucco, it's best not to use it on wood or metal, says Davis. And though limewash is bacteria- and mold-resistant, thanks to the high pH level of the lime, Helene van Os, brand manager for Pure and Original, says, "If you're going to use limewash paint in a humid or high-trafficked area, make sure you protect it with a sealer, as lime is porous and more vulnerable to dirt and water." In addition to protecting against dirt and water, the expert says adding a sealer makes any limewashed walls easier to clean.

Is there a way to make limewash paint feel more modern?

Limewash paint has an inherent old-world vibe (blame it on the fact that it's been around for centuries), but that doesn't mean it can't work in a modern setting. "Limewash paint goes with so many styles—it's all about how you mix it in with other materials that are used in the room," says van Os. Davis says that achieving modernity with limewash all comes down to color. "The nature of the limewash causes colors to lighten up when applied, so achieving very dark or bright colors can be a challenge," he says. Luckily, many brands now offer a much wider range of colors—both custom and stock—than has traditionally been produced for limewash.

Is it harder to apply than regular paint?

"Since the paint is mineral you will, in most cases, need a coat of special primer for proper adherence," says van Os. From there, both van Os and Davis suggest using a four to six-inch block or stain brush for defining the perfect texture. It's also important to note that you can't apply limewash paint with a roller or spray. While van Os admits that the application of limewash requires a bit more "elbow grease" that regular paint, she says that once you know the dos and don'ts the technique is very easy to adopt.

A few more helpful tips from Davis include keeping a wet edge while working to avoid "lap" lines and remembering to cut in as you go. "Standard-sized walls and rooms are pretty easy," he assures. "The process gets a bit trickier if you are working in a room with coved ceilings or stair-walls." And for all those renters out there wondering if you can easily paint over limewash, you'll be pleased to know that you can. "A coat of special primer is needed before painting over it with regular paint, or you can paint over it with chalk-based paint and skip the primer," says van Os.

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