Crackle finish ceiling for a Scottsdale home
For this master bedroom ceiling in a Disney themed house, I painted a bright green base coat. Then I added a crackle medium and a light green top coat. As the crackle medium and the top coat dried, the bright green base coat began to show through the cracks forming in the top color.
Painting a crackle finish
When I was first asked about doing this job, I felt some concern. Partly because it had been maybe twenty years since I’d painted my last crackle finish. But mostly because it’s my least favorite finish to paint. And that’s because you get one shot at it.
Thinking back on my previous experience, I remembered I’d used a crackle medium by a company called Polyvine. And I’d not seen their products available locally for years. A bit of research uncovered a product by Valspar that’s available at Lowes. I already knew that I could use regular Elmers glue as a medium, so i experimented with both.
What I found was that the Valspar product is very liquid, not ideal for ceilings, and takes a while to become tacky – the recommended time to apply the top coat. The resulting finish when the top coat was rolled on was an even, non-linear cracking – like an overall crazy-paving pattern. Using a brush introduced a more linear crackle, but the crack thickness was also more even – it didn’t look like old cracked paint, it looked like a decorative finish. Not what the client was looking for.
I then experimented with Elmers white all-purpose glue and a wood glue. Using the wood glue produced no useable results but the Elmers offered a variety of textures. How thin I spread the glue, how long I allowed it to dry and how thick I applied the top coat, all affected the quality of the resulting crackle texture. in the end I found that applying an even coat of glue straight out of the container and applying the top coat with short brushstrokes in one direction within a couple of minutes, gave me the finish I needed.
Applying the finish to the ceiling worked best when I applied the glue in a roughly 9 foot square patch and brushed on the top coat before moving on to the next patch. As I continued the application across the ceiling I could see the previously painted areas cracking as they dried. Like writing in invisible ink appearing as it’s heated.
As I said at the beginning, applying a crackle finish is a one-shot process. If you overwork brushing on the top coat, the tendency is to mix the glue and paint together which eliminates the cracking caused by the different rates of drying of the two products. Depending on what you’re painting this may not be such a big issue, as part of the reason for the finish is to create an uneven aged look. However, I’d recommend doing some tests first so you find the look you want. And have fun. After all it’s only paint. Worst comes to the worst, you can paint it out and start again.