Ceiling and Wall Textures: Knockdown, Orange Peel, and More

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 12/14/21 •  8 min read

Most of us are familiar with a handful of ceiling and wall texture designs. But, if you dive into it, there’s actually a huge list of possibilities ranging from the easy and widespread to the rare and complex.

Whether you’re building a new space and thinking of adding some character to it, or renovating your home and need to replicate that unusual pattern on your ceilings, this article will help you run through the list of possibilities.

These are the most common textures you’ll find, but if you’re trying to be creative, don’t hesitate to keep searching or asking your drywall mudder if there are any new trends he’s seeing and able to pull off.

Who Applies Wall Textures? Can You DIY Wall Textures?

A wall texture is going to be applied by your drywall mudder, which is also the person you hire to tape and mud your freshly-hung drywall to hide the seams and screws.

Can you DIY a wall texture? While I’m always a fan of rolling up your sleeves and doing it yourself, drywall textures are one of those things that really need a professional. After several years of experience, drywall mudders are more like artists than tradespeople.

Strangely, drywall mudders are also fairly inexpensive to hire when compared to other tradespeople like electricians or plumbers, so hiring them to do apply your wall texture properly just makes sense.

With any artisanal craft, you will get good ones and bad ones though, so make sure to ask around for a referral or two. Other tradespeople or general contractors will know someone because once you find a good drywall mudder, you keep them in your contacts!

What is Knockdown Texture?

Knockdown Drywall Texture

Knockdown drywall texture is a favorite for those looking to add some depth to their walls in 2022. A knockdown texture can add a lot of depth into a room especially if it gets a lot of natural light.

How is Knockdown Texture Applied?

To apply knockdown texture, a drywall mud compound is sprayed onto the ceiling, allowed to dry for a certain amount of time, and then it’s “knocked down” with a trowel or knockdown knife.

Since this last step is done by hand, the result can vary based on the drywall mudder you hire, so you may want to ask for photos of previous work if you’re very specific about the result you want.

With that said, when speaking to the mudder who is going to apply a knockdown texture, engage them and ask their advice on how to fine-tune it to look best. They’ll likely have some advice to help you achieve the look you’re going for that will also match your space, and be able to better able to get the result you’re looking for.

Knockdown drywall requires final painting to make the color even.

What is Orange Peel Drywall Texture?

Something like citrus rind, orange peel texture has a bumpy and faux pitted look to it. It’s smooth looking, yet bumpy all a the same time.

How is Orange Peel Texture Applied?

Also known as a “splatter coat,” an orange peel texture is applied the same way as knockdown, it simply skips the last step of being troweled down.

With that said a very thin mud is usually used in contrast to knockdown as none is removed with a standard knockdown knife.

What is Popcorn Texture?

Also commonly known as “cottage cheese,” “snow tex,” “acoustic ceiling,” or “regular stipple.”

The popcorn texture was originally designed to hide bad joints and subpar taping jobs in the ceiling and became very popular from the 90’s on as builders began pumping out “high-density” suburbs full of townhomes and semis.

In these Tract housing developments, popcorn ceilings are far more cost-effective and time-efficient than even flat ceilings because it hides so many surface imperfections.

The fact that it’s everywhere, and incredibly hard to clean means it gets a lot of hate from homeowners nowadays, and requests to take it down usually outnumber requests to put it up. For this reason, I don’t recommend putting up a fresh popcorn texture on any home you’re trying to sell later on. Go for something with less of a stigma.

How is Popcorn Ceiling Texture Applied?

Popcorn ceilings use a special compound, which consists of a mud mixture containing small styrofoam bits. After adding water, and mixing it up to the desired consistency, the mixture is simply sprayed onto the ceiling evenly with a drywall hopper gun attached to an air compressor. It’s quick and easy.

Knockdown VS. Orange Peel Texture

Many homeowners confuse knockdown texture and orange peel texture, and it’s no wonder they are very similar.

So, Is knockdown the same as orange peel? No. Although both orange peel and knockdown textures give you an enhanced aesthetic appeal, they’re quite different from one another.  Orange peel texture resembles the rind of an orange, with a bumpier surface than a knockdown texture, which almost looks flattened down in comparison.  The mud thickness is also a little different for each texture, as mentioned above, and of course, orange peel is not smoothed out with a knockdown knife.

Here’s a look at them both side-by-side to help you see the difference:

knockout vs. orange peel wall texture

The orange peel textured ceiling is a little more subtle than knockdown but both are a modern look when done well.

Orange Peel VS. Popcorn Texture

While it’s easy to distinguish knockdown texture from its flattened-out feel, both the popcorn and orange peel textures are quite bumpy thanks to their sprayed-on application.

So, how do you know if you have orange peel vs. popcorn on your ceiling or wall? Popcorn texture is very rough and prickly to the touch and the bumps are all small little bits. Orange peel on the other hand has bumps of varying sizes.

Here’s a side-by-side picture to help illustrate what I mean by that:

Popcorn vs. orange peel texture

Other Types of Ceiling Textures

Fish Scale

Fish scale ceiling texture

I have this ceiling pattern in my 1986 bungalow (pictured above), and I didn’t let Dan remove it because it’s so unique and rare to find. It is dated, however, the height of its popularity being roughly in the late 1970’s early 1980’s. Often these ceilings featured these swirly light fixture focus spots (which you can see in this photo).

I think it’s beautiful because it’s so unique, and in a home with low ceilings like our bungalow, I find it adds enough ceiling interest to keep the room from feeling too boxed in.

Stomped Ceiling Texture

Stomped ceiling texture

Stomped ceiling texture, also known as “crow’s foot” (and rosebud in cases where no heavy overlapping is maintained), uses a patterned slap brush that’s pressed into the drywall compound to “stomp” it into a pattern. The result is that the drywall mud looks like it has little spiderwebs or flower prints all over it.

Swirl Ceiling Texture

This pattern uses a texturing brush and a skilled hand to create roughly sketched swirls. This is where drywall mudders really get to show off their artistic flair.

Venetian Texture

Harkening back to very old techniques, Venetian texture starts with a mixture of plaster and marble dust being applied in a thin layer several times over. The final layer is then sanded and buffed to give the surface a textured, yet completely smooth feeling and appearance. The result is a very intentional and rich look and feel that adds a lot of dimension to your ceiling or walls.

Flat Ceiling Texture

Of course, one option that is available is to just have no texture. Flat ceilings are very clean-looking, but you will also need a good drywall mudder to pull this off because your seams and joints need to be well-done or they will show through the final product.

Textured Ceiling Boarder

ceiling texture border

One last option, but perhaps the most difficult one on this list, is to do a ceiling border, where the inside is textured, or flat, and the outside border is the opposite.

This option will take more care and skill to pull off, so hire and budget accordingly.

Is a Textured Ceiling Outdated?

Textured ceilings, in particular popcorn ceilings, have started to feel outdated. This is mostly true because it was so common in tract housing the last few decades.

That said, what’s old always gets refreshed, and you can use the more modern styles of texture, like a knockout texture, or historical textures, like Venetian, to give your space character without the bad reputation.

Should Wall and Ceiling Texture be the Same?

Just by scrolling this page, which doesn’t even provide an exhaustive list of all the available textures, it’s easy to see there are a ton to choose from. If you’re thinking you might like to try some textured drywall in your space, this can quickly leave your head spinning.

One logical question that would help narrow down your choice is, should wall and ceiling textures should be the same? No, usually not while there’s decor police to tell you you can’t have the same ceiling and wall texture, the best practice is to have some contrast between the color and texture of your walls and ceilings. Usually, in 2022, this means a textured wall and flat ceilings, or vice-versa.

Visually separating the wall to the ceiling will give a room stronger lines and a larger feel. If the walls and ceilings are textured in the same style, it can make them blend into each other and cause the room to feel small and cluttered. 

thewriteDuffy

April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books. She has a diploma in journalism and a post-graduate diploma in book and magazine publishing.