Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Venetian Gem Base Coat: 4 DIY Projects

These are a few of my favorite things!

(The Sound of Music, 20th Century Fox 1965)
When you carry a product line with over 400 things, there are a few goodies that slip between the cracks.  One of these is Venetian Gem Base Coat. This is a nice creamy but thick off-white plaster that is a great base for many finishes. 

Why is this, at first blush a rather bland looking product, one of my favorites? Well:

1) It tints so easy. I like using Setcoat but you can use any FE colorant including Stain & Seal. I've also used flat latex paint up to 25% per gallon.  In many cases a half a cup of color to a gallon is plenty.  The product is white so tinted material will look lighter while wet but dries about 40% darker.

2)  It is thick enough to roll or trowel to deliver good coverage in one coat.  I demonstrate a finish later in this post where I tint Venetian Gem Base Coat with two colors and trowel in one layer.  Then I glaze it-a quick pitted plaster finish.  Venetian Gem Base Coat dries to a matte finish which many clients like.

3) It dries slower then some of our other acrylic-based plasters making it a good base for shaping with rollers, combs, or brushes.

4) Because of the 3 traits mentioned above, Venetian Gem Base Coat is a cost effective base layer for more expensive products like Lusterstone or as a cost-effective product on it's own.

Finish One:  A Classic Pitted Plaster.

This is for the client that likes the look of troweled drywall. The product price is $64 per gallon but there are some advantages over a standard drywall type finish (at least the ones we were asked to do). In this finish the material is pre-tinted which means I don't have to trowel, sand, and then paint my surface before glazing.  Since the product is thicker, I get a pitted look rather then flat trowel lines in a single layer.  The product is flexible and tinted through-out so if it chips, which is hard to do, it will chip to color rather then white.  And it sands easily and produces very little dust. I've seen really nice dry wall finishes but this is a great alternative.

I added Off-White Setcoat to my Venetian Gem Base Coat and then divided into 2 parts. To one part, I added a little Italian Sienna and Dark Brown Faux Creme Colors.  I like working over a dark colored base and letting it be a another color in my finish but you could just use the Off-White Setcoat as your base. My base here is Royal Taupe Setcoat.

I buttered my steel blade with each of the colors separately and popped them on wet-into-wet.  It is easier to place the darker color first and then the lighter .  I work at least a 3'x3' area and then use the trowel to lightly blend the colors and soften the peaks. Don't over work the plasters because you want to see two colors, Some trowel lines are fine and add to the interest. This layer dries within 2 hours.

Next is glazing. I use a lot of Stain & Seal mixed with FX Thinner because the color is so rich and I usually have some left from cabinetry.  The key is to have a water bottle handy.  I brush on and then spritz with water while softening the glaze with a dry cloth or terry towel.  An added benefit is the water tends to "speckle" the stain which is a cool effect. Only work areas in sizes that you can reach to feather out the edge before working the next section.  And that's it. I rarely topcoat a wall unless the client specifically asks for it as this finish holds up really well in high traffic areas.

Finish Two: An Easy Grass Cloth

It's baaaack!

Since the first of January, we have had 4 requests to match grass cloth wallpaper. There are many approaches to this paper but this one works well on large walls where pulling a brush straight is almost impossible and back breaking.  And if it is a double entry or an angled ceiling? Do yourself a favor and stick with wallpaper.

For my sample, I just used the tan tinted Venetian Gem Base Coat and troweled a medium thick layer. It is fine to have trowel lines and even some of the base coat showing. On an 8foot wall, I will do this in one long strip. For other walls I trowel a strip that is manageable and then trowel my next section lapping areas.

Cut up a standard wallpaper brush into smaller sections that make it easier to hold and allows you to get into small wall areas.  "Whisk" the brush up and down rather then trying to pull in a single fluid stroke. And do this multiple times to vary the density.  This layer takes 1-2 hours to dry.

Trowel some Queen Anne's Lace Lustersuede on the finish. 

And then use a damp cloth to move the Lustersuede around. This minimizes chatter in this layer and gives you more coverage with the Lustersuede.

You could stop right here and have a pretty glass cloth.  I add the next layer (if a client will pay for it) for greater depth and it really hides any lap lines on large walls.  Butter your trowel with Antique Parchment Lustersuede.

Pop this over the dried surface in connecting areas. Then place your trowel flat and push it up and down and across-the Lustersuede is wetter then regular Lusterstone and will move.

You want to make sure and not have abrupt stop and start marks. And vary the width of areas to keep the finish from being "stripey."

Finish Three: Easy Embossed Leather or Wax Resist Look.

Start by rolling a coat of Venetian Gem Base Coat with a fluffy cloth roller.  I left this un-tinted.

I applied thinned Cherry Stain & Seal mixed with some American Walnut Stain & Seal (3 parts FX Thinner: 2 parts Cherry : 1/2 part American Walnut) over the dried base. I spritzed with water and removed with a dry cloth.

I always take a lot of my glaze color off.  When the glaze is dry (FX Thinner dries faster then other glaze mediums), select a pattern and tape it to the surface.  I chose a new pattern from Wallovers Stencils and troweled a layer of Venetian Gem Base Coat over the pattern.

Repeat the relief pattern over the surface.  When dry, I brushed another stain mix of 3 parts FX Thinner + 1 part American Walnut Stain + 1/4 part Rich Brown Stain and softened with a damp cloth.  This gives the look of an embossed leather or a wax resist effect.

Finish Four:  Using a roller

I like the Venetian Gem Base Coat as a medium for the specialty rollers because it is thicker then Lusterstone, more matte then Venetian Gem if you want a low luster look, and not as sticky as Softex.  I tinted this one with some Bronze Setcoat for a very low luster metallic.

After troweling a long vertical stripe, I roll the spots roller through the wet material. This is an easy roller to use because it is non-directional and can be turned on its side to get ceiling lines.  I roll lots of spots so I can lap sections easier.  Wipe the roller with a damp cloth in between rolls.

When this is dry, I rolled a coat of Leo Gold Metal Glow over the finish.  Metallics are a little tacky to roll.  I roll the Leo Gold and soften with a damp cloth as I go-this looks more like a glaze then a full coverage paint.  You can also thin your Metal Glow with glaze medium or extender if needed.

When the Metal Glow is dry, I brushed the Surface with the same American Walnut/Rich Brown Stain that I used above.

When this is finished, some people think it looks like hammered metal. Other people think it looks like Ostrich.

I guess it is the visual illusion of finishes, like this:

Do you see the finisher at her first class or the one that just finished a 1,000 foot ceiling?

In the end, as long as you see this:

then any of these finishes is a winner!


  1. LOVE these Rebecca!!!! Going out to base some sample boards since my job for this week got postponed.
    Looked at the Wallovers site and can't find that stencil. Great, though.
    Prob'ly need one of those ostrich rollers in my next order...
    (I see the finisher who just finished the ceiling.)

  2. These are new stencils from Wallovers so check the posting on their site.