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Have you heard about roman clay? It’s a topic that’s been sparking interest in the world of interior design. Ancient Romans first discovered the method, and it’s now becoming popular again in modern home décor, thanks to companies like Portola Paints.

Gray accent wall in an office, featuring painted high-gloss accents, walls plastered in Roman Clay.

Roman Clay Paint: The Definition

So, what exactly is roman clay? Simply put, it’s a type of plaster from Portola Paints that gives walls, even fireplaces, a warm, textured, and earthy finish reminiscent of old Italian homes.

Made of natural clay, pigment, and lime putty, this paint has a unique texture and color profile that brings warmth and depth to any space, even bathrooms.

Roman Clay and Venetian Plaster: Are They the Same?

A common question often arises: Is roman clay the same as Venetian plaster?

In short, they are not exactly the same, despite having a few similarities.

Both roman clay and Venetian plaster serve as plaster finishes, which means you apply them in layers to give walls depth and texture. They’re also both traditional Italian finishes, harking back to the ancient Roman times.

But, here’s where they diverge: Venetian plaster, made with lime and marble dust, delivers a polished, shiny finish, while roman clay gives a matte, more earthy aesthetic.

So, while they share a common Italian heritage, the finished look of each is distinct and differs greatly. It’s a bit like comparing limewash vs roman clay or limewash vs Venetian plaster.

The Art of Making Roman Clay

Now, let’s talk about how you make roman clay.

The process is relatively simple but requires patience and a steady hand.

First, you’ll need to source your ingredients: natural clay, lime putty, and pigment.

Natural clay is what gives roman clay its distinctive texture and earthy color, lime putty helps with durability and longevity, and pigment allows you to customize the color of your paint to fit your design vision.

Next, you’ll need to mix your ingredients together until you achieve a thick, creamy consistency. This is a critical step because it ensures that your paint will apply smoothly and evenly.

How Many Coats of Roman Clay?

Process of roman clay application on accent wall

After you’ve made your paint, how many coats of roman clay should you apply?

The answer to this depends on the look you’re going for, but generally, two coats are recommended.

The first coat is your base layer and provides an initial layer of texture.

After this layer dries, a second coat is applied to enhance the depth and texture of the finish.

Between each coat, it’s essential to lightly sand the surface to ensure an even application. This applies whether you’re working on a roman clay wall, a roman clay fireplace, or even using roman clay on textured walls.

And there you have it, you’ve now beautifully covered your wall in roman clay paint, bringing a piece of Roman history into your home.

Remember, roman clay isn’t just a type of wall finish, it’s a way to bring a piece of history, culture, and nature into your home.

It provides an opportunity to create unique, textured clay walls that stand out and create a warm, inviting atmosphere.

So the next time you’re considering a home renovation project, why not consider roman clay?

It’s not only beautiful but also sustainable and natural, embodying the best of ancient techniques in modern design.

Remember to do your research and understand the process thoroughly, and you’ll end up with a finish that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but also rich in history and character. You could even try a DIY roman clay project!

The Effect of Roman Clay

Modern interior wall finished in roman clay

So, what effect does roman clay paint have? This is an essential aspect to consider when choosing your wall finish.

Roman clay paint provides an earthy, matte finish that adds texture and depth to your walls.

It has a highly tactile surface that brings a rich sense of heritage and character to any space.

Unlike other paint finishes that are flat and uniform, roman clay paint creates a dynamic and visually interesting wall finish.

Its natural ingredients give it a warm, earthy look, making your home feel cozy and inviting.

Best Areas to Apply Roman Clay finish

Work in progress on accent fireplace with Roman clay

Where does roman clay paint work best in the home?

You can apply Roman clay paint anywhere in the house; however, it truly shines in spaces where a textured, earthy aesthetic is desired.

Living rooms, hallways, and bedrooms are perfect candidates for roman clay paint. These areas typically have large wall spaces that can showcase the beautiful texture and color of the roman clay paint.

The Difference between Limewash, and Roman Clay

Now, let’s look at the difference between limewash and roman clay.

Criteria Roman Clay Limewash
Composition Natural clay, pigment, lime putty Slaked Lime, water
Finish Earthy, matte Weathered, slightly translucent, aged
Texture Highly textured Smooth to slightly textured
Durability Durable with sealer, resistant to wear and tear Highly durable, wears over time
Maintenance Low with sealing, requires occasional resealing Low, easy to touch up
Change Over Time Stable, does not change Changes due to weathering
Application Areas Anywhere, especially where textured look is desired Suitable for both interiors and exteriors
Environmental Impact Sustainable and natural Eco-friendly, allows walls to breathe

Like roman clay, limewash is a type of wall finish made from natural materials.

Craftsmen have used slaked lime and water to create limewash as a wall finish for thousands of years.

However, while both limewash and roman clay have a rich history and natural composition, they differ in their aesthetic finish.

Limewash provides a weathered, aged look that is slightly translucent and changes over time due to the weathering process.

On the other hand, roman clay provides a solid, matte finish that is highly textured and does not change over time.

Sealing Roman Clay Paint

Lastly, how do you seal roman clay paint?

Sealing roman clay paint is essential for enhancing its durability and protecting it from damage.

After the final paint coat dries, apply a special sealer or wax to the roman clay.

This sealer or wax is rubbed into the clay paint’s surface and buffed to a sheen.

This action seals the paint’s porous surface, protecting it from moisture and dirt, and enhances its beauty.

This is vital in areas like kitchens or bathrooms, where the wall may contact moisture or dirt.

Sealing your roman clay paint ensures that your beautiful wall finish will last for years to come.

By following these steps, you’ll have a home with walls that are not only stunning but also filled with depth, history, and character.


Does Roman clay need to be sealed?

Yes, roman clay paint should be sealed after application. Sealing enhances its durability and protects it from moisture and dirt.

How long does Roman clay take to apply?

The application time for roman clay paint varies based on the size of the space, but generally, it takes a few hours per coat. Between each coat, drying time is also needed.

How do you make Roman clay paint?

Roman clay paint is made by combining natural clay, lime putty, and pigment. These ingredients are mixed until a thick, creamy consistency is achieved, which can then be applied to the walls.

Can you make your own Roman clay?

Yes, you can make your own Roman clay paint. You’ll need to source natural clay, lime putty, and pigment, and then mix these ingredients together until you achieve the desired consistency.

How long does Roman clay take to dry?

Each coat of Roman clay paint typically takes about 12 to 24 hours to dry fully, depending on the conditions such as temperature and humidity.

What is Roman clay used for?

Roman clay is primarily used as a wall finish in interior design. It’s admired for its textured, matte finish and earthy aesthetic that adds depth and character to any space.

If you’re intrigued by Roman Clay paint and its aesthetic appeal, and you’re located in Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Sammamish, or nearby areas, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re experienced applicators ready to help transform your space.

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