Learn How to Paint 

with James Alexander Limewash

Limewash paint creates a soft and subtle wall finish with movement and beauty that is unique due to its mineral limestone composition. 

We invite you you to explore our methods for painting with this romantic old world finish that's making a resurgence on modern walls.

Because our authentic limewash is a pure mineral finish, and not a standard wall paint with added binders, there are specific ways that your surface must be prepared. We will review these methods here.

Getting Started

For those of you that just want the basics and are  ready to get started, we'll include the surface and materials selection information with info-graphics near the top section of this page. More detailed instructions are provided as you continue down the page

Limewash painting is a broad subject and this page is not comprehensive. Please feel free to contact us if you have questions!

Step 1. Find your system

It is important to determine what primers and topcoats may be best suited for your project. This will depend on what type of wall surface that you are painting and the end use. We have broken most common applications into four "systems" as a reference to select the priming and finishing materials you'll need.

First, find your application in this first info-graphic and you will then be able to refer to the corresponding graphic below on this page to create your project material list.

Step 2. Review your limewash system below

Okay! Now you should know which of the four surfaces your project falls into. Review the corresponding systems below to help determine what you'll need for your project.

Limewash Paint System for Interior Drywall

This is the most common system for interior surfaces that are lower-contact. The finish does not include the matte sealer topcoat as a final step. It is a more flat and delicate finish than the sealed finish, but it will be absolutely flat. This is our most popular finish for interior walls.

The densifier added into the final coat of limewash provides a surface that reduces chalkiness that is typical of pure mineral limewash finishes. This finish level is typically best suited for bedrooms and lower-contact living area walls and ceilings. If you are painting higher contact areas, you will likely want to add the sealer shown on the below system for higher contact areas.

The densifier step can be skipped if your surface will not be touched or contacted.

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Limewash Paint System for High Contact Interior Drywall

For higher contact interior walls such as hallways and areas that may need some wipe-ability, consider the High-Contact system. This adds a topcoat of our Matte Sealer. Interior sealer is best applied over Densified limewash because the densified limewash is easier to finish consistantly with the sealer. 

You will want to determine whether higher-touch locations are better maintained by creating this wipe-able surface, or if touch up coats of limewash whenever needed will be better for you. Once sealer is applied, touch up coats will become more challenging. 

Sealer can also change the color of the limewash finish and will add a slight sheen. Always complete a mock-up test before applying to your wall to ensure that this finish is suitable to your design goals.

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Limewash for Non-Sealed Masonry, Plaster, and Concrete

Limewash is naturally suited to the open pore structure of most non-polished cementitious and plaster walls. This means that you will not need to apply a primer before finishing with limewash. It is suitable both for interior and exterior surfaces and provides a completely breathable, non-peeling surface that is UV stable.

Limewash slowly wears from masonry and plaster exterior surfaces over time rather than peeling as film-forming paints do. This creates the desirable limewash patina over time. It can be refreshed from time-to-time with a freshening coat to maintain a bright appearance. 

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Limewash Paint System for Sealed or Painted Masonry

Limewash can be applied on interior surfaces over previously sealed, polished, and painted masonry, concrete, and plaster if you prime the surface first.

Some sealed surfaces will be coated with a clear sealer and if you want this color to show-through your limewash, you will want to use our Lime-Prep Clear Primer to facilitate this effect.

Please note that our Limewash products are not suited for refinishing floors or countertops.

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More information, how-to, and tips

James Alexander Limewash Paints can be used for a variety of decorative wall finishes. Our standard application is the most common and provides a nearly opaque finish with subtle variation and texture. The methods and tips on this page are aimed to provide a straightforward introduction guide to the application of our limewash paint products.

With lime mineral paint, always paint on an absorbent mineral surface such as exposed masonry, or apply our Lime-Prep Primer to create a micro absorbent surface. This step will allow your paint to "stick" and develop its proper color to common wall materials such as gypsum board.

James Alexander Limewash Paints are best applied with a large block style brush that can hold a good quantity of material. The James Alexander Limewash Brush is a blend of bristle types which provides ideal workability for our paints. There are multiple ways to finish limewash for specific distinctive lime paint looks.

Standard and opaque finishes

The standard wall application method is to apply 2 to 3 coats of James Alexander Limewash Paint over a coat of Lime-Prep Primer. This will create the typical soft and lightly textural limewash wall finish. On the final coat, the mix-in densifier will be used if you are using the paint in an area where the wall will be touched to reduce the chalky finish. 

Our Limewash Sealer can be applied over limewash with or without the Densifier additive, but is easier to apply over the densified finish.

Our lime paint is a thinner consistency than latex paint and coats will typically apply faster and spread further. 

It is important to spread the paint as far as it will naturally go and not attempt to apply in a thick coating to attempt to build up the paint. Additional thin coats will provide a better finish than trying to apply in thick coats. 

Due to the painterly look of limewash paint which is influenced by brushing style, painting a sample mock-up board with two or more coats in advance of starting your project can be very valuable as you can learn how your brush pattern will look and can make adjustments in advance of starting the project.

Standard wall application:

  1. For the first coat, apply at full strength and spread each amount applied as far as it will go. Application should not be perfect and you should try not to over-brush. Overbrushing or overworking can happen by simply brushing too much or by working back over areas and to touch-up. The first coat should not provide good coverage since limewash paint is applied in very thin coats and you should start to see the look develop as the second coat dries.
  2. Generally, limewash is applied in the four following general brushstroke patterns: crosshatch, random, vertical, or horizontal. Each will create a bit of a different effect as limewash paint will show some of the effect of the brushstroke pattern as the material dries. It's a great idea to experiment with different brushstroke patterns on a sample sheet of gypsum board to determine which look you like best. There are no rules to brush pattern and method. You are the artist, be expressive! 
  3. Each person paints limewash paint slightly differently and overbrushing can create heavy mottling effects. Pre-wetting the wall just before application of the final coat of limewash by spraying or brushing water on the surface can help create a more smooth, pillowy look to the brushtrokes. Dipping the tip of your brush in water between dips in the limewash to create some dilution can create a similar effect. Be careful not to spray over finished limewash or apply so much water as to cause rundown as these can both cause water spotting.
  4. After the first coat is dry and beginning to cure (overnight is best, but not required), apply a second coat. The second layer typically will use more limewash paint than the first layer, even as you spread the paint thinly over the surface. This is due to increased absorption into the initial layer of lime paint. The second layer typically provides a much more opaque finish layer.
  5. Additional applications typically will not create a darker finish, just more coverage. Each application of lime paint should be applied thinly and without over-brushing.

Semi transparent & tone-on-tone limewash finishes

One or two applications of various dilution ratios will create a semi-transparent finish. James Alexander Limewash Paint can be diluted with water up to 300 percent of volume to create a nearly transparent wash effect. This is a standard dilution ratio for wood-wash finishes. "Tone on tone" is the effect of starting with a base coat (usually two applications) of a generally deeper color and painting a water-thinned coat of a lighter color as a third coat. This creates a higher contrast and greater depth-of-finish. A common way to create the lighter tone is to add 25% white (Bianca color) to your base color and 10%-20% water. The base color is painted with a third coat of this lighter version of the color to create the effect.

Applications of slightly differently tinted lime paints using various layering techniques can create mottled and unique finishes. We find the best results usually start with a darker shade and overlay with a lighter shade. Similar colors often work well together and contrasting colors can create a high-contrast effect.

Distressed limewash finishes

Applications of lime paint that are sprayed with water and/or wiped off with a cloth or scrubbing pad, or plastic bristle brush as the material is just dry/setting will create a distressed or aged finish. This effect is typically used to create an aged look on masonry surfaces.

Creating custom colors

While we do not offer custom color matching, mixing two or more colors can create a custom blend and all James Alexander Limewash colors are compatible for blending together to create custom colors. One of the most common adjustments is to create a slightly lighter or darker verson of a color that you like. 

This can be accomplished by adding either a white (Bianca Color) or deep gray color (La Columba) to your selected limewash paint color. You can experiment in small quantities by using a tablespoon measure to adjust your limewash color. For example, you like the color Grano Scuro but you want a slightly darker version of that color. 

You might stir together the following mixture in a small mixing cup:

1 tablespoon of La Columba Limewash Paint (deep gray color)

5 tablespoons of Grano Scuro Limewash Paint (Yellow Color)

With this method, you can create many color swatches with variations of your favorite colors to lighten or darken them to your desired tone.

Tips and application essentials

There are some specific methods that we find essential to produce the best results. For those of you who are familiar with staining wood, many of the same principals apply.

1. Make sure that if your surface to paint isn't naturally absorbent (unfinished/non-sealed masonry, wood, concrete, or plaster), that you do apply Lime-Prep Primer before painting with lime paint. Please note that some bare wood surfaces can be damaged by direct application of lime paint without first applying a sealer to the wood. Contact customer support if you have questions about proper prep or apply to a test area to determine suitability.

2. James Alexander Lime Paint must be brushed for best results. Lime paint will apply faster with a brush than other paint, as it is a thin material compared to acrylic paints.

3. Apply in very thin layers (usually 2-3) with a block style brush and review as you go to make sure to clean up any "drips/runs" as you go on the wall surface. Only after it dries will you be able to see the build and color (it will appear much darker and more transparent when wet). Generally, work fairly quickly with light flowing brushstrokes. Overworking or applying pressure while brushing can create excessive mottling or lift material from prior coats.

4. Maintain a "wet edge" and paint from one side of the surface to the other. Another method is the cloud technique and involves painting random "clouds" of lime paint and then blending the clouds into each other. Maintaining a wet edge is still required with the cloud method. The entire wall must be painted once started or there will be a darker layering appearance at the stopping/starting point. The wall can be lightly misted with water at your edge to preserve the wet edge for longer working times.

5. Do not "cut-in" lime paint like a traditional paint as this will create undesirable layering effect. In other words, don't paint lines around the edges of the wall or around windows - and then paint in the main body of the wall at a later time.

6. Wait 24 hours between applications for most consistent results. If you want to coat with another layer sooner, you can do this once dry but it may lift some of the previous coat into your current application (reducing the thickness of the coating). We recommend lightly misting/spraying the surface immediately before applying the second coat and subsequent coats. This will allow the lime paint to spread more effectively over the prior coat. You can lightly mist the wall to dampen it after applying the second or final coat (once the surface appears visually dry). This can help with curing and may also increase color variation and softened look of the final finish. Do not wet wall to the point where water can run down the surface as this will cause water streaking.

7. If you decide to seal to create a wipeable surface, wait at least 48 hours after final application to apply James Alexander Limewash Sealer. Sealer is best suited over a densified limewash finish-coat for most consistant results. Make sure to use interior sealer for interior applications only. 

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Product Data Sheet for Specifiers