How to Skim Coat & Smooth a Textured Wall Like a Pro!

How to skim coat & smooth a textured wall, drywall or ceiling! Easy DIY home improvement & remodel project. Detailed tutorial, video & best beginner tips!

Every time I walk by our bumpy orange peel textured wall with muddy beige color in our new home, I would envision a sparkling white smooth wall that is so serene and so beautiful…

bumpy orange peel textured wall

When we started our modern farmhouse IKEA kitchen remodel, we knew this wall must change! Luckily, smoothing a textured wall (aka skim coat) only requires a few simple tools and a little practice.

Working with drywall mud is totally new to me, yet I can honestly say that I really really enjoyed learning to skim coat! Can you tell we are in love with our NEW SMOOTH wall?!? And our DIY kitchen island? 🙂

* Some resources in article are affiliate links. Full disclosure here .

NEW SMOOTH wall in modern white kitchen with boho colorful farmhouse kitchen island
Our DIY kitchen island tutorial & free plan! Wall color: Sherwin Williams 7013 Whitetail | Kitchen island color: Sherwin Williams 6745 Lark Green

With just a little practice, it can get you into such a nice zen feeling, as you will see in the video tutorial below! I will share  all the tips and tricks so you can skim coat textured wall and ceiling easily, and have a great time doing it too! 

Check out the video tutorial or skip to written tutorial below!

Materials and tools to skim coat and smooth a textured wall or ceiling:

Materials and tools to skim coat and smooth a textured wall or ceiling
  • joint compound aka drywall mud: there are a few kinds, see Step 1 for tips on which one to use.
  • mud pan and taping knives: the smaller 6″ taping knife is great for mixing mud and skim coating small areas such as a window sill. The 12″ taping knife is great for covering large areas really fast.
  • Optional: Drywall Corner Tool for perfect 90 degree corner when applying drywall mud, such as where ceiling meets the wall
  • If you are using powdered mix or sanding drywall, make sure to wear masks and goggles.
How to skim coat & smooth a textured wall

People often ask: “Does drywall mud / joint compound need to be primed and painted?” The answer is yes! Because drywall mud finish is absorbent, it should be primed and painted right after the joint compound is dry. We love Sherwin Williams Wall & Wood primer and Emerald Latex paint, both are great quality and low VOC!

Step 1: mixing drywall mud / joint compound 

mixing drywall mud / joint compound

If you are just learning to skim coat, use the Joint compound that is premixed in a box or bucket. This type of drywall mud is finer, and takes longer to dry, which allows beginners plenty of time to get it right. It is SO much easier to work with! 

You can use this drywall mud as is, or mix in about 10% water to make it easier to spread, which I highly recommend. Use the 6″ taping knife to scoop some joint compound into the mud pan.

Mix the mud to a consistency of somewhere between a soft creamy peanut butter and mayonnaise. ( If this makes you hungry, a snack break is allowed! )

Mix the drywall mud to a consistency of somewhere between a soft creamy peanut butter and mayonnaise.

Note: Professionals would use quick set joint compound as the first coat, and the premixed kind as the fine finish coat so they can get the work done in one day. It’s much easier for a beginner like me to use the slow setting kind, and wait longer to apply the second coat.

Step 2: apply the first coat of mud onto the textured wall 

The biggest secret for a smooth skim coat is to keep the taping knife at about 10 degree angle to the wall, and don’t use too much pressure.  

Scoop the right amount of joint compound (about 2" thick and wide) onto the taping knife

Scoop the right amount of joint compound (about 2″ thick and wide) onto the taping knife, and apply it to the textured wall. Go slow at first until you are more familiar with the motions of each stroke.

If this is your first time skim coating, practice on a less important wall first! I could feel myself improving a lot during the first 2-3 days working on a wall for about an hour each day. 

apply the first coat of mud onto the textured wall

When you have used most of the mud on the taping knife, clean the edge of the knife on the mud pan, and scoop more mud to start again.

It is also helpful to practice this motion as you will be repeating it a lot. Check out the video for more details!

keep the taping knife at about 10 degree angle to the wall

The first coat is not going to look super smooth, especially if this is new to you, which is totally OK. The second coat will be so much easier to get it smooth! 

I only learned AFTER the project that there is a good tool for 90 degree corners, such as where ceiling meets the wall: the Drywall Corner Tool ! No wonder it was challenging for me just to use the regular taping knives!

 skim coat where ceiling meets the wall

Step 3: apply the finish coat of mud onto the textured wall

The first coat will take about 24 hours to dry. Now after some practice and rest, we will apply the second coat / the finish coat, which is going to feel much easier!

The process is exactly the same as the first coat. 

before and after: How to skim coat & smooth a textured wall, drywall or ceiling! Easy DIY home improvement & remodel project.

Cleaning up, priming, & painting:

Use a bucket to rinse and wipe your tools clean after each work session. Don’t do this over the sink. Mud left on the taping knife can cause rust. 

prime and paint drywall mud / joint compound with Sherwin Williams Wall & Wood primer and Emerald Latex paint

When the second coat is thoroughly dry, it’s time to prime and paint the wall. We used Sherwin Williams Wall & Wood primer to prime the first coat, then we used 2 coats of Sherwin Williams Emerald Latex paint in Whitetail color satin finish.

Helpful Tips and FAQ on how to skim coat textured wall 

how to skim coat textured wall
  • Mix a small batch like 1/3 of a mud pan, so its not too heavy to hold in your hand. Use premixed mud with longer drying time if you are new to this!
  • Scoop the right amount of mud (about 2″ thick and wide) onto the taping knife, and keep the taping knife at about 10 degree angle as you smooth the textured wall. This will minimize knife marks. 
  • Use the edge of mud pan to scrape clean the taping knife each time before you scoop more mud.
  • The first coat is not meant to be perfect.You can always sand uneven marks between each coat.

You can check out more of our DIY and remodel projects here! See you soon!

Love Creative DIYs?

7 Comments

    • hi kristin! yes you can skip the sanding part. the only reason for sanding is to smooth out some marks, and the coating is super easy to sand, takes only a few minutes! 🙂

  1. I have about 1500 square feet of popcorn ceiling texture to skim coat.I found a long napped roller brush on a telescoping handle works faster to apply the water thinned drywall mud before spreadng with the large blade, Starting at the center of ceiling radiating towards the walls. I’ve found i can mix water based primer thoroughly in the water thinned mud so I only have to sand and paint when it dries.

  2. thank you for this post; now I know how – wish i’d seen this 30 years ago! I always enjoy your creative and educational postings!

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend