“Creating Textured Surfaces” Painter’s Journal

“Creating Textured Surfaces” Painter’s Journal
by Jenny Knott, Rosco Laboratories
Textures can play an extremely important role in theatre
design. A designer may wish to create a sense of strong realism or
use texture, on its own, to add visual interest and impact. For
both scenic artists and lighting designers, a textured set can be
tremendously satisfying to work on. A beautifully textured set,
whether it has had the techniques of carving or plaster type
material applied, will literally be brought to life by lighting, as
the three-dimensional qualities will be brought into play by the
use of light and shadows.
Learning how to use a wide variety of textures will increase
the imaginative and creative uses by designers and scenic artists
alike. After having looked at a textured set design, scenic artists
may have to ask themselves several questions concerning the
texturing process. They might, for instance, ask any of the
following: What are the substrates being used? What will stick
to those substrates? Will actors be standing on, or climbing over
it? What is the budget? What are the time constraints? Texture
can often allow you to cut the actual time it takes to paint the set.
There are several ways to achieve texture. Textures can be
wet on application, i.e. Rosco Foamcoat, Flexcoat, and Flexbond.
They can be pre-molded, i.e. vacuform or pre-cast molds. Or,
textures can be created by carving or appliqué, i.e. polystyrene,
urethane and extruded foams, fabrics, rope, pasta, etc. Textures
that are wet on application are used for re-creating effects such as
plaster walls, wood, bark, stone and brick. This texture technique
can be very versatile, depending on the thinness or the thickness
of the material. A range between very subtle and deeply textured
scenic effects can be accomplished by the texture’s viscosity and
additives. Texture can be applied manually or with a texture
spray-gun. Once mixed, other materials can be added, such as
sawdust, powdered clay, joint compound, sand, mica, vermiculite,
and color for tinting. The choice of texture will depend on
various factors, such as availability, budget, and flexibility. It is
always a good idea to experiment with a few different methods,
as they all have quite unique characteristics, such as:
-Flexibility, which may either mean that a texture cannot
be sanded or, if it dries hard enough to sand, it may be too
brittle for the substrate.
-Absorbency and non-absorbency will affect the type of
painting needed. Whether there is a need to prime should
be considered. A highly absorbent texture will soak up
paint immediately and could appear too patchy.
The Painter’s Journal, Spring 2005
Mixing texture is not only messy, it poses health and safety
concerns. To avoid unnecessary risks, as well as irritation when
you are mixing particulate matter, you should consider taking
the necessary precautions, such as wearing a particle mask,
respirator with proper cartridges, and wearing the proper rated
Most textures can be applied with anything, e.g. trowel,
putty knife, pastry tube, brush, roller, texture spray-gun, sponge,
or hands. Before deciding which technique to use, first consider
your desired effect and your time table.
There are many ways to create specific textures for the
stage, using many different materials. Bricks, for example, may
be appliquéd, carved out of foam, textured, or stenciled. Below,
I will address a couple of ways to use Rosco coating materials. You
might keep these in mind the next time texture is an element for
the stage set or props.
Textured Bricks
There are several ways of approaching textured bricks. I
chose this method, using Rosco Flexbond glue, because it is so
versatile, has many variations, and is economical. The substrate
being used is medite.
Prime the clean, dry and dust-free medite, using a wet
blend of tinted Tough Prime. A good bond will be
achieved when textures are applied over clean and primed
Using a brush or hand-pump sprayer, spatter with a light,
a medium, and a dark mortar color. (It is not necessary to
allow the prime coat to completely dry before spattering.
A sprayer with water may also be used to add variety to the
spatter step.) Let dry.
Measure, mark, and apply masking tape over the painted
Mix up the sand and Rosco Flexbond glue in a clean bucket.
The ratio of sand to Flexbond will depend on how thick
or thin the texture is required to appear. If the texture is
stiff, the resulting texture will be very pronounced. If the
texture is thin, it will settle out and have a softer appearance.
Gradually mix the sand into the Flexbond, stirring
constantly. Be sure to test the mixture, to ensure the
adhesion was not compromised by the addition of too
much sand. (Different colored sands may be used in
different buckets or color may be added as a variation).
Using a brush, trowel, roller or putty knife, apply mixture
over the tape. Application should be uneven for interest.
Figure 1.
Brush or roll on the brick base color. (To preserve the color
of the mortar it may be necessary to reapply masking tape.)
Using a foam roller that has some of the foam picked out,
apply a second brick color. It is not necessary to roll this
color on all the bricks. (This is a fast method of applying
additional color in a random and more realistic manner.)
Figure 2
Fig. 3
Additional colors may be applied using the texture roller.
Each additional color should be used less than the previous
color. Random application of color will lend visual interest
and realism to the brick. Let dry.
Fig. 1
Fig. 4
Fig. 2
Remove masking tape.
Utilizing the raised texture, dry brush on the highlight colors.
Figure 5
Shadows and cut lines may be applied, in order to enhance
the illusion of greater depth. Figure 6
The versatility of Rosco Flexbond glue can be seen in Figure
Eight on page seven in the photograph of the board with sand,
sawdust, clay powder, and joint compound added on the top row.
Off Broadway yellow ochre was added on the bottom row to
illustrate how the glue dries clear and allows the color to remain
visible. Flexbond sticks to many porous and non-porous substrates,
yet retains its pliability. It also does not retain any surface “tackiness”
when dry, a real plus when folding up soft goods or storing flats face
to face.
The Painter’s Journal, Spring 2005
Fig. 5
a grinder may be in order. The steps for applying Foamcoat for the
stone are similar to those of textured brick.
Make sure surfaces are clean, dry, and dust free.
Mark and tape off the mortar.
Apply Foamcoat, over the taped mortar, straight out of the
bucket. (Foamcoat may be tinted or other textures added.)
Be sure to leave open areas, for dark glazes to pool in later in
the painting process. This will increase the feeling of deep
Pull the tape before the Foamcoat dries or it will become
one with the texture.
Apply more layers of Foamcoat, letting it dry between the
layers until the desired depth has been achieved. It is not
necessary to retape the mortar.
Paint with thin layers of color until desired finish is attained.
Dry brush the raised surfaces with the highlight.
Add cast shadows and cut lines.
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
The Finished
Fig. 8
Textured Travertine Stone
Rosco Foamcoat works extremely well in building up surfaces
to simulate different types of stone. Foamcoat is a water-based,
interior/exterior, weather-resistant, flame-retardant coating that dries
very hard. It is sandable but the longer it sits the harder it gets and
The Painter’s Journal, Spring 2005
Weathered Wood, Carved Brick, and Stucco
Tudor walls can be reproduced using polystyrene, insulation
foam and Foamcoat, instead of wood products and steel which are
heavy, bulky, and still need texture added.
Cartoon then carve the laminated foam pieces. Make sure
the carving is deep enough to allow for a texture product
to be applied without losing the definition.
Surfaces should be clean, dry and dust free before applying
Apply Foamcoat, letting it dry between layers. (The Foamcoat
may be tinted and/or sand or sawdust added to give added
interest and save time.)
Paint according to the elevation or reference material.
Other objects, such as bolts, may be added to give additional
reality to the scenery.
Tinted Foamcoat may be applied to give the impression of a
Quite often, shops forced to choose between buying the
expensive decorative molding the designer would like and
constructing it out of the objects hanging around the shop. Labor
dollars vs. materials dollars. The answer for the “found” object
item is Flexcoat. Flexcoat is a water-based, flexible, interior/exterior,
weather-resistant, flame-retardant coating product that will adhere
to a wide variety of substrates. Therefore, they can be painted with
water-based paint.
Frieze using “found” objects
The frieze contained the following items: pine molding, old
rope, MDF, anaglyptic border paper, MDF, cardboard tube, pasta
twists, and plastic beads on medite.
After selecting items and attaching them to a backing board,
Flexcoat was applied to fill in the gaps to create the appearance
of a unified “carved” object. (Flexcoat may be tinted.) It was
then allowed to dry.
A second layer of tinted Flexcoat was applied. It was then
allowed to dry.
Off Broadway Gold was brushed on.
Glazes using Clear Acrylic Gloss were applied, dark to light,
letting each layer dry before applying another layer to avoid a
muddy appearance.
Finally, Off Broadway Bright Gold was dry brushed on to
increase the illusion of depth.
Stone Wall
Flexcoat was the product chosen to coat the stone wall below,
which was constructed with removable stones made out of upholstery
foam and then painted.
Flexcoat also makes an excellent opaque medium for
translucent drops. 2 parts Flexcoat mixed with 1 part Tough Prime
results in a perfect combination of flexibility with opacity. One coat
will usually take care of the pinholes.
These are just a few suggestions for using Flexbond, Foamcoat,
and Flexcoat to create textured surfaces for the stage. They can be
applied to an unending list of substrates. As always, a preliminary
test helps eliminate a few surprises. Happy Gooping.
Jenny Knott is a graduate of the University of Missouri, Kansas
City with an MFA in Design and Technology. Jenny freelanced as a
Scenic Artist for over 20 years. She worked for regional theatres
such as Missouri Rep, Arena Stage, Guthrie and Goodspeed Opera
House as well as union scene shops, and was an artist-in-residence
at the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana. She is a member of
USA 829. Jenny joined Rosco as their Paint Products Manager in
July of 2003. She continues to paint on the occasional weekend for
the Goodspeed, keeping current with new painters and new ways of
approaching paint challenges.
The Painter’s Journal, Spring 2005
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