Applying textured paint with a large brush is an easy way to make swirls.

How to Do Fan & Swirl Designs on Your Walls

by Chris Deziel

Fans and swirls aren't the most subtle of texture patterns, but they may be just what the doctor ordered in a room with ornate curtains and Old World furniture. All it takes to do a fan pattern is an 8- to 12-inch drywall knife and some drywall mud, but if you're into swirls, you'll have to add a wide brush to your materials list. Although it isn't good for making fans, you can also use textured paint to make swirls; it allows you to combine the application of the texture and creation of the pattern into one step.

Fan Texture

Mask off the walls you aren't texturing with masking tape and paper. Remove furniture from the room and cover the floor with drop cloths. Remove all the outlet and switch plates and cover the outlets and switches with masking tape. Be sure to turn off the circuit breakers before you do this.

Wash the wall with a sponge and a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate per gallon of warm water, if you're texturing over old paint. Let the wall dry, then prime it with drywall primer. The primer is also essential if you're texturing a previously unfinished wall.

Spread a layer of all-purpose joint compound over a 3-square-foot section of the wall, using an 8- to 12-inch drywall knife. The layer doesn't need to be thick, but it should cover the entire section of the wall with no voids.

Clean the knife, then set the edge of the blade on the wall and, holding the handle perpendicular to the wall, make a 45-degree arc by pivoting the knife around one corner of the blade. Make jerking motions as you make the arc to create ridges to simulate the blades of a fan.

Make as many fan patterns as you like -- they can be facing in random directions or all the same way, and can even overlap. If you don't like what you've done, scrape off the joint compound, spread more and try again.

Work the entire wall in 3-square-foot sections, then let the compound dry. Coat it with drywall primer before painting.

Swirl Patterns

Prepare the wall in the same way as you would for making a fan texture, then spread joint compound on a 3-square-foot section. You can also thin the compound with water and spread it on the wall with a thick-nap roller. It's easier to roll mud, and diluting it makes it dry more slowly, so you can cover the entire wall at one time when you spread the mud this way.

Use a wide paintbrush or a swirl brush, which is available at most hardware stores. Pivot the brush around one corner to make fanlike swirls, or make wider swirls by moving the whole brush in semicircles. Swirls look better if you make them all in the same direction and overlap them.

Make swirls with textured paint by applying the paint with a wide paintbrush. Dip the brush in the paint to load it, then use a swirling motion to apply the paint to the wall.

Prime and paint the wall if you made the texture with joint compound. If you used textured paint, just let the paint dry, and if you're happy with the color, you're done.

Items you will need

  • Masking tape
  • Masking paper
  • Drop cloths
  • Sponge
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Drywall primer
  • All-purpose joint compound
  • 8- to 12-inch drywall knife
  • Thick-nap paint roller
  • Wide paintbrush or swirl brush
  • Textured paint


  • Add fine sand to your mud for a more dramatic texturing effect.


  • Be sure to keep the electricity off until you replace the wall outlet and switch cover plates.

About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images