Effective Plaster Scrims for Any Surface

When it comes to building and painting scenery, we all want it to look as realistic as possible. But what do you do if your wall is flat but narrow and there’s no texture? You could attempt a Rocky face effect with Apoxie Sculpt or Coarse Molding Paste, but sometimes the most straightforward way is best. This tutorial demonstrates several techniques for creating plasterers scrim that instantly improve walls and other surfaces in three easy steps: drywall tape + thinned paint + water.

The benefits of using plaster scrims start with their ease of use – attach them with water – and continue through multiple services topped off by dramatic improvement over any surface imaginable. A single scrim will cover a room or create a fine texture effect.

There are many different brands of poly scrim on the market today, but all serve the same function. The first thing that needs to be said about them is that proper installation is necessary. Poorly installed scrim material will defeat its purpose as well as your efforts as a plasterer. Because the plywood base has been primed, it means there’s still significant amounts of moisture in those faces, and the job of a scrim is to ensure that moisture can escape as you plaster right up against those faces. So the first thing to do is make sure your poly-scrim is pushed past those edges, and if there is space between those plywood sheets either by design or because the builder hasn’t done a good enough job, it’s essential to fill that gap with more plastic ridges.

The key to this technique is using plaster of Paris which, unlike most plasters, doesn’t shrink. Unfortunately, it’s slightly more expensive than its brethren and requires a setting agent such as retarder or glycerin. These ingredients are beyond the scope of this article. Still, if you’re interested in learning more about using plaster (or other mediums), I encourage you to attend one of our local figure painting seminars. Some good videos demonstrating different uses for Plaster Scrims can be found here and here.

Now that we’ve covered the necessary prerequisites let’s get started.


The first step is to cut your tape into small pieces and attach them over the area you wish to texture. The key is to overlap the tape between pieces, and for this reason, I recommend using a thicker, blue painter’s type masking tape that has good adhesion and won’t tear when you remove it later.


Next, apply a coat of primer (brown or gray will work best, but white will do if necessary), letting some of it run down under the tape where there aren’t any lumps. Once again, I’m sorry there aren’t any pictures for this step, but hopefully, you get the idea.


The final step is to add a coat of plaster in a thin layer along with a bit of water. The area for application should be small, only about 2-3 inches in diameter, so you don’t waste too much material. Try not to glob it on since an uneven coat will produce an undesirable effect. Once applied, use your paper towels or q-tips to soak up any excess moisture and let everything sit overnight before removing the tape.