The Differences Between Faux Venetian Plaster and Venetian Plaster

  • Intermediate

Originally developed during the Roman empire, Real Venetian plaster was made of limestone, ground marble, and pigment. Its composition has since been modified to what is known as the Traditional Venetian plaster made from lime or gypsum and applied over laths fastened to the joists and wall studs, and has gradually become the standard material for both residential and formal architecture.

Today’s Venetian plaster products often use synthetic materials. This plaster can be used on the interior or exterior and its high pH level makes it remarkably resistant to mold and other bacterias. Using Faux Venetian plaster is a great way to decorate both interior and exterior walls. It’s more durable than paint, looks great, comes in various colors, and is a popular way to decorate. Faux Venetian plaster finishes look real while being less expensive than real Venetian plaster. Read on to learn more of the differences between the real and faux finishes.

Acrylic vs Lime

Real Venetian Plaster (Fig.1 & Fig. 3) is made of aged Italian lime putty, ground Italian marble, and can also contain some “magic” ingredients to obtain a desired final look and feel, and it can be made matte or glossy, smooth or textured. Real Venetian Plaster has a marble appearance and is cool to the touch because of the marble and limestone it’s made from and it also exudes an ambiance that can't be attained otherwise.

Faux Venetian plaster (Fig. 2) is made out of acrylic and natural or artificial pigment. It is meant to replicate Scagliola, which is an Italian plaster technique that has been used for hundreds of years. This technique resulted in a product intended to look like real marble.

Venetian plaster wall panel options


Authentic Venetian plaster recipes are handed down from generation to generation, within Italian artisans and craftsmen. This means that there are very few people that can manufacture authentic Venetian plaster. Because it is hard to come by, faux Venetian plaster is often used in place of the original lime blend.


True Venetian plaster is made up of at least 40% marble dust and expensive pigment, making authentic Venetian plaster very expensive. Add to that the limited availability, which also creates a high cost, making faux Venetian plaster the only option for many homeowners.

Application Technique

The traditional method of applying Venetian plaster is to apply it layer after layer with a trowel and then polishing it to provide an illusion of texture and depth. The plaster must dry thoroughly between each layer. The wall must be completely smooth prior to beginning the application process. Faux Venetian plaster is applied with a spatula. Both materials can be sanded smooth to look like marble or have texture to look like stone.

Installation Time

The traditional Venetian plaster process is very timely, because it requires so many layers, with long periods in between each layer to allow the plaster to dry thoroughly. Faux Venetian plaster can be put up in a fraction of the time.


Faux Venetian plaster is basically a thin coating, up to about three layers, of tinted plaster, thus it can easily be scratched and damaged. True Venetian plaster is done in many, many layers, thus it is thicker and does not damage easily. Faux Venetian plaster is kept as an inside wall treatment whereas true Venetian plaster can be used on interior and exterior walls because it is much thicker and more durable.

Faux Venetian plaster is an artful way to decorate both interior and exterior surfaces. It imparts old-world charm, discrete sophistication, and a look of elegance. At the same time, it does not have a high cost, long installation time, and doesn't contain lime. The drawback of not being as durable as true Venetian plaster does not outweigh all of the positive attributes of the product.