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Expert advice on new techniques for traditional finishes

28 April 2022
Textural decorations, acrylic decorations, stucco: the art of interior design needs technical mastery, absolute attention to detail, and the appropriate tools: high-quality brushes both for the preparation of the sub-surface and for the finishes.

High-quality interior decoration in Southern Italy
When it comes to high-quality decorative painting, Southern Italy has a particularly strong historical tradition. That tradition continues using modern techniques and mimicking different types of materials, such as faux marble and split stone finishes. As confirmed by Gianluca Pasculli, a young and respected Apulian interior decorator, southern Italian homeowners can be quite demanding when it comes to quality. In partnership with Pennellificio Pol (, an Italian manufacturer of high-quality structural brushes and client of MGG, Pasculli also offers training courses for professional decorators who want to update their skills and techniques.

Ancient Roman materials revisited
In addition to the thick, textural wall treatments that are very popular in Southern Italian interior design (such as lime plaster, hydraulic lime, and some types of clay), there is a growing request for a type of material used by the ancient Romans for buildings and bridges. This material, revisited in a modern key by removing the element that gave it properties of mechanical resistance and compression, is now used for interior decoration through the integration of minerals and stones that create intriguing nuances in interior surfaces.

Professional decorators need brushes with specific characteristics
Discussing the evolution of brush used in interior decoration techniques, Gianluca Pasculli explains how these tools are not only used for applying finishes but have also become important for preparing the ground: " Just to give an example, faux marble or clay surfaces need a sub-surface that provides adhesion, so brushes are no longer running over a smooth surface but need to 'fight' with quartz grits of up to 0.4 and 0.5."
With the various types of materials used and in the different stages of preparation, modern brushes have to deal with many challenging materials. Today's brushes need more durable bristles than those made just a few years ago.
"This is one of the reasons why top-quality brushes now use synthetic bristles more frequently than natural bristles, even if the quality of the latter remains superior", notes Pasculli.
Southern Italian clients also prefer very fine-grained plaster and stucco finishes (0.02 or 0.01). The material used for simple stucco is so fine that it is easy to polish it a bit more to achieve a Venetian stucco. brushes are also used for the initial preparation of washable surfaces, Venetian stucco, acrylic stucco, and all types of surface decorations that have a velvet or leather effect. Even when using a roller to apply washable surface treatment to walls, brushes are still necessary to do a proper job. A first coat is applied with the roller, which serves to highlight all of the defects in the plasterwork. Next, the room is darkened and the wall is lit from the side; workers then go back with brushes and scrapers to fill in any dimples, holes, or low spots before applying the final two coats of washable paint with a roller.

Big brushes
Broad, Italian-style ceiling brushes are used to quickly spread water-based resins over large surfaces. But this type of ceiling brush is also important when creating split stone effects or wall surfaces with stencils (vintage-look textured walls that tell a story, creating a "distressed" effect). "When the wall finish is achieved using stencils, it must be protected before being painted and defined. Today we do that with a ceiling brush", points out Pasculli, "in the past sponges were used, but they quickly deteriorated on the rough stencils, and decorators were then faced with the nerve-wracking task of removing the individual pieces of sponge from the surface. Using a large, durable, acrylic-bristle brush on this type of rough surface," he continues "allows you to complete a job which used to take two hours in just fifteen minutes - and your brush is still in good shape."

Small brushes and artist's brushes
Small flat brushes (4-5 cm) are usually used to apply enamel paints on moldings, however, in Italy, they are mainly used by an older generation of highly-skilled professionals who are now 50-60 years old. Bright, round, or filbert brushes are used to apply dense products, such as enamels and pickled finishes to create a 'shabby chic' look. These materials must be either deeply sanded to create the appropriate effect or they must remain shiny. Because of the shape and shorter bristles, these tools better compress the paint ensuring a homogeneous application on the support and avoiding the lines on the surface. There is also a crossover between the brushes used in the world of the fine arts and high-quality faux finishes; for example, a liner brush that holds a lot of paint and uses special bristles to create a flowing line that is sensitive to pressure can be used to create the veins in faux marble. As Pasculli notes, these artists' brushes are now used by "tens of thousands of decorators".

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