Painting With Colored Cement




About: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home from discarded nylon fishnet and cement.

This deals with the use of colored cement as a paint to colorize cement structures. 
Humidity passing through a cement roof can cause ceiling paint to blister and peel.  Not so with colored cement, which sticks like crazy to cement, even wet.  With luck, an interior cement "paint" job is a lifetime paint job. 

On the outside, cement paint helps seal cracks. 
I use a pressure sprayer for preliminary cleaning.    

One interesting advantage to using cement as paint is that spiders appear to not like raw cement.  There are very few spider webs where surfaces are painted with cement.  If you paint them with house paint, the spiders come.  Some insects (butterflies?) taste through their feet, I think.  Although not insects, that may explain why spiders don't like to hang out on raw cement.  Whatever the reason, fewer spiders in the house is good.  Fewer cobwebs to clean results in less time spent cleaning. 

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Step 1: Materials

The basic materials needed are cement and pigments to colorize the cement.  Concrete acrylic fortifier can also be added to improve bonding and perhaps weather resistance on exterior surfaces.  I'm not sure if adding acrylic fortifier decreases the spider-repelling properties of the cement.  For interior painting it may not be as important to use it, anyway.

I use both regular gray Portland cement and white cement, depending on the colors I am after.  For darker colors, I use gray cement.  The more pigment you use, the more intense the colors will be.  The cement is the binder, though, so an excess of pigment could mean not enough binder and result in a chalky surface. 

Pigments for cement come in liquid and powder form.  I prefer the dry powder form, since I can mix the pigments with cement and store them for later use.  (Water in the liquid pigments would harden up the cement.)   One way to mix the different powders is to put them in a closed container, such as a plastic bucket with lid, and shake them. 

Unlike the powdered pigments available from some art supply stores, the pigments from hardware stores are more limited in color, and a lot less expensive.  Red is sort of a "red oxide", yellow is sort of ochre.  There is also a green, blue, and black.   With those basic colors, which are not true primary colors, you can mix a range of colors.  

This Wikipedia link will tell you way more than you need to know about Portland Cement.

Step 2: Tools

Tinted cement can be brushed on with a house brush, or broom head.   Being stiffer than a house brush, the broom head is sometimes the best choice for thick mixes using sand. 

A paint roller can also be used.  I sometimes make my own rollers with texture designs for creating colored design patterns on walls and floors. 

5 gallon plastic buckets can be used as mixing containers.  Mixing can be done with a stirring stick, but a drill motor and paint mixer do the best job of breaking up any lumps. 

Plastic mixing tubs (mine came from Home Depot) are good containers to mix in and work out of.  Held at a slight angle, they make good roller trays for coating paint rollers. 

If your hands are going to get cement on them, you will probably want to use rubber gloves, also.  Heavy rubber work gloves are available at hardware stores. 

I like to have a water dispenser available for sprinkling small quantities of water.  Solid particles tend to settle to the bottom, so water to adjust consistency sometimes needs to be added.  

See this instructable for an easy way to make a sprinkling water container, which is also good for garden use.

Step 3: Techniques

A cement painting artist will be creative.  There are lots of ways to get colored cement from Point A (the reservoir) to Point B (the wall, ceiling, or floor). 

You can fling watered down cement with a brush from a distance, creating splotchy color effects.  The dripping of excess material, especially over irregular textured surfaces can make beautiful multicolor effects. 

Solid coats of thicker consistency, even containing some sand, can be brushed on with a broom head. 

Lighter consistencies can be brushed on with a house painting brush, or roller.    Small brushes are good for detail work. 

I sometimes make my own textured rollers for creating different patterns.  The one in the photo is made of PVC pipe, with "nagahyde" (vinyl upholstery material) adhered to it with clear PVC cement, as is used for joining plumbing parts.)

Step 4: Colored Cement Projects

These are some of the colored cement paint jobs I have done at my guesthouse (Beautiful backwoods Puerto Rico.  Models and musicians are especially welcome as guests.)  The underlying architecture is a cement block house which was here originally.  The wood and corrugated iron roof rotted away and I replaced it with one using "nylon-cement" construction techniques, which are similar to ferro-cement techniques except that nylon fishnet replaces the chicken wire used in ferro-cement. 

For more on nylon-cement uses see:


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    35 Discussions


    Question 6 months ago on Step 4

    We bought an old restored house where they have oxided the outside walls. I have been trying to do the same with their "recipe" on a section that needs redoing. Problem is the oxide rubs off onto your hands days after painting. The recipe is 250ml white cement, 500 ml water, 10 tsp ochre oxide and 1 tsp red oxide. What am I doing wrong? Thanks in advance


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Just researching.. for sealing 25yr old cement roof tiles. I'll clean first with bleach and liquid kitchen soap mix, for polution mainly, then roller on or spray acrylic paint with cement to get the righ color, maybe even hopefully a slight gloss...

    Qs. Would white or portland cement be more duarable?

    What sort of mix should I do with acrylic paint? Some pros in Australia mix a little cement into acrylic paint for better bonding to the cleaned cement roof tiles?

    Hi from Phuket Thailand

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Tom,

    If it was me, I would pressure spray the base material to clean it and then just paint over it with tile setting mortar (which has polymers and doesn't shrink). I usually do the first two coats white and then mix coloured powder pigments (cheap, from the hardware store for tinting cement) in to the decorative top coats. When you can see white, you know it is time to paint again with the coloured grout.

    You can get darker colors with paint and sealers, but paint and elastomeric sealers can blister and peal. Cement base sealers don't, but they do slowly wear away from rain, sun and wind. The tile setting grout is also cheaper than paint.

    I imagine that your local use of acrylic paint to improve bonding is probably similar to the elastomers that come already in the tile setting mortar. Nice trick.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    How could this work on tiling backerboard as sort of a 'canvas' for using this stuff for an art material? Brush wouldn't really matter so long as you can create some kind of image with the colored cement.

    1 reply

    It sounds like a good experiment. I have no experience with tiling backerboard. I would suggest using tile setting mortar, though, which tends to not shrink and crack as much as plain cement. I always use it for cement painting now. It has some polymers in it, too, which probably contribute to it being more water proof and a better roof sealer material than regular cement. Some people here use it for sealing their cement roofs.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    My basement is below grade and has a really bad mold problem. I'm looking for a way to fix this without the major expense of excavating and laying drain pipes along the foundation, not to mention ripping out the wallboard. What do you think of the idea of using a not-too-thick layer of painted cement to slather over the wallboard? Would that keep the moisture out?

    4 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    By wallboard, I take it you mean gypsum board, with paper on both sides of a gypsum core? The problem I see there is the paper. Cement might stick to it for a while, but if the paper decays, the cement would fall off. Cement would probably stick better to the raw gypsum core, but then you lose the strength from the paper. -- If it wasn't for that, the cement would probably be a good surface. I made an underground tunnel and plastered it with cement. It still looks like new and has been up for maybe 15 years or longer. -- It might not keep the moisture out, since cement is porous, but there are cement base sealers that could hold back moisture. Then again, you might have more of a condensation problem if the surface is sealed. Cement likes humidity. The moisture won't harm the cement, at least. -- Anyway, keep thinking about it. It's late and I'm not thinking too clearly right now.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. I didn't realize you'd replied until today, almost four months later. I have another question. You said you plastered your underground tunnel with cement. Did you apply cement directly onto packed earth or did you use some intervening building material?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The floor and walls (including the ceiling) are covered with Nylon Cement .... nylon fishnet and the same 3:1 mix of sand to cement that is used for plastering.

    After shaping the dirt, I splashed it with a soupy mix of cement and water with a big brush to make an egg shell-like layer of cement on the dirt. When that dried, I plastered the walls, without fishnet, embedding staple-shaped pieces of galvanized tie wire -- the points sticking outward from the cement.

    When that hardened, I used the wire legs to hold the fishnet in place while I plastered it. The wires prevent a run-away failure if some of the cement lets go and pulls the net, which can make everything fall down. Because of the wires, the run only goes so far and stops.

    After that layer hardens up, you can paint it with tinted cement. I did a first coat of yellow, followed by a couple splash coats of other colors and a final touch-up with a textured roller.

    Cement from the ceiling falls on the floor, so you plaster the floor after plastering the ceiling.

    Here are some recent photos.

    10-9-20 tunnel (10).jpg10-9-20 TUNNEL (23).JPG10-9-20 TUNNEL (21).JPG

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I live in Puerto Rico. A sack of yellow pigment recently cost me $100. I would guess it weighed about 60 pounds. It might be cheaper where you live. Ask around at hardware stores.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    Aw, you just saved me HUNDREDS of dollars.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 4

    It's a trellis made of rebar. It connects to the ground on the back side of the house. Vines that grow on it shade the house and provide food.


    9 years ago on Introduction

     Wow! I love it, this may sound crazy but do you think I could do this to the sidewalk in front of my house?