Can you paint drywall without texture? Absolutely you can. I think it’s easier to paint without texture, as long as you prime it first. But texture can save you time in the long run.
There’s no reason you have to texture drywall. Texture is for making the wall look more traditional or to cover flaws, not to make the paint work better.
Does drywall have to be textured?
Traditionally we’ve textured drywall for two reasons. The first is because plaster has texture. So when we were used to looking at plastered walls, smooth drywall didn’t look right. Texturing the drywall made it look more like what we were used to seeing, which was plaster. A professional will still know the difference, but the texture made the wall look more “right.” There’s an art to texturing plaster, and you can’t get that same look straight out of a can, but it’s closer than smooth drywall.
The second reason to texture drywall is to cover flaws. When you tape and mud drywall seams, it’s hard to get it all perfectly smooth. It’s doable, but it takes patience, good tools, and, frankly, it takes time to get good at it too. But if you texture the walls, you don’t have to get good at it. As long as you get it fairly smooth, any low and high spots just blend into the texture.
But smooth walls and smooth ceilings are very much in vogue right now. It takes skill to get drywall smooth, and smooth drywall gives the impression that you hired the high-end professionals to do your drywall, not the lowest bidder. In older houses, some people will apply a skim coat to cover the texture on the walls and ceilings and get that smooth look. Or they’ll cover the ceiling and/or walls with quarter-inch drywall, then tape, mud, and paint.
Are there downsides to not texturing your walls?
While it’s easier to paint a smooth wall, and you can get good coverage with thinner coats, a textured wall is more forgiving. If you paint with a brush, or an inexpensive roller, the wall will still pick up some texture from the paint. A textured wall will hide most of that.
I’m not sure if smooth walls are a passing fad or not. But at the very least, right now, not only can you paint drywall without texture, but the cool kids are doing just that.