I think you just have to play with it. When I want a smoother look, with some curl at the ends, I use big hot rollers. Usually I'll put them in second day hair,brush the hair out first and roll the center top towards the back, the back ones downward, the side ones downward. I take them out and lightly finger comb, then use some hairspray.
I think it takes some experimenting to get it to your liking. There are tons of sizes of rollers, you can do pincurl sets, bendy rods, etc. Practice practice.