Quick Tip: Try Faux Finishing

Try these decorative painting techniques to evoke elegance without expense.

By Bob Vila | Updated Jul 9, 2013 11:15 AM

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Faux Finishing

faux-finishing techniques transform a mantel. Photo: From Bob Vila's Shingle-Style House TV Project, Home Again Season 7, Episode 26

Faux Finishing: What Is It?
If you’re looking for ways to personalize your space and you’re ready to go a step further than a simple coat of paint, try faux finishing. Faux, French for false, finishing techniques were developed centuries ago to evoke the feeling of expensive, elegant finishes without the extravagant expense. With just paint, glaze and a few simple tools, you can create the look of marble, leather, malachite, parchment, silk, even gold leaf on walls or furniture. You could even wood-grain a plain white door to look like mahogany. The possibilities are endless, but you ll want to develop your technique on practice boards first. Also, it helps to have a sample or a close-up photograph of the actual material you re imitating to use as a guide.

Faux Finishing Tools
The best tools are the simplest. Start with everyday paint supplies. You’ll need an angled 2 nylon brush for cutting in, cotton rags, painter’s tape and a good multi-purpose ladder. The tools for faux finishing are often things you already have at home such as a natural sea sponge, cheesecloth, combs, rags and feathers. Your biggest investment will probably be a variety of artist’s brushes for veining, stippling, and color washing and a badger brush for softening.

Faux Finishing Techniques
Most techniques are variations on the same process. First, carefully clean, prep and prime your surface. Then, apply the base color using good quality latex paint and let it dry completely. Apply a coat of untinted, faux technique glaze mixed with water and latex paint in the color you want. Then, tool it, sponge it, rag it, drag it or blend several colors according to the technique you are going for. Blend with a badger brush to soften any hard lines. Add veins, details or stippling last, and seal with a coat of polyurethane to protect your hard work.

Faux Finishing Resources
There are lots of great faux finishing books and Web sites where you can find instructions for painting just about any finish you can think of. Or, try making one up yourself!