How to Paint Faux Finishes: Tips, Tricks & Inspiration

ECOS 08/28/2015

Faux finishes and trompe l'oeil techniques have been used for thousands of years – they’ve even been found in cave paintings. In classical times, artists would train with faux painting master for 10 years before attempting it on their own! If you’re interested in trying these fascinating and fun painting techniques, but you’re no master, have no fear. Many of them are much easier than you’d think. Today we’re sharing some great video tutorials showing how to paint faux finishes, as well as tips, tricks & inspiration. 

Faux Finishing Tips & Tricks

You don’t need a million special products. You can find all sorts of kits for creating faux finishes and there are tons of special paints these days, too. But, guess what? Most are completely unnecessary. As we mentioned above, people have been painting faux finishes for thousands of years and they got along just fine without all the bells and whistles. Old sponges, rags, and even crumpled up paper can create amazing textures. And the glazes you’ll see mentioned all over the place simply extend the drying time of your finish (so you can play with the texture longer). You can just as easily dilute your paint with water.

Don’t overthink it. Textures like marble and wood grain reflect the beautiful randomness of nature. That means you need to let loose and get random to replicate it. If you’re inexperienced and not much of an artist, it’s challenging to do this because you’re probably worried you’ll ruin it. Trust us, you won’t – it’s only paint. If you don’t like the finished appearance, go ahead and try again.

Experiment. It goes without saying that you should practice a little, but go ahead and get totally experimental. You may initially be trying to recreate the look of leather, wood, stone, concrete or whatever, but free-form experimentation could lead to a technique that creates a look you love even better. Experiment with different brush strokes, different ways of applying paint (rags, paper bags, using a rolling pin, etc), and different ways of distressing the surface (throwing paint at it, misting water on it, etc). With faux finishes, there’s really no right or wrong – you just need to like what you’re looking at.

Use it on anything. Walls make wonderful palettes for faux finishes, but you can really use them anywhere. Consider these ideas:

  • Garage Door - Do you have an unexciting metal garage door but you love those wooden carriage doors? Paint it to look like wood and add some metal hardware!
  • Concrete Floors - Basements can be damp places that make it difficult to pick the right flooring. The answer: a beautiful stone like faux finish painted on the floor. No need to worry about wet carpet or water getting underneath a laminate wood floor – and it’s gorgeous!
  • Ceilings - Add some drama to a room with a gorgeous faux finished ceiling! It draws your eye up, and it’s less overwhelming than doing your walls. Add some moulding around it to give it a touch of luxury.
  • Plastic Flower Pots - This is a smaller project and it might be a good way to try some new techniques. Buy some inexpensive plastic or ceramic flower pots and make them look as though you bought them directly from a high-end artisan.

How to Paint Faux Finishes

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it definitely has enough techniques to get you started.

Faux Marbling - Marble is very pretty, but it can also cost a very pretty penny – anywhere from tens to hundreds of dollars per square foot. Mastering the art of faux marbling may take a little practice, but it could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Faux Hardwood Floors (or Doors, or Walls, or Whatever) - Everybody loves the look of hardwood! Watch this artist transform his concrete floor into gorgeous hardwood. It looks a little challenging at first, but it doesn't take long to master this technique.

Wood Graining - This method allows complete artistic license to create whatever type of grain you can imagine instead of the same thing over and over by using a store-bought wood graining  tool.

Faux Brick - Some techniques involve more paint colors for variation, but this young lady shows how to get the effect in an instant.

Stippling - To apply a faux paint finish to a wall or furniture by stippling, use a pounce rounded-edge brush, load it with paint, and dot the wall to get tiny brush stipple marks. Avoid applying large amounts of paint or painting in lines.

Faux Finish Inspiration

Check out our Pinboard for examples of all the ways you can use paint to create interesting textures and finishes.

Follow ECOS Paints' board Faux Finishes on Pinterest.

Have any questions about faux finishes? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to help!

CATEGORIES trompe l'oeil