Basic Faux Finish Techniques

The creation of faux finishes in decorative painting can be accomplished using a number of basic techniques. These techniques are sometimes combined or used together to achieve the desired effect. More sophisticated techniques may be applied for some specific effects.

Sponging on

Paint in a second color and of thin consistency is applied to the basecoated surface by pouncing or dabbing it on using a sea sponge. The ragged edge of the sea sponge, dabbed at random and changing directions, produces a mottled effect on the surface. Sponging-on may be used to create the variegated background for a marble effect.

Sponging off

Another method of sponging where the paint in a second color is mixed with some glaze to give it transparency, applied to the basecoated surface thickly and removed by dabbing a sea-sponge randomly or by using a crumpled piece of cling-wrap. Sponging-off is used to create a leather effect.


A technique to create a mottled, marbled effect on a light background. The surface is first basecoated in a light color like off-white or a light gray. It is then exposed systematically to the soot of a burning candle. Once completed, the surface is sealed using a spray sealer or varnish before further decoration.


Paint in a second colour is applied over a dried basecoated area by dabbing a stiff brush up and down creating fine dots overlapping each other while still allowing the basecoat color to show through. Stippling can be used to create the background for painting a design or as one of the effects in an Intarsian Painting project. An old battered brush is the perfect tool. Or you can use a deerfoot stippler or a stiff bristle brush.


Various types of woodgraining effects may be created. The most simple woodgrain above can be created using a variety of tools including commercially manufactured graining combs, a small piece of corrugated cardboard, a comb cut out of a cardboard or simply a thick and stiff bristle brush. The surface is frist basecoated in off-white, yellow ochre or even a very light brown. A darker brown like burnt sienna or burnt umber is mixed with some glaze. If using a thick bristle brush, it is loaded with the glazed mixture and pulled repeatedly in a straight line overlapping the previous one. This technique creates a basic straightgrain.

This more complicated oakwood grain can be achieved using a paintbrush followed by a flogger to soften the edges.


Crackling to get an aged look can be done using 2-step crackling mediums. The surface to be crackled is basecoated, dried, then crackle medium applied and allowed to dry. A second, contrasting colour is painted over the crackle medium and cracks appear almost immediately, revealing the basecoat colour. Once completely dried, a design can be painted on it. There are also crackling mediums which can be brushed over the entire painted design of a project - this produces fine porcelain crackle similar to that seen in old chinaware.


There are many ways of antiquing using water-based paints or oil paints. Water-based antiquing can be done on a basecoat before the design is painted. The chosen colour is mixed with glaze and retarder and applied with a broad brush in loose strokes where the aged look is desired. A mop brush is used to soften the edges. Oil antiquing is usually done after the entire design is painted and completely dried. Lean medium or linseed oil is applied with a clean cotton rag to the desired area and burnt umber oil paint is then applied. in a circular motion. A clean rag is used to remove the excess oil paint to achieve the desired effect.


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Faux Finishes in Decorative Painting

History and Uses
Basic Techniques
Intarsian Painting

Traditional Folk Art

Contemporary Decorative Painting

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Books to help you

The Encyclopedia of Decorative Paint Techniques : A Unique A-Z Directory of Decorative Paint Effects, Including Guidance on How to Use Them
Simon Cavelle, Elizabeth Wilhide (Editor) (Hardcover - March 1994)

The Paint Effects Bible: 100 Recipes for Faux Finishes
Kerry Skinner

Classic Paints & Faux Finishes
Annie Sloan, Kate Gwynn




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