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Specialty Painting: Faux Finishes

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Faux finishes can give the different rooms in your home a distinctive look. Rather than the standard solid color or even two-toned walls, faux finishes give walls some texture, leaving you with a more unique look. There are countless faux-finishing options - many more than we could possibly cover in one article - however, this guide will give you some of the basics as well as a few specific techniques.


Essentially, painting with a faux finish allows you to give a surface a more detailed look through the use of different textures, shapes, and other designs. So, before you start painting, you'll need to choose what type of finish you want and a color (or colors, depending on the finish you go with). You'll find a few techniques listed below, but you can find many other options by browsing the Internet or asking at your local home improvement store.

Once you've decided on a style and colors, you should practice your technique on some sample boards. It's important that these sample boards are the same material as your actual surface; if you practice on a different material you may find your technique doesn't work quite the same way on your actual surface. Feel free to experiment with your technique; this is the best way to get a truly unique look.


There are two types of sponging techniques: sponging on and sponging off. Both involve putting a base layer of paint down first (usually a light, neutral color), letting it dry, and applying a second, darker color over it. In the sponging-on technique, you use a sponge to apply the second layer of paint over the first, pressing it lightly onto the surface. You can also try twisting the sponge as you do this for a different effect.

Sponging off involves applying the second layer of paint with a standard paint roller, and, as the name suggests, sponging off some of the paint, leaving behind the desired texture. This method can sometimes be more difficult because you have to finish sponging before the paint dries. This means that you'll most likely need to do the job in sections (rather than painting the whole wall at once), and it can be difficult to blend the sections together. If done wrong, you'll be left with obvious squares of painted sections on your wall.

Wood Graining

Wooden doors, tables, trim, etc. can all be very pricey; faux wood graining has become a popular (and much cheaper) alternative. The first step in the faux wood graining process is to apply a base coat of low-luster latex enamel. There are different color options that will give the appearance of different types of wood, so look around for a color you like. If you want the look of a specific type of wood, ask somebody in your local home improvement store for help finding the right color for the job.

The next step is, after allowing the base coat to dry, to apply a gel stain over it. While the gel stain is still wet, slide a wood-graining rocker through it, rocking it slowly back and fourth. To further capture the wood-grain look, mix up your pattern by sometimes rocking the wood-graining rocker and sometimes coming through the gel stain with the notched end of the rocker. Switching between the two patterns should give you the effect you're looking for. The gel stain will build up on the rocker; keep a rag handy so you can wipe it clean periodically.

Once you've completed a surface, but before the stain dries, go over the surface again with a clean rag to soften the grain. Then, allow it to dry. When you're done with all the surfaces (e.g., the entire table or piece of trim) and the stain is completely dry, add a coat of polyurethane sealer.


Ragging is very similar to sponging, but basically, uses a different material (a rag) to create a different texture. Again, as with sponging, you can rag on or rag off. You may be able to find a rag-rolling cover for a paint roller at your local home improvement store. Or, if you'd rather, you can use a rag and your hands. To rag on, once the first layer of paint is dry, dip the rag into your second paint glaze, being careful not to over saturate it; just a little bit of paint at a time will do the job. Then, carefully twist the rag into a roll. Start at the edge of the ceiling and roll the rag on the wall. Go in different directions with each roll and start a new angle every time. Try to maintain the same amount of pressure with each roll; this will bring some consistency to the look. Keep going until the entire wall is covered and you're satisfied with how it looks.

TIP : You can use multiple colors for this technique. Just make sure the colors are complimentary and that you try them out on a sample board before moving on to your walls or other surface.

To rag off, apply the second glaze with a standard roller or paintbrush. Use a clean rag, rolled onto a cylinder, to rag off (remove) some of the paint from the wall. Having a second person can make this job a lot easier, as one of you can apply the paint and the other can follow behind and do the ragging. This will help you get the ragging done before the paint dries.

If you're looking for a different style of faux painting than the ones presented here, browse around the Internet or ask at your local home improvement store. At this point, though, you should have plenty of tips to get you started!

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on January 7, 2013

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