Faux Paint

When the terms Faux, Decorative, or Fantasy painting are used, even I tend to imagine three or four colors of paint applied to a surface to imitate a marble look. However, there is so much more to Faux painting that a separate page was called for. This broad subject includes a wide array of application techniques, specialty paint and paint like products, and all combinations imaginable.
The focus of this page will be on terminology and descriptions. For detailed instruction on a technique, I recommend local classes at community centers, adult education programs, etc. Library books are an excellent source of information, though sometimes outdated and by highly opinionated authors. Also, ask your paint retailer if there are any company sponsored clinics planned for the store in the near future, especially in the new products! (Faux is pronounced like "foe "-an enemy-. How about the giant from Jack and the beanstalk saying "Fe, Fi, "FO", Fum, I smell the ...)


Bagging is a negative technique because it removes some glaze when still wet. Your base coat should be at least a satin finish and thoroughly dry before you bag. Roll or brush on Tinted glaze in a manageable area. Quickly dab the wet glaze with a bunched up plastic bag. When the bag comes close to adding more glaze than it removes, it is time to start another bag. The irregularities in the bag and your pattern of dabbing give the glaze a texture.


Clouds are a popular subject at faux painting classes. Instruction and practice, practice, practice help when painting clouds. Realistic looking clouds are used in Trompe L'Oeil and Wall Painting, (not my strong point -- I have yet to paint a realistic cloud on any thing larger than a canvas on an easel). Impressionistic clouds are used in children's rooms, theatrical sets, inside box lids, on screen room dividers, and so on. I have a few simple techniques for a style of impressionistic clouds.

BACKROUND PAINT: The above photograph is of clouds in a blue sky with green tree tops at the bottom. Please note that the sky is a darker blue at the top of the photograph then the bottom. Why? Because, there is less atmosphere and therefor less moisture in-between camera lens and old Sol. The lighter blue sky farther down the picture is the result of more sunlight being reflected by water vapor in the air -- as the viewed angle lowers to the horizon, the camera sees more atmosphere.

So, I like to save out a little darker paint to add to the top of the background, (or white paint to add to the lower part of the background). Application probably by stippling, or splatter where I have good control. Practice will help you discover what works best for you. Blue is not the only color for sky. Stormy sky's have shades of gray, darkest where the storm is supposed to be. Soothing sunset skies may have shades of orange and other traditional southwestern colors, definitely brighter at the horizon.

THE CLOUD OUTLINES: First, please have an idea in your mind as to the overall size of each cloud. Then, make circles or ovals so that the outside curves form the general shape of the cloud outline. Freehand is OK, but I like to use a string with a pencil or chalk at one end and an anchor point, at least for some circles. For big clouds, how about using a Yo-Yo as anchor with the pencil in the finger loop.

Now you can choose to paint in the cloud for a simplistic solid look ,as in a child's room. Or, you may wish to add some shadowing along the curve lines inside the cloud for a three-dimensional effect. To soften the edges, you can paint in some outer circles with thinned out paint over the background color, (as in color-washing), and the inner part of the cloud with full strength paint. Today many people, prefer to dab with a sea sponge. I prefer to stipple-and-swirl with a brush.

When I look up at some clouds, particularly storm clouds, I note a lumpy mattress effect at the bottom of the cloud. To paint that look, I use more and smaller circles on the bottom of the cloud, in loose rows, with larger circles at the top of the cloud. For storm clouds, I will shade quite a bit for the underside of the cloud and also any part of the cloud that is away from the direction of the imagined sunlight. Any strong color near a cloud shoud be reflected a bit by that cloud. So, think of shading into your clouds orange for a southwestern sky, green for clouds near tree covered mountains, and so on.

Please keep a few things in mind when planing your project. Try to imagine the general sizes, shapes, and positions of the clouds you will be painting. Do you wish the clouds to be evenly balanced on the wall, or asymmetrical? The background painting can be done first, perhaps over the whole wall, or filled in later. Darker colors are much harder to hide with just one coat of top paint -- so you might wish to paint dark colors last. Dark background skies are best painted in last, around the clouds. Painting the whole wall dark first, then painting in the clouds, can take multiple coats to paint in the clouds. For very small clouds, or just a different look between multiple clouds, you may wish to use different application implements and/or techniques. For example: Stamping with old pillows, your elbows and knees, or small sponges. Stippling. Splattering. Spray over brushing. Dragging, Bagging, and all the rest. Clouds should be fun. Please try new ideas and see what you like. Remember, this is just paint -- you can always paint over what you do not like.

COLOR WASHING (Colourwashing)

Using most any paint medium, the method is to thin out your paint until it resembles watercolor. Eight parts solvent to one part paint, or whatever works for you. Chose an applicator, (such as a wide brush, sponge, rag bundle, or a faux mitten), dip it into the thinned paint and spot onto the wall. Quickly feather out each spot in random directions. Move onto another spot a good distance away. Repeat this procedure over the entire wall leaving a good amount of untouched base color. Let thoroughly dry. Now you can use the same or a different color wash for a second coat. You will want some paint to overlap, and some to cover the base color. No rule say's you cannot do three coats with three colors.

(TIP: This is a good way to use up dips and dabs of latex paint left over from another project. The solvent in latex is just water, and you get a coordinating color effect from the other project.)


First, you secure a wide stiff brush, or a paperhanging smoothing brush, or a neatly trimmed whisk broom, (whatever you like), and a good supply of rags to wipe clean the brush. The method is to roll on a glaze, from ceiling to floor, in a manageable width. Then drag the brush down the wall in one motion if possible. Wipe the excess glaze off the brush at the end of each swipe or as needed. The point is to separate the glaze with the bristles, allowing the base color to show through the glaze. Keeping a wet edge, you move on to the next section of wall. Dragging is done quickly. It helps to have a second person roll on the glaze and a third person to supply the glaze, fresh rags and move the step stool for you.

GRAINING (Wood Graining)

There are masters in the trade who can make almost any smooth surface look like real timber. The way to achieve this finish is kept as secret as any magician's illusion. For us mere mortals, near perfect graining is good enough. The most critical decision is choosing the base coat and glaze colors. The base coat is normally vary pale. The glaze should be a complementary dark. (No rules, you can use bright neon colors or shades similar to wood.) Apply the glaze to a manageable area. Drag a wide, rough brush along the glaze with an unsteady hand to simulate the fine grain of wood. Next, use a soft brush with fine bristles to fuzz the grain a bit. Quickly use a graining tool, (curved plastic with raised lines and a knot simulator), or your finger, a cork, etc., to draw the heart wood lines and any knots. If things blur to much as you work on them, just wipe that section off and try again. That's it. For a plank look, mask off every other four inches on the dry base paint and do each plank. When the first group of planks are dry, mask them off and do the rest of the surface. Use the darker color for nail holes, lines between planks, scratches, etc. For the natural mineral stains in wood, use a vary thinned out stain or paint-glaze. Note: Some people prefer to use penetrating wood stain instead of glaze, especially on metal doors.


There are entire books, videos, and classes devoted to marbling, but it is practice that makes the real difference. The imitative technique that looks like real marble is much too detailed for this page. However, the most often used impressionistic look is fun to do on walls, wood trim, picture frames, doors, furniture, etc. There are no rules about color, however, you should choose paint or stain that is suitable to your project. (More durable paints for furniture, floor paint for floors, probably stain for metal, etc.) Normally you would use tinted glaze and paint with body, mid-sheen to gloss. When doing a large area, mask off sections the size of marble slabs so you can work on 1/3 to 1/2 of the project at a time.

Tools may include; A wide brush, (2 inches or more). A finer wide brush to soften the veins, (with lots of rags or paper bags to wipe off the brush). One or more small artists' brushes for veining. A palette to hold and combine the vein colors. A natural sponge or plastic bags. Also, a feather for extra fine details.

The base coat of paint should be thoroughly dry, smooth and at least mid-sheen. Lighter colors, like off whites, work best as a base coat. Start by applying the glaze tinted to your main color. Then use the sponge to dimple the glaze or the plastic bags to smoosh the glaze. Use small brushes to put first the larger veins than the smaller veins, (in the same or different colors), into the wet glaze. An unsteady hand works well when veining, so think of something that makes you jumpy. Marble veins move diagonally and branch off frequently, but never start or end randomly. Remember to butt all major and minor veins into one another. With each vein, lightly dab up excess paint with the sponge or a rag, then wipe off your brush and blur the vein by feathering out the paint at opposing angles. At any time you can use the fine wide brush, (dry please), or a feather to soften the area. If you are using the panel method, add the fine edge lines in a dark color. Let dry overnight. Now you can add some small veins if you wish. Small veins in the base color can make the marble jump out for you. When dry, you can add another layer of glaze in the same or a different color for a deeper-richer look.

TIPS -- Stand back once and a while to see how you are doing. To prevent the glaze brush from drying out between areas, wrap it in plastic. GO FOR IT! If you mess up, just wipe it off and do it over -- it is only paint.


It is possible to give your walls a watered appearance with the use of glaze and an even toothed wood graining comb. The moiré look is really just an optical illusion to one's peepers by using variations of compression in two sets of parallel lines. Start with a dry base coat of higher sheen paint, (velvet or semi-gloss so the glaze can glide over it). Roll or brush the contrasting color glaze on a manageable area. Then slowly drag the even toothed wood graining comb down the wall with a slightly wavy hand and by alternating speeds of the left and right sides of the comb. In other words, drop the left side faster, then the right side faster. This makes your alternating compression lines where the base coat shows through the glaze. Remember to wipe clean the comb at the end of each swipe. Now for the fun part. As strait as possible, drag the comb down the same area of the wall while the glaze is still wet. Move over one width of the comb and drag strait down again, repeat until the area is done. It is the second set of parallel lines that make the moiré effect show up! You can preview this technique with a paper plate, ketchup, and a fork. I strongly recommend practice with moiré. By playing with the first set of lines, (zigzags, S-shapes, swirls, etc.), and working out how to duplicate the pattern throughout the wall as closely as you need to, you can ensure yourself the look you want. If you find the moiré effect a bit too strong as is, (and many people do), just wait until the wall is dry, then over glaze to soften the look.


You will need enough lint free rags for the whole project as the rags will stiffen during use. Textures of the rags can be the same or mixed-and-matched. Ragging normally means putting glaze on the wall in a manageable area, then repeatedly pushing a bunched up rag into the glaze in an "evenly random" pattern. Rag-Rolling normally means using a rag, rolled up into a cylindrical shape, to apply glaze or paint onto the wall. Both hands are used to roll the rag in different directions.


You dip a lint free rag into the glaze and spot the wall, then Rub the glaze out in all directions as thin as you like. Repeat throughout the wall for an even effect. Remember to keep a wet edge at all times. The point is to have some of the base color come through the semi-transparent glaze. The glaze should not have obvious overlap lines as in color washing, or be as even as if sprayed on.


Smooshing is another negative technique. The base coat of paint should be at least a satin finish and dry before adding a tinted glaze. Apply the glaze over the wall, then quickly lay a plastic drop cloth onto the glaze. By pressing the plastic into the glaze and then bunching up the plastic, you can vaguely imitate the veins of a marbling effect. Next, pull the plastic sheet off the wall being careful not to disrupt the pattern of the glaze.


Just like it sounds. You dip a long bristle brush into paint or thinned paint, then pull back the bristle tips like a bow and let fly. Droplets of paint spatter the wall. There are many variations of the technique. You can use a screen, (say an old tennis racket), and smack a paint wet rag or sponge against it to form a unique pattern. You can put something in front of the wall to make a shadow effect, (like cave men leaving shadows of their hands--yep this is an old technique). If you can think of a way to give wet paint drops momentum to hit the wall, you may have a spatter method. (Please do not use the dog, that would be offensive.) One or more colors can be used. Spattering can be used over other techniques, and under some. Your biggest problem is to evenly cover an area, so stand back once and a while to see how you are doing. Your second biggest problem is to find someone to clean up after you, (use plenty of drop cloths). Please, safety first. Use eye protection, and mask your mouth to prevent ingestion of oil based paints.


How long can you hold your breath under water? Please use a marine animal, phylum Porifera, not a man made sponge. Sponging can be done in any paint medium, on or off, multiple colors or a single color with the base color showing through the top paint(s). The trick is to get an "evenly random" pattern. Beyond the technique of pushing the sponge strait onto the wall and lifting straight up, anything goes.


Stamping is one way to get a regular pattern on your walls without looking through a million wallpapers. Stamping can also be for irregular pattern effects, (like using Crayola Glow In the Dark finish to stamp stars on a bedroom ceiling- turn off the lights and you have about twenty minutes to fall asleep under the stars). The base coat of paint should be low sheen, eggshell or flat, to provide a grippable surface for your stamp paint. Any thing that can hold paint long enough to press onto a wall can be used as a stamp. Craft stores have foam cutouts and rubber stamps. Cellulose sponges can be shaped to a workable stamp, but the paint may not be solid on the wall. I recommend small-cell foam cutouts. You can make your own with upholstery or craft foam, (I buy from a local Army-Navy store, but fabric centers and craft stores always have suitable foam). If your stamp is too large or intricate for the foam to hold up on its own, try gluing the foam to the back of a cardboard cutout.

For a regular pattern, you may need to use a level or a plumbline to establish good vertical and horizontal lines that you can then mark with a chalk line. This is worth the effort to avoid drifting.

Once you have the design laid out, stamping goes fast. A cookie sheet or any flat surface large enough for your stamp can be covered with plastic or aluminum foil and used as the tray. Only a small amount of paint is spread onto the tray at a time. A small brush can be used to stipple the wall where the stamp may have left no paint. This is to avoid brush strokes.


You can make stencils yourself, but most people buy them in craft stores, decorating centers, and big box-national chain stores. Main line paint retailers may not carry stencils because those little baby-food-jar size stencil paint collections take up valuable space. (Stencil paints are a bit on the dry side and meant to be dabbed on so the paint will not slip under the plastic of less expensive stencils-blurring the edge lines. In my area, these dry stencil paints cost about one dollar an once.) Stencils will normally come in sets. You use one at a time over the same area for a detailed pattern, (for example; one for the leaf, one for the stem, another for the flowers and grapes).


Let's not become confused here. When we dab just the tip of the paintbrush onto wet paint to soften an edge or to hide a brush stroke, we call it stippling. A Stippling Finnish means to remove some glaze, (or paint), by stippling an entire surface to allow some of the base color to show through the top coat. It helps to have two people doing this Finish. You apply a glaze on a manageable area, then stipple, (repeatedly and randomly), over the whole area. Remember to wipe off the brush, (or whatever applicator being used), to prevent putting more glaze on than you are taking off the wall. Always keep a wet edge moving from one section to the next. The Ralph Lauren Leather Technique is a Stippling Finnish.

Roller Stippling is harder to do. A roller is used to remove some of the glaze. The roller must ROLL at all times, not smear. You may find this easier to do if the glaze has some time to set up first, but that reduces your time window. Have a lot of rags or paper bags on hand to clean off the roller. I recommend doing very small areas, ceiling to floor, and having two other people to help you.


For striping, start with a base coat in at least an eggshell finish. The base coat should be quite dry, (cured three weeks is best), so the masking tape will not pull off the paint. I recommend painters tape, because it has a finer low tack adhesive less likely to peel paint off the wall. Narrow stripes are elegant, but wider stripes are faster to do. Extra wide stripes are suitable for a child's room. When you determine the width of your stripes, you start in an inconspicuous location or corner and use a level to place the tape ceiling to floor. Keep the stripes the same distance apart, (normally even, but there are no rules that say you cannot use uneven stripes and in more than two colors). Set the vertical lines correct with the level, then you place the tape on the wall for five to ten feet worth of stripes. (You could mask off the whole room, but the tape should be reusable if you do not put too much paint on it. A helper can move the tape ahead of you as if you were pushing a large stone and the helper was moving the rolling logs from behind the stone to in front of the stone.) You can now brush or roll the paint onto the wall in the unmasked areas. The painter's tape is removed while the paint is still wet.

Shadow Striping is achieved when the sheen level alternates from one stripe to the next. Contrasting an eggshell with a satin finish is subtle. For a dramatic look, try using a flat paint for the base coat and a high gloss paint for the stripes, both in darker colors.

For a plaid, you let the wall dry thoroughly, then repeat the striping method in a horizontal direction. If one or both of the stripes are in a semi-transparent glaze or color wash paint, you can get a gingham look.


Visually, a little Tortoiseshelling goes a long way. So you may wish to try this one on a piece of furniture like a dresser first rather than a large wall area. Start with a mid-sheen base coat in a light color, and let it thoroughly dry. Brush or roll on a glaze tinted medium dark. (You may thin out the glaze, a drop or two of water for latex - mineral spirits or Penetrol for oil based glaze, to make it wetter than usual without over doing it.) Quickly push around the glaze in a zigzag pattern with a brush or plastic bag to let quite a bit of the base color show through the glaze. The size of the zigzag sets the size of the whole look. For a small Tortoiseshell look zig one inch, for large look go three inches in each zig. Now it gets fun. With a small artist's brush, dab and flicker dark paint in a diagonal direction like you were having a sneezing fit. Repeat more broken diagonal lines roughly parallel and as far apart from one another as the size of the zigzag until the surface is covered. Drifting a bit is better than a perfect diamond look. With a dry, soft, and large brush, (say 4 inches wide), you soften the finish with light strokes in the same diagonal direction and back again in the reverse direction. Please have plenty of rags or paper bags on hand to wipe off the large brush as needed. At this point, you may add smaller amounts of a forth and even fifth color in broken diagonal flickers in between the main ones. For the home stretch, you use the large, soft brush to feather out along the general diagonal lines over and over again until you blend the colors and soften the finish to the look you like. Remember to keep the large brush dry by wiping it clean frequently.

Pssst! Did you make perfect diamonds anyway? Well, use a bird feather to make fine lines between each diamond area just like shadow lines on a tortoise.

TROMPE L'OEIL (Translation - to deceive the eye.)

So you go to a friend's new home. Just inside the front door you try to hang up your jacket on a wooden coat rack, but the jacket falls to the floor. Why? Because the coat rack is only a painting of a coat rack on a flat wall. That would be a playful use of Trompe L'Oeil. Mainly, Trompe L'Oeil is used to solve problems of balance or structural deficiencies in interior decorating. Trompe L'Oeil can be a full color, 3 dimensional, realistic work by an accomplished artist like painting the image of a doorway or brick fireplace. Trompe L'Oeil can also be a direct copy of something like adding windows to a wall that only has one, (you just copy the window in a paint medium). Less advanced projects can also work well. Painting the image of fluted marble columns is not so hard. No matter how crude the work, as long as you deceive the eye for a fraction of a second, you have succeeded. Do you have a plant in a corner? Paint in more plants on the walls behind the real plant. How about a wall safe behind a family portrait?

Combining other finish techniques like stamping, stenciling, marbling, etc., is all acceptable to achieve the Trompe L'Oeil project. No rule says that you should not use wallpaper or boarder, real objects like fences, a doorknob into nothing, a curtain rod with only an image of a curtain on it, or the use of negative space. Have fun!


Wall Painting subject areas include formal murals that are works of art in themselves as well as primitive murals, graffiti, advertising (graffiti that is a tax deductible business expense), and copying cartoon characters or line art. Generally, when you use a wall as a canvas for painting a picture, that is Wall Painting. My father was so fond of a deceptive line art drawing of two men ascending a ladder, (on different sides, not possible in the real world), that he made a six foot copy on a wall that one would see walking down stairs into the basement. The techniques used are the same as in art class.

Major Subjects.

Paint Main Page. Window Treatments Wallpaper.
Carpet Flooring NOW What? Links
Please bookmark this site, then click on the subject of your choice.

The Alan J. Krist Web Site, ynow.net, is copyrighted material. This web site, (and any sub-page of this web site), may not be re-broadcast, published, copied, or disseminated in any way, in hole or in part, without my express written permission. I will allow two exceptions based on the honor system.

    The Two Exceptions:
  1. You may print the Graph Paper ad nausea.
  2. Only as a memory aid, you may print a sub-page for yourself or one sub-page each for personnel training provided,
    1. Each person that holds a print-out understands that this is copyrighted material, not to be disseminated.
    2. That I expect donations to a local charity of your choice per sub-page or leftover project material donated to a theatre group or charity, (or no more than ten percent of expenses saved on a project), for each sub-page as follows:
      Individual person -- $2
      Employee training -- $5 per sub-page for each employee.

I hope people will comply with the honor system for each sub-page they find useful no mater how the page was read.

This Web Site Copyright © 1997 - 2008 by Alan J. Krist.