Faux finish painting, or using techniques and materials on one surface to imitate or suggest another surface, has been around for thousands of years. Today’s faux paint finishing products and innovative techniques allow beginners to the highly skilled to create visual interest. Here's an overview of faux finish painting.
Faux finishing is popular and it’s easy to see why. It allows self expression, personalization and customization, says Becky Ralich Spak, senior designer at Sherwin-Williams®. A faux finish can be a way to set the mood or tone of a room.
Today’s faux paint techniques and products appeal since they enable even beginners to produce interesting results. You’ll find step-by-step instructions on many do-it-yourself television shows and in a variety of magazines. The projects will inspire, educate and build confidence in any DIYer.
Techniques Sandy Agar-Studelska, decorating products manager for Diamond Vogel® Paint, says faux paint finishes have been on the public’s mind for the last 15 years. Homeowners “really love the variety of finishes they can get,” she says.
Basically, faux paint finishes are created by using whatever might be at hand—crumpled rags, newspaper or sponges—or specially designed tools to produce specific results with paints and glazes. Just simple techniques can add more interest to a wall than just a plain coat of paint. More skillful applications can create realistic imitations—like marble, stone or bamboo—that’s difficult to tell from the real thing.
Here’s an unusual start to your faux finishing project: Flip through some magazines while they—not you—are upside-down. “That lets you get rid of the type and focus on the decorative styles,” says John Catalanotto, faux finish expert and partner in Pro Faux in Akron, Ohio.
Look for techniques you like. Perhaps that metallic paint over a raised wall covering will produce the faux tin ceiling you have long desired.
Clip the images that appeal to you and start a file.
Select color schemes. Choosing just one color can be intimidating. Combining multiple colors becomes even more difficult to visualize. When in doubt, says Becky Ralich Spak, senior designer at Sherwin-Williams, choose colors from the same color strip and select a light and dark value. This is referred to as a monochromatic scheme and has a more subtle appearance than two complementary colors (two colors opposite each other on a color wheel).
Create sample boards by playing with color combinations and techniques on large sheets of poster board.
Place these large "color chips" you have created throughout the room to see how the colors relate to the room light and to view the pattern created by the technique
If you plan to tackle the project yourself, read, read, read about the technique, attend a workshop and practice the skill needed.
Have all your materials—paints, glazes, tools—ready before you start a project yourself.
Consider a faux technique such as sponging or ragging if you have a less-than-perfect wall. The technique helps hide surface blemishes.
If you are considering a textured faux paint finish, check out the many products specifically designed for applying texture paints, from foam roller covers with etched patterns to large diameter rollers.
Vary the “footprint” of your tool—whether it’s cloth, sponge or paper—so the project has a random appearance and not an obvious repeating pattern.
If you plan to contract with a professional, ask for referrals and view the projects firsthand. Obtain estimates from five sources and throw out the one that is too low.
If you plan to hire someone, be sure he or she is insured and bonded. The preparation, for example, has to be done correctly or it may pop off or fall off.
Sponging and ragging are still among the most popular faux painting techniques. According to Quinn Larson, BEHR® Paints color trends specialist, they owe their popularity to being not only among the first do-it-yourself faux finishing techniques but easy as well.
Here is a brief look at some basic faux finish painting techniques:
Sponging: This technique uses various textures and sizes of sponges to dab glaze or translucent paint onto a base coat in heavier or lighter amounts.
Ragging: Also called rag-rolling, ragging on or ragging off, this process involves using a bunched-up cloth to roll, blot or dab glaze off a base coat.
Stippling, spattering or speckling: Each is a bit different but basically the techniques involve applying random small dots of paint on top of a base coat. This can be accomplished by brushing across a mesh screen or flicking the paint off the brush with your fingers among others. Another brush is then used to flatten or pick up any over-application.
Changes on the Horizon Faux finish painting is changing as consumers grow more sophisticated in their preferences. For some, it has been a matter of recognizing their do-it-yourself limitations. Some techniques require more skill than others and doing one project usually does not provide enough skill development. People also want to save time, according to Agar-Studelska. If budget is the main concern—and not the joy of accomplishing a project—determine if it’s more cost-effective to buy all of the special tools and textures needed or to hire someone.
Besides magazines and TV shows, look to decorators and paint manufacturers for ideas and services. Manufacturers have specialty finishes that add texture, dimension, light-reflecting abilities and depth to the paint that may need a more skillful hand.
Now that faux paint finishes have gained greater recognition and popularity as décor-supporting color and surface, says Larson, decorative finish designers have been busy developing looks that have greater variation and textural effect. The trend has shifted from a simple color combination to a faux look that replicates a tangible texture.
Faux finish painting can now replicate many textures and weaves, clouds and natural stone—both in texture and color. Consider faux finish looks that provide the depth, presence and visual interest to complement both room décor and color much like that of a decorative wall paper, Larson says. Bolder colors are gaining interest with both darker combinations in deep saturated colors as well as airy and clean combinations in light, clear colors.
Check out the creative products in the marketplace before starting. McCloskey® Special Effects, for example, includes metallic and aging patinas and rusts as well as dimensional finishes such as Sculpture Stone Bamboo Effect. Sherwin-Williams Illusions® has such products as Crackle Finish that creates a rustic, weathered look and Softsuede® and Sandscapes® finishes with a soft texture that provide dimension and visual interest.