Tips for Faux Paint Finishes

Paint has always been used for two entirely different functions. On the one hand, it is a covering used to bring solid color and life to otherwise boring surfaces. Home exteriors and room interiors are the typical examples of this treatment, though you may also hear painted furniture and powder-coated vehicles included as well. On the other hand, paint has traditionally been used as the indispensable medium for art, creating the illusions of depth, representation and abstraction on flat, blank canvases. Somewhere in between the two lies the concept of faux painting, an umbrella term that refers to any number of innovative room-painting techniques.

Why “faux”? The term makes reference to the fact that painting this way often implies depth and texture where there is none. Some have even gone so far as to say faux painting is the art of “drawing” something that doesn’t exist – be it fabric, metal or a third dimension. Most experts categorize fax paint finishes under a few main flags – sponging, dragging, stamping, marbleizing and so on. Although a few require exotic materials, most simply demand household items and concentration. Thankfully you hardly need to be an artist to master techniques such as these – for the most part, they require little more than patience and repetition. The benefits can be spectacular – dazzling forms and unexpected contours that lend every room a more inviting and stylish sheen.

Of the major techniques, ragging may be the most common. In it, you apply a base coat in your color of choice, wait for it to dry, and then use a blotted rag to achieve secondary texture over the first. Most experts advise practicing with your glaze before you hit the actual locale, as details such as pressure, rotation and saturation can make all the difference. Once you are comfortable with the look, you simply need to repeat the same motion as needed, rotating when necessary, to achieve a mottled appearance akin to fabric. You may also want to experiment with cotton versus polyester, as the material you use may affect the clarity of the print. Some advanced painters have even been knows to affix chamois cloth to a traditional roller to expedite the process!

Sponging works much like ragging, but with markedly different results. Instead of crumpling to create a repeatable shape, sponging makes use of the holes that naturally arise in a porous sea sponge. That means the texture you get is far finer and subtler, closer to pointillism than illustration. The steps are essentially the same – apply a base coat, pick your glaze, practice, blot and apply. But one of the nice things about sponging is that you need to look closely at the wall to discover the technique – from afar, it simply looks like a blended texture. A number of designers even recommend sponging more than once with subtly different colors to build up depth and complexity and reduce the uniformity you might otherwise see from such a fine-grained technique.

Another popular choice, usually called combing or dragging, involves precisely what you may expect – vertical or horizontal streaking techniques to create a “grain” in the glaze itself. The difference here is that you want to apply a full base coat and a full coat of glaze before you begin the technique. Generally the glaze coat is then “combed” using a stiff brush to apply subtle parallel lines over the length of the room. Many painters apply blue tape or a guide to ensure all the motions are parallel and perpendicular to the lines of the room. Different brush types and bristle gauges can offer finer or coarser grains depending on your preference, and the amount of time you give the glaze to set may alter the appearance as well. Experiment with a small section of wall or wood until you get precisely the aesthetic you want.

Of course, faux painting can also include advanced techniques such as crackle glazes, metallic finishes and more, so do not limit yourself without speaking to a pro at your local home wars store first. Anyone who has visited an art gallery can vouch for the fact that nearly any material can be “faux’ed” with paint, so be sure and let your imagination free before it’s time to commit.


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