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How to Faux Paint

Wondering how to faux paint? It’s easy and a great way to make anything look fabulous without spending a fortune.

I love to use faux painting and various aging techniques in Old World home decor because it not only adds color, but depth and character to your space.

If you use faux painting techniques properly, your walls won’t need much in the way of decoration, and they’ll never get boring because your eye is always seeing something new.

The colors of a sunset come flooding in with orange-red faux paint techniques over a yellow-orange base, which appears as gold peeking through

The colors of a sunset come flooding in with orange-red faux paint techniques over a yellow-orange base, which appears as gold peeking through.

When I first learned how to faux paint, I was living in a home in which all the walls, trim and railings were painted the exact same shade of antique white. The home needed some warmth. After searching through books on faux painting, I came across a look I wanted to replicate.

The book gave recipes and instructions on how to mix my own colors into the clear glaze base, using artist acrylic paints. (I know now that I was learning how to faux paint the hard way. Today, most paint and big box stores carry glazes they can tint for you.)

On this page, you’ll find tips on how to faux paint, time saving pro painter tricks, and what to look out for. Enjoy learning this fantastic technique and I look forward to hearing about the looks you create with faux painting!

How to Faux Paint for a Warm Look

trayed ceiling with faux paint insets and it meets a Venetian plaster wall

Start with a base coat of vibrant tangerine paint in a satin finish (paint must be eggshell or satin if you want to glaze over it) and let it dry for 24 hours.
Mix your custom glaze, keeping track of the exact amount of each color added so it can be replicated. It’s easier to purchase premixed glaze, with the color already added.
Using a 4” wide brush, paint x’s with the glaze until you fill up a 4’ x 8’ foot section.

Here's an example of how faux paint finishes on ceiling can be combined with Venetian plaster walls.

Take a sea sponge and roll or dab it over the wet glaze. This removes the faux material in a random pattern so that, when it is finished, it looks like fluffy, caramel clouds, and the bright tangerine base is elegantly muted.

In my house, I painted the accent walls in aqua and poppy yellow, but instead of oil-based glaze, I used Ralph Lauren’s “Aging” product to mute the color. This is an acrylic instead of an oil base and came premixed, but because it has less “open” time, you don’t have as much control over the finished look. Open time means that it takes longer to dry so you can play with it more before your movement is frozen in time.

How to Faux Paint Tips

  1. Sometimes your faux paint project won’t look exactly as you thought it would, and that can be a good thing!

    I once used the Ralph Lauren acrylic glaze the store mixed for me in a grey shade over turquoise bathroom walls (Don’t be afraid of a bright base color under the faux!) I worked that grey glaze onto the walls and had a tough time in a couple spots. The places where I had wiped it off and started over were hard to blend with the part of the wall that had already started to dry. It’s funny, but that turned out to be the part I liked the best because it looked liked fault lines in an old stone wall.

  2. Pro painters typically use rags to lift off excess material. They bunch the rag and roll it over the wall. Paint stores sell special lint-free rags made out of a lightweight, cotton knit, or you can use old, cut up t-shirts.

  3. Painters know how to make their job easier. They roll the glaze on with a small “weenie” roller, a lightweight roller with a 1” diameter and approximately 6” long.

  4. Instead of using paint trays, use a paint can filled 1/3 of the way, or a two-gallon plastic bucket ($2.50). Buy the proper size metal screen and hang it into your container to roll off excess paint. The handle allows you to hold it with one hand and roll with the other—this results in less bending and it’s easier to bring the paint up a ladder. Buckets or pails are harder to tip or step in and easy to cover with a cloth when you want to take a break.

  5. When applying primer or base coats use the larger paint rollers with a five-gallon bucket and screen. This costs around $12 for the whole setup, rollers and all, but will last through many projects.You can also recycle an old bucket.
This rustic faux paint technique looks like it could be found in an ancient ruin with warm brown swirls of glaze over glaze

Faux paint actually looks better when it’s not all matchy-matchy, but it can throw a room off if two people try to work side by side because each person has different patterns in their movements.

It’s better to have one wall to yourself, ending on an inside corner, or have one person roll on the glaze and another do all the ragging or texturing.

This rustic faux paint technique looks like it could be found in an ancient ruin with warm brown swirls of glaze over glaze

Super Easy Starter Project

Maybe you have a niche in your home that you would like to accent with Faux techniques to make it more of a focal point? Doing a small area is an easy way to become familiar with faux techniques and will make a big difference in your home. Remember to coat horizontal surfaces with polyurethane if you plan to display items on your new finish.

Safety

Remember, oil-based and even acrylic products have fumes and serious warnings on the labels. You must follow the manufacturer’s directions and always work in a well-ventilated room.

Many environmentally friendly (low or no VOC) paints are on the market, so please do your own research and make your own judgments about the products and their safety.

Choosing a Pro

You may decide to hire a professional to apply the faux (I have several times) because the project is just too big or you want the look but don’t want to do the work. Make sure the pro you choose knows how to faux paint.

Reputable professionals have left other jobs on good terms,so you should be able to see examples of homes they’ve done and they should have multiple references for you to check. Someone who is really good always leaves a great impression with his clients and it shows in the loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising they receive.

Please come back often. We’ll go into more detail on some of the techniques mentioned here as well as give you more interior paint ideas and photos of finished projects.