Tips and Guides

Building 101: Faux Finishes for Your Home

Six popular paint-based faux finishes that fool the eye and add drama to interiors


If you have the luxury of a time and a huge budget, it's better to have genuine surface materials. However, if you're a little low on cash or can't wait for a time-tempered natural finish to occur (antiquing, for example), take heart, a little cheating won't hurt. Faux finishes are almost as good as the real thing!

Don't know where to start? Check out the six paint-based faux finishes below!. 

Read the original article ("Fake and Fabulous") in the January 2009 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App now! Log on to for more details. 

Paint Spattering

The technique: The easiest finish employs tiny paint dots in a variety of colors make for a rich yet effortless-looking surface accent on walls.  The 'spattering' effect is achieved by thumping a loaded paintbrush (or old toothbrush against a screen for small surfaces) against a stick to spatter it in different directions.

Do it right: To adjust and test the size of paint dots, knock off some first on a rag. Aim to cover the entire surface with paint dots for a more authentic effect. This is bound to be a messy affair so use a mask and lots of newspaper.

Antiquing and Verdigris

The technique: This mimics the patina metals acquire over time. Verdigris, with its fascinating natural greenish-bluish tones, can be duplicated when a horizontal piece of metal or plastic is exposed to heat and combined with acids. The trick is to apply the layers in uneven, arbitrary patches for a more natural look. 

Do it right: With all the chemicals involved, best to leave this to a professional. Local muralist and faux finish expert Alfred Galvez of AG Murals gives classic verdigris a twist ("Sometimes played with rust colors and an accent of open color or a color that doesn't belong in the characteristic of verdigris, such as pink"). He also does another version of antiquing called distressing which figures well in "shabby chic" homes. "Chipped, stripped paints and crackle effects are the characteristics of this finish. The most popular now is the white crackle with underlying gold tone."


The technique: This age-old classic finish emulates various natural marble veins, including carrara marbling which involves dipping a thin brush in black glaze and sweeping a softening brush in light, random strokes to create the characteristic marble pattern. Serpentine marbling, on the other hand, is achieved by rubbing oil paint on a surface using a tissue paper.

Do it right: Galvez's technique is more akin to serpentine marbling: "Process is thinning paint with water (10% paint, 90% water). Application: using cheese cloth dipped in mixture and wiped on circular motion on the wall."

Faux Bois

The technique: The subtle grains and lines of a wood furniture or surface can be easily recreated. If done well, you can even replicate the bookmatching veins and knots of expensive wood veneers.

Do it right: It requires preparing a liquid mix of powder sienna pigment to be applied on a smooth surface which will later on be coated with an oil varnish. Using a flogging brush with long bristles, stroke the surface in varying pressures to achieve wood's natural patterns. 

Trompe L'oeil

The technique: Literally meaning "fool the eye," well-done trompe l'oeil looks three-dimensional from afar. A mixture of oil paint, turpentine, and glaze is commonly used, but ready-to-use paper designs can be bought for those who don't have the time or skill to paint the design from scratch. Popular themes include figures, landscapes, and architectural details such as columns and bricks.

Do it right: "The imitation of bricks is more convenient than having real bricks installed," says Galvez. He advises emphasizing a print's embossed quality "to add more to the trompe l'eoil effect." 


The technique: A gold finish gives off an aura of elegance, but it need not cost a fortune. Through transfer gilding method, which makes use of transfer gold leaf and a special adhesive, gold details can be applied to any flat, hard surface like plaster and wood and to small home accents like mouldings and decor.

Do it right: Transfer gilding yields a more intense and lustrous outcome than other cheaper and quicker methods such as metallic powder gilding which involves brushing metallic powder on an adhesive-covered surface, or merely using gold paint.        


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