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How To Faux Grain Wood

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

When we first saw our house it was a mess. It had been abandoned. It had been updated by people with no concern for the historic value of a building. It was, in a phrase, 4300 square feet of potential.

As I worked on the house I realized that the wood had, at one time, been stained mahogany, a very common treatment for wood trim in 1910 when this house was built. I was determined to strip every bit of wood in the place and restore the old girl to her original charm and beauty.

What I had not counted on was the fact that down the line a lot of the wood had been replaced with cheap pine. Not all of it, mind you, but enough to make stripping and refinishing an impossibility. I can still remember the shock and frustration I felt as I stripped off paint to find knot hole filled pine from Home Depot. I had a decision to make. Should I forget about the beautiful mahogany stained trim that once graced the house or should I replace all the trim with quality trim and stain it at a small fortune?

I chose answer C, none of the above.

Faux Grain, An Inexpensive Alternative

In the picture above, not only is the wood faux grained but the wallpaper is actually stencilled on the wall! People never notice that it isn't real!

Faux graining has been around a long, long time and it is much easier than most people think. Depending on the colors of undercoat that you use, and the color of stain that you use you can emulate any type of wood. I started out using a graining tool but I found that I got a much better and easier effect with just an old brush and some creative strokes.

Wood graining became very popular in the 19th century. Only the wealthy could afford the beautiful hardwoods for trim and the rising middle class ebgan to use soft woods use graining techniques to make them appear to be the higher quality trim.

Definitely you want to research this. You need to read up on technique and supplies, and maybe check out a book or two at the local library. Practice on scrap wood to find the best undercoat color for the effect that you want to create. Look at different pictures of wood trim to see what appeals to you the most and goes with the style of your house. If you are doing a restoration check what would be appropriate for the time period. Take a deep breath...and move on to the next step.

close up of faux grain
close up of faux grain

Actually Painting the Trim

You will need a basecoat in the flat color of your choice. I used a color called Cider Toddy for mine because I wanted the undercoat to subtly match the color in my walls. Next you need to decide on a gel-stain color. Gel-stain is easy to use, it's texture is gloppy, a bit like finger paint. Do not get regular wood stain, make sure it is gel. Aqua resin company has a low VOC stain that I am interested trying. Always try to get low or ) VOC paints for your health and that of your environment!

For my home I chose red mahogany because it matched the original wood stain. You will also need a topcoat to seal it. I chose an amber shellac for mine because it gave the wood a warm, vintage look and this was important to me.

Other supplies you need are:

1. brushes

2. Rags

3. painter's plastic to protect floors

4. painter's tape (masking tape)

5. Brush cleaner

Be sure and tape off the trim by running a length of tape along the wood. This will catch any slips you make and the wall will not get splotched. Paint a coat of your basecoat color and let it dry. Now go back and brush the gel color on, not too thick. It will stay wet awhile so you can experiment with different strokes for different wood effects. When it is almost dry go back with a soft brush and softly blend the strokes until they look more natural. Let dry completely, I usually give it a week, and then shellac.

It really IS that easy.

With Practice

You can come up with a lot of variations on this. You can do a door, for example, with birdseye maple insets. Maybe you would like a door with tortiseshell insets, or is all possible with faux painting techniques. Floors, walls, cabinets, nearly anything can be faux finished with beautiful results. An added bonus is that when everyone sees what you have done you might find a source of another income as they ask you to do the same things in their own homes!

I have been very pleased with my work. It has held up well. The problem is that when it gets nicked during the course of life, white spots show through. I remedy this quickly and easily with a permanent marker or a bit of leftover gel. I suggest completing you first project in a room where you will have the freedom to make mistakes. My first room was our reception parlour and, while the mistakes are obvious only to me, they ARE obvious!

Most of all, enjoy what you do.

How To Faux Grain Wood


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    • profile image

      tammy 6 years ago

      @ dora delon

      you mighnt think its the best looking

      it mighnt be the best

      but you dont have to give off negative comments

      they post this video as a example

      like it watch it

      dont like it dont watch it then

    • profile image

      Dora Delon 6 years ago

      This is the ugliest wood door I've ever seen. Looks like a bad painting job.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Tony I cant choose between A and D altho I lean toward A.

    • profile image

      Tony 6 years ago


      My name Tony and I am a Painting and decorating student in Canada.

      I will go to the exam soon and I have a question that I can't find right answer for it because every book is explaining different procedure for creating wood grain

      I need your opinion for this question which it is one of the exam questions with 4 answer.

      please tell me which answer is the most correct one?

      I thank you in advance for reading this and your help

      Here is the question and answers:

      How is a graining finish prepared for a metal door?

      A-Match ground coat to lightest color in wood sample and mix graining coat to match darkest color in wood sample

      B-Match ground coat to darkest color in wood sample and mix graining coat to match lightest color in wood sample

      C-Match ground coat to darkest color in wood sample and mix glazing coat to match lightest color in wood sample

      D-Match glazing coat to lightest color in wood sample and mix graining coat to match darkest color in wood sample

      Thanks Again


    • werebear profile image

      werebear 8 years ago from UK

      I will give it a try on an old blanket box i have.

      Thanks for the tips.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      sorry. That was the best video I could find that was compatible with hubpages. It is very easy to do, once you actually are moving the brush through the gel stain you will understand exactly how to do it. :)

    • profile image

      Deborah 10 years ago

      Just wanted to compliment you on your hub. I would have liked to see a little more detail in the video about how to actually do the graining strokes, but all in all, very informative.