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Embrace the Faux

Three Creative Paint Techniques to Try

When it comes to changing the look of a room, it’s hard to beat painting. The possible combinations of colors and techniques are virtually endless, especially when you incorporate faux techniques that mimic different materials. Simple faux projects are within reach – provided you do your homework in advance.

That homework includes careful consideration of the look you desire. Do you want the room to be bold or soothing? Find examples of interesting paint combinations online, but also pay attention to other homes. 

Of course, there’s plenty to be done before you even crack open a can of paint. Painting is all about preparation.

Before you start, protect anything you don’t want to be painted. If you can, remove furniture from the room. If this isn’t feasible, move everything into the center of the room and cover all with drop cloths (old sheets work well). Also cover the floor. 

Next, take everything off the walls (artwork, shelves, etc.) and wash with a mild detergent and soft cloth to remove dust, cobwebs, and surface dirt. 

As you wash, you might find imperfections: gouges, divots, or holes. Fill these with spackle and smooth with a flat-edge scraper. Let the walls and spackle dry completely. Once the patches are hard, lightly sand them with a fine-grit sandpaper and give another swipe with a damp cloth. 

Finally, use painter’s tape to edge the ceiling and baseboard trim. These are areas you’re not planning to paint. Ultimately, this prep will reduce work on the back end. 

Next comes the base coat, which is a good idea for every paint project. This coat covers what has come before, evening out the surface and ensuring that past wall color won’t interfere with the new. Apply the base with a roller, using an overlapping, zig-zagging “W” pattern. This will keep your surface smooth and even. Many paint lines now have combination primer-base colors. Consult with a professional to see if this will work for your project. If the wall is a deep, dark color, stick with a separate base coat.

To prepare for executing your faux finish, invest in paint samples and experiment on poster board with the technique you plan to use. You can feel the physical motions involved in the process and try numerous application materials: cloth, plastic bags or wrap, sponges, and brushes with varying bristle styles. 

Let’s look at three specific finishes:


Coming from the Latin striatus, meaning furrows, strié is a French word meaning grooved or fluted. Done well, a strié wall can look as though it’s covered in fabric and will have a texture and depth that mimics wallpaper. 

With strié, the base coat should be lighter than the topcoat; white is generally preferred. Apply two base coats and let dry well. For the topcoat, blend the color with paint glaze, available at paint stores. Use a five-to-one ratio of glaze to paint. Apply the glaze-paint mixture with a roller, rolling in vertical lines, not zig-zag. Work in a small area (3-foot square), so the layer stays wet for the next step. 

To create the strié, drag a long-bristled paintbrush through the fresh topcoat, evenly, top to bottom. Wipe the brush after every drag. Repeat these steps as you finish the wall, overlapping the brushstrokes for a seamless connection.

Color Washing or Glazing 

With glazing, color selection is key, because you’re applying a translucent medium atop a solid base, then removing some of the topcoat to reveal the base color. Use a color wheel to find complementary colors or consider using two different shades from a single color card. 

The base coat should be latex, with a shiny finish: eggshell, satin, or pearl. Apply two coats and let dry at least twenty-four hours. 

To create the glaze layer, mix the topcoat color with glaze in a three-to-one ratio, three parts glaze and one part paint. Apply to the wall using a large, natural-bristle brush, working in an area no more than 3-foot square, with varying strokes (not all in one direction). 

Before the section dries, remove part of the glaze coat using the material of your choice: plastic bag or wrap, cloth rag, sponge, or stipple brush (short, dense bristles). Wipe excess glaze from the material as you go. 

With this technique, you’re likely to find a rhythm. That’s good, and make sure you have time to finish the whole wall before you take a break, so you have a consistent look. 

Faux Granite

Granite countertops are popular, but they’re not always practical. In addition to the expense, a granite countertop is heavy. Not all cabinets can withstand the weight. Faux granite – while it requires time and patience to create – can be a reasonable alternative. 

Start by finding an appealing granite sample piece or tile. Look for four colors to work with; select one light, one dark, and two mid-tone. 

After the primer, roll on two coats of metallic paint. Dry thoroughly. Now add the least dominant, or lightest, color. This is one coat, so
the shimmer can come through. 

The next two colors will each be mixed with glaze at a three-to-one ratio, with three parts glaze to one part color. Dab these on with a sea sponge. Don’t worry too much about letting the first layer dry completely. Blend the final accent color with a four-to-one ratio of glaze to paint. Add sparingly. Once the accent color is fully dry, lightly apply a glitter spray paint. The final step is a clear finish coating of polyurethane or acrylic urethane, which gives the glossy shine that everyone expects from granite. 

A final note: When you’re working with faux finishes, it’s not about being perfect. It’s about getting the effect you want with the colors you choose. Your final product isn’t going to look exactly like anyone else’s, because you did it yourself. You should be proud of yourself and your effort. 

Rick Holtz is the owner of H.J. Holtz & Son Painting, Wallpapering and Decorative Finishes in Richmond. They collaborate with local designers or work with homeowners and business owners directly to increase curb appeal and create stunning interiors. Learn more about the company and its services at H.J. Holtz & Son Painting.
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