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Faux finishing paint guide

by Michael Collihole

Faux finishing is an attractive and economical approach to home decorating. Basically, it involves a coat of paint in one color topped with one or more coats of a decorative glaze in contrasting or coordinating colors. Through the use of different tools and techniques, the painter wipes, daubs, brushes, and/or rolls the glaze, giving the wall a decorative appearance. This is just a brief overview of the faux finishing process with some helpful hints.

Faux finishing old and new surfaces

You can faux finish on most surfaces, but for best results, you should properly prepare the surface. Begin by repairing and taping any holes and cracks. Any taped areas will require at least one coat of joint compound and two or three topping coats for a smooth finish. Smaller cracks and holes can be filled with white latex caulk (not silicone) and blended with your finger.

When walls are saturated with cigarette smoke, wash them using a mixture of 1/2 cup of ammonia to a gallon of warm water for general cleaning. Increase the ammonia to perhaps a 50:50 solution and even use it full strength for tougher jobs. Test your solution first in the worst areas to determine the proper mix for your project. When the surface is clean, use a sponge and rinse with fresh water. If you are concerned about the possible bleed-through of nicotine residue and cigarette odors, apply a stain killer before priming to seal them with a solvent system such as Zinsser's B-I-N, a shellac-based product. All surfaces must be sound, clean, and dry before you apply primer or your base coat.

Prime and base coat

Priming provides a clean surface for your base coat. If you skip this step, you face the possibility of peeling. If you wish, you can tint your primer with Tint All (available in a tube) and use that as your base coat.

For your base coat, you can apply washable semi-gloss, eggshell, satin, or non-washable latex flat paint. In general, make the base coat the darker of your selected colors and work with light-colored glazes (you can always cover your mistakes).

Applying glaze

Glazes come in both water-base and oil-base formulations, each with different advantages and requiring different techniques and clean-up. Generally water-base glazes have a shorter working time; if you wish, you can add Floetrol so it stays wet longer. Another tip when working with a water-base glaze is to dampen the wall first because it makes the glaze easier to apply and provides more time to work with the effect. Finally, experiment with the tools because some tools work better when they are damp.

Work in sections

In general, apply your glaze and decorative technique in sections and, if you are working with water-base glaze, keep a damp cloth nearby to wipe off any unsatisfactory patterning. A good tip is to practice your technique on a board or on paper before you begin to work in your room.

Apply masking tape to protect the edges of molding, baseboards, and ceilings. To tackle the corners of a room, or to avoid the accidental application of glaze to ceilings or floors, hold a sheet of cardboard against the surface you are not currently painting.

Work in sections and always keep a damp cloth nearby to wipe off your mistakes.

For more details about faux painting materials and tool usage, read:




We believe this faux finishing paint guide will be helpful as you plan and create your own unique decorative finishes. As always, we recommend that you carefully read and follow all the instructions provided by the manufacturer(s) of the products you select.

Copyright © 1999 & 2006 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. & Michael Collihole. All rights reserved.



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