Faux decorative painting techniques may seem like a modern interior and decorating trend, but it actually dates back to the ancient Egyptian days, when stucco and plaster finishes first became popular. These faux finishes were used to change the appearance of tombs and cave walls. Nowadays, homeowners often favor other types of faux finishes, such as color washing, crackling and antiquing, when updating their interior design. Regardless of which finish you prefer, you can start your next home improvement project with some of these helpful faux painting tips and inspiring ideas below.

drawers painted with faux decorative painting techniques and ideas

What Is Faux Painting?

This is a decorative painting technique where the finish mimics another material, like granite, fabric or wood. You may also hear this decorating technique referred to as faux finishing

When you create a faux finish, you add texture or dimension to your home. This is often done on walls and ceilings, but you can also experiment with these faux painting techniques on doors and furniture too.

This type of decorative painting is often trickier than traditional paint jobs, but there are some methods, such as sponging, that are easy enough for beginners. You can hire an artist or home improvement company for important projects, but you may feel comfortable enough to tackle this technique on your own after reading our guide.


Before any faux painting job, it’s important to figure out what supplies you need and how much of each product your project requires. You can do this by measuring the length, width and height of your walls. Once you’ve got your measurements, consider how many coats of paint you need to get the desired look.

Tip: You may want to do a test run of your color on a small section first so you can see how your preferred hue looks once it’s dry.

Do some research to find out which tools your project requires. It’s generally good to keep a paintbrush or sponge roller on hand, but you may also need other supplies. Let’s review some essentials so you can get a good idea of which tools might benefit you.


Check the condition of your walls before you stock up on supplies. Are your walls in great condition, or are they filled with holes and rough patches? Do you have white walls, or are they coated in a darker hue? Unless your walls are smooth and white, you may benefit from a primer.

For furniture and other projects, you may need a professional-strength paint remover. 

As the name implies, paint remover allows you to strip unwanted paint from surfaces. It also gets rid of other finishes and helps dissolves residue. This helps ensure your surface is clean enough for you to work some decorating magic. Real Milk Paint’s SOY-GEL Professional Paint Remover is a great product to try if you need to strip away the remnants of a previous paint job.

Paint primer is similar to the primer some women apply to their faces before adding makeup. Cosmetic primer smooths enlarged pores, and paint primer smooths rough uneven patches. When you apply paint over primer, it sticks better and glides on easily. As a result, you get a rich, even color rather than similar shades of the same paint.

After prepping your walls, make a list of supplies you may need to finish your painting project. Regardless of which faux finish you choose, you may need the following products and tools:

  • Paint
  • Paint roller
  • Sponge roller
  • Tarp
  • Painter’s tape
  • Ladder or step stool

You may also want to have plenty of paint sticks on hand for stirring the paint as well as a pouring spout and tape measure. Old bedding may work if you forget to buy a tarp, but keep in mind paint may leak through sheets or blankets.

Tip: Inexpensive vinyl tablecloths from dollar stores or big-box home stores, can also serve as tarps, in a pinch.

Colors of Real Milk Paint in Rainbow Order When you shop for paint colors, consider buying a few different hues so you can figure out which one you like best. Real Milk Paint comes in a rainbow assortment of eco-friendly, non-toxic paint colors to choose from. Our paint arrives in powder form and is ready to go after you mix in some water.

You may also want to get natural crackle or an artistic finishing glaze depending on which faux technique you choose for your home. Keep several paintbrushes in your supply box if you plan to experiment with different hues or finishes during your decorating project. The exact tools and supplies you need depend on the faux finishing technique. We’ll explore some popular faux painting options below.

Simple Faux Painting Techniques

Faux finish painting may seem intimidating, especially if you’ve never painted your home or furniture before — and your worries aren’t necessarily unfounded. Don’t abandon your home improvement goals just yet, though. While it’s true that many options are difficult for anyone other than seasoned professionals, there are still several basic techniques you can try on your own.

Wall Painting Techniques For Beginners

faux finished walls using color washing techniqueIf you’re faux painting your walls for the first time, try something simple, such as sponge rolling, color washingrag rolling. These techniques require few supplies, and you can finish them in a day or two. They’re also very forgiving, as errors easily blend in with the textured finish and appear intentional.

Sponge rolling is a great option for DIYers who haven’t experimented with faux finishes in the past. All you need are a few basic supplies: primer, paint and a natural sea sponge. Buy a few different colors of paint so you can add depth to your walls, and use a different sponge for each color. Dip the sponge in your paint, dab it on a random part of your wall and repeat until you achieve the desired effect

Color Washing

faux paint rag rollingLike sponge rolling, color washing requires just a few supplies, and you can finish your project quickly to create an old world effect. You need primer, paint, glaze, a rag and a roller brush.

  1. Start by priming your wall, and then
  2. Cover it with your preferred hue of paint.
  3. When the paint dries, apply glaze in a contrasting hue using a sponge roller or rag.
  4. Move the rag or sponge in a circular motion as if you are attempting to wipe away hidden debris from your walls.
Rag Rolling

Rag rolling, or ragging, is another easy option for beginners. It’s similar to color washing because it gives your walls a naturally soft texture and weathered look.

  1. Start by covering the surface with your primer.
  2. Add a base coat in the color you want.
  3. When the base coat dries, place a twisted, scrunched-up rag in a container of glaze and then roll it up or down your walls. This helps create a stucco-like finish.

Advanced Wall Painting Techniques

faux marble accent wallNot everyone feels compelled to start with simple techniques. If you’re confident you can tackle an advanced project, consider marbleizing or crackling your walls.


Marbleizing refers to a paint finish that looks like — you guessed it — real marble. This faux marble finish requires patience and plenty of it. You must use careful, deliberate strokes or risk ending up with a wall that looks more cracked than marbled.

When you faux marble your walls:

  1. Start with a primer, if needed.
  2. Apply your base color coat of flat or satin paint.
  3. Apply another paint in a lighter hue. Take a scrunched-up rag or painting sponge and dab it into the darker paint. Dab it across your wall. Smudge it carefully
  4. Let it dry.
  5. Take an artist’s paintbrush and draw thin swirls throughout your wall. Use neutral hues, such as black or white, and try to make your swirls mimic human veins. You can do this by lightly sketching the letter K or Y across your wall from top to bottom.
  6. When your swirls dry, cover your walls with glaze, and then add a sealant.
Wall Stripes

wall stripes accent wall bedroom

Wall stripes may initially appear simple, but they require a steady hand. Choose at least two hues of paint, and then figure out whether you want horizontal or vertical stripes. Measure your striped areas carefully unless you’re okay with wavy lines rather than straight stripes.

  1. After you’ve selected your stripe locations, apply painter’s tape to each carefully measured area.
  2. Paint over or around your tape, and then remove it when your paint is dry.
  3. Now it’s time to use your other paint hue(s) and create some dimension. If you’re feeling confident in your painting and taping skills, you can add other geometric shapes, such as diamonds or triangles, to your walls.

Faux Decorative Painting Techniques

Faux painting isn’t just for walls and ceilings. Many DIYers revamp outdated furniture or decorative pieces this way, and you may find it easier to start with a dresser or chair than your walls. When it comes to faux finishes for furniture, crackling is a popular option for DIYers who like furniture that looks aged or worn.

Natural Crackle Finish

faux painting technique - crackle finishWhen you crackle furniture:

  1. Start by applying a base coat of Real Milk Paint
  2. Add an antique-style crackle finish product when it dries.
  3. Add another coat of paint with a flat finish.
  4. Wait a few days before applying a sealant. This helps lock in your paint job so it just looks cracked rather than actually peeling and chipping. Some great options are Finishing Creams and clear waxes

faux painting technique - antiquingAntiquing is another way you can upgrade the appearance of your furniture, and you only need base paint and glaze to get it done. It works best if you layer rich earth tones over light hues, such as cream or yellow.

  1. Apply a mixture of paint and glaze, with 2 parts glaze for 1 part paint
  2.  Let it dry slightly.
  3. Grab a rag and make long, smooth strokes across the surface until you achieve the desired look.
  4. Don’t forget to add a sealant when you’re done so you can protect your antique finish.

faux painting technique - stencilingStenciling enhances the appearance of furniture but requires little artistic talent. If you can apply paint within the lines of a decorative cutout, you can stencil your dressers or tables. Stenciling is also a popular decorating technique for people who want to make a small object appear larger, such as a tiny window frame. If you stencil a border around a small window, it makes it appear bigger.

Wood Graining

Try wood graining if you want the look of wood furniture but currently have household decor made from other materials, such as MDF.

faux painting technique - wood graining

  1. Start with a coat of paint in your preferred hue, then
  2. Add a thin layer of glaze when the paint dries.
  3. Carefully smooth a wood grain rocker across the glaze until your painted project resembles traditional wooden grains. (You can also do this on doors.)

Give Faux Finish Painting a Try for Yourself

Faux painting lets you customize the look of your home with a few basic supplies, but the best faux painting techniques can take practice. Before you give up or hire an expert, consider trying a small project on your own with the handy tips from our guide above (thrift stores can be a great source of low-risk ‘practice material’). As you become more comfortable with the DIY route, you’ll gain the skill and confidence to move on to bigger things and more advanced faux painting techniques. Whether you’re tackling a chippy milk paint dresser or your marbling your bedroom walls, just remember that time and practice are the best way to go from beginner to expert!