How to Paint a Faux Wood Finish

The secret of painting faux wood effects lies in using the right tools for the job and knowing what wood really looks like (it’s not all knots and long grain). Duplicate or imitate the grain patterns on different wood species and paint mottles, stipples, spots and lines to make a faux wood effect successful. Obtain the equipment easily and relatively cheaply. Learn the basics to make patterns with these simple tools.

Faux Oak Effect

Oak has a strong grain with irregular vertical lines, half arches and stipples.

Step 1

Apply layer of base coat and allow to dry.

Step 2

Apply glaze over the base coat vertically, with a flat brush. If working on a large area, work in panels that are the approximate size of oak panels (about 18 inches wide and 3 to 6 feet high). If working on a smaller piece, work on one area at a time (the side of a cabinet, for example).

Step 3

Pull a fine-toothed comb down the length of the area you are working on. Occasionally twist it slightly to the left and right to create the slightly irregular lines of real oak.

Step 4

Pull a graduated comb (a comb with different-sized teeth varying from wide to fine) down the glaze, next to the first grain. Use fine, graduated and wide combs in random order until the area is covered.

Step 5

Pull a fine-toothed comb down the glaze at a slight angle over the lines already made. Only do this once or twice in a width of 3 feet, and place at irregular intervals.

Step 6

Hit the glaze gently with the tip of a flogging brush at approximately ¼-inch intervals. This breaks up the lines slightly, making the grain look more realistic.

Step 7

Wrap the wedge-shaped piece of cork in a cloth. Draw half-arched shapes that you see on oak. Notice how in real oak they appear clustered in clumps, so draw a 2 to 3 in one area and then leave another area free.

Step 8

Finish with a coat of varnish or polyurethane. Matte or satin usually looks more realistic than gloss.

Faux Maple Effect

Step 1

Apply base coat and allow to dry.

Step 2

Apply glaze vertically with a flat brush, spreading it thinly so the base coat shows through.

Step 3

Gently move a mottler down the surface, twisting it from side to side slightly, while the glaze is still wet. To enhance the maple effect by creating spots, press on the mottler slightly when changing direction to release a bit of glaze.

Step 4

Dab the surface irregularly with a soft brush before the glaze dries to soften the effect.

Step 5

Finish with a coat of varnish or polyurethane (matte or satin).


  • Wear rubber gloves when painting and always ensure the room you are working in is well-ventilated as many paints contain harmful substances.