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For our demonstration, we're applying this technique on a piece of plywood. This is advisable as a practice step before trying it on an actual door or other permanent fixture. The first step is to lay down a background color -- generally yellow, tan or reddish. Use a coat of latex paint as the background color. Allow it to dry before beginning the graining process.
To add the graining effect, wood stain is used. It's important to use a gel stain rather than an ordinary thin-bodied stain. A thin stain will run when applied in this process. Using a paintbrush, apply a thick layer of gel stain over the background paint. Cover the entire piece.
Once the stain has been applied, use a specialized graining tool to create the grain pattern in the stain. Graining tools (Image 1) come in a variety of forms, and are available at home centers. They are essentially a comb with teeth that you pull through the wet stain to create decorative effects. Pull the teeth of the graining tool through the wet gel-stain (Image 2). A rocking, back-and-forth motion made during the pull creates the wood-grain pattern. You can experiment using different techniques with the graining tool -- such as wave or squiggle patterns -- to create different effects (Image 3). If you're not happy with a certain effect, simply add more gel stain over the surface and begin again.
Once you have a design that you're happy with, simply let the stain dry to create the finished effect. You can also experiment with lighter stains (Image 1) to give the effect of lighter woods such as oak or popla. As a finishing touch, lightly brush out the graining-tool lines with the tips of the bristles on a dry paintbrush to create a softer, more natural look. Once the stain has dried completely, apply a coat of polyurethane varnish (Image 2) to protect the grain pattern you've created.
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