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How to Create Decorative Paint Techniques (page 1 of 2)

Learn how to create faux finishes such as sponging, graining, stenciling and distressing.

Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

More in Painting

Courtesy of DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Some paint effects are used to add detail, such as stenciling, distressing, and some trompe l'oeil effects. Others are used to decorate whole walls or rooms, using a discontinuous topcoat of color to create depth and texture. The topcoat is chosen to complement the base color of the wall where it shows through. Traditionally a translucent glaze, known as scumble glaze, is used for the finish coat, although other paints are sometimes used. Once you are familiar with the key techniques of the effects shown here, you can experiment with colors, layers, and tools to create effects of your own.

View photo gallery of these paint techniques

Trompe l'oeil
Trompe l'oeil translates as "trick of the eye" and includes all those paint effects that try to mimic a different surface. Examples include marbling, where paint and glaze are carefully applied to create the appearance of marble, and tricks such as recreating the look of old stone on a new plaster surface. To produce convincing trompe l'oeil takes practice, so hone your skills on some scrap paper before tackling a new project.


Stencils are normally made from acetate or cardboard and can be bought ready-to-use, or you can cut your own. Any paint can be used for stenciling, but water-based options dry quickly and are the most user-friendly.

Use a very small amount of paint on a special stenciling or small stippling brush and dab lightly into the stencil. Stencil crayons or aerosol paints can also be used. You can apply a coat of flat color, or create a three-dimensional effect by concentrating color around the edge of a design. This creates a central highlight. You can also apply more paint on one side to suggest directional light.

Using a Stencil
Attach the stencil to the surface with low-tack painter's tape. Use a stenciling brush in an up-and-down motion to apply the paint. Remove the stencil carefully. Choose the next stencil location randomly, or create a regular pattern.

Courtesy of DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited


There are several techniques that can provide the illusion of age. Masking areas with petroleum jelly or glue prevents paint from adhering so that once the surface is painted and the area is sanded, the masked areas lose all their paint to provide a patchy, aged finish. Surfaces can also be physically distressed with strokes of a hammer or other objects. Accentuate the texture by rubbing some colored wax into the surface or colorwashing.

For a different effect use crackle glaze or craquelure. Used as directed, they create a surface like cracked antique paint or varnish. You can enhance the finish with colored wax.

Creating Aging Effects
When using these effects, think carefully where you would expect to find natural wear, such as on the edges of a door, or on the area around a handle. The more layers of different colored paint applied to that area, the greater the effect.

Courtesy of DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009