Faux Painting Techniques Using Washes and Glazes, Part 1

Decorative faux finishes are simple ways of creating color, depth, and illusion on any surface. However, making sense of all the different types of finishes can be tricky for beginners. Most decorative painting techniques use some type of tool along with a tinted wash or glaze to achieve these effects.

To understand some of the different techniques, you must first understand the difference between washes and glazes. Basically, a wash is watered down latex paint, and a glaze is thinned acrylic or oil-based paint. There are three types of washes and glazes: latex washes, acrylic glazes, and oil-based glazes.

Latex washes are easy to make. All you need to do is add water to latex paint. You may want to add an acrylic glaze to extend the drying time. The ratio of water to paint can be varied - anywhere from 10 to 90 percent of the mixture - depending on what look you are trying to achieve. More water will produce a more transparent and lighter color. However, a more durable finish will be achieved if more paint is used. Latex washes are best for positive techniques like spattering, sponging, and ragging on. However, they usually dry too quickly to use them with negative techniques such as dragging, stippling, marbleizing, and striping. In general, water-based washes are not as durable as oil-based ones.

Acrylic glazes will give you a longer working time than latex washes, but not as much as oil-based glazes. You can use water to thin down an acrylic glaze, but it will speed up the drying time. Generally, acrylic glazes are made by adding acrylic paint to a commercially made glaze. Acrylic glazes need to be applied more thickly than oil-based glazes to slow down their drying time. In addition, they tend to leave sharp edges and might need to be softened. Softening is done by using a large, square paintbrush to blend lightly.

Oil-based glazes, also called alkyd glazes, have the longest drying time, which means they will be workable for a longer period of time. They are also more durable than acrylic glazes and latex washes. However, they are also harder to clean up. Oil-based glaze is best used for dragging, stippling, marbleizing, color washing, combing, ragging, and striping. You should always use an oil-based glaze on a wall that has been painted with an oil-based paint.

Decorative Faux Painting Techniques

Techniques generally fall into three categories: positive, negative, and dual. Positive techniques, also known as additive or applicative techniques, involve applying the wash or glaze using some kind of tool. Negative, or subtractive, techniques involve applying the glaze with a roller or brush and then removing some of it using some kind of tool. Dual techniques can be either positive or negative depending on how the tool is used. All techniques are designed to be used over a base coat, which will be visible to some degree when the job is finished.

Drying time is important when using any type of negative technique. You can slow the drying time by stopping all air movement in the room in order to slow down the drying time. Increasing the humidity and dropping the temperature will also slow down the drying time. Any wash or glaze that dries in 15 minutes or less cannot be used for a negative technique.

Before you can do any faux painting, you will need to prepare the surface the same way that you would any other surface. You will also want to practice it on a polystyrene or foam-core board before trying it on a wall. The actual painting should generally be done by only one person because each person has a different touch.

Read on to learn how to achieve some of the more common decorative faux painting techniques.

Continue to Part 2: Faux Finish Techniques >