Faux Painting Techniques Using Washes and Glazes

Color washing, also spelled colorwashing, is done simply by painting thin layers of glaze in irregular patches over a white or off-white base. It is then blended with a cotton rag, cheesecloth, or paintbrush. This could be done multiple times to create different effects. Depending on how much wash or glaze is removed, this can be either a positive or a negative technique. Some people remove glaze, while other simply blend it.

Sponging uses natural sea sponges to apply or remove paint from the base coat. It is one of the simplest techniques. It is great for imperfect walls or ones that have a rough texture. Cellulose sponges can be used for this technique, but it is not generally recommended because their pattern is too regular. Sponging can be subtle or brilliant depending on the colors and number of layers applied. Sponging on will create a stronger pattern, while sponging off will create a look similar to parchment.

Ragging is slightly more difficult than sponging. It uses crumpled rags to either apply or remove paint. Almost any type of material can be used: cotton, terry, burlap, or even plastic. Ragging is a good technique to use on bumpy or irregular walls because they will hide imperfections. Generally, ragging on creates a more dramatic pattern than ragging off.

Rag rolling is similar to ragging only the rag is rolled up into a cylinder shape and then lightly rolled over the wet glaze to remove it. It can also be dipped in glaze and the rolled over the walls in order to "rag roll on" the glaze or wash. Rag rollers can be purchased that are designed to simulate this effect with less mess.

Spattering is done by splashing, or spattering, paint onto the walls. It can be done either by tapping a brush on to the wood handle of another brush or by running your finger over the bristles of the brush. If you want to splatter off, you will need to use an oil-based glaze. After applying the paint, you then spatter it with turpentine or paint thinner.

Stippling, or pouncing, is done by dabbing paint on or off the walls using a regular paintbrush or a stippling brush. It is another technique that is good at hiding a wall's imperfections. It also adds depth to the wall and is one of the easier techniques to do.

Positive Techniques

Color meshing, also spelled colormeshing, uses a piece of lambs wool or sheepskin to blend (or mesh) several colors. Specially made tools that utilize this technique are usually called "Woolies," which is the most popular brand of them. Woolies even come in specially designed two-color rollers that help speed up the process. One important note, it is better to use latex wash and not glazes for this technique.

Crackling, or crackle finish, is a technique that mimics aged paint. It is done by painting a rapidly drying topcoat over a slow drying undercoat.

Dry brushing involves dipping a dry brush into glaze or wash and then wiping almost all the paint off until is "dry." The brush is then used on the walls to give it a light, muted color.

Marbleizing is done by applying several layers of tinted glazes using a sea sponge over the base coat before using a feather to create veining. This gives the surface an appearance similar to marble. Creating the right effect can be tricky and it is not generally a technique for beginners.

Patina is designed to give a wall the appearance of oxidized metals. A sea sponge or cheesecloth rag is used to apply colors. Special metallic glazes are usually used to help produce this effect.

Striping is not exactly a technique, but a way to apply other techniques. Basically, a wall is blocked out and the glaze or color wash is only applied to alternating sections of it. Virtually any technique can be used when striping a wall.

Wood graining, or faux bois, is the art of applying layers of glazes until the appearance mimics the texture of wood. A variety of methods is used to create different layers and special tools can be purchased to aid the process. This is not a technique for beginners.

Negative Techniques

Combing is exactly what it sounds like: a toothed implement, or comb, is pulled through the glaze or wash. Combs can be made out of rubber, metal, leather, plastic, or cardboard and often are available with different widths of teeth. The type of comb used will change the effect. Even more looks can be created by pulling the comb in different ways such as straight, squiggles, wavy, checkered, or zigzag.

Dragging, or strié, is done by pulling a dry brush through wet glaze in order to produce fine, vertical stripes. It is a great way of creating the illusion of height into a room. Usually this technique is done with a very long bristled brush. Dragging should only be done on smooth surfaces because it will make any flaws more noticeable.

Flogging is done by slapping or "flogging" the surface with a long bristled brush to remove some of the glaze. Flogging is usually the first step in many faux wood techniques. Flogging is used to create the appearance of pores in wood.

Frottage is a technique where fabric, plastic, paper or other material is used to rub at the wet glaze. In fact, the term comes from the French word "frotter," which means to rub.

Smooshing is very similar to frottage. It is done by smoothing a sheet of plastic over the wet glaze and then peeling it away. Sometimes brown craft paper or tissue paper will be used instead of plastic.