How to Apply Faux Finishes with Paint

If faux finishes are your style, then look no further than a trip to the paint store to get supplies for this fun weekend project. Regardless of your skill level, there are many different styles of faux techniques that are easily achievable for your home.

If you are truly nervous about trying the techniques out for the first time on a wall, invest in some scraps of drywall, prime them, and then let your technique talents grow while you practice on a safe area.  Creating faux finishes, though, can be a spattery and splashy experience so be sure to dress accordingly.

How to Apply Faux FinishesSponging
Sponging is a very simple technique and can be done with one or more colors.  First, paint your walls the desired base color and allow them to dry thoroughly. You can create many color combinations here. For subtle tone-on-tone, use a lighter or darker tone of the same color the base coat is, or you can be completely adventurous and choose two or more colors that seem to work well with one another and the rest of your design palette to create an attractive wall blend. 

Once your base wall color is dry, the nest step is to apply the accent colors with a natural sea sponge. Make sure the sponge is wet but wrung out before dipping in your paint, and then squeeze out any excess paint from the sponge.  Examining the sponge, you will notice that each side has distinct individual characteristics.  So chose a side you like and be sure the side you like is puffed up and extended from your grip. 

Apply the paint to the wall while pressing the sponge delicately to the surface. Don’t compress the natural detail of the sponge onto the wall too much as it will hide the sponges’ natural patterns.

Each time you remove your hand from the wall you can twist the direction of your hand to manipulate the pattern the sponge is creating.  Reapply paint to the sponge as needed to keep color consistent. If two people are working on the project be sure to swap positions every so often so each area of the room does not have a different technique based on each individual—rather, they will both blend and work with one another.  If you are using more than one color for the sponging, allow the first to dry before applying the additional color to the wall.

Ragging on is a technique similar to the sponge effect except you are applying the faux technique using natural cloth rags or even inexpensive painters rags. Once your base coat of color is dry, apply the accent colors, again tone-on-tone work or complementary colors, or just a blend of palatable colors for your design choices.

In the case of ragging on color you might find the accent color paint to be a bit thick for the technique.  If that’s the case, you can mix one quart faux glaze to one gallon of paint to help thin the color and extend your working time.

To apply the ragging on techniques, bunch up the cloth rag in your hand so you get lots of peaks and valleys in the cloth to create a pattern on the wall, dip into your paint and apply to the wall in a delicate stamping technique.  Twist your hand every time you revisit the wall to create a blend of nice patterns and details on the wall. Reapply paint to the rag as needed and also re-gather the rag in hand as the pattern on the wall or your preferences dictate.

Ragging off is a bit different. In this case you are going to apply your base coat and allow it to dry thoroughly. Then, mix your accent color with the faux glaze to create more transparency and extend the drying time enough to give you time to work the finish onto the wall. 

Apply your accent color to the wall surface using a roller and try to work in manageable areas corner to corner so you do not end up with distinct lines of areas as they dry. Once you have applied the paint mixed with glaze to the wall, approach each section with a clean and dry rag gathered in your hand and stamp the wall, thus removing paint from the surface and “ragging off.” 

Ragging on and ragging off differ in the fact that they each create a distinct feel of how the faux finish is placed onto the surface. Both are quite lovely but the design preference is totally up to you.

Wet Blends
Wet blends are also a nice way to create color and movement on a wall’s surface and can be easily done with several paint brushes and two paint colors.  This is a theater painting technique often used to create scenery and give depth, texture, and movement to an otherwise simple surface. 

It is easiest to cover a large wall area by working with 4″ brushes.  Choose two tones of the same color and apply to the wall using very wet brushes with paint and water to keep the paint moving smoothly on the surface. Dip the brush in your paint first and then slightly dip in the water to give it the necessary moisture to keep things fluid.  Be sure to keep one brush for each color. They will need to be cleaned often since they quickly get blended into one another (hence the term “wet blend”). 

Apply the first color with the brush using a “X” technique.  Once a small area is covered, go in with your second brush and color and come to all sides of the first color section. The water and the wet paint will help to blend areas together and create a smooth transition between each color, and give the surface and color the movement you are looking for. 

Keeping a clean damp brush nearby can help with areas that are not blending together as smoothly as you like. Try to work with in sections between corners so you do not end up with distinct areas of stopping and starting. If you are working with a partner, it is extremely important to swap areas to keep the techniques consistent.

Now that you know how to achieve many different faux-finish looks with paint, the only limit to how creative your walls can look is your own imagination. Best of all, you only need a weekend for this project, and it’s a fairly low-cost way to bring a fresh new look to your home’s interior.

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