Faux Finishing Gives You the Look You Want for Less

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated December 20, 2021
 A lounge chair with stripes on the wall
Photo: Africa Studio / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Faux finishes update walls and furniture for less money than renovating or buying new. 

  • There are multiple faux finish applications, all at different price points.

  • A professional faux finish project costs about $2,400.

  • DIY project materials typically cost between $55–$205.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

The best faux finishes instantly breathe life into any dull room and add a whole new layer of pretty to a piece of furniture that’s seen better days. Sophistication levels vary from projects needing professional skills to DIY works of art done in just hours. Learn more about faux finishing and if it’s right for your project.

What Is Faux Finishing? 

In simple terms, faux finish painting is a decorative way to give a wall or a piece of furniture the characteristics of another material, like painting wood grain details on a plain window or door trim. 

Depending on the finish you choose, you’ll paint with two, three, and sometimes four or more colors, layering as you go. Some techniques, like sponging, are simple and DIY-friendly. Others, like marbleizing, need a local professional painter’s expertise. 

Faux Finishing Tools You’ll Need 

Once you’ve cleaned, repaired, and prepped the wall or furniture, gather the supplies you’ll need to start painting. Of course, not every faux finish job requires all of the tools or specific types of paint, but these are the basics. You should also note that depending on the faux finish you like, you might need a specialized product, like a crackling medium. 

  • Coordinating paint colors

  • Glaze

  • Varnish or sealant 

  • Paint roller 

  • Paintbrush

  • Paint pour spout

  • Sponges or sponge roller

  • Clean rags 

  • Tarp or drop cloth 

  • Painter’s tape

  • Tape measure

Average Faux Finishing Costs 

Because the size and detail of faux painting projects vary, the cost range is vast, especially if you hire a painter. The typical range is between $250 and $10,000.

Professional Painters 

Sometimes, only a professional can get the job done right. Their skills are honed, they love what they do, and it shows. For these reasons, you’ll pay between $20 and $100 per hour. However, they’ll likely ask to charge by the project, which can be as little as $250, but the average price is $2,400

Do It Yourself

If you’re inspired to try a faux finish project, go ahead and pick out fabulous paint colors because the materials are affordable, ranging from $55 to $205 on average. You’ll probably buy paint by the quart or gallon, but there are high-end faux paint kits (including specialized tools) that start at about $70.

Common Types of Faux Finishes

A man doing stencil in a room
Photo: Grispb / Adobe Stock

There’s a faux finish for everyone—whimsical, classic, old-world, and even blue jean-like. Consider a few things before you paint, though, like the amount of natural light that streams through the room (helpful if you want dark colors), what you use the room for (kitchens need easy cleanup paint), and the size of the project (total work hours invested) before you start painting because factor changes the outcome. 

1. Sponging

First-time faux finishers love sponging because it’s easy to apply and forgiving—little mistakes won’t ruin the whole project. Lightly load two to three sea sponges (use one per color) to dapple on layers of paint until you love the finish. Using similar colors gives a subtle effect, while contrasting paint colors add personality.  

2. Color Washing 

Easy enough for beginners, color washing uses a rag to rub a contrasting glaze color onto a dried base color. If you want an “old world” library, the look is spot on because color washing gives the walls an antique appearance. To master the effect, rub the surface in a circular pattern like you're cleaning the wall. Color washing is a quick project you can complete in hours instead of days. 

3. Rag Rolling

If you like a weathered look, try rag rolling: It instantly adds aging effects similar to old plaster or stucco. To apply, roll bunched or twisted rags and, at the same time, add and take away various amounts of glaze from the contrasting dried base coat color.  

4. Marbleizing

A natural marble slab is gorgeous but pricey; that’s why so many people want to try a faux paint version. You’ll need multiple layers of tinted glazes and a steady hand to recreate the vein patterns found in natural marble. Newbies should consider letting professionals tackle this technique. 

5. Stripes

Stripes are a classic pattern (vertical or horizontal) that homeowners use to accentuate a room’s dimensions, either visually expanding or shrinking the space. You’ll need two paint colors, painter’s tape, and a little bit of math to get the pattern just right. The key to a crisp stripe is patience while waiting for paint to dry. 

6. Strié

If traditional stripes seem too bold, consider the softer Strié technique. You simply drag a paintbrush vertically and horizontally through a layer of wet glaze. The dried base color appears subtly through the brush strokes. The result resembles woven fabric. Strié done in soothing colors is perfect for a bedroom. 

7. Faux Denim 

Faux denim is a close cousin of Strié. It uses classic blue jean hues and adds tons of depth and character to a room. You must love the whimsical, unevenness of classic blue jeans to embrace faux denim. 

8. Crackling

Fans of the country or rustic look often choose a crackling finish for their walls or furniture because it adds a charming age and weathered appearance. After the base coat of paint, you’ll apply a specialized crackle finish medium, which leaves cracks and crevices when dried. After, paint a layer of varnish or sealant to protect the cracked finish so it doesn’t flake or peel. 

9. Antiquing

You can apply this technique to your walls, but it's mainly used on furniture to add a rich patina effect. Start with a light color, like beige, and use a rag to alternatively wipe on and off a darker glaze mixture (two parts glaze and one part paint) until you like the aged appearance. 

10. Leathering

The leathering effect requires a lot of layers. Start with a base color that’s either a shade darker or lighter than the top paint color. An angled brush is the must-have tool to crosshatch small Xs over the entire wall. After a few rounds of X layers, the look of leather appears. 

11. Stenciling

Stenciling is a cost-effective alternative for adding architectural details like decorative window trim. The technique also adds plenty of personality to a room or a piece of furniture, especially if you have a designer’s eye. You’ll also need practice to master the stencils; there’s a steep learning curve for precise placement. 

12. Wood Graining

Wood graining is an ideal upgrade for a piece of inexpensive furniture. It adds authentic wood grain details from a few passes of a specialized tool called a wood rocker. You can also use the wood rocker on doors, trim, or walls for a cozy, rustic appearance. Start with a base color, and then apply a thin layer of glaze for the wood rocker to glide through. 

13. Faux Concrete

If you’ve ever admired a poured concrete countertop, then you might enjoy a faux concrete finish in a bathroom or front entry. In one version, you can apply a plaster base mixed with white, gray, and black paint that mimics concrete. The subtle texture and paint colors make this finish stand out. You can also leave out the plaster and hand paint the concrete colors on the wall, but you should probably leave this advanced finish to a professional painter. 

14. Faux Brick

Homebuyers swoon for original exposed brick in older homes, but this charming feature is hard to come by. Consider faux brick to add character surrounding a fireplace or as part of an accent wall. You’ll measure lots of rectangles and need an artist's eye (or hire a pro) to master the various colors of brick and mortar, but the results are worth the time and effort.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.