Faux finishing is the term which broadly applies to most decorative painting techniques. Faux finishes can generally be divided into four categories: wall finishes, specialty finishes, marbleizing, and wood graining or wood grain aluminum. Common wall finishes are: sponge painting, ragging, color washing etc. Specialty finishes would consist of techniques like crackle, or metallic and patina finishes. These are used on small items like picture frames or vases etc. marbleizing is replicating marble on surfaces, while wood graining is the art of replicating woods on any surface.
Wood graining requires the use of a “glaze”. Glaze (in the faux finishing term) is a translucent paint base that can be tinted to a desired color needed for the faux finish. A good faux finish glaze has the ability to hold a pattern without creating a noticeable texture (such as a texture paint would). The faux can be translucent allowing the various layers of glaze to interact with each other. A favorite glaze of mine is Modern Masters Tint able Glaze.
A “base coat” is a solid colored background upon which the wood graining technique will be applied. Base coats are usually various shades of “buff” ranging from gold buffs to warmer orange buff colors, other base coat colors are variations of red or coral for Mahogany to light shades of cream for Maple and other light woods.
A common method of wood graining through wood grain aluminum is to put down a first “background” layer consisting of wood pores or cell structure over which a second primary grain layer is applied.
There are a lot of different variations of background grain that the wood grainer employs depending on the wood he is trying to replicate. One common background graining method is known as “flogging”, which is done by lightly patting the wood graining glaze with the flat edge of the bristles of a Flogger brush. It is not absolutely necessary to use a special Flogger brush (although they do a better job), you can substitute a standard paint brush for flogging.
Once the background layer has dried thoroughly, you can lay down the primary grain. Common tools used to put down the primary grain are the “rockers” or wood graining tools that you see at many paint or hardware stores. Other tools are wood graining pads and wood graining rollers, both of which are commercially available – but harder to find than the standard rocker.
Individual grain lines can be drawn on with the skillful use of lining brushes or can be created “negatively” by dragging through the glaze with special wood graining brushes. Common “chip” brushes can serve as a suitable substitute for expensive wood graining brushes in most situations.
With a little practice, wood graining can and should look like real wood, both up close and at a distance. Practice the wood graining techniques on artist illustration board until the techniques are mastered and then move on to small projects at first, advancing on to larger items such as doors and trim as your experience and skill level improve.