Here is a how-to for painting Red Griotte faux marble. This example is painted on a small baseboard piece. In this case, we base coated a dark brick color in oil – 2 coats. After, the surface needed to be degreased with whiting to prepare the surface. A water-based paint can be used, but it would be best to apply a coat of varnish before the second step (where alcohol will be used).
On the palette – cadmium red, carmine lake (alizarin crimson), burnt umber, and orange. In the palette cup, have a clear medium (for this step, low viscosity glaze). Using a flat badger 2-header, a medium red color was applied using a technique called “working in beds”. The brush is lightly loaded with color and then applied in streaks until the brush runs dry (not literally).
You see how the marks are becoming smaller – the brush is running dry. Think of a layered cake. That is the idea of “working in beds” – but not straight across like a cake.
This is after one complete pass with the first color.
A second tonality is then introduced. Here, burnt umber is added. Use the same technique.
This is the palette.
Using a round badger softener – the best softener for profile moldings, take time to melt the colors together to achieve this look. Let dry.
The idea is to have an even layer of glaze for the next step. A round badger gives the final smoothing to attain this layer.
Wait a few minutes (up to ten) to let the glaze set up a bit to help stabilize the glaze. This is important. If the glaze is too wet/fresh, the alcohol used on the next step will eat the glaze too fast.
Using a flat 2-headed squirrel brush, dip the brush in the palette cup filled with denatured alcohol. You can also use a chiqueteur brush — the important thing is the squirrel hair which gives the best print. Once the brush is heavily dipped into the alcohol, twist the brush to expel the extra alcohol (this technique is also used on the Shagreen post).
Using the tip of the hair, gently tap the surface. The action of the alcohol is not immediate, so continue to “work in beds” until the brush seems to be out of alcohol. The alcohol should start dispersing the color to form a reptile skin-like pattern. Note the area on the left of the image below. This area was erroneous because too much alcohol was on the brush or the glaze was too wet. At this point, the glaze was wiped off and the step was started again.
Tickle the surface with the tips of the brush.
The alcohol has finished opening the glaze at this point. It is possible to slow down the activation of the alcohol by hair drying the surface – but not too close.
On an angle like this, you can see the parts dispersed by the alcohol are completely dry.
Let the surface dry completely. Stay tuned for part 2.
Sadly, The Art of Faux: The complete sourcebook of decorative painted finishes by Pierre Finkelstein is no longer for sale on our website. The book is no longer in print and our inventory has since faded. Since published, the book has stood the test of time with over 50,000 copies sold. The AOF has been in consistent demand and sold internationally throughout the ever-changing times.
The brushes, tools, colors, and traditional techniques have stayed fresh in that book. Brushes have adapted with the use of synthetic fibers, but the model remains the same.
Nowadays, I use the sponge a lot less. I protect my hands by using a chiqueteur as much as possible.
Most of us work primarily in water-borne mediums these days (myself, included). The book is very oil-centric which can challenging to follow.
We’re all thinking of a plan to keep the information available that is in The Art of Faux - but revised and updated. Until then, hold on to your tattered, paint-laden edition.
This is not a step-by-step because it is a very painterly project. This post is more of a gallery of the different plates we completed for this particular room. The work was gratifying and the client was impressed. This job was hired by Anthony Baratta in NYC.
Here is another small project of painting switch plate covers to match embroidered fabric on the wall. See tile match post.
Softening with a round badger between steps.
Don’t forget to texture the inner plate for the edges.
Here’s where the decorative pattern hits the plate:
Using a piece of vellum paper, the pattern is traced with a hard, sharp pencil.
Use the traced area for the switch plate.
On the back of the vellum, scribble the area with a soft pencil.
Turn the design face up and carefully re-draw the pattern using a firm touch.
The pattern appears on the plate.
The area was painted lightly for sketching purposes.
Using fluid acrylic colors, the fine hatching of the stitching was applied with a sable, pointed liner brush.
It was very important that the embroidery painting was done with care as it was not possible to touch-up the background, easily.
On a recent trip to Utah, we completed a series of switch plates — this switch plate cover matched the tile in a bathroom.
The first thing we did was take a picture of the plate. Then, it was brought back to my working station in the house.
We were given 2 actual tiles for reference. The base coat of the plate was meant to match the white of the tile.
With a hard pencil, the pattern is drawn on the plate.
With skinny tape, mask off the white areas. The tape should be well burnished (see post on protecting fragile surfaces).
After the initial red and black squares were based out, a little variance of tonality was added. Still with the tape on, the trompe l’oeil effect was next.
A small slanted brush was the best brush for the delicate striping.
Then, the tape was removed. Here is a picture of the actual tile. You can see the 3-D element of the little lip on the edges. This lends for a stronger accent and highlight (see elements of light and shadow).
With a selection of fine, trompe l’oeil brushes, the final shadows and highlights were painted to finish the plate cover. Additionally, a little aging was added to the white tile.
After a varnish, this one is installed and admired . Then, on to the next one …
… more switch plate covers to show you — coming soon!
Performing a touch up on a polished plaster wall, can be a huge challenge. If the area is small enough, it can be masked using this technique below. Previously, we’ve discussed the “touch-up” subject before; once on touching up a hole on a wall and more recently, how to touch up a cracked strie.
Here’s our main foreman, Jon Smith with his tutorial of how it’s done at Grand Illusion Decorative Painting, Inc.
Jon: “Where’s the touch-up?”
This is the damaged area on the polished plaster. It’s a 3-D divot in the wall from the movers, we’re guessing.
Here the hole is taped off (being careful to leave a 1/16 inch of wall exposed) and ready to fill.
I mixed a combination of 80% ez-45 compound and 20% plaster of Paris.
Using a palette knife (best because it is a flexible blade), I generously fill and smooth.
Use a hair dryer to speed up the dry process. Still, make sure the patch is completely dry to the core and not just the surface.
Sand with soft 320 pad, softly and with gradual pressure.
Wipe away the area with a damp rage and continue to sand until you can see the original taping.
Remove the tape and you will be left with a very small lip of plaster.
Sand with a 800-1000 grit pad to remove the lip. Being careful not to over sand or damage the surrounding area. Feel with you hand to make sure you are 100% smooth with no lip or dimple.
The plaster has now been sanded smooth with the surface.
I used some thinned down shellac. This seals the plaster so the water based paint will not reactive the plaster and cause damage to the nice, smooth touch-up I created with the plaster.
Apply the shellac with the correct brush size for the job.
Make sure you carefully apply the shellac on just the area that’s damaged.
Side view of the shellac over the touch up
After the shellac dries use a used 800-1000 grit sand pad to sand down any brush strokes that may have been cause by brushing on the shellac.
The colors I used to match the color.
I add 5-10% of varnish for the appropriate sheen to my water that’s in my pallette cup. Reason for this.. When you dry down a color and then apply a varnish over the top this can sometime cause the color to change and you have to start all over again…. So by adding a small % of varnish to your water helps you see the true color and close to the right sheen once it dries.
It’s important to work opaque with your color but keeping your paint thinned down , once again so you get the touch up area as smooth as possible so it blends in with the rest of the plaster.
Shows in progress. I mix on my palette to the overall color of the wall and paint out the area. Dry it down and then take that color and slowly adjust it by adding some darker colors to create some darker values to mimic the darker areas in the plaster caused from burnishing the plaster.
It’s important to work within the touch up area. If you don’t, your touch up area will grow and grow.
This is a difficult step of the process, but try to get the color right the first time and avoid painting the area over and over again.
Touching up adjusting the color slowly as I work and constantly drying it down.
You can see the touchup on left hand side 1/3 of the way in just under halfway.
Where’s the touch up???
Lacquer thinner is a high solvent like acetone. It is extremely smelly and dries extremely fast and hard. This particular solvent is unique because it is actually a mixture of different solvents that allow for ideal thinning and dissolving characteristics. The combination of solvents that are used is up to the manufacturer.
The thinner has two major uses; to dilute/thin lacquer paint (and one-part epoxies) and to dissolve paint, tar, and other mediums. Lacquer paint (and therefore, thinner) is heavily utilized in the automotive industry.
Lacquer thinner is a great cleaner for dried oil and acrylic. It will remove paint on a substrate as quickly as any other solvent. It’s perfect for removing paint spots on non-painted surfaces like door knobs and hinges.
Since it contains denatured alcohol, it can also dissolve shellac. You can also use it to remove the sheen or gloss on most substrates.
Primarily, in our shop, we use lacquer thinner to clean our spray gun equipment after use. It is the best cleaner of the many small parts of a spray gun that must be kept pristine in order for the gun to work properly.
Other than that, we mostly use lacquer thinner as to dissolve and clean.
To finish up the discussion on burl, I’ve collected a few images of real and woodgrain burl. The leading image is real burl. The next handful of pictures are woodgrain burl completed by myself.
As previously discussed in the post on the definition of burl, burl is a rare find as it is a deformity of a tree. Therefore, it would make sense that a painted burl would be a smaller area. For example, an entire door wouldn’t be made of burl. Burl is found on furniture, marquetry, and other small areas.
The following are pictures of real burl from the book, Identifying wood – a fantastic reference book of real wood of many types.
Here is a quick step-by-step for burl wood graining.
For a small sample like this one, I used a slow-dry glaze mixed with the same amount of matte medium. With a domed glazing brush, I glaze on a mixture of vandyke brown, burnt umber, and transparent iron oxide (killer color from Proceed by Golden). Glaze a little on the heavy side.
With the same brush, stipple the fresh glaze to create a even, rough texture.
From a palette, add vandyke brown and black to your mother glaze and add these large, random dots. Here, you are creating clusters of burl.
Now, this can be tricky. Use a very soft sea sponge. Take a small piece and rip the edges of the sponge to create a fringes, almost like the fingers of a hand. Wet the sponge and ring it out after each section. The action is a combination of a drag, roll, skip, and flip to create the flame-like effect. You’re working around the dark clusters but leaving areas untouched. Keep the flow and direction on our mind.
Soften your work with a badger softener. Soften in the direction of the flames, avoiding the dark clusters.
Lightly soften to achieve this look.
On your palette, mix your mother glaze with water and add burnt umber and transparent iron oxide to create a watery mixture of color. Using a tooth veinette, create this trembly series of veins.
Load the tooth veinette with the mixture, run it through a metal comb, and with a light hand, create this effect. The veins should be perpendicular to the clusters and should not overlap.
Let dry. Using a fine pointed brush, add tiny dots within the clusters. Don’t go overboard.
Let dry. Make a glaze of burnt umber and transparent iron oxide, which will be a bright, transparent glaze. Glaze all over and stretch with a spalter to even out the glaze.
In this particular sample, I added a quick trompe l’oeil effect so the sample would look like a piece of baseboard.
This woodgrain technique may seem like a lot of steps — and that would be true. But, burl is a very rare specimen so it will pay off if you can make your burl realistic. Burl up!
Burl wood can be a challenging species to woodgrain, but the results are as visually interesting as the the actual wood. The burl is a protuberance on the side or root of the tree, a reaction of stress on the fibrous tissue.
The stress can come from a wound or bruise, insect bites, virus or fungus. Most species of wood have them, but only a few are spectacular enough to be cut. (tree below is from Olympic National Park)
Although they are taken from different parts of the tree, the pollard, the burl, and the root all produce similar figures, displaying an intricate grain structure and many knots (see figure).
Burls appear in many different types of wood, from the most common to the most exotic. Because the burl figure is always limited in extent, it is cut almost exclusively as small veneers and subsequently used for inlay, marquetry, furniture, and small decorative objects. In all these examples, burled wood is often combined with other wood species or with natural materials such s shagreen, tortoiseshell, or ivory.
Most commonly used burled woods:
Elm Burl, is very difficult to find these days due to the near extinction of the species. The yellow-white hardwood of the elm is mostly used in roots or burl, which has a warm orange color and features randomly spaced rounded dark knots interspersed with a lot of moire effects.
Ambonia burl. This tree is found only on the island of Ambon or Amboina in Indonesia. Its warm orange wood, which is flecked with thousands of tiny knots, is used exclusively for its burl figure.
Thuja burl. Found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the thuja is a type of pine tree whose fibrous wood is dappled with many tear-shaped knots.