Trompe l’oeil on faux oak elevator door


Oh what a difference trompe l’oeil makes!  In NYC, it is building code that all elevator doors are made of metal.  Many of our clients have a private elevator entrance in their apartments.   This is a great opportunity for us to woodgrain and add trompe l’oeil paneling.


Here is the basecoated metal door.   This post is about the trompe l’oeil, so I will skip right to the finished faux oak door (keep up with us – how we did the woodgraining will be posted, eventually)


Voila!  A finished woodgrain – if only it was that easy.  If you look to the existing door to the left, you’ll see what I used as goal for the overall look.


Here is a close-up of the existing door.


First, I made this drawing.  You’ll see the red arrow at the top indicates the “light source (LS).”  This drawing will be kept next to me while I paint for reference.


Here is my sample for the client.  He approved the faux bois as well as the overall look of the trompe l’oeil.


I take plenty of time making this corner template on graph paper glued on to a drawdown card.   This really has to be exact.


Using a pounce bag, I made my corner marks using the corner template.


Using a snap line filled with whiting and white chalk, we snap the connecting lines.  No room for mistakes!


This is my little TL caddy.  I will list the tools I used at the end of this post.


The best way to attack TL molding, is to complete the horizontals first.  I find them easier than the verticals and it’s helpful to get a good system before you tackle the long verticals.  Use low-tack blue tape to mask the 45-degree cuts.

Here I start with one pass of the halftone.


This is the accent.



Lastly, we have the highlight, which is a beautiful orange color.



Now the verticals – notice how I used the same piece of tape, which is a great map to follow.  There’s no such thing as cheating in decorative painting!



The final product



Faux vs. real – not bad!

Brushes and tools used in this project:

Striping edge – invaluable tool for painting straight lines – so much more than a yardstick!

Long-handled Slanted brush – more info to come on this brush next week – a must-have for painting straight, thin lines.  There is no substitute!

Long-handled Filbert – can expertly paint thin lines but crucial for fading color

** The brushes I use for trompe l’oeil are ONLY used for trompe l’oeil.  If you take care of your brushes and tools, they will last for many projects.  If your brushes get abused due to improper care, the will fray and no longer be dependable for such detailed projects as this one.   Be good to your brushes!


  1. Ive spent so much time looking @ different web-sites on “How to” in various paint projects/jobs that im working on from signs-trompe’ole
    Yours is ????% the Best!! Iam truely grateful! It was very helpful & informative
    [i learned something that helped me when i got Stumped]
    Thank You So Much!!
    Harriett Foley

    • Pierre Finkelstein says

      Thanks, Harriett.

      I’m happy to hear they are helpful! Always feel free to reach out and ask questions.

  2. Thank you for all of your posts and email updates, Pierre. I always enjoy them SO much.

  3. Thank you for spending the time putting these tutorials together Pierre. Your photos and explanations are succinct.
    I’m wondering if you ever use the check roller ?

  4. Thank you so much for the step by step. It’s beautiful and so helpful for understanding how that technique works, much more so than a book. there’s no doubt, you are a masterful artist.
    Carolyn Johnson-Bell

  5. Roger f Seamark says

    But can one work comercially at that
    level, that iz zee qvestion!!
    nice one Pierre

  6. Bravo!, excellent works!

  7. Kershaw would be smiling and then sum. Looking forward to tomorrow to practice. Thanks for sharing Master Pierre. Seattle? Is this something I should know about?

    Thanks! Shaun

  8. thanks Pierre for always sharing APPLICATIONS! Finishes are great, but there’s not much value unless you see them done in a real situation!

    • Pierre Finkelstein says

      Kate, this was done on a job-site. 85% of my work is done on real job sites, not teaching. We actually do this finish frequently in NYC.

  9. Julien Gautier says

    Amazing, you’re the best, Maestro!

  10. Chapeau Master Finkelstein! Great work! Best whishes from Vienna! Beate Wagner

  11. Jeremy P Taylor says

    Fantastic Trompe L’oeil

  12. Master Pierre , thanx for sharing this” little miracle”, as Van der Kelen would say , wonderful , and very well excecuted , see you in Seattle I hope ?

    Grtz Michiel from Holland

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