Steps for Oak wood graining

title page

Here are the basic steps for oak wood graining, although every job is different.  Oak is completed in only 2 layers of glazing, in most cases.  The tool and brushwork are very technical, so practice makes perfect.  In this job and most oak wood graining projects, I use acrylic slow-dry glaze and colorants.

real oak door and faux

This is the finished door with the actual door to copy on the left.   To see how we did the trompe l’oeil molding, see this post.

sample for oak

This a section of the approved sample.  See the basecoat color in the upper left.  The first step is on the strip to the right.  And below, the second step creates the depth and color.

recipe card for oak

This is my recipe card for the job.   FYI, the basecoat is a Benjamin Moore color 2161-10.  The best basecoat is oil for this type of finish.

first taping section

Initial taping off of first sections to be painted (lighting is weird, sorry).

blocking in color

This is the beginning of the first step.  The panels on this door are to mimic a quarter-sawn cut or silver cut.  Also, the panel is book-matched.  First, I glazed the area with a medium tone.  Then, I added darker tonalities from my palette in streaks.  Using a tooth spalter, I smoothed the colors, already giving it a “woodsy” look.

step one graining oak

A lot happened to get to this stage.  See the bottom of this post to get an idea of the steps.   Oak wood graining is a challenging wood to paint because of how many different tools and techniques are used in this first step.  But, the upside is that oak only takes 2 layers where most wood grains usually require 3 layers.   Keep reading for a better step by step below.

finished first step on area

Finished the first step of the first section of the door.  I’m already starting to tape off the next section.

rails finish step 1

second step overglaze

After the first layer is finished on the entire door and fully dry (next day), the second layer begins.  This layer is so much easier for 2 reasons:  there is very little manipulation of the glaze needed (unlike the first layer); and you can tackle a much bigger section at once.

The section is glazed with a fully transparent glaze.  It is carefully smoothed with a spalter to ensure that the glaze is evenly dispersed.  From there, simple moire’s are placed against the grain to finish the layer.

finished step 2

Finished and ready for varnish.

The following 2 pictures are an attempt at a step by step of the first layer of oak woodgraining.  It’s a series of 6 steps.

oak steps 1

oak steps 2

For more information on the tools and brushes used for oak wood graining, see our previous post on TOOLS.  Also, find information on characteristics of REAL OAK.


  1. Charlotte Williams says

    Beautiful. Colors used are great. I wish I had more information about the tools used, and the process of using them. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I’ve had the pleasure off finding your page and admiring the great work.
    Greetings from Finland, by the way. 🙂

    Why I’m leaving a mark on your page…just to wonder how differently an oak can be done…I mean the coloring (as well as technique). If you like, you can go see on our website what “oak” is in my eyes…(I’m sorry the page is in finish only), but if you enter here; ….you get right to the page where you can see the oak how I see it. Your version (by colors) would be more of an walnut / haxeltree for me.

    But yes…thank you so much for your great pages and inspiration. You got a new enthusiastic follower!

  3. I want to woodgrain( medium mahogany) the sides of my car, would I use the same steps? What type of paint should l use ? The sides are 1 ft x 16 ft. plus tailgate 1’x5′ the color of the car is black cherry .

  4. I need to go paint this it is so good pierre

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