Ask The Painter: What is “Faux” Painting?

July 06, 2010

FauxThe word “faux” is French, and the literal translation of the word is “false”, or “fake”. So is “faux” painting not really painting? Far from it! In the painting world, “faux” is used more figuratively, and refers to any number of techniques that may be used to give the illusion of something that is difficult or expensive to replicate, but with much less effort or expense. There are many different techniques that will result in a wide variety of looks, so it is best to start by deciding the look that is right for you.

Some possibilities for “fauxing” are: multi-colored, sand-textured, suede textured, metallic finishes, patinas (oxidized metals), simulating an aged or “antique” finish, simulating the surface being covered with other materials such as fabric or leather, or even painting to give the illusion of the surface itself being made of another material such as granite or marble. Some of these effects (such as the sand or suede textures) simply require multiple coats of a “specialty” paint and a fairly simple application technique. Other effects may involve using special brushes, rollers, sponges, or other tools to add or partially remove second and even third coat colors. Simulating granite or marble is, perhaps, among the most challenging faux techniques, but the results can be spectacular, and at a fraction of the cost of real stone.

For most homeowners, venturing into faux painting techniques can be a daunting task, and it is one where it is highly advisable to find a place to practice before attempting it “for real” in their home. Creating good faux finishes is an art, and many homeowners prefer to hire-out the job. If this route is taken, sometimes two different people or crews are used. This is because most faux treatments start with a “base coat” which is nothing more than a uniform coat of a given color paint on the surface to be “fauxed”. Once the base coat has dried sufficiently (this may be several days if the faux technique requires applying masking tape to the base coat), the true “faux” work begins. Applying the base coat is production oriented “go fast” work, whereas faux artistry requires slow-going, painstaking attention to detail. Once a wall is done, the upper right corner and lower left corner must look very similar in terms of consistency of the faux finish. So if putting down base coat bores faux artists to tears and faux techniques require someone who is used to painting quickly to slow down to what they consider a snail’s pace, the answer may be to split the job into two phases.

Regardless of whether one or two parties will be involved for base coat and faux techniques, selecting the “right” faux painter for your project will require interviewing several faux artists, viewing samples of their prior work, and probably having them make up a “sample board” to show how they will bring your vision to life. This last step in selecting the faux painter is important because it is hard to convey mental images through words, and you want to be sure that the artist you select for your work can deliver what you see in your mind’s eye.
Faux painting can add a new dimension to your home, but it takes some careful planning and consideration. You can start by narrowing in on the looks that appeal to you and then look for artists skilled in creating those looks. Or, you can combine the two tasks by interviewing faux artists and browsing through their portfolios while you talk. The faux artists interviewed will probably have some suggestions as well. Finally, work with your faux artists to decided if it makes more sense for them to put down the base coat or for a third party to do that. Have the faux artist create some sample boards to verify that the look he or she will create for you matches your vision, then get ready for a whole new look in your home.
Copyright 2010 Jeff Stec

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