Faux Painting Tools

If you are just beginning a faux painting project in your home, choosing the right faux painting tools for the job may be the most overwhelming part of the process.

Faux finishing has gone through something of a marketing boom in the past several years. HGTV and popular shows like “Trading Spaces” have helped to create something of a “renaissance” for this very old art form, and paint companies have taken notice.

To capitalize on this new popularity, there has been a massive influx of newfangled “faux painting tools” designed to make faux finishing simpler.

Many of these new faux painting tools work wonderfully, helping you achieve in minutes what was once very painstaking labor.

Others…well, they may have been well intentioned, but they serve only to complicate matters.

And then there is the sheer number of different faux painting tools available! Walk down the paint aisle in any home improvement store and you’re assaulted by different faux painting tools.

Twenty different type of rag-rollers, a hundred different specialty brushes, foam rollers, metal rollers, cheesecloth, feathers – who knows where to even begin.

Below, I’ve attempted to give some general guidelines help you navigate the labyrinth of faux painting tools available today.

I’ve broken the page into several sections. All of these are pretty much self-explanatory.

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  • Faux Sponges

    Sponges are one of the most widely used and common faux painting tools and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and types.

    They can be used to achieve a variety of effects, from rudimentary sponging to granite, marble, and brick faux finishes.

    With a lone exception (I’ll get into this in a moment), only natural sea sponges should be used for faux painting.

    Natural Sea Sponges are the most commonly used sponges, because of their unique texture and durability.

    Sea sponges are very porous and irregularly shaped, helping to give the finish a random and fully-textured appearance.

    You can find these in the paint section of nearly any paint or home improvement store. They are usually available in several different sizes. I suggest that you buy the largest size available, since it can always be cut into smaller pieces that can be used in corners or smaller spaces.

    Cellulose sponges are your typical synthetic sponges that are used for all-purpose cleaning around the house. They are commonly rectangular in shape.

    Due to several reasons, including their regular shape and small pores, this type of sponge is not typically used for faux finishes or faux techniques. One of the most common mistakes beginning sponge-painters make is using a cellulose sponge instead of a natural sponge.

    The one exception to this rule is the faux brick paint technique. The shape and texture of a cellulose sponge is ideal for recreating the texture and look of brick.

  • Faux Rags

    While they may not look like "faux painting tools", rags are a faux finisher's best friend. There are a wide variety of different types of faux rags available, all of which have different uses and produce a unique look.

    Lint-free Cotton Rags (or even old t-shirts) are a paint supply everyone should have on hand, even if you are not intending to create a faux finish or faux technique. They are ideal for cleanup, especially when used moist.

    They are also the most popular choice for “rag-painting”. Cotton rags are a supply many people have already lying around the house, and they absorb paint superbly.

    Chamois rags are a great alternative to cotton rags for the ragging paint technique. Cotton is very absorptive, and it will add or remove a large amount of glaze in the ragging process, creating an extremely textured and mottled surface.

    Chamois rags absorb less paint, helping to create a slightly more subtle play of light and dark. Chamois rags are also considerably more expensive than cotton rags.

    Cheesecloth is a unique alternative to cotton rags. Its fine, mesh-like texture creates a much smaller, almost speckled, pattern in the glaze.

    Because of its fine texture, cheesecloth is also more absorptive than either cotton or chamois.

    Cheesecloth is also sometimes used to spread a paint-glaze mixture over a surface (see the parchment faux finish ).

    Because of its absorptive qualities, it is ideal for spreading glazes over a surface without causing the paint to run. This gives a surface a cloudy, almost color washed, affect.

  • Specialty Brushes

    There are numerous specialty brushes available today, from color washing brushes to stippler brushes and softening (or badger) brushes. Some of them are useful, some are rather unnecessary.

    A Softening Brushs or “Badger Brushs” are helpful faux painting tools to have with many of the techniques and finishes found on this site.

    Color washing, the parchment faux finish, ragging, rag rolling…these can all sometimes leave some rather harsh lines in the glaze. Color washing in particular, which often leaves visible brushstrokes, can be improved and “finished” with the proper use of a softening brush to blend out the lines.

    A good softening brush is made of natural bristle hair, which is considerably softer than a typical nylon-poly brush. It is used very lightly over the top of wet glaze to “buff” the visible lines and brushstrokes from the finished look.

    Stippling Brushes are also widely used faux painting tools in several faux finishes. They are blocky, soft-bristled brushes used in a “pouncing” motion atop the wet glaze, producing a random “stippled” appearance.

    A stippling brush is used in the leather faux finish found on this site.

    There is a smaller offshoot of stippling brushes, called variously by some manufacturers as a “Fitch edge tool” or a “pouncer brush”.

    These perform the same basic function of a stippling brush, but for smaller spaces. Nearly any time you need a stippling brush, you will also need a “pouncer brush” for working in the smaller corner spaces and along woodwork and trim.

    Color washing brushes are a nominally useful tool that can take some of the extra work out of the color washing technique, depending on the exact look you are trying to achieve.

    A color washing brush generally uses softer, natural bristles as opposed to the typical nylon-poly bristles found in most water-based paintbrushes. These bristles help to cut down on visible brushstrokes (but they will not eliminate them), resulting in a softer color washed appearance, with no harsh brushstrokes.

    For an entirely soft color washed appearance, a softening (badger) brush may need to be used overtop of the wet glaze.

    Veining Brushes are very fine-tipped brushes usually made with soft natural bristles.

    These perform the same general purpose as veining feathers, which are generally much cheaper and just as useful for the purpose of creating very fine veins in the marble faux finish.

  • Specialty Rollers

    There are a large variety of faux painting rollers on the market today. Rollers are, of course, intended to simplify jobs traditionally done by hand.

    Some, such as the rag roller, can work well if used properly. Others, like the sponge roller, simply do not create a unique enough pattern to consider as a replacement to old-fashioned sponging.

    Rag Rollers are probably the most common specialty rollers found today. They usually consist of a piece of lint-free cotton wound around a common round roller.

    If used in multiple directions (as opposed to straight up and down), these will create a fairly random “ragged” pattern in the wet glaze very similar to the traditional ragging technique.

    Click here for step-by-step instructions for the rag rolling paint technique.

    Chamois rollers are also available. For the difference between a cotton rag finish and a chamois finish, read “faux rags” up above.

    The sponge roller generally consists of random pieces of sponge glued to a roller cover.

    The sponge roller tends to look repetitive, especially over large spaces. The good news is, it can also cut down on the time and effort of a sponge-painted room…if you’re not too picky.

    There are also various other faux, or textured, roller covers that provide a variety of textured paint techniques. A honeycomb roller provides a slightly dappled finish, while the double roller paints and blends two different colors at the same time, leading to a textured look with depth.

    This can also tend to look overwhelming and sloppy, if done improperly, and I have had very little luck achieving a balanced look using this type of rollers.

    Lastly, there is the check roller, which is a different type of roller entirely than these others. It consists on several dozen notched metal discs on a fairly small roller.

    The check roller is used in the denim faux finish , and its purpose is to give the wet glaze a slightly “checked” or “faded” look by removing tiny sections of glaze.

  • Wood Graining Tools

    Finally, there are wood-graining tools. There is any number of different types of combs (metal, plastic) and shapes (triangular, rectangular).

    I am only going to cover the two most common types of wood graining tools. These are the triangular wood-graining tool and the rocker wood-graining tool.

    As the name suggests, the triangular wood-graining tool is triangular in shape, and typically has a different size comb on each side, making it useful for simulating numerous types of wood grains.

    The rocker wood-graining tool is probably the most common, and the simplest wood-graining tool to use. It consists of a handle with a curved wood-graining face at its end.

    This “graining face” is pulled through the wet glaze, while the curved face is “rocked” back and forth, creating a varied wood-grain effect.

As you can see, there are many faux painting tools available to the do-it-yourselfer today.

This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list. I am merely attempting to give you an overview of these faux paining tools and my opinion of their relative usefulness.

I hope you have found this guide enlightening. Please feel free to check out the information available on the rest of the site.