Marble Faux Finish
The marble faux finish has become one of the most popular faux finishes over recent years.
Due to natural marble’s beauty and rarity it has been used throughout history to denote wealth and taste. Castles, churches, manors, and banks used marble extensively in their décor.
The wonderful thing is, you no longer need to be a prince or an oil tycoon to bring the tasteful beauty of marble into your home.
The marble faux finish is slightly more complex than many of the faux finishes found on this site. The technique calls for layering two tinted glazes over a lighter base coat, then creating marble’s signature veins with an artist’s brush.
As with all the faux finishes on this site, I suggest perfecting your technique on a practice board or spare piece of drywall. Practice is of extra importance with this technique. Some extra time and effort is necessary to blend and perfect the “veins” of the faux marble.
Use a visual aid as you practice. This can be a real piece of marble or merely a picture in a magazine, but it will give you a solid visual basis to work from.
One last piece of decorating advice before we begin.
Over very large spaces, marble can appear overwhelming, so you may want to use the marble faux finish sparingly. The marble faux finish works best as an accent decoration, such as a fireplace mantle, pillar, or piece of furniture.
Stop! Very Important! Before beginning, be sure your walls are properly prepared. Not sure? Check out our paint surface preparation instructions (opens in a new window).
Here is what you’ll need:
Necessary Paint Products
- Latex Satin Paint (white for base coat - this color will also be used for veining)
- Latex Satin Paint (in two colors of the same tonality as your base color)
- Faux Technique Glaze
- Clear Polyurethane Varnish
Necessary Paint Supplies and Applicators
- 3/8” Nap Roller and Frame
- 2” Angled Nylon-Poly Brush
- Natural Bristle Blending Brush (Badger Brush)
- Natural Sea Sponge
- Pointed Artist’s Brush
- 2” Painter’s Tape
- Lint-Free Rags
Painting Base Coats
Begin by taping around the ceiling, windows, doors, floor trim, and any other woodwork or trim that is present. Use a high-quality nylon-polyester brush to “cut in” around the ceiling and trim work.
Using a moderately-loaded 3/8” roller, roll on the satin base coat. When rolling, finish each section with a smooth ceiling-to-floor stroke to help eliminate roller marks.
Per paint manufacturer’s instructions, wait at least four, and preferably six, hours before applying the necessary second coat. Wait at least 24 hours for the second coat to dry before beginning the marble faux finish.
Mixing the Glaze
Begin your marble faux finish with two different paint shades of the same tonality.
- Here is what I mean by the same tonality. Go to your local paint store. You will find lots of little color samples with different tones of the same color. (For example, a color sample with five different shades of brown.) Choose two colors from the same paint swatch. These colors will blend very well together, because they have the same tonality.
Mix one part satin paint, one part untinted glaze, and one part water in a small dish. This will give the glaze a slightly thin consistency that will give the finish transparency and depth.
Applying the Glaze Colors
You will need two separate 2” brushes to begin, one for each color. Choose a convenient starting point (typically a top corner). Working in an approximately 3’x3’ area, begin by loading each brush with the paint/glaze mixture and applying two 1 foot long squiggly lines approximately 6” apart. (Sounds unorthodox, huh? Don’t worry, its simple and looks great.)
Now, wad the cheesecloth up into a ball in your fist, not allowing any ends to dangle (these may smear or mar the glaze).
Using the cheesecloth, begin on the outside of your two squiggly lines of paint/glaze, and lightly rub the paint into the surface, blending the two colors seamlessly together.
You should rub in a swirling, figure-eight type pattern to give the surface a random, rounded effect (see photo). The colors should blend well, giving varying shades of lighter and darker tones.
As you work across the wall, the cheesecloth will accumulate paint and become sticky. Simply rinse the cheesecloth with warm water and wring it out well, then continue as before.
Before your 3x3 section begins to dry, go back with a clean, slightly damp cheesecloth and dab lightly at the surface, blending out the smeared colors.
Tip: If the glaze has already begun to dry or become sticky, mist the surface lightly with a spray bottle of water. There should be lighter and darker shades visible, as there is in real marble.
If you begin to notice extremely “light spots” in the finish that do not look natural, simply brush some paint/glaze on the cheesecloth and dab more color into that area. Be sure to smooth out any rough lines or textures.
Finish the entire wall before stopping, so the paint/glaze mixture remains workable throughout the process.
Once the glaze coats are completely
dry, you can begin adding the veins to your marble faux finish.
Using the fine-pointed artist brush and a shade of white or gray satin paint, begin painting the veins of the marble.
Veins in marble are very random, so perfection is not required, but here is where your visual aid can come in handy. Use it to guide you toward the authentic look you’re trying to achieve.
Veins are wide and narrow, often start and stop abruptly, and intersect each other regularly. Achieve this look by using different pressures on your artist brush and turning (twisting) the brush as you pull it across the surface.
Avoid patterns. Marble is very random and a regular pattern of veins will make it appear very phony.
Use the badger brush (or any dry paintbrush will do) to soften each vein as necessary before you move on to the next one. Soften by giving quick back and forth swipes across the vein. This will "blend" the white of the vein out into the surrounding colors and make the veins appear very natural.
Sealing the Marble Faux Finish
This step has a dual purpose.
The first purpose is to give your marble faux finish the polished luster of real marble.
The second is to protect your finish against marring, sunlight, and many other hazards of the home.
You can apply polyurethane with either a brush or a foam roller. The polyurethane finish should level itself out and dry smooth, without brush- or roller-marks.
All that’s left now is to enjoy your luxurious new marble faux finish!
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