How to Make Anything Look Like Real Wood

Furniture and Cabinetry Redouxs, Tutorials

 

It’s here!  The easiest way to learn How To Make Paint Look Like Wood.

**This post is my most pinned post!  It has been pinned millions and millions of time; thank you!  Please stick around, visit my Projects Page and see what else you might like to check out and try.

I enjoy sharing products I love with you and I hope you love them too.  I have included links to products I recommend and have benefited from.  I hope you do too!

Update:  Since I first wrote this post, Paint That looks Like Wood, I have used MANY different products.  I still love Modern Masters products, they are top quality (but not too cheap).  If you are looking to duplicate this look by using fewer products and for less, I highly recommend you try Debi’s Design Diary DIY Paint, Dark and Decrepit Liquid Patina, and Crystal Clear Liquid Patina.  You can tint the Clear Patina to be used as a glaze with inexpensive acrylic paints. You can get the same faux look with DIY Paint using these products, which are 100% Natural.  DIY Paint cans

I have done this finish dozens of times with dozens of variations.  Have fun with it, and if you mess up?  Just Paint over it and start over!  Remember, wood grain looks different all the time, your faux wood is just nature’s way of looking natural! You can use Dark & Decrepit Patina from DIY Paint to look like Stain as well!

You May Also Like: How to Makeover Vintage Buffet to Boho Buffet

Do you remember last week I gave you this teaser?

Today, I am spilling the beans (or glaze) on how you can do this trick too.  I need to begin by telling you this technique is a medium/somewhat skilled level if a painting scale of skills existed. But don’t worry, with some practice, you can do this technique anywhere and on any surface. If you haven’t worked with glaze before, you might want to start by familiarizing yourself with how it works and feels.  Try antiquing something with glaze, and then adding another darker glaze to deepen the color, you will get the hang of this technique in no time.

Pretty soon, you will want to paint all kinds of things to look like wood.

Let’s get started; time to gather your materials:

To paint ANYTHING look like real wood…. let’s start with the products

I use Modern Masters products for this technique, they are high quality, and the products are concentrated, so I end up using less.

NOTE:  If you are painting a surface where water will be present, I recommend starting with two coats of an oil-based primer, I like Zinnser. Follow this with a light brown standard paint, to make your “base color”.

TIP:  You can paint over an oil-based primer with water-based paints and glazes, but not vice versa.  Make sense?

  •  Modern Masters Dead Flat Varnish, or Glidden Polycrylic in flat, or very low sheen
  • *Foam roller, or old paint brush
  • *High quality paint brush (I like Wooster Short Cut for this Job)
  • Glazing medium  (cream)
  • *Tobacco Brown colorant (or warm wood acryclic paint color)
  • Aged Mahogany colorant (or similar acrylic paint color)
  • Van Dyke Brown or Coffee Bean Brown (this is a very dark brown color)
  • Cheese cloths,  CLICK HERE for best price, be sure to get UNBLEACHED, cut in half, and wadded up to look like a “pom pom”
  • Chip brushes, 2″, 3″, or 4″ (depending on the size of your piece)

1.Using the foam roller, apply varnish to a clean, lightly sanded surface.  Using the high quality paint brush, lay off the varnish in the direction of the grain.

2.When 1st step is dry, prepare your glaze by making a mixture of TB colorant by a 1:6 ratio with glaze.  Depending on how big of a piece you are glazing, start by making a small amount, you can always make more.

3. Using a chip brush, apply Tobacco Brown glaze all over surface, generally following the grain, (or if there is none, in the same direction).  While this is still wet, apply your Aged Mahogany colorant straight out of the bottle.  I like to pour some onto a paper plate and then use a chip brush to (dab it on).  It should look like this when you are finished with this step.

4.Now Use your cheesecloth Pompom to pull the glaze in the direction of the grain.  The pompom will absorb the excess glaze and softens the look.  When your cheesecloth is loaded up with glaze, you can use it to apply glaze to the sides and details.  Also, just sort of re”pompom” it to use a dryer section, and continue doing so until your cheese cloth is all used. Use your chip brush to pick up the excess glaze that may have settled in corners and grooves.

5. Prepare your next layer of glaze by using a mixture of the Van Dyke Brown (or very dark brown) in a 1:1 to ratio.  This is a very strong mixture, if you want your wood to be lighter, use more glaze to colorant ratio.   Apply Dark Brown glaze with a chip brush in the same way you did the first layer.  If you are doing a cabinet door, start with the middle, and work your way to edges.  Again, soften and “remove” excess glaze with a Cheesecloth “pompom”, following with a chip brush like you did in step #4.

***Optional step*** If you desire a richer, darker look, you can experiment by repeating the first step, just by adding another layer of the Tobacco Brown glaze, and then when dry, another layer of the Dark brown glaze.

6. You can decide to leave your finish as is, or you can take this optional step.  When glaze is completely dry, use some of your dark brown colorant straight from the bottle.  (Again, I like to pour it onto a paper plate).  You can apply some to the edges, using a chip brush, and randomly throughout your piece to “darken” the wood.  Use a rag to “blend” the colorant.

8.  When you have achieved the desired look, seal with protectant of your choice.  I have used wax or a clear coat, or nothing, depending on where my piece will be used.  Both will work beautifully with this finish.

 Tip:   This is one of my favorite glazing “tricks”.  You can try this on just about any surface.  If you are painting a surface that is not easy to paint, i.e. laminate, etc., then it is a must that you begin with a high adhesive primer.

Here is the kitchen table I did, completely “glazed over”

Before:

Close up of corner:

One more note…..the chairs were black with the same fakey wood on the seats.  I used my Fuji Mini Mite Sprayer to paint out the chairs and the table base with Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black in an outdoor paint they carry called “Resilience”.  I don’t usually use an exterior paint for indoor use, but this family has small children, entertains often, and I decided to go with something that would hold up to all kinds of wear and tear, and lots of wiping down!

  The wonderful thing about this technique is the endless choices of wood tones you can come up with.  Once you get comfortable with this technique, you can begin experimenting with all different colors of glaze and colorants.  Here are some other samples of work I have done using this technique:

This nightstand top was MDF and I needed it to match the stained tall boy that was solid wood:

This bathroom was honey colored Oak.  The owner’s master bedroom was all Cherry Stained wood, I added more red tones using more Aged Mahogany to achieve this look:

This bathroom had all white laminate cupboards and did not match the English Country Style of the rest of the Decor.  I used less red and dark tones to achieve this look:

This was a large, very light colored built in Oak cabinet.  It didn’t suit the new owner’s tastes.  Instead of stripping and staining the entire piece. (which would have been very long, laborious, and EXPENSIVE!), I used my glazed wood technique.  The new owner’s were delighted, they had a rich, dark, built in, for a fraction of the cost and time it would have taken to strip and stain the entire piece.

Hopefully I inspired you to go paint your own wood on some unsuspecting furniture!  It is really fun to experiment with this technique.  I would love to hear from you if you have more questions, or even better, see your results!

Want to see more ways to paint a wood look using different and more accessible products?  Check out these posts:

Anthropology Hack 

Dark wood Stained Master Bath Cabinet Makeovers

How to Create a Barn Wood Overlay 

Industrial Wood Look Coffee Table 

Instantly create an old Pickled Wood Finish with these household items 

 

 
 
 
 

57 Comments

  1. Pauline in Rockville, MD

    Wow! Looks beautiful and fun! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  2. Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage

    Love the look and really can’t believe it’s not real wood!

    You are a faux wood diva to the 10th degree! Since I don’t have mad painting skills like you, maybe I could start out small – I’m talking a matchbox or a piece of doll furniture.

    Baby steps… a girl’s gotta start somewhere!
    Kelly

    Reply
  3. Tammy

    Wow! This is amazing! Pinning it!

    Reply
  4. christina

    I am impressed! On my to try list for sure, I love how it looks 🙂
    Christina

    Reply
  5. Claudine

    AMAZING!!! You are so talented!
    I am not at that skill level yet BUT bookmarked to come back and try this technique!!!

    Reply
  6. Andrea

    Wonderful job, here. I know this took a lot of tedious prep! Great end result. Also, congrats on the feature at Furniture Revival!

    Reply
  7. cassie

    you are SOOOOOO good.

    Reply
  8. vanessa

    This is a great post, I love to learn new techniques. Thanks for sharing.

    Vanessa

    Reply
  9. Tanya

    You are so amazingly talented, thank you for hosting each week, and sharing your skill, Tanya 🙂

    Reply
  10. Teri

    I just love, love this technique!!!! You are very creative. Thank you for sharing!!!

    Reply
  11. Mandy

    Hi Karen – featuring your amazing technique tomorrow night (Monday) at Project Queen’s Highlight Party! Amazing!!!! Thanks so much for sharing.

    Reply
  12. Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co.

    Awesome! And what a great tutorial!

    Reply
  13. Stacey

    WOW! Great tutorail and what excellent results! Thanks for those tips!
    Thanks also for linking up!
    Stacey of Embracing Change

    Reply
  14. Stacey

    You were featured this week – come by and grab a button!
    Stacey of Embracing Change

    Reply
  15. Traci

    This is a great techinque and your table turned out beautifully. I like the dark stain.
    Thanks for sharing
    Traci

    Reply
  16. sherry

    This is beautiful! I’m now a follower.

    Reply
  17. Erin @ 110 + 2

    Good to know. Good. To. Know! Pinning for later use 🙂

    Reply
  18. Donny Suitor

    This is the best wood working training i have ever seen if your interested in becoming a Carpenter this is a GREAT tool to have along side as you learn your trade. This program has over 16000 blueprints of almost every wood structure you can think about. PLUS video tutorials and training if you are interested in this product please visit http://www.workingwithwood.ca

    Reply
  19. Coral

    Hey,

    Just wanted to say that this looks AMAZING. Sooooo, I want to do it! But, nobody has the MM glazing cream or colorants? I’ve looked all over online and called all the stores within two hours from my home and they can’t seem to get it either? So my question is, where do you find it?

    Thanks and, again, looks awesome!

    Reply
  20. Walter

    Realmente un trabajo finísimo! Me gusto muchísimo! Un saludo grande

    Reply
  21. Laura

    Hi there! Love, love this idea. I just bought an older home two-story home. The stairs where carpeted so I removed the carpet and refinished them with dark walnut stain. The only problem is the stairs make a turn at the bottom and there are 3 stairs that are triangle shaped and are made of plywood. It would be too much of a pain to sand, stain and varnish so I was looking for a paint that resembled wood. Well I found your great idea and I can’t wait to start. I only have one question, I want to get the color of the dark table top you have pictured out in the lawn. Did you use the Van Dyke brown or coffee bean. I noticed you said the coffee bean was very dark brown so I don’t know which one to get. I love and want the color of the table top. Thanks again for this great idea!!!

    Reply
  22. Jann

    This is an amazing POST! I too, have taken MDF and turned it into a beatuiful piece. Your instructions and post are fabulously detailed and so easy to understand.
    Your tables and projects are so wonderfully done and rich in color and preservation. I have spent hundreds of hours sanding….this is such a GREAT blog….thanks so much for sharing……keep those projects coming!!!!!

    Reply
  23. http://sosca1.com

    Thank you for posting “How to make anything look
    like real wood | Redoux Interiors”. I actuallymay certainly be returning
    for much more browsing and writing comments shortly.
    Thanks, Jacinto

    Reply
  24. Patty M

    This is truly amazing! Do you know if anyone has tried this on a floor? Thanks so much for sharing. I found you on Pinterest and am so glad I did!

    Reply
  25. http://tinyurl.com/adsofry15171

    This is certainly the 3rd post, of your site I actually went through.
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    Reply
  26. Sherrie

    Just in the nick of time! I had bought to end tables which I thought were solid wood and sanded it in spots to the wood. It wasma thin veneer and happy days this tutorial come up. Thank You Thank you!

    Reply
    • Julie Appletini

      Thinking about trying this out on an old laminated buffet that I have been storing for years. It has an old yellow veneer finish. It is recommended to us an “high adhesive primer” before beginning. Two questions. 1) what brand is a good high adhesive primer (I shop Lowe’s) and 2) do I need to sand prior to priming or can I just prime and then follow the other steps? – I am so eager to begin – Love this technique! Thanks!

      Reply
      • Mindy

        I faux finished laminate countertops…I used Zinser brand. I recall the can being specifically labeled as “for slick surfaces”. Good luck!

        Reply
  27. nicole

    Stupid question…. but all glazes must dry completely in between coats ( except when you add the colorant straight from the bottle at the beginning) correct? Befor I put my darker glaze on, the first must be dry??

    Reply
    • Julie Appletini

      Nicole, I thought the same thing. Surely letting the coats dry would work best. 🙂
      Did you ever try this technique?

      Reply
  28. Debbie

    Hi Karen, I’ve had this page up in my browser for so long, because I really love the look you were able to achieve, and I’ve been wanting to try it. I finally ordered all the MM products you suggested, but before I give it a go, I have a quick question for you. Do you let the piece dry between step 4 and 5? I just want to be sure I get it right. Thanks a bunch for such a great tutorial!

    Debbie

    Reply
  29. Brandi

    Beautifully done, Karen! Thanks for the how-to. I appreciate your clear descriptions,instructions, and illustrations.

    Reply
  30. karin

    you are a genius!! 🙂 it looks gorgeous of course!
    Hugs
    Karin

    Reply
  31. Kathy Nielsen, Eugene, OR

    Karen, Thank you sooooo much for this tutorial. I was just given a dresser almost exactly like the first on shown it has a laminate top and I was wondering how I was going to finish it. Up pops your “blog” answering my question. The procedure is so beautiful, but I’m not so sure I can duplicate what you have shown using your tutorial. Is Modern Masters colorant available in most hardware stores? Also your glazes, Do you wipe them off immediately or wait a time? I sure wish there was a “Work Shop” here in Oregon using CC Caldwell paints.

    Reply
  32. Linda Leyble

    Hey Karen…

    I found this Pinterest, then I popped over to the MM blog – commented there also. Great project. I didn’t know MM had a cabinetry glazing product! Live and learn. I have lots if their products – but not these!

    While the rest of the world is removing wood from the face of the earth…it’s good sometimes to put it back on furniture!!

    Linda

    Reply
  33. Logann

    This is a great tutorial. My parents had something very similar done to their 1998 honey colored cabinets. However now it’s wearing off in areas that get a lot of use (plate and cup cabinet, stuff like that) and I was wondering if you could recommend a way to touch them up or if I should just find a professional?

    Reply
  34. P.B.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your techniques. Much appreciated.

    Reply
    • GTC

      You are so welcome! I hope you will try this technique!

      Reply
  35. Beth

    i opened a 115 year old hardware store, on one end I put in a coffee shop. I would love to put in a checkerboard on a old wooden barrel. But they are so expensive. Is there a way I can paint a plastic barrel to look like wood?

    Reply
    • GTC

      Hi Beth, if you check out my website and search under glaze, you will find a tutorial on how to paint anything to look like readl wood. Good luck!

      Reply
  36. Heather

    I love this look! I just salvaged a small, oak, rocking bench (like a two person rocking chair). It is almost all spindles and is currently stained a light oak. I would love to make it a rich tobacco/espresso finish like the table you show above, but was thinking I would need to settle for just painting it white since stripping all of those spindles would be a nightmare! Maybe I will try this! Still looks like wood, but is actually paint! Two questions:
    1. Do you think this technique would work on spindles where there isn’t a nice flat surface to show the faux grain lines?
    2. If I’m starting with a pre-finished wood piece, would I still use primer as the first step or is there another (not white) product that I could use to give the paint more grip so I could use the existing light oak as the base color?
    Thank you so much for the information! The pieces you have finished are gorgeous!

    Reply
  37. ranae

    where did you buy your gel stain from? do they sell it at home improvement stores?

    thanks

    Reply
  38. Sue

    We are considering buying a home with all white trim, doors, and cupboards that we would want to give a wood look. Are you aware of anyone in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area who we could hire to do the work you have detailed in your blog?

    Reply
  39. Sarah

    Hi, can u explain why in step 1 u say ti apply a varbish before doing any if the fauz painting steps first? Thanks!

    Reply
  40. Kathy

    I would like to try this on tile?Do you think it would work? Thank you

    Reply
  41. Laura Watson

    Hi! I am trying to find the MM Colorant with no luck. Even called the company who told me to find someone who stocks any of their products and order a case of each color. Really just wanted one bottle of each color. Do you happen to know anyone who sells the colorant?

    Reply
  42. Alison Donohue

    Hi! I have the Ikea Kallex shelf in white but I’d love to paint it to look like wood. Is that doable? If so, what do you suggest? Thanks!

    Reply
  43. gary saltsman

    iam a retired truck driver who has turned part time cabinet furniture maker. ive had customers who wanted painted shaker type cabinets . ive used 1/4″ mdf with great results as far as fit and looks.now i have one who wants cabinet in knotty alder wood apperance and sprayed with high gloss poly.is there any way you know of that i can take mdf and stain it to resemmble this wood for the door panels.. any help would be appreaited for sure on this that would look professional.

    Reply
  44. Martha

    I’d like to try it on a wall. Has anyone tried that yet?

    Reply

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