Faux finishing is term used to describe a wide range of decorative painting techniques. From the French word for “fake”, faux painting began as a form of replicating materials such as marble and wood with paint, but has come to encompass many other decorative finishes for walls and furniture.
Faux finishing has been used for millennia, from cave painting to Ancient Egypt, but what we generally think of as faux finishing in decorative arts began with Plaster and Stucco Finishes in Mesopotamia over 5000 years ago.
Faux became hugely popular in Classical times in the forms of faux Marble, faux Wood, and Trompe l’oeil Murals. Artists would apprentice for 10 years or more with a master faux painter before working on their own. Great recognition was rewarded to artist who could actually trick viewers into believing their work was the real thing. Faux painting has continued to be popular throughout the ages, but experienced major resurgences in the neoclassical revival of the nineteenth century and the Art Deco styles of the 1920s. Throughout the recent history of decorative painting, faux finishing has been mainly used in commercial and public spaces.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s faux finishing saw another major revival, as wallpaper began to fall out of fashion. At this point, faux painting started to become extremely popular in home environments, with high end homes leading the trends. While it can be quite expensive to hire a professional faux finisher, many faux painting methods are simple enough for a beginning home owner to create with a little instruction. People are also attracted to the simplicity of changing a faux finish, as it can be easily painted over compared with the hassle of removing wallpaper.
In modern day faux finishing, there are two major materials/processes used. Glaze work involves using a translucent mixture of paint and glaze applied with a brush, roller, rag, or sponge, and often mimics textures, but it always smooth to the touch. Plaster work can be done with tinted plasters, or washed over with earth pigments, and is generally applied with a trowel or spatula. The finished result can be either flat to the touch or textured.
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