As a long time student, practitioner and observer of faux wood painting methods, I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend: The auto painting and decorative finishing industries are complete strangers to each other. Because of this, woodgraining methods for cars are hard to find.
Practically speaking, this makes perfect sense. Faux finishers go to interior design and home decoration shows, not car shows.
Some overlap, but not nearly enough
In some small ways, faux and car paint techniques have overlapped. Ever seen that cool trick for marbling with crumpled plastic in wet paint? Faux finishers have been using that trick to create faux stone for decades.
But for the most part, these two niches and their respective painting techniques are completely unknown and unconnected.
It’s unfortunate and even wasteful. For example, I’ve spent hundreds of hours masking with tape to paint long, narrow lines that could have been done in minutes using a striping brush. It’s just something I was never exposed to in the faux finishing world.
I plan to pick up some squirrel pinstriping brushes to learn some basic moves. Not to become a pinstriper, just to add a valuable brush technique to my repertoire.
Get graining work
In terms of auto painting, faux wood grain is one of the most valuable of the faux finishing skills. Antique car restoration, custom car and motorcycle work, matching and repair of real wood and faux surfaces in old and new cars, Woodies, rims, steering wheels, shift knobs, truck beds…
I often get emails from people asking me where they can get wood grain work done in their area. If I have a student near them I pass the message along. Sometimes they end up shipping their dash and trim to a grainer.
Faux wood paint work is out there and the trick to getting it, is doing it. Grain a dash and get it in a show or two and folks will take notice. I know because that happened to me (and continues to).
Once you have some projects out in the world and some samples to show off in your shop and at shows, people will spread the word for you. You can also advertise in magazines, car forums, sites and blogs.
Faux wood paint techniques might not be for you
Learning to paint wood grain isn’t for everyone. It takes some effort to get the skill down… If you’re reading this, I’m guessing that you feel comfortable with brushes and paint. If you can pinstripe, paint flames or just about any of the specialty auto finishes, you can grain.
There are services that will print a “wood look” onto just about anything, and it looks pretty good. But it’s not what I’d call art. One printed burl looks exactly like the next.
I’m not bashing that method, it’s perfect for some people. I just want to clarify that it’s different from hand painted faux wood grain.
Every painted woodgrain car project is unique and you can make it look exactly how you want with infinite color, grain and wood type variations. Not possible with the printed options.
It’s no mystery
I see lots of attempts at wood graining by auto painters and I get frustrated because they’re trying to reinvent the wheel.
Decorative finishers have been doing it for centuries, we’ve figured out some amazing tricks and we get stunningly realistic results. All of which can be easily applied to the car painting world.
It’s true that you’ll need a few new tools but nothing crazy, price-wise and as I said before woodgraining is actually easier than much of the splashy custom auto stuff like flames and pinstriping.
There are many, many other applications for faux wood painting. Like my current and past students, you’ll find this to be a very rewarding art form.