Faux Wood Paint Knots and Cracks for Realistic Results

The human eye is used to seeing knots and cracks in wood. As such, they help add realism and believability to faux wood painting.

Faux Wood Knots and cracks can be an effective tool to add balance to a painted piece. For example to pull the eye toward an impressive feature or away from something less pleasant.

Faux Wood Paint Knots

faux wood knots detailed in faux walnut
Adding internal grain lines to a Walnut knot.

Depending on wood type, knots will usually have their own, internal grain shapes. They can also flow with surrounding grain. I keep a variety of inexpensive student hog bristle brushes (rounds, flats…) on hand for painting knots and cracks.

Knots can go on early in the paint process and then worked with during each layer or they can be applied last in logical spots such as where you’ve got a little extra tone or where a grain line is heavier or more wavy. Or they can be painted somewhere in between. Faux wood knots should be detailed last.

Faux Wood Paint Cracks

Cracks often happen to wood after it’s harvested and dried. Cracks frequently appear after the wood is finished, brought on by continued drying and atmospheric impact such as sunlight, physical stress caused by the building process, humidity….


They can stand alone, or occur within knots, run across, radiate out from or be in-line with grain. They can be jagged or linear. They’re sometimes curved, as when running parallel to similarly curved grain.

Cracks cause the eye to focus away from the grain, pulling the viewer out of the surrounding wood and onto the surface of the piece. As such, cracks can be thought of as a totally separate layer that can completely change the impact and feel of a piece. They can be planned ahead or added late in the painting process. In either case, like knots, they should be detailed last so that no grain lines run through or across them. 

In the photo below from the Oak Mastery Course, cracks were etched into the knot with a pin tool, allowing the light colored base coat to show through. 

Oak faux wood knots and cracks

In the example below from my Cherry Mastery Course, a deep, wide crack is getting a highlighted edge for depth. Also note the black lateral and ring cracks in the Cherry knots that were applied with a small liner.

Cherry-Advanced-faux wood knots

Burl is knots… kind of

A topic for another post, I won’t go too far into burl here. A burl growth (or burr in the UK) results when a tree experiences stress of some kind. 

A tight cluster of branches can also result in burl-like growth. Realistic burl is perhaps the most difficult and rewarding wood grain faux finish to paint. 

I’ve received several requests for a burl-specific eBook or course. While I’m not opposed to this, it will take some time and development to get right.

I’ll say this about faux painted burl: You’re not likely to get good at it without first learning a few basic faux wood paint techniques. 

faux wood knot chevrolet coupe burl dashboard
A simple burl wood applied to a 1947 Chevrolet Business Coupe Dashboard and Trim.

Below is a Walnut panel where I experimented with a large burl knot that dominates the center of the work. A major flaw in the board that has caused several cracks to form. 

Walnut faux wood paint

A glove box door in faux oak with cats-paw knot clusters and delicate cracks. Unfortunately some of those cool features would later be covered by chrome trim. On the plus side, I followed my own rule of thinking like a wood worker while designing and applying this faux wood paint. 




Would you like some help with Faux Woodgrain?

Link to woodgrain paint course sign up page

Link to woodgrain car paint course sign up page




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