Gorgeous Faux Wood Paint Vs Ugly: Know the Difference

Gorgeous faux wood grain, or ugly and unrealistic? Lets explore the difference. 

Ugly not gorgeous faux wood paint
“brown stripe” faux wood. It sucks and it’s everywhere.

As a professional faux finisher for over 25 years, I’ve seen every imaginable type of faux finishing instruction.

From short pamphlets to expensive videos and books to multi-day workshops costing thousands.

Most faux wood paint sucks

I know that’s harsh but since most methods and kits don’t teach how to reproduce believable, attractive painted wood, the finished product almost always looks bad.

Bad wood grain is so common, the pros have a name for it: “brown stripe” (I know, lovely).

It tends to be two colors of brownish paint striped together in vertical lines with maybe a bit of unnatural figure.

How do you want your projects to look?

It’s unattractive and it’s everywhere. It looks a little like wood, but not much.

Next time you’re in your local home and hardware store, go take a look at cheap vinyl flooring and you’ll see machine made “brown stripe” wood grain (wallpaper, too).

By the way, most early wood grain car dash boards are basically “brown stripe” and virtually all of the auto industry wood grain kits offer supplies and instructions to do this simple, unconvincing look.


Dodge Dashboard ready for gorgeous faux wood grain
’48 Dodge dash with original wood grain paint. Not so convincing.


That’s too bad because it’s possible to paint wood grain that is indistinguishable from real wood, beautiful wood.

The secret to gorgeous faux wood grain

The biggest problem with most methods is that they don’t teach you how to SEE the elements in real wood that are most important for creating amazing, beautiful faux wood grain.

So what exactly do I mean by “seeing” real wood elements? One of the most valuable skills a painter can foster is the ability to recognize the aspects and layers of the real wood that must be duplicated for the work to be believable and attractive.

So, what should you look for in painted wood grain?

Gorgeous faux wood grain oak dodge window ring interior trim
Trim project: ’48 Dodge coupe. I’ve fooled woodworking pros with this project. Notice the Painted in “joints” to mimic the way a carpenter might assemble the trim pieces.


The answer is simple: Reality. It either looks like real wood or it doesn’t.

When looking at any faux wood, whether it’s painted by you or someone else, ask yourself how convincing it is on a scale of one to ten.

If it looks “kinda like” wood, it’s not convincing. The point is not to create the “feel” of wood, it’s to fool the eye so that most people cannot tell the difference between your paint and actual, real, sawed, sanded and varnished wood.

In Perfect Wood Grain courses, you’ll learn how to use photos of real wood to create realistic, beautiful faux wood that can be applied to any project from cars to furniture to kitchen and bath cabinets or anything you can imagine.

Thanks for reading and happy graining.



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



10 Responses

  1. […] Click here to see an example of really bad faux wood. This entry was posted in Faux Wood Grain business and marketing, Faux wood grain for cars, Faux wood grain furniture: Decoration and repair, Faux Wood Grain Technique by . Bookmark the permalink. […]

  2. Andy Stenklyft
    | Reply

    I am restoring a 1930 Model A Ford and found your site when looking for someone to woodgrain my dash and 3 narrow windshield pieces. I agree completely that all the products and services are “brown stripe”. I’m not interested in a course, however I would be interested in you doing the woodgraining on them in a mahogany. Are you interested, and approximately what would you charge? Thanks, Andy

    • Norman
      | Reply

      Hey, Andy.
      That sounds like a great project.

      I’m so slammed with getting out the upcoming Perfect Wood Grain Mastery ebook and other projects that I’m not taking on anything new at the moment.

      I still get requests for commercial projects so I’ve decided to pass those on to my students. I’ll shoot you an email so I can determine what area you’re in and hopefully we can find you a painter.

      If you want to find a wood grain expert right away, I suggest that you read the tips I listed for finding/working with a faux painter in this guest post I did for FauxWoodBeams.

      Thanks for the comment and I’ll be in touch.


  3. […] piece turned up nothing. I had to scan the image out of Yannicks book. All the while, mountains of bad wood grain can be seen all over the […]

  4. […] aisle of any home store and you’ll see piles of vinyl sheet and tile that look pretty bad. Here’s an example of unattractive faux […]

  5. […] who’s ever done a professional paint job (or even an amateur one), knows that many things can go wrong with the “simple” task of painting a […]

  6. […] piece turned up nothing. I had to scan the image out of Yannicks book. All the while, mountains of bad wood grain can be seen all over the […]

  7. […] Brown is almost never brown. Colors that occur naturally in real wood are tricky. For example, I don’t use any brown paint to create realistic faux wood grain. Why? It wouldn’t be realistic. This is why gel stain and faux wood paint kits never produce attractive results.  […]

  8. […] see lots of attempts at wood graining by auto painters and I get frustrated because they’re trying to reinvent the […]

  9. […] you’re a car painter, faux finisher, crafter or a D.I.Y. weekend warrior, this free eBook is packed with valuable […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.