Saturday, August 25, 2012

Faux timber finish on MDF - How to paint tutorial..

 There are lots of supplies of MDF in all shapes and sizes, suitable for craft projects. But MDF lacks the wonderfully warm look of a grained timber piece, don't you think? In olden times, craftsmen would enhance poor quality timber with a painted finish to simulate more expensive materials eg. Intarsia, faux marbling.  Hence Faux finishes were born and can be a valuable technique to add to your artistic repertoire.  I will show you a simple tutorial to create a faux timber grain on MDF.


Acrylic Base paint as a primer/undercoat
 in orange/light brown shade
(I used Matisse Haymarket)
Kleister medium ( I use Jo Sonja's)
Retarder medium
Acrylic gouache in colours:
Yellow oxide
Brown Earth
Indian Red oxide
3 "wide foam brush
Dustpan or very wide stiff bristle brush


1. Base paint the object with Haymarket or chosen yellow-orange shade. Let dry.
2. Sand lightly using 400- 600 grade sandpaper.
3. Prepare a paint palette with separate dobs of Yellow oxide, Brown earth, and Indian red, and one could even try a dash of black or burnt sienna. ( It is all a matter of personal preference)
4. Add some kleister medium but do not mix the colours and medium- just leave them on the palette in separate spots.
5. Dress the foam brush in retarder and coat the wooden piece lightly.
6. Dip the foam brush in the Kleister medium and then dip each corner of the foam brush in to the individual colours. I use Yellow oxide one side, Brown earth in middle and a little of the indian red or black on the opposite end of the foam brush. ( the colours will gently intermix on the piece. Kleister medium will help cement the pattern on the piece and prevent over blending of colours.
7. Drag the brush across the piece in the one direction, repeating as necessary.
Hint: Don't over do it. Less is more!!! If you have gone over too heavy, or don't like it, wipe off with a damp cloth and start again. The retarder will create a longer open time with the acrylic paint, giving you more time to play with the pattern and colours, before they dry.

To achieve a really soft uniform timber-like grain: Lightly drag a dustpan or wide stiff bristle brush in one direction over the piece. ( Use mainly one colour on the foam brush eg: brown earth and a tiny amount of yellow oxide)

You can give the completed piece a coat of either varnish to protect it or if you wish to add further decorative touches, use spray fixative or Jo Sonja’s clear glaze medium to give it a barrier coat. This means if you make a mistake and need to wipe out your decorative embellishment, it will not take all your lovely faux finish with it.

Now I will ponder over what particular type of decoration I shall paint it with… thinking traditional Hindeloopen with dark green trim…..updates to come…

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  1. I've heard that you can use varnish, lacquer, shellac, paint and even oils as mdf finishes. The question is what are the pros and cons of each?
    mdf finishes

  2. That is a big question Jennet! I find Shellac is a good prep to seal the Mdf before I base paint the piece. Varnish comes in so many varieties, it is a question of what you want to use, and what effect you like, and also what works with your paints. If you find a combination that works stick with it. I like to use spray varnish on oil paints, but might use a variety of water based varnish finishes over acrylic paint. I will write more about this on a blog posting to answer your question. The one important rule is not to put acrylic finishes over oil paints... you will have problems with this. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Adorei a dica,compartilhando aqui!! Forte abra├žo Renato Artesanato em MDF

  4. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article, painting with airless spray gun will be faster and more interesting!

    Airless Spray Gun