How to Mix Faux Painting Glaze

by: Dale Cox

Faux painting glaze, also called extender, is a translucent liquid that mixes with paint and coloring tints to create a see-through decorative finish for walls and furniture. Because glaze dries slower than paint, it allows time to manipulate the finish with a sponge or other faux finishing tool to create these effects. Glaze painting is sometimes called broken color painting because the decorative designs are applied over a solid base color and the top coating is patchy, allowing the underlying colors to show through. This effect creates the impression of depth in the finish.

There are several techniques for creating these finishes using tools like sponges, paper, rags, feathers, and floppy brushes to move the glaze around and shape the design. These techniques range from the very simple like sponging glaze over wall paint, to complex procedures like this craft paper technique that use 2 or more colors of glaze to create more interest and dimension in the finish. Check the section at the bottom of this page for a list of faux painting techniques and links to create them for yourself.

Mixing Glaze

Use a ratio of 1 part paint to 4 parts glaze to make a basic formula for most faux painting processes. You can use flat or glossy paint and have the color mixed by your paint supplier, or you can mix your own colors using the techniques described in the next section. While 1:4 is the basic ratio, some finishes like comb dragging may require a longer working time to blend the finish together properly before it dries. To slow drying in a case like this, add a bit more glaze to the mix, but don't go more than about a 1:6 ratio or the finish will not be as durable as needed to withstand normal traffic.

Glaze is available in latex and oil-based formulas and you should always use latex paint to mix with latex glaze and oil or alkyd-based paints to mix with oil glaze. To mix them just add the proper amount of pre-tinted paint to the neutral glaze and stir until you have a uniform color. Only a small amount is needed for most faux painting projects, for example, a one-color technique like simple sponging will require about a quart of mixed glaze to cover an average 9x12 room. More complex finishes using 2 or more colors like the craft paper technique, will require about a quart of glaze for each color. If you're doing a very large room with a high ceiling, you will need to increase the quantity accordingly, plan on as much as a gallon of glaze for each color you use.

Making Your Own Colors

diagram of a color wheel with primary, secondary, and intermediate colors

For faux finishing projects with multiple coats, buying premixed paints can get a little pricey. In these cases it may be worth the effort to make your own paint colors for mixing with the glaze. You can get a gallon of white paint or a light premixed color and alter it using tints (available from your local paint supplier) and the rules of the color wheel. A few basic tints will be sufficient to mix any color you want and small, 1 or 2 ounce tubes will color enough paint for this and other faux finishing projects in the future.

Using tints of red, yellow, and blue, plus a little lamp black and white paint for changing shades, all the hues pictured here can be mixed at home. With the primary, secondary, and intermediate colors in hand you can vary them to any color you want, and after you have created your color, you can darken or lighten it to vary the shade. Because multi-coat glaze techniques work well using different shades of the same color, this can be a good way to get all the glaze coats you need for a particular project.

To create a new color start with the primaries, and go from there to the get to the final color you want. First mix some paint to the primary colors you'll need, and then mix any secondary colors. When you have the secondaries, you can mix any intermediate colors you'll need. For example, to get the secondary color of orange, mix equal parts of yellow and red paint. To get the intermediate color of red/orange, mix your newly-made orange paint in with an equal part of the red paint. While these rules are helpful and necessary, they are not hard and fast. For example, you could vary the ratio here and get a red/orange that's closer to the orange side by using less than an equal part of red paint. Once you have this final color darken it by adding a bit of lamp black. Lighten a color by adding a little white paint. Using this method and your imagination you can create just about any color you're looking for.

Tinting the Paint

Add the paint to a mixing pail and add the tint to it a little at a time to "sneak up" on the color you want. Stir well after each addition of tint making sure to scrape the sides of the pail to mix in any strays. Keep stirring and scraping until you have a uniform color without any streaking. Before adding the mixed paint color to the glaze, test it on a sample of the base coat you will be using for your project to be sure it's what you want. Adjust the color if it's not what you were looking for, again, adding only a very small amount of tint at a time until you get the color you want.

To blend the paint and tint together use a small pail for each color and add the proper quantity of paint you'll need. For a standard glaze mixture of 4 to 1 you'll need to end up with a cup of tinted paint for every quart of glaze extender. It's best to start with at least a cup of each primary color to be sure you have enough to get the final cup of tinted paint.

Choosing Your Colors

When choosing a color for a room, the accepted rule of thumb is to use light shades in small rooms and darker ones in large rooms. The resulting effect is to make a small space seem larger with the lighter tone and the large room to feel cozier and warmer with a dark one.

To create a light faux finish, use a dark base coat with a lighter glaze over it. The darker base will bring out the lighter shade on top, making it dominant in the finish. For a simple sponging effect in a small powder room for example, try a tan base coat and a lighter tan or cream over it. This will create a bright, open feeling in the room and make a cramped spaces seem not so small.

Conversely, in a larger room use a light base coat and dark glaze over it to make the finish seem darker. For example, in a large living room with a high ceiling try a more complex finish like craft paper painting or opaque sponging and choose a light shade of gray for the base coat followed by progressively darker shades of gray to bring the walls in closer and make things feel warmer.

For help choosing the colors you want for your faux painting project use a sample card available from most home and paint supply stores. These will have chips of several complimentary colors on the same card to help with choosing an appealing scheme for your room. You can use these to decide on the base coat and glaze colors you want for your project. You can then buy those premixed, or match them using the mixing tips above.

If you're buying premixed paint, always buy all you'll need for your project at one time, it may be impossible to get the exact mixture again if you run out. For an average 9x12 room, a gallon of base coat paint will usually be enough, but if you're making a radical change to the existing color, you will likely need more than a gallon for multiple coats.

Preparation for Glaze Painting

Good preparation is important to getting the effect you want with a faux finish. First, evaluate the surface you will be working with, any surface is ready for painting as long as the existing finish is sound with no damage or loose, peeling paint. If there's peeling or other defects, the damage must be repaired before proceeding with the faux painting. Always remove any loose material first and then sand to smooth the surface and apply an appropriate primer (see below) to prepare it for the base coat.

If you have cracks or peeling paint on your walls, you will have to repair the damage using one of the wall repair solutions at this link. If you want to apply a faux finish to rough wall surfaces, use a sponge painting or plastic wrap process to help hide the imperfections. Most other faux finishes don't work well to hide wall damage, so smooth out any rough areas before creating those effects on walls.


After any necessary repairs are done the first step to the decorative painting process is the application of a base coat of paint. The best base coat for most effects is an eggshell or semi-gloss paint. Alkyd or latex paint can be used here, but in most cases latex is the best and easiest choice.

Paint the project with the base coat and while you're at it, coat a scrap piece of cardboard or other thin material to use as a test board for color matching and to practice the technique you will be using. It's best to give the base coat plenty of time to dry completely before proceeding. If the paint is too soft the application of a wet glaze may loosen it and make it sag and run. Let latex paint dry for about 24 hours and oil 12 hours or so.

The following is a list of preparation procedures for most surfaces.

  1. Ceramics and Glass: prepare these surfaces by wiping with denatured alcohol to clean the surface. Apply a coat of primer-sealer followed by an alkyd-based eggshell or semi-gloss base coat. Allow each coat to dry according to the label directions. Don't use latex on these hard, slick surface, it will peel very easily and ruin your faux finish.
  2. Drywall and Plaster: remove any peeling paint and smooth over the damage with wall mud. Repair any holes, cracks or water damage. Prime any new drywall or plaster repairs with latex primer or flat latex paint. Base coat with two coats of latex eggshell or semi-gloss paint and let it dry for 24 hours.
  3. Furniture: disassemble the piece as much as possible removing drawers, doors, and hardware. Sand with medium grit sandpaper to smooth out any rough spots and de-gloss the finish. Coat with an oil-based enamel primer and then base coat with an oil-based enamel paint.
  4. Masonry: remove any loose sand or other material using a stiff brush. Use latex or masonry primer and base coat with latex paint. For a natural brick finish under a crackled paint finish, seal the brick with a clear masonry sealer before applying the crackle finish.
  5. Metal: remove any rust from the surface using steel wool or a wire brush and then prime the rust spots with a rust inhibiting primer. When the primer is dry, apply an alkyd-based eggshell or semi-gloss base coat. Allow 24 hours for drying.
  6. Plastic: plastic doesn't typically hold a painted finish well but for plastic objects that won't see high traffic, like vases or picture frames, a faux finish can be applied. Prime plastic with a general purpose spray paint and base coat with a latex or alkyd-based paint.
  7. Wallpaper: For best results wallpaper should be removed before painting or decorating with a faux finish. If you must paint over wallpaper, first determine what type of paper you are dealing with. You will usually find two basic types, one that has a vinyl covering and one that doesn't. Vinyl covered wallpaper will have a glossy finish and is very water resistant. The vinyl may be very thick or it may be very thin, either way, prime it with a shellac-based primer sealer before faux finishing. Ventilate the room well and wear a painter's respirator while applying the primer over large areas. If the paper is not covered with vinyl it will be very water absorbent. This type of wallpaper should be primed with at least 2 coats of primer or use two coats of alkyd-based finish paint and skip the priming. Follow the drywall and plaster preparation procedure covered above before applying the finish paint. Mix the paint in the base color for your faux painting project and apply one coat letting it dry overnight before applying the second coat. Let the second coat dry at least 12 hours before proceeding with faux painting.
  8. Wood: remove any peeling paint from wood surfaces, sand rough spots with 80 or 120 grit sandpaper and apply an alkyd primer to any bare spots. Allow the primer to dry and apply a latex or alkyd base coat. Let the base coat dry overnight.

How to Do Faux Painting

Below is a list of faux painting techniques and the basic process for each. Most of these include a link to a tutorial with instructions for creating these finishes yourself.

Antiquing is the process of using glaze to create an aged or distressed appearance on furniture and walls. A flat or shiny base coat is followed by a coat of glaze. While it is still wet, a lint-free rag is used to wipe the excess from the finish leaving hints of the glaze color in the crevices.

Color Washing involves using a rag to apply a watered-down glaze over the base coat. The strokes should be random arcs, over a small area of about 3x3 feet or so at a time. When it has set slightly, drag a dry brush across the finish to soften the rag marks.

Combing also called dragging and strié, involves pulling a dry, natural bristle brush or a rubber comb through the wet coat to leave a subtle striping in the finish. This is a good effect for decorating furniture or on walls where you want a wallpaper-like appearance. Two coats of glaze are used in this process to create the finish known as linen.

Crackled Paint finishes are used primarily on furniture to create an old, cracked paint look. Liquid hide glue is applied over paint or a natural finish such as brick. When the glue is dry, a paint coat is applied. As the paint goes on it begins to separate, leaving cracks in the finish when it dries.

Faux Wall Painting a painting technique that can be used to create an alligator skin or leather-like appearance on walls or household items. In addition, this faux technique works well to create a unique wallpaper-like finish. To create this effect, crumbled plastic wrap or craft paper is used to disturb the wet glaze leaving a crinkled appearance in the finish.

Leather Finishes faux finishing involves the use of rolled rags, plastic wrap or wadded plastic to roll or dab at the wet coat. This process leave creases in the finish, creating a fine grain leather or suede look. Create inlay leather effects on furniture or wainscoting using this technique.

Marbling is a more complicated process than the effects previously mentioned. It involves the same basic steps but the manipulation of the glaze to create the "veins" found in real marble requires some skill that only comes from practice. In this process a feather is used to simulate the veins and it is sometimes called feather painting.

Rag rolling involves using rags to leave a unique pattern that resembles leather or suede. Usually only two coats are used for this process, the base coat and a second shade of the same color over it. The base coat can be darker or lighter than the glaze coat for different results.

Sponge painting is used to create a random pattern on walls, usually as an alternative to wallpaper. This is a much easier way to have decorated walls than with wallpaper and it has the added advantage of being very easy to redecorate. A natural sea sponge is used for its random pattern which can be transferred to a wall surface. Different shades can be applied, one over the other, to create the impression of depth in the finish.

Stone faux finishes are created using a sea sponge to apply various shades of umber and black over a gray, white or brown base coat. Several applications are used and combine to mimic granite or other stone.

Wood Graining is used to create a simulated wood finish on doors, wainscoting or other small areas using special graining tools. These are plastic pads with a woodgrain patterned molded into them. A dark, mahogany or other wood shade of glaze is brushed onto the surface and a woodgrain pattern is added by rocking the graining tool in the finish while it is still wet.