How to Paint Faux Stone

by: Dale Cox

photo of a grey stone faux finish sample

Using the process described on this page, you can paint a faux stone finish on just about anything. With just a couple different glaze colors, several different types of stone can be simulated on ordinary household objects like vases, picture frames, or even furniture.

Stone like granite is found in a few different colors in nature: gray, brown, and black shade are common and we use those for the projects described here. The gray stone finish is the simplest to do with just two colors involved. Brown is the most complex, requiring five different colors of paint and glaze to create. All of these finishes are easy to do, just follow the chart below and apply the colors in the order and density called for.

Preparation for Stone Faux Painting

Start the process by preparing and priming the surface as described in the list below. It's best to tint your primer to the same color you will be using for the base coat to make coverage easier. For the base coat, an eggshell paint finish will most closely simulate a real stone look. Either latex or oil-based paint can be used for base coating, but latex will be easier to work with. For shiny stone like polished granite, a clear coat of shellac or varnish can be applied after the faux painting is done to complete the effect.

  1. Ceramics and Glass: prepare these surfaces using denatured alcohol to wipe the surface clean, Use an alkyd based primer and an alkyd base coat. Or to save time the primer can be used as the base coat. Tint the paint following the instructions in the next section before application. Allow each coat to dry for 12 to 24 hours.
  2. Wood: remove any peeling paint from wood surfaces, sand the finish, and apply a latex or alkyd primer to any bare wood. Allow the primer to dry and apply a latex base coat tinted following the instructions in the next section.
  3. Metal: remove any rust from the surface using a wire brush, sandpaper, or steel wool and then prime the rust spots with a rust inhibiting primer. When the rust inhibitor is dry apply a coat of white alkyd-based or metal primer tinted following the directions in the next section. Allow 24 hours for drying.
  4. Plaster and Drywall: remove any peeling paint and repair any water damage or other major wall damage. Prime any new drywall or plaster repairs with flat latex paint. Base coat the wall with two coats of latex paint tinted following the instructions in the next section. See Drywall and Plaster Repair for more about wall prep.
  5. 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 use it as the base coat as well. A gray paint will do for most of these finishes otherwise use a light brown spray paint.

Mixing Glaze and Paint Colors

Painting glaze, also called extender, is used to create this and the other faux finishes on this website. For this project, use latex glaze and mix it with latex paint. The colorants (available at paint stores) you will need for all these finishes are: lamp black, raw umber, and burnt umber. These are used to mix the primer, the base coat paint, and the glaze colors required to create the faux stone effect described here.

Mix the colors in plastic cups or other containers that can be covered easily to keep the glaze for drying out. You will need several different shades of paint and glaze depending on the stone finish you are creating. Collect the cups you will need for the finish you want to do and mark them for each color of glaze and paint. For small projects like a vase or planter add to each of the glaze cups: ½ cup of the mixing glaze, about a tablespoon of white paint, and about a quarter cup of water. Then add tint in the following quantities:

  • Light Gray— ½ teaspoon raw umber
  • Dark Gray— ½ teaspoon lamp black
  • Light Brown— ½ teaspoon burnt umber
  • Dark Brown— 1 teaspoon burnt umber
  • Black— 2 teaspoons lamp black
  • White— add no colorant

To the base paint cups add half cup white paint and then tint in the following quantities:

  • Gray— ½ teaspoon lamp black
  • Brown— 1 teaspoon burnt umber

Color Chart to Simulate Stone

For each of the stone finishes described here, you will need to apply a base coat of the proper color paint. While you're at it, base coat a piece of cardboard to use as a test surface. For brown stone, base coat with the brown paint, for black or gray stone use the gray paint. Use the glaze colors in the order listed in the chart and apply each using a natural sea sponge and the process describe below.

chart for choosing colors to create stone faux finishes

Creating a Black Granite Finish

photo demonstrating how to load a sponge with painting glaze to apply a stone faux finish photo demonstrating how to hold a sponge to apply a stone faux finish

The steps to creating a black granite effect are described here, but the same techniques should also be used for the other stone finishes in the chart.

Start by submerging the sponge in water and wring out the excess. To avoid adding any extra water to the glaze, dry the sponge well on a clean, dry rag before dipping it into the glaze.

Pour some glaze into a paint tray or other shallow container and dip the sponge into the pool. Squeeze the excess glaze out of the sponge and then swirl it around on the paint tray to distribute glaze evenly.

Use the test board to practice your sponging technique before applying it to your project. With the sponge held as shown, dab at the board, touching the surface lightly and lifting it immediately in a light pouncing action. Avoid rocking or dragging the sponge while it is in contact with the surface.

Leave a semi-dense impression of the sponge texture on the surface while still allowing the base color to show through. If the glaze runs while applying, immediately wipe the surface with a clean, wet rag. Dry the sponge thoroughly and try again. When you have the technique right, move to the project.

Apply the First Glaze Color

photo demonstrating how to apply the first coat of glaze for a stone faux finish

To create a black granite finish, first base coat with the gray paint and let it dry completely. Next, apply the white glaze with the sponge so it mostly covers the gray base paint while still allowing some of it to show through. Work across the surface in a random pattern and dab repeatedly if necessary to get a consistent coat of white without any voids or thin spots.

Before it can dry, rinse out the sponge with plenty of water until all the white glaze is removed. Dry the sponge on a clean rag before proceeding with the next glaze color.

Let the white glaze dry on the project for about half an hour or so. You can also use a hairdryer on the cool setting to speed up drying if you're pressed for time. Be careful not to heat the surface too much with the dryer though.

Apply the Second Color

photo demonstrating how to apply the second coat of glaze for a stone faux finish

When the white is dry, apply the black glaze using the same method. This time though, use a lighter touch with the sponge to apply only a slight texture that allows the underlying colors of the base coat and white glaze to show through. Work across the surface in a random pattern but don't overlap where you've already touched.

Let the black glaze coat dry completely before proceeding with the final step. Be sure to promptly rinse all the black out of the sponge before it can dry and set it aside for future projects.

Speckle the Finish

photo demonstrating how to use a toothbrush to apply specks of glaze to a stone faux finish

To finish this effect use a toothbrush to spatter the finish with specks of white, gray, and black glaze. Pour about a tablespoon of each color into separate mixing containers and add a tablespoon of water to each; mix thoroughly. Dip the toothbrush into the glaze and wipe any excess from the handle to avoid dripping on the finish.

Hold the toothbrush as shown and run your thumb across the bristles several times to remove the excess glaze. Spatter the test board first until only tiny specks are produced, and then move to the project. Hold the toothbrush above the surface and let gravity assist in even distribution of the specks. Spatter the project with the darker colors and move to the lighter ones. Each color does not need to dry before applying the next. Allow the project to dry for several hours before applying a clear finish such as shellac or varnish.

Use the same methods to create the other stone colors from the chart. Apply the colors in the order called for and let each dry completely before going to the next. Apply each new glaze coat a little less densely than the one before, allowing more of the underlying colors to show through.