How to Faux Stain Furniture with Latex Paint

If you want to stain a previously stained or painted furniture piece, check out this tutorial and video where I show you how to easily apply paint that looks like a stain with six color options.


So everyone deals with stress in different ways and this year has absolutely been an “opportunity” to start some new hobbies for stress-relief.

Most people have learned a new love for bike riding, working in the yard, or DIY projects.  But once again, I’m not like most people…

One Sunday afternoon in March, I decided to experiment with different stain options with my faux stain technique.  My original Barnwood stain was a big hit but I wanted to give readers more color options. 

I sat down and started mixing paints and creating samples like the DIY version of a mad scientist.  Before I knew it I had created over 3 dozen different stain samples and there were even more little bottles of paint scattered all over my kitchen table.  Who knew this would be my best option to de-stress during the craziness of this year. 

And become I didn’t want to overwhelm you with TOO many options, I have condensed the options into the top 5 shades – 6 if you include my driftwood stain.

 This technique has never let me down on several of my own furniture pieces and I hope it will be of some use to you too!

LET ME SHOW YOU:

  • My tried-and-true stain technique for covering stained or painted furniture without stripping
  • An alternative to traditional stain that is reliable no matter the wood type
  • A “stain” that will easily cover wood imperfections like knotholes which means you don’t have to buy high-grade lumber for woodworking projects
  • How I saved a ton of money by refinishing my damaged breakfast table top instead of buying a new table
  • A great technique to make metal garage doors look like real wood
paint that looks like stain
The shade in the picture above is Barnwood.

(As an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please see my full disclosure HERE).

Options to Achieve a Barnwood Stain on Furniture

There’s more than one way to get the look of stain on furniture, but one yields a much better result than others with less effort and expense:

Traditional Stain (Unfinished Wood)

For an unfinished piece of furniture, this involves light sanding and applying one or multiple coats of a stain.  Sometimes two colors of stain can be used to achieve the right shade.

A problem arises with the traditional stain because there is no absolute way to know how the stain will look after it penetrates the surface.  A traditional wood stain goes into the wood’s pores, and the reaction causes a permanent tint to the wood’s surface.  The more the wood absorbs the stain, the darker the tint. 

In addition, I have had trouble with different types of wood as they all absorb stain differently so the shade you want isn’t always what you get.  Also, the moisture of the wood is a consideration as wood that is more freshly cut will take more coats of stain to penetrate.

Bottom Line: A traditional stain often yields unexpected results.

Traditional Stain (Previously Stained or Painted Wood)

There are two conventional methods for staining a finished piece of furniture, whether it has an existing stain or is painted.

One option is to completely sand off the entire finish so that you get down to the bare wood.  This is extremely time-consuming, laborious and messy as you have to sand off ALL of the old finish so that the new stain can penetrate.

You can also use a furniture stripper to remove the old stain or paint.  Unfortunately, that involves slathering on lots of caustic, strong-smelling chemicals over your piece, then letting it sit a while before wiping or scraping off the old finish.  Needless to say, it’s messy!

Wood Oxidation Staining Method

Wood oxidation is the process of expediting the weathering process that would normally happen in nature much like iron reactions with the elements to rust.  To read more about oxidation, click here: Wood Oxidation

It usually involves vinegar, steel wool, and a strong tea stain to give a weathered wood finish.  This will yield a very natural, rustic barn wood stain but you have to start with unfinished wood unless you want to strip/sand off the old finish.

Also, you don’t know what the final finish will look like.  And because the oxidation is subtle, it will probably take a few coats at least.

Stain Over Paint Technique

You can stain over a stained piece by using a gel stain.  It requires only very light sanding and no stripping.  You apply a base coat in a paint color that looks like pine and then one or two coats of the gel stain from one side of the furniture piece to the other. 

The base coat shows through slightly giving the illusion of wood grain.  Also, the gel stain comes in lots of color options so you can be sure that the color you pick will be the true color of the piece when you are done. 

Gel Stain is usually a darker finish and looks great on more traditional pieces.  Also, the gel coat is a tad on the shiny side.  If you are looking for more of a traditional faux stain and don’t mind a semi-gloss sheen, then gel stain is a great option.  You can read more about it in my post:  The Easy Way to Gel Stain Furniture.  However, if you want a more matte, rustic-modern finish, you have come to the right place…

paint that looks like stain

The Easiest Way to Paint Furniture to Look Like Stain: Faux Stain Over Latex

Now on to my favorite technique to achieve a beautiful stain finish.  This technique involves applying a base coat and then latex paint mixed with a water-based glaze and then an optional topcoat. 

This paint over stain technique is not a stain at all but because you paint in one direction, the base coat shows through in such a way to look like wood grains, providing a subtle barn wood finish to an existing piece.

This technique has less sheen than gel stain and because you are using latex paint, you get the same results every single time.  It’s also not nearly as messy, no strong-smelling stains are used and it’s so easy to use.

Stain Furniture without Sanding off the Old Finish

One of the advantages of this technique is that you can stain furniture without sanding off the old finish.  There is minimal sanding in this process but it takes you less than 5 minutes as you are just roughing up the surface.

Stain Furniture without Stripping

I love that you can also stain furniture without stripping by using this latex paint stain method.  “Furniture stripper” is not in my DIY vocabulary and fortunately, it doesn’t have to be part of achieving a beautiful stained finish.

How To Save a Ton of Money on WoodWorking Projects

I saved so much money on my Turned Leg Coffee Table by using this faux stain technique.  If I was going with a traditional stain, I knew I would need to get more expensive lumber without any knotholes or blemishes.   But because latex paint isn’t transparent like a traditional stain, I saved almost half the cost of lumber because I was able to use common boards.  They are just as strong but have some knotholes.  I filled the knotholes that needed filling (How To Fix Damaged Wood Furniture) and used the faux stain to completely cover them.

PHEW!!!  I went a little overboard there, but, of all the staining methods, this one is pretty great.  Every time I go back to the traditional way I finish the project saying “never again!” 

How to Apply a Faux Stain to Painted Furniture: Barn wood Finish Supplies

Zinnser Bullseye 123 Water-Based Primer (Optional)* – Click here for the current price.

Sander or Sandpaper for Light Sanding – See my post on the Best Sanders for Furniture for a great option under $20 or click here if you’re in a hurry: Low-Cost Mouse Sander

Base Coat – See the information below for the right base coat for your shade of faux stain.  Usually, I just get the sample containers of paint at Lowe’s that are around $5.

Valspar’s Clear Mixing Glaze (Lowe’s or online here)I’ve tried other glazes and this one can’t be beaten.

Latex Paint Sample for Layer 1- You will mix Layer 1 by combining the glaze above, water, and latex paint (sample container) based on the stain color you pick below.  Don’t worry; it’s super easy to mix!

Latex Paint Sample for Layer 2 – Again, you will mix this by combining the glaze, a little water, and latex paint (sample size again).  See the mixing instructions below in step 4.

Paint Brushes – These are my favorite!

Baby Wipes (for Driftwood Finish only) – I recommend Huggies Natural Care because I can guarantee the chemicals in those wipes will not wipe away the dried base coat.

Foam Brushes (Optional) – I like to add my topcoat with a foam brush to get a smoother finish but you can also use one of your regular brushes.  They are super cheap compared to regular brushes.

Top Coat (Recommended) – If your budget is pretty tight and your piece doesn’t get tons of use (like a kitchen table) you can skip the topcoat.  However, I like to seal in the finish with a clear coat.  My favorite is Varathane’s Water-Based Top Coat in Satin (see the current price here).

FREE Furniture Painting Cheat Sheet – This free printable is available in my resource library.  Get access to it and all my other free printables, templates, and wall art by filling out the form at the bottom of this post.

*When to Prime First:

The primer is only if you are doing a piece that is previously finished and that finish is not latex paint.  As I detail in my post A Better Alternative to Chalk Paint, you can skip the base coat on pieces that need a primer by getting your primer tinted to be the same color as the base coat would have been. 

At the Lowe’s paint counter, just hand them the Zinnser primer and tell them you want it tinted to your basecoat color.  Then, continue the instructions as normal without the base coat!  The color might be slightly darker but it won’t matter because the base coat is under two layers of paint and won’t be seen that easily.

How to Faux Stain Furniture to Look Like Wood: The Process

Before You Get Started: Pick Your Stain Color

This process has 6 different options to choose from and they all look stunning.  You can see examples of some of these shades on furniture at the bottom of this post. 

The process for each stain color is the same, just slightly different colors are used for each stain.  After you have picked your stain color, see the information below on what sample containers of latex paint to buy.

apply paint that looks like stain

The stains above can all be made darker by adding more paint.  So if you are looking for a darker version of one of the stains above, it’s easy to get that look!

Now that you know what shade you are going to paint on your furniture piece, you can find out what sample colors you will need below. 

For each of the colors listed, you will need to get a half-pint sample size of paint that looks like this in the Sherwin Williams paint at Lowe’s.  You can use any latex paint as long as it is color-matched to those colors but the glaze is only sold at Lowe’s.

If you are new to getting paint at the paint counter, no worries!  Just go into your nearest Lowe’s and tell them you want a Sherwin Williams Sample container in (whatever color).  The samples always come in a satin sheen so they probably won’t ask you what sheen.  I usually tell them I’ll be back and loiter around the store for a few minutes while until my paint is done.

Rustic Mahogany Faux Stain

This is a gorgeous color that is very rich and traditional.  It’s hard to believe that the stain is just latex paint and a little glaze. See the main square sample below and in the video for a better example.  To me, this color looks a lot like Pottery Barn’s Mahogany. This is one of my favorites and I’ll soon be painting my metal back door in this color: You can See My Faux Stained Metal Backdoor HERE!

BASE COAT: Sherwin Williams Flaxseed

LAYER 1: Sherwin Williams Van Dyke Brown Sample

LAYER 2: Sherwin Williams Turkish Coffee Sample

Mix the paint, glaze and water in the ratio listed in step 4.

For example, if I pick Rustic Mahogany as my shade, I’ll be buying three samples of paint at the paint counter, and don’t forget your glaze.

Dark Walnut Faux Stain

This stain is the darkest of the options and is perfect if you are wanting a more espresso finish.  You can see below that I refinished my breakfast table and the coffee table in my living room with this stain color.

BASE COAT: Sherwin Williams Latte

LAYER 1: Sherwin Williams Van Dyke Brown

LAYER 2: Sherwin Williams Black Bean

Mix the paint, glaze and water in the ratio listed in step 4.

Barnwood Faux Stain

This is a versatile stain that works well for a traditional look or a more rustic farmhouse style.  This is the original faux stain shade I started with and you can see examples below with the blue dresser’s top and also the gray entry table’s top.  

BASE COAT: Valspar Coastal Villa – This is a Valspar color but you can also get it in a SW sample. Either is fine.

LAYER 1: Sherwin Williams Van Dyke Brown

LAYER 2:  This color and also Driftwood has the same shade (Sherwin Williams Van Dyke Brown) for layer one and two.  So, you only need one sample container of SW Van Dyke Brown.

Mix the paint, glaze and water in the ratio listed in step 4.

Driftwood Faux Stain

This is a great stain shade if you want a more weathered look to match rustic farmhouse or coastal decor.  It has an entire post devoted to it that you can see here: Faux Driftwood Finish on Latex Paint. 

There is one difference with this shade and that is that you dry brush white on the finish as a final step which I explain below.  Because of the additional step, get a sample size container of Sherwin Williams Pure White or just use any white/cream latex paint you have on hand.

BASE COAT: Valspar Coastal Villa – This is a Valspar color but you can also get it in a SW sample. Either is fine.

LAYER 1: Sherwin Williams Van Dyke Brown

LAYER 2:  Sherwin Williams Van Dyke Brown again.

Mix the paint, glaze and water in the ratio listed in step 4.

Don’t forget a sample container of white paint for the driftwood stain!

Brown Oak

If you want more of a rustic farmhouse vibe, then this is your stain color! I love how it looks on the top of my dresser below.  

BASE COAT:  Sherwin Williams Flaxseed

LAYER 1: Sherwin Williams Van Dyke Brown

LAYER 2: There is no layer 2 step for this shade.  You can move directly to the clear coat step!

Mix the paint, glaze and water in the ratio listed in step 4.

Early American Faux Stain

This is a really pretty option if you like the rustic depth of Brown Oak but want something a little warmer.

BASE COAT:  Sherwin Williams Flaxseed

LAYER 1: Sherwin Williams Java

LAYER 2: There is no layer 2 step for this shade.  You can move directly to the clear coat step!

Mix the paint, glaze and water in the ratio listed in step 4.

Breakfast Table BEFORE Using The Faux Stain

You can see in the pictures below that there are some areas where the stain is peeling up and also the cloudy areas are heat stains.

It’s not that noticeable but I got these chairs after getting the table and the stains don’t exactly match.  That’s why I picked the Dark Walnut stain to match my two chairs!  Ok, so now that I look at the picture, it is pretty noticeable that the stains don’t match. 

Before

Step 1:  How to Faux Stain Over Paint: Surface Prep

Stop! Before you do anything…take a before pic of your furniture piece.  When you are done, post the before and after pics here, so I can see the amazing work you’ve done! ❤️

Now, lightly sand your piece.  I like to use a mouse sander and you can see which I prefer here: Best Sanders for Wood Furniture.  You are not sanding off the existing finish.  You are just simply scuffing up the surface to accept paint and it will take less than 5 minutes with very little effort.  I give a full tutorial on how to sand here: How to Sand Furniture in 5 Minutes or Less

Renovated Faith: What’s in a Name?

God never leaves a project half-done…He continually works on each one of us, as a lavish expression of His amazing love and grace.  So many of my DIY projects remind me of how God renovates our hearts.  If you are a work-in-progress, just like I am, check out the Renovate Your Faith Devotional at the bottom of this post.  Click here to get a weekly reminder of new posts by adding your email address.

Step 2: Brush On A Primer (Optional)

If you are starting with raw wood, you don’t need a primer.  If you are starting with a surface that you know was painted with latex paint, you don’t need a primer.  If you aren’t sure of the paint or have a stained surface, you definitely need a primer to prevent bleed-through and to help the paint adhere.  I like to use a quart of Zinnser Bullseye 123 but if your piece is laminate or veneer, go with something a little more hardcore like Zinsser Cover Stain.

Normally, I’d use a roller to roll on primer and paint as I mention in my Must-Have Painting Tips For Furniture.   But for this process, the brush strokes are going to mimic the texture of wood grain.

Brush your primer on in the direction of the wood grain.  If your piece is laminate and doesn’t have a true wood grain, brush lengthwise.  The most important rule for this entire process is to brush in the direction of the grain.

Follow the dry time on the can before you go to the next step.

TIME-SAVING TIP: If you have to use a primer, you can get your primer tinted the same color as your base coat.  Then, your primer will also act as your base coat.  Just ask them to tint it at the paint counter.  This will save you a step!  If you go this route, continue on to step 4.

how to apply paint that looks like stain

Step 3: Apply a Base Coat for the Barnwood Stain

Brush on the base coat using long strokes in the direction of the wood.  You will just need one coat of base coat.  Don’t worry if you aren’t getting full coverage and you see some streaks.  That’s totally fine and will probably add dimension to the final stain.

Once you have applied your base coat, let it dry overnight. 

While you are waiting for the top to dry, this is a good time to paint the rest of your piece if you are doing the “stained-top look”.  To get a smooth and durable finish, check out my post: A Beginner’s Guide to Furniture Painting

For the Dark Walnut Faux Stain, the base coat is SW Latte.

how to apply paint that looks like stain

Step 4:  Mixing Your Faux Stains 

While the base coat is drying, now is a good time to mix your layer 1 and layer 2 stain mixtures.  Be sure to check which latex paints to use for your shade.

The process to mix the stain mixtures for both layer 1 and layer 2 is the same.

Faux Stain Mixture (You will use this ratio for all 6 shades)

For my round tabletop, I used 1 tablespoon water, 2 tablespoons of glaze, and 2 heaping tablespoons of paint and it was enough for one layer on the tabletop.

You can see in the video that the paint mixture will be pretty runny and that’s what you want. You will follow the same recipe above for Layer 1 and 2.

I used plastic cups for each mixture and mixed them with plastic spoons.  Then I just put foil over the top of each cup until I was ready to use them.  Don’t forget to label your stain mixtures!

Why Make a Faux Stain with Latex Paint 

You could use a traditional oil-based stain like gel stain at this point and it will work well just like in my post How to Stain Over Stain but if I have to pick, I prefer mixing my latex paint with a glaze to make a faux stain.

I like that the glaze and latex combination is water-based which has less odor during the application process and it just less messy.  Also, latex is so cheap and comes in almost any shade imaginable if you want to adjust the shade.  Ok, back to the process!

paint that looks like stain

 

Step 5: How to Use Paint as Stain to Refinish Furniture so it Looks Like Wood (Layer 1)

Be sure to watch the video as I paint on a sample piece of wood with the Rustic Mahogany Stain.

First, cover your furniture surface with your layer 1 mixture.  You first just want to get it on the full surface.

Once the surface is covered with the layer 1 stain mixture, start at the top and move from left to right.  Make sure you start your brush at the very left edge of the surface and don’t bring your brush up again until you have brushed the full length of the surface.

This sounds so much harder than it is so that’s why you need the video to see how easy it really is.  Basically you are going from left to right in long strokes.  If you start or stop your brush in the middle of the surface it will leave a weird brush mark

Every few brush strokes, dab your brush on some paper towels to get some of the excess paint off.  This will give you a really nice grain effect.  Keep brushing and dabbing off the excess paint until you get nice translucent strokes that resemble wood grain.

The video shows you how easy this is and how it’s impossible to mess up if you make a mistake.  The glaze really helps to keep the paint mixture workable so it doesn’t dry up too soon.

Let layer 1 dry 2 hours.

Here’s how my table looked after layer 1. (To be honest, I really liked how it looked at this point but I knew I needed to add layer 2 to get it dark enough to match my two chairs.

how to apply paint that looks like stain

Step 6:  Brush On The Layer 2 Mixture

Apply the second layer of stain with the corresponding “layer 2 mixture” for your stain color.   Repeat the exact same process in Step 5.  But this time, you might want to go a little thinner so you can see more of layer 1 show through this layer.  If you want a darker stain, go heavy with layer two.

For the Dark Walnut stain, it kind of looks purplish after brushing on layer 2 but I promise it dries in a beautiful rich brown.  All of the stains dry a little lighter and more contrasty than when the paint is wet.

DRIFTWOOD FINISH FINAL STEP:  If you are doing the driftwood finish, you have one step to add before you add a clear coat.  Let layer 2 dry overnight and mix 1 part glaze and 1 part white paint.  You will now dab the very tips of your bristles on the white glaze paint mixture and then use a paper plate to wipe off most of it.  When you are sure you have almost no paint on your brush, brush back and forth in the direction of your paint to give a light dry-brush effect.  You can see the full tutorial for this finish here: Easy Driftwood Finish on Furniture

Step 7: How to Clear Coat Your Faux Stained Finish

I recommend using a clear coat to protect your beautiful faux finish.  Brush it on with a foam brush in the direction of the grain.  It will go on with a white-blue tint but it will dry clear.

As I experimented with which clear coats hold up best to cold glasses in my post The Best Clear Coat for Furniture, I found that Varathane’s Water-based Polyurethane yielded the best results.  I especially love the satin finish.  If you want a matte finish, you can use General Finishes High Performance Top Coat in Flat .

Follow the directions on the back of the can.  Be sure to be careful with your furniture piece at first in terms of putting cold drinks on it.  I noticed that the first couple weeks, it would leave a temporary ring that would disappear after a few minutes but after a few weeks this stopped happening so I’m assuming it needs a few weeks to cure.

how to apply paint that looks like stain

Dark Walnut Stain Examples: Breakfast Table and Coffee Table

how to apply paint that looks like stain
Dark Walnut Stain
how to apply paint that looks like stain
Dark Walnut Stain
Easy DIY Farmhouse Coffee Table With Turned Legs
Click here to see how to build your own Turned Leg Coffee Table.

Brown Oak Stain Example: Dresser

how to apply paint that looks like stain

Rustic Mahogany Stain Example: Sample Piece From Video

how to apply paint that looks like stain
Rustic Mahogany

Barnwood Stain Examples: Entry Table and Blue Dresser

barnwood stain
paint that looks like wood

apply paint that looks like stain

paint that looks like stain

apply paint that looks like stain

Driftwood Stain Example:

how to apply paint that looks like stain
Driftwood Finish – See the full tutorial here.

RENOVATE YOUR FAITH: Freedom Through Transparency

Sara Groves once said, “One of the reasons we are not free is because we are trying to be good for Jesus.  We are trying to be good PR for God.  I think my best PR moments are when I am weak, and He is strong in me.” 

I have learned that there is nothing I can do to make God look good…He’s God and He doesn’t need me or anyone to accomplish that.  However, in seeking Him and submitting my life to Him, others can see Him through me even when I’m at my worst. 

That’s what the world needs – not false advertising for a brand of Christianity that is plastic and manufactured, but raw honesty about who God is and how He meets your every need in times of hardship.

Growing up, our pastor would end every sermon by saying, “You might be the only Jesus someone sees this week so make sure they get the right story.” 

I want others to see God in me, not a pharisaical rendition of piety.   John 15 entails the importance of abiding in Christ and by surrendering to Him for help, guidance and strength, He actually works through us.  That’s the best way for others to see Christ in you.

It’s vital to be transparent and honest with how you struggle because we are not called to do good things “for” God but to allow God to work through us.  So much freedom comes in admitting to God that you are too weak, but through Him you are strong.  

This is the essence of the Christian life – God never called us to perfection, but the very reason Christ died on the cross was to make an offering of perfection on our behalf.  Now, we have freedom, not to sin, but to enjoy the fullness of allowing Him to live in us, even through our flaws and shortcomings.  When I am weak, He is strong.

For more spiritual encouragement, click here for the rest of my project posts that also include Renovate Your Faith devotionals.

how to apply paint that looks like stain
how to apply paint that looks like stain

How to Faux Stain a Metal Door To Look Like Wood

Did you know you can use any faux stain on a metal or fiberglass door to make it look like its made out of real hardwood. To see how I painted my metal back door, click here: The Easy Way To Paint Any Door To Look Like Wood

FREE Furniture Painting Cheat Sheet

Here’s where you can get my must-have painting tips for furniture!  Get the password for the library with all of my free printables including wall art, checklists and templates by filling out this form:

 

How to Faux Stain with Latex Paint: FAQ’s:

Can this Technique Be Used On Metal Doors?

This process does not only work on wood doors but fiberglass and metal doors.  Right now my back door is covered in orange peeling paint but I will soon refinish it with the Rustic Mahogony – the same sample color in the video on the dining room table. 

I love how the two layers of stain imitate wood grain without the use of a wood grain tool.  I’ll also include a section in that post entailing how to use this faux wood finish on garage doors and any other metal door.  I recommend using this technique outdoors in moderate weather from January or April as direct sun can cause the paint to dry too fast.

How to Paint Trim to Look Like Wood

If you are looking for paint that looks like a stain for trim, you can use this method also.  Just make sure to test a small area and work in six foot sections to ensure the glaze doesn’t dry before you can work with it to give the trim the wood grain effect.  I would use a clear coat on trim since trimwork gets a lot of wear and tear like this one: Varathane Waterbased Polyurethane

Can I Use Paint Over Chalk Paint?

You can use latex paint over chalk paint BUT you CANNOT use latex paint over wax.  All chalk paint has to be sealed  as I discuss in my post Why I Don’t Use Chalk Paint on Furniture.  Most chalk paint is sealed with wax so if you know the furniture piece has been waxed, you need to sand lightly and use a primer. 

If you are unsure if the piece has been waxed, I’d use a primer just in case.  The last thing you want to do is use this faux stain process only to have it chip or even peel off later because of the wax underneath.

Can You Faux Stain with Chalk Paint?

There are methods for faux staining with chalk paint but latex is a fraction of the cost of chalk paint, not to mention you have limited color options.  With chalk paint, you have to use a clear coat or some type of sealant like wax where one is not always required with latex paint.

For tips on making your next furniture project easier, faster and more beautiful, click the pin below:

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Need Chairs for Your Newly Painted Dining Table?

If you just refinished your dining table, you might be interested in updating the look of your chairs.  Chairs can be one of the most time-consuming furniture pieces to paint, so I have put together a buyer’s guide for my favorite dining chairs here:  The Best Cross Back Chairs Less Than $100

Why cross back chairs?  Also, known as x-back chairs they work well for any rustic style whether farmhouse, French country or coastal decor.  They also come in several different shades to easily coordinate them with a newly stained table.

Paint that Looks Like Stain – Related Posts:

How to Paint a Door To Look Like Wood

Easy Restoration Hardware Finish With Latex Paint

Create a Raw Wood Finish With Latex Paint

My Must-Have Furniture Painting Tips to Save You Time & Money

Best Clear Coats for Furniture (Best Chalk Paint Top Coat)

Stain over Paint Technique with Gel Stain

Easy Driftwood Finish for Furniture

Why I Don’t Use Chalk Paint on Furniture

How to Style a Console Table Like a Pro!

Coastal Blue Dresser with Barnwood Stain Top (see below)

 

DON’T FORGET TO TAKE A PICTURE!

Now that you are done, I’d love to see how it turned out!  Post your before and after photos here!

Painting Furniture To Look Like Stained Wood: Final Thoughts

Don’t forget to download my Free Furniture Painting Cheat Sheet.  To get your printable, sign up for my weekly newsletter which also grants you free access to my resource library full of wall art printables, checklists, and project plans!

Before this post, you may not have realized that traditional stain could be so problematic.  With this faux stain technique, you can easily refinish old furniture in one of six shades.  I have refinished 7 pieces of furniture with this technique and they are all holding up beautifully.  In finding the perfect shades options for this post, I went a little overboard in experimenting.  Who knew that testing out faux stains would be my main form of stress relief during the craziness of 2020.

how to apply paint that looks like stain
 

I love to hear your thoughts and questions!  Scroll down to leave a comment and I WILL reply! ❤️

Blessings,

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84 Comments

  1. I love the blue clock above the table. Where did you purchase it. Also I can’t wait to try this new “staining” method. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much! My mom was redecorating her mantel and didn’t need it anymore recently so I very happily took it off her hands. She got it at Kirland’s!

  2. Hi Karin! I did the faux stain painting and love it! But I want it darker. Could i do another coat with a darker paint?
    Thank you!

    1. So glad you like it but yes, just do a another coat with a darker paint. It might look really cool because it will have the tons of the first brown underneath. Thanks for asking!

  3. Awesome articles and information!!

    You mentioned Valspar glaze mixed with the paint– which glaze did you use? I saw one that is tintable and has no pigment. Im not sure if that’s the right one.

    I was visiting Disney World — Magic Kingdom — and waiting in the Jungle Cruise queue. I always love to study their techniques and methods for faux painting and weathering which is so prominent in all the attractions.

    I noticed the Jungle Cruise queue had heavy use of a faux wood grain all over the place–it was everywhere. Walls ceiling, beams, trim. I took pictures and wanted to try and duplicate the look. This article nailed it. It’s probably the exact same process.

  4. Hi Karin!
    I want to paint an d dresser a dark navy blue for our beach house. I want to give it that distressed coastal weathered finish. What colors should I use for the primer? Do I ask SW to add the blue I’m going to use to the primer? Also what color do I use for the “wood grain” top coat?

    1. Hey Jane,
      You could do white for the primer or any lighter blue. For the top coat, I like to use Varathane’s Waterproofed Top Coat in Satin but a lot of people also like the matte sheen. I hope that helps. Thanks Jane! – Karin

  5. I used this method on a planked wall. Turned out great and was so happy not to have the strong odor of stain. Thanks for providing such detail.

  6. Hi! I have a question about glaze. I cannot find it anywhere! Can I use water instead? Or do you have any other ideas. I have been able to find coloured glaze for chalk painting but that is it. No clear mixing glaze. I have tried Home Depot , Lowe’s, Canadian tote, Benjamin Moore and wherein Williams. The closest thing I can find is a paint extender.

  7. Hello! Someone before us painted some older trim white. I’d like to paint it to make it look like real wood as we like the rustic look for our old home.
    So I would start by sanding, then the next steps..
    We have some white molding along the ceiling, what would you suggest with that?

    Thank you.

    1. I would paint the lower trim and see what you think. Then go from there as far as the molding at the top. You can also practice on an old piece of trim before starting so you can get confidant with the technique. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  8. This has been very useful! I want to apply this as I paint my old paneling in the den. I want to subscribe to your blog!

  9. Hi Karin!
    I’m interested in using this method on the tops of IKEA Hemnes dressers that have the white stain already from IKEA. Do you think a light sanding over that white will be enough to go ahead with this method? Also, do you have any “wood” colors you recommend that have a bit more grey to them? I’m trying to match another piece.
    Thanks!
    Desiree

  10. Great tutorial, looking forward to painting a tired piece of furniture I inherited from my parents. I’m not finding the Harvest brown, is there a similar brown you can recommend? Thank you.

  11. I used your amazing technique to refinish the back stairs and landings at my 1893 Victorian home in Appleton Wisconsin. Here are the before and after pictures: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ym2kd4jReyp0yvc4loOp-3CbLLmnKIBB/view?usp=sharing

    Previous owners painted the stairs and landings a Titanic grey and were horrible. I used a tinted cream-colored primer, a coat of reddish/orangy/brown for the top coat and then dabbed in some splotches of super dark brown before brushing in the long strokes from one side to the other.

    It’s an amazing technique and really is convincing.

  12. Awesome tutorial and idea! Is there a specific reason for using latex based paint? I already have some paint samples that I am thinking of using for this method, but I don’t believe they are latex based. Do you think it would still turn out the same?

  13. Really great results. Good job!
    I have built my kitchen cabinets, and decided I am enthralled with the creamy grain of white oak. I have veneered all my drawer fronts and doors with it. I had originally painted some of the face frames a really gorgeous cream, but now? Blah with the oak.
    Some reclaimed wood for the face frames is darker stain and I love it with the white oak. I have been trying to figure out how to faux finish the cream face frames and you’ve just handed me the answer. I was looking for a wood grain tool, and all the hard stuff.

    I wanted to offer two thoughts: Citristrip will suck the stain out of wood, turning it into a BBQ sauce-like goo. A second application will bring it back to raw wood. I’ve done this with 15 antique doors. Neutralize with water — no mineral spirits, because that will liquify any traces of stain back into the wood in horrible, bright colors. Like magenta. Ask me how I know.
    Anyway… I work in my pajamas in front of the TV. No gloves, normal ventilation. The 21st century strippers are not flesh-eating chemicals. You work too hard to be messing with evil chemicals.

    Another, less expensive invisible flat top coat is paint base. You know, the can of paint before they add pigment? I get BM’s Exterior, flat latex DARK (4 or 5) paint base. It has all the UV and water proof properties. It goes on white, like primer, but dries so invisible you’ll question whether you painted that part or not.

    If you want to glue the chips down on chippy furniture, this is your answer. It doesn’t look glued or coated like other top coats make them look. Plus, you can’t pick the chips off at all.

    So you’ve just given me some wonderful tips to fix up 42 linear feet of cabinets I want to make look like darker oak. Thank you. Hopefully I’ve given you something you can use.

  14. Are the SW paint samples that you recommend at Lowes a good quality paint that can be used for paint only projects? Have you used them on anything that is not top coated with poly? The samples from an actual Sherwin Williams store are just for color sampling purposes only, not a paint that will hold up. .. I’m hoping these are better!

    Looking forward to seeing how you use this technique on a door!

  15. Karin,

    I want to paint my bathroom laminate countertop to look like wood. Do you think this process would work on laminate?

    Your projects are beautiful!

    Thank you

    1. Pam,
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! I might be hesitant to use it on a surface that will get wet so often. I would be scared it wouldn’t hold up or scratch easily. If you go that route, use an epoxy clear coat that is meant for countertops. Another option that I have had a good experience with is Rustoleum Countertop Restorations. We did this process on the kitchen in our old house. It’s a two-person job and it’s kind of messy but it will give you a nice looking finish that is durable!

  16. Hi Karin,

    I am currently using your technique on my kitchen table. It came out pretty good for my first time! My only question is, I noticed some bumps here and there (I assume maybe I put the glaze/paint on too thick or something). How do you recommend fixing it or is it too late? Would you recommend sanding? I am worried it will ruin what I already have done. They don’t bother me and you have to look for the imperfections, but I am not sure what will happen if I put the polyurethane on top.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Kristina, I’m sure it looks great. I wouldn’t sand at this point. If the imperfections don’t bother you now, they won’t look any different with the clear coat. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  17. Can’t figure out how to send a picture to your Pinterest board, but I did this and it looks great!
    I tried driftwood first but decided I didn’t like it and changed to regular wood look. It was cabinets and was rather difficult on the inset part of the cabinet doors but I figured out if I cut a brush down so it just had a thin line of bristles then it looked less like brush strokes at the edges.

  18. Hi Karin – I ‘m so glad I found your site! I just purchased a 48” round table that has an oak top and metal base with a faux wood finish. I bought it new on Wayfair to match a wood settee that has a very fine, uniform wood grain (don’t know what type of wood.) I have never been a fan of oak because the grain is so pronounced, so I *really* dislike how the top and apron of the table have this pronounced oak grain which also clashes with the uniform, fine grain of the table base and the settee. The table top is also much lighter than the table base and the settee so want to darken it up to coordinate better. I think your technique would be perfect for creating the same uniform, fine grain wood finish BUT the table top is assembled in a radiating pattern, like 8 pieces of pizza! They are actually separate wood pieces with a seam where they meet. So in order to create the uniform grain from the pointed center out to the wider edges to simulate a large board that was cut in the triangular shape, I’m thinking I would have to tape off alternating sections and complete the whole process on those sections, then let dry long enough to be able to apply painters tape to the newly painted sections to do the rest of the table…. Does this make sense and would you recommend this technique or have another suggestion? Do I need to be concerned about the finished colors of the alternating sections not matching when I’m done because they weren’t all done in the same pass???

    1. These are really good questions and if I’m reading it right, you want to simulate the same pattern of the wood. Just paint the base coat on as normal in one direction in a thin coat on the hole table (you just don’t want big brush strokes).

      So, say there are 4 different triangles in the top. Now, tape two of the non-adjacent triangles and tape them so the tape is just outside of the seam. You want some of the brown paint to settle in around the old seam to make the look of a new seam so leave about 1/8 inch exposed. Do the rest of the process on those two triangles. Let that dry and take off the tape carefully. I highly recommend yellow frog tape. Now, tape the last two triangles with the tape just outside the seam. Do the rest of the process on the last two triangles. Let it dry and take off the tape and then put a clear coat on top all in one direction with a foam brush. The farmhouse table that JUST went on the blog has some fake seams and I did the same thing with the tape. I will have the finish on the blog in a couple weeks but this is what I did with the tape. So to answer you’ll question you’ll do two passes, taping off the non-adjacent patterns in the wood. Let me know if you have any questions at all!

  19. Hello! Do you have any suggestions on how to get a dark espresso finish? I hate how the stain turned out on my sons dresser and I’m considering trying this. But I need darker than that dark walnut you have in your post.

    1. Hey Lindsay, You could still go with the dark walnut and go a little heavier with the glaze. It’s really pretty dark and if you go heavier it will be almost black. It is really more of an espresso finish. Let me know if you have any other questions and bets of luck! -Karin

  20. The Valspar Clear Mixing Glaze does not appear to be available anywhere in Canada. Are there any other good brands that would work for this project? Thanks!

  21. Hi Karin! I love this technique, but I have Minwax Polycrylic Satin Coat and want to use it- how long do I have to wait until the 2nd layer and put on the clear coat?

    1. Hey Tammy,
      It’s the same concentration of glaze paint and water on all the different shades so use what it says in Step 4. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Karin

  22. This worked perfectly and the colors are spot on. I went with the early American. Honestly I liked it was only two layers, but also I liked that color. I tinted my primer so it was super easy. The only thing I did differently was I brushed on the glaze let it sit a bit then wiped it with a folded blue shop towel. Fold it into quarters so you have a square then fold it once more and use that edge to wipe. Almost like a pad. I only did that because I am used to using general finishes glaze and I always wait then wipe it off. Thanks so much for this idea! And the colors! Can’t wait to try them all.

      1. Thank you for info .. I painted our three end tables in our formal living room the Rustic Mahogany finish. They turned out beautifully… until I put the topcoat on. As I was applying the Varathane topcoat, six or seven marks showed up in the paint on the table that we’re definitely not there when I had finished painting the three coats. They are a couple inches in length and lighter in color. ☹️ If need be do you think I could sand that table and start over even though I have one coat of the Varathane on it. I have not yet put the topcoat on the other two tables. Thank you again and in advance for your assistance.

  23. I ended up going to 3 different Lowe’s stores and no one would tint the Zinnser primer. They said they will only tint paints, not primers. So I ended up having to get both. Lol *sigh*

  24. Hi Karin,
    Do we need to prime bare wood first? My husband just built using a farmhouse bed and I want to paint it with the driftwood finish.

  25. I’m thinking about using your technique on an old wood cooler we will be putting outside on porch. Will this technique and materials hold up for outdoor use? If not, could you recommend anything I could do or use that would make it better for outdoor use? This is not a “meaningful” piece of furniture, so willing to try anything. Just want it to look a little better. Thanks!

    1. Hey Ange, I haven’t tried this technique on outdoor furniture but I think it would work fine is you use an oil-based primer like Zinsser Cover Stain and also used an exterior grade clear coat like this one: https://www.amazon.com/Rust-Oleum-Varathane-250241H-1-Quart-Urethane/dp/B000XML4VE/ref=as_li_ss_tl?dchild=1&keywords=exterior+clear+coat&qid=1604959728&sr=8-5&linkCode=ll1&tag=777770a-20&linkId=e570415291db66d43640bfe731c73d89&language=en_US (affiliate link) Let me know if you have any other questions Ange! – Karin

  26. Hello,

    I love the way your table turned out just by using the brush, but I would like to try out a wood grain rocker. Do you have any recommendations on which of your steps it would be best to use the tool to create the wood grain? I’m guessing after the layer 2 glaze and just apply layer 1 as the plain paint, or should I keep layer 1 as a glaze as well? Thank you for your tips!

    1. I don’t have any recommendations on a rocker but there are one or two on Amazon. I would do the rocker on the first coat of glaze/brown paint and then do the second coat very lightly so the rocker strokes don’t look so harsh. Thanks Kelsey! – Karin

  27. Thank you so much! We have had a terrible time trying to stain our table & decided to try your paint technique. We went with the dark walnut color because we definitely want a dark expresso finish. We have put on the primer tinted base coat, harvest brown mix and the black bean mix. It’s dry but still looking more red than brown/black. Recommendations?
    Thank you & will send pictures!

  28. Karen! I have a laminated partial board vanity that is currently a choloate brown and I would love for it to look like teak to get a mcm look. Do you think this technique will work? In your experiments, did you create a “stain” that achieved this color?

  29. Sherman Williams does not have a color named Flaxseed. Is this another brand of paint for the Flaxseed that you specified for the Rustic Mahogany?

  30. Hi Karin. I used your driftwood technique on my coffee table and end tables. The coffee table turned out a lot darker than the end tables. Is there a way to lighten the coffee table?

  31. I have an old hutch that is hunter green. Is a color this dark able to get the “stained” look in your article? I’d like to match it somewhat to my new dining set, which is a darker farmhouse type.

  32. I’m ready to faux stain our mantle and the flat top portion of our cabinets on the builtin bookcases surrounding our fireplace. I’ve tried to watch your video many times (instructional video in the faux stain How to Apply Paint that Looks Like Stain post) but it doesn’t appear to be there. It looks like it’s a 0:00 second long video. Is there another link that has the same video? I’m so excited to try this but want to do it right!

  33. I’m so excited to try the bar wood faux stain. Your post references a video several times that demonstrates how to do the paint strokes but I do not see video link in the post. Can you direct me to it please ?

  34. I used your Dark Walnut faux stain on our mantle and I’m wondering if it’s necessary to add the top coat? It’s not technically furniture and won’t be used as such but I will have it decorated and dust (from time to time-haha). Since the color is so beautiful, I am toying with the idea of do this same project on our 2 staircase hand rails, which are painted as well.
    I am new to your site but I am enjoying reading and learning how to do new projects I’ve been petrified of in the past! I am a firm believer that God leads us when we ask for wisdom and I feel like that’s what happened when I found your site.
    Thank you!

    1. Hey Stephanie,
      Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement. Isn’t it amazing how God is into the details of our lives?!? That’s a great question! I wouldn’t worry about clear coating a mantel. My general rule is that if a drink will likely be set on it, then I clear coat it, otherwise, don’t worry about it! Please let me know if you have any other questions! Blessings – Karin

  35. Karin,
    Thanks for this article, and for your faith-based values.

    The reason I’m reaching out to you is to ask if I can use your same faux stain technique for furniture….but, my work is outside, not inside.

    First of all, I’m a novice to DIY projects. How much of a novice? Well, rebuilding the ramp and landing to our guest house is the first extensive carpentry project I’ve done in my life (56 years). After construction, I used a Ready Seal Dark Walnut stain.

    My wife originally asked if I could install shutters on the 3 windows. However, I’m on a very tight budget, and didn’t see any shutter options I could go with. So, that leads me to another option:

    Could I use the faux stain technique that you describe, and apply it to the trim boards around the 3 windows, attempting to match the dark walnut stain for the ramp and landing? If so, what (if anything) would I do differently to both apply, and protect, the faux stain outside?

    Thank you,
    Dan Mach

    1. Hey Dan, I am actually working on a post about using this faux finish on an exterior door. It will be ready next week! But the only real change I made to the process was using an exterior clear coat. I used Varathane’s Water-based Spar Urethane in Satin. Let me know if you have any other questions! I’d love to see pictures when you are done! You can send them to [email protected]. Blessings, Karin

  36. I have a question for my kitchen table. I want to do the faux stain technique. I want to know how to do it if the table has a leaf in the middle. There are three parts then with two “lines” or edges in the table, its not just a flat one piece top. Do I seperate them when working on it or do it all then seperate to catch drips in between if there are any? Please help! Thank you!

    1. Hey Laura,
      I would separate the table and take out the leaf. Then set the leaf off to the side and refinish it separately. So, you will be refinishing 3 different surfaces – both sides of the table (leave a big gap as you refinish) and then the leaf. Let me know if you have other questions Laura! Blessings, Karin

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