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Steps For Oak Woodgraining – A How To

Faux oak woodgraining is a technique for creating the appearance of oak wood on a surface that is not actually made of oak. Faux oak woodgraining is usually completed in only two layers of glazing (typically, woodgrain finishes are completed in a 3-layer process). The tools and brushwork are a bit technical, so practice makes perfect.  Pierre Finkelstein of Grand Illusion Decorative Painting shows you how he created this finish.

This is the finished painted oak door (without trompe l’oeil molding) with the real oak door to copy on the left (another post explaining how the trompe l’oeil molding was accomplished can be found here.


Use our step-by-step instruction below


Here is a list of the tools & supplies you will need to achieve this technique.  Supplies available at are linked below and listed at the bottom of the page.



STEP 1 – DESIGN THE SAMPLE: This is a section of the approved sample, the basecoat color is the lighter color on the upper left.  Additional layers show how the applications add depth and color.

Every GIDP job has a “recipe” card.  This is the recipe card for this job. The basecoat is a Benjamin Moore color 2161-10 (the best basecoat is oil for this type of finish).  

For the additional layers, fluid Acrylic Colors with a proportion of Glazing Medium are used. Depending on how big the project is, the use of slow-dry Acrylic Colors and  Glazing Mediums can be used to achieve the correct viscosity and open-time



STEP 2 – PROPER PREPARATION AND TAPING: Use proper preparation methods to prepare your surface for Step 3.  Once the basecoat is cured, using blue tape, tape off the first sections to be painted.



STEP 3 – GRAINING LAYER:  To begin your graining layer, glaze and stretch the area with a medium tone using a tinted Glazing Medium. Darker tonalities from the palette are then added in streaks. Using a small Tooth Spalter, pull the glaze in vertical strokes.  

Oak woodgraining is a challenging wood to paint because of how many different tools and techniques are used in your graining layer. But, the upside is that oak only takes 2 layers whereas most wood grains usually require 3-layers. For more information on the tools and brushes used for oak wood graining, see our previous post on tools. Also, find information on the characteristics of real oak.  See the following 6 steps taken in this layer below.

The first picture was taken after glazing with various Glazing Brushes and Spalters. The next two pictures were taken after using a metal Oak Graining Comb Set, Detail Brush, a piece of burlap and various other oak tools to add marks of various grains.

Next up, Pierre created silver flakes with a Billiard Cloth, followed by softening the finish with a Softener Brush. For a complete list of tools used see oak tools.

Finally the section is ready to let dry.   

The panels on this door are to mimic a quarter-sawn cut or silver cut oak. Also, the panel is book-matched.

After finishing the first step of the first section, the next section of the door can be taped off and completed. Continue until all sections have been completed with the oak finish.



STEP 4 – OVERGLAZING LAYER: After the first layer is finished on the entire door and fully dry (next day), the second layer begins. This layer is so much easier for 2 reasons:

  1. There is very little manipulation of the glaze needed (unlike the first layer)
  2. A larger section can be tackled all at once.

The section is glazed with a fully transparent glaze. It is carefully smoothed with a Spalter Brush to ensure that the glaze is evenly dispersed. From there, simple moire’s are placed against the grain to finish the layer.



STEP 5 – PROTECT AND FINISH: Apply Varnish in the desired sheen to protect the finish