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Trompe l’oeil

Trompe l’oeil is a French phrase that literally means “fool the eye.” In decorative painting, trompe l’oeil techniques use the interplay between light and shadow to create an illusion of dimension and depth. Trompe l’oeil techniques are only used to depict inanimate or stationary objects such as architectural details and still lifes.



There are six basic categories of trompe l’oeil painting. Regardless of the type, trompe l’oeil can be either monochromatic, in which several values of one principle color are used; or polychromatic, in which subjects are rendered in several different colors.

  • Faux Moldings
  • Grisaille
  • Polychrome Ornaments
  • Murals
  • Trompe l’oeil paintings
  • Trompe l’oeil marquetry

Faux Moldings, which are the most common type of trompe l’oeil include all manner of decorative architectural detail such as moldings, columns, niches, and bosses. 

Grisaille, a French word that means “shades of gray,” is a technique in which several values of one color are used to model form. Traditionally as the term suggests, grays were traditionally used for this technique. 

Polychrome Ornamentsemploy the same three-dimensional painting techniques as traditional grisaille, but uses several colors to render what are usually more complex ornamental forms. 

Murals, are large-scale trompe l’oeil compositions painted on facades ceilings, or interior walls that combine three dimensional architectural elements with landscapes and/or figures. 

Trompe l’oeil paintings, are fine-art still lifes that incorporate trompe l’oeil techniques.