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How to Use a Graining Tool For Faux Wood Paint Finish

by Lindsey Manning|Jun 16, 2022

I’m in the process of giving an old metal Target shelving unit a makeover. I’ve spray painted the base and now and now I’m ready to give the plywood a faux wood finish with prominent wood grain.

I’m no stranger to creating faux wood finishes. If you can think of a way to create one, I’ve probably already tried it. Previously I’ve given a smooth laminate surface a faux wood (weathered wood) finish with paint and dark wax.

You can also see where I learned to highlight the wood grain with spackle for a rustic wood finish. Yep, you heard me right- with spackle or otherwise known as joint compound.

Wood shelves diy paint

Today I’m sharing how to create a faux wood finish with a graining tool. These tools are awesome and so easy to use IF you know how to use them. Let me show you.

How to use a wood graining tool for a faux wood paint finish

Using a graining tool doesn’t have to be hard. As a matter of fact, a beginner DIYer can do this!

First, you need to decide which medium you want to use.

Disclosure; this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not affect the price you pay. This disclosure statement refers to the rest of the Amazon links and other affiliate links in this post.

Can you use stain with a graining tool?

You can use a graining tool with virtually any medium, including the stain. Know that stains typically won’t create as prominent of a grain effect unless you are using a stain that sits on the surface like a gel stain.

There is a product called Liquid Wood that infuses small particles of real wood into a paint product. I’ve used this product with a graining tool on an old folding table. I finished it with a stain too. It worked beautifully.

I thought about using the Retique It Liquid wood product, but I decided to see what I could create with just paint.

Once you’ve decided on your medium, apply one to two layers on the surface.

Immediately after you apply the paint, start at one end of the surface and hold the rubber graining tool at about a 45-degree angle. Pull the graining tool through the paint (or stain) rocking it back and forth slowly until it reaches the edge of the surface.

Always pull the tool in the direction of the wood grain. If the surface you are applying it to doesn’t have a wood grain, decide the best direction for it. For most vertical surfaces, the wood grain should run vertical and vice versa for horizontal surfaces.

Make one smooth pass with the tool and DON’T pull the graining tool up until you’ve reached the edge.

If you mess up or you don’t like the grain, no big deal. Take your paint brush and brush over the surface and start over again.

Note; for a really cool effect, apply dark paint first and then a lighter paint on top. You will need to apply the lighter paint to the base coat while it’s still fairly wet. This is something you need to play around with to get the right timing for applying the second coat. The graining tool will pull the dark color out and it makes a really neat color.

What surfaces can you use a wood grain tool on?

As long as you have a paint or stain medium that will adhere to the surface you are trying to apply the wood grain to, any surface should work! You can apply this faux wood grain finish to virtually any type of material.

Like I said earlier, I applied this faux finish to a plastic folding table and it turned out beautifully.

Note: the thicker the paint or stain medium, the more prominent the wood grain will show.

Let me show you a few close-up views of the faux wood grain after it dried.

Shelves, plants and decor

Look how real that wood grain looks! The best part? It actually has texture and feels like wood grain too.

Shelves, plants and decor
Shelves, black iron bars

This is only my second time using the graining tool but I can think of lots of other projects I would like to try it on

This article was written by Lindsey Manning from Repurpose and Upcycle.

Meet The Author

Lindsey is a person with a strong desire to create! Her blog started out from a need for a creative outlet during her time as a stay-at-home mom.

She believes that a home can be furnished, decorated, and updated on a budget. It just takes time, creativity, and the willingness to try and mess up.

Follow along on her journey!

Check out her Blog, Instagram & Pinterest!

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