How to Paint Faux Wood

Faux wood looks like real wood but is actually made from either composite wood material or PVC/vinyl material. The most common use of faux wood is to make window blinds, cabinet surfaces, and toys.

If you are eyeing a project that uses faux wood, it is essential to know how to paint this kind of material. Even faux wood needs protection from the elements! This guide will show you how.

Painting faux wood steps

The problem with faux wood is that it’s not really 100% wood so you need help just getting paint stick to the material. Some experts advise sanding the surface of the faux wood while some just use a generous coat of primer to prep the wood before applying the top coat.

Here is a combination of the two techniques.

Things you will need

  • Faux wood
  • Drop cloth, newspaper or tablecloth
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint or spray paint
  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Screwdrivers

Prepping your workspace

Cover the surface and wear some old clothing or a work apron as well. Be sure to open windows to ensure good ventilation. Remove all hardware like knobs, hinges, and metal plates.

Cover anything that you do not want to be painted with painter’s tape. Sand the surface with a sanding block to smooth away any imperfections, and then move on to sandpaper. If you are painting on a smoother surface, start with 120-grit sandpaper and move to 220-grit.

Wipe the surface with a tack cloth, then clean it with warm, soapy water, rinse, then let it dry completely. If the item you are painting is made from plastic, wipe it down with rubbing alcohol after washing with soap and water.

Choose the right materials

Choose light, dark and medium shades of brown acrylic craft paint. Begin with a medium shade of brown as a base then 1 darker shade and 2 to 4 lighter shades of brown for the shadows and highlights. For a more pronounced woodgrain, choose 1 to 2 shades that are darker and lighter than the base coat.

Paint your material

Step #1

Apply a coat of acrylic primer and let this dry. Use an acrylic primer that is suitable for the surface you are working on: wood, metal, plastic, etc. Use a wide, flat paintbrush. For a spray-on primer, then apply it in a well-ventilated area using a sweeping motion. Most primers will take about 20 minutes to dry.


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Step #2

Paint the entire piece with medium brown shade and let this dry. Apply an even coat of paint using a wide, flat paintbrush. Let this dry as well. Brush on the darkest shade of acrylic craft paint using a dry paintbrush. Be sure that you go over the entire surface so it’s evenly covered in streaky, dark-brown lines.


Step #3

Let dry before layering on the other colors. Begin with a darker shade first, then the lighter shades. Make sure that every color is dry before applying another.


Finishing the project

Let the paint dry and cure completely by placing it in a dry place in your home like your garage or tool shed. Acrylic paint usually takes about 20 minutes to dry, while latex paint can take an hour or more.

Some latex paints have a curing time that can take up to 48 to 72 hours, to 7 to 20 days! Be sure to look for your paint’s curing time from the label. Seal your work with a varnish. This will protect the surface but will also accentuate the woodgrain of the faux wood.

If you used latex paint, apply a thin coat of polyurethane varnish using a soft-bristled brush. For acrylic paint, use an acrylic sealer with a wide paintbrush. You can use more than 1 coat of sealer but make sure that the first coat is dry before applying the next one.

Let the varnish dry and cure completely. Be sure to read the label on your bottle or can of varnish and check for the drying and the curing times. If you don’t let the varnish cure before using the object, it may look tacky.


Faux wood is not genuine wood and therefore may take differently to paint and varnish. You must apply primer and a top coat of paint that will work with the type of material you are working on. You may opt to seal the surface if you wish. Take note of curing and drying times of varnish.

  • August 27, 2019
  • DIY