Fast Track Faux Marble

by Janean S. Thompson


There are many ways to use an airbrush to assist in the creation of faux finishes, patinas and other decorative applications in the home or in commercial locations. Modifications of techniques used by professional painters and designers can help to create unusual and striking surfaces and make them easy to master. If easy to master, varied and personalized finishes sound interesting to you, then these concise methods might help you broaden the scope of your airbrush work. While designed for aesthetic applications such as walls and decor items, they can be used in your canvas work as well.


Some of the most intriguing things about the look of stone are the wide variety of colors, the complexity of patterns and the application in today's building and interior markets. Replications of natural stone finishes are seen in every style of home, on grand scales in office and commercial buildings and even in advertising art as well as other widespread applications. Once reserved for only rich and opulent locales, we find expertly presented faux finishes in every walk of life.


Color coordination and application can be selected for drama or realism. You may decide to add accents of color not ordinarily found in nature but suited to your situation; or you may want natural tones that are seen in nature, are soothing and coordinated or totally original and dramatic combinations.


Our goal in this article is to encourage you to experiment with some of the finishes you like and to use them in your decor. Materials are much the same as for any other airbrush project but the results can be exceptional. You will need an airbrush and air source (I use the Iwata/Medea Eclipse Revolution airbrush with its handy cup, perfect for smaller projects, coupled with the quiet yet hard-working Smart Jet air compressor), airbrush acrylic paints, a script brush for accent application, paper toweling and your cleaning station. Optional items include a feather for veining and a clear coat if you want a polished appearance. Since this is a practice, experimental, learning exercise, our base is mat board but you could practice on wood, canvas panels, cardboard, etc. Once your skill level is refined, almost any surface can be decorated. But we are going to keep our first exposure very simple so that the nuances of the finishes remain the focus.


The colors I have selected include a range of greens, black and two brights--yellow and lime green. Each will be applied to a base coat of white so that any open areas will serve to brighten the surface. When you practice, also use your selected tones on a dark surface. Using the same application order and amounts, the difference is dramatic. Try it and see.


Start color application with the darkest tone that in this case is black. Although there are no precise formulas for applying color, beginning faux finishers need some guidelines to determine the amount of color to apply. Through experience, I have found that coverage looks best when roughly 2/3 of the surface is covered by the darkest tone, leaving 1/3 completely unpainted. Medium tones are applied to 1/3 of the surface, usually in some but not all of the open areas and overlapping the dark tones. Accent tones are simply flicked on the finished tonal coverage.


Dark tones, black and dark green, have been applied. Notice the contrast difference between the light open areas and the dark tones. Also, notice the random, spotty way in which the darks have been applied. This leaves areas of open base color for depth and upon which you build. If you covered the entire surface, you would eliminate the depth of lights and darks that shimmer through the finished surface.


Medium tones slightly overlap some of the dark tones, leaving less and less base tone unpainted. Using this method, two colors combine to create the appearance of a third color. Other layers of color can be added in this way for great variety of tone and texture.


Final tweaks include flicks of black and brights. These spritzes of color add subtle texture and visual interest. These spits of paint are created by "plucking" the trigger of the airbrush so that it sends a burst of air through, carrying with it larger droplets of paint.

To create the look of marble, add break lines with a script brush (or feather). Allow the patterns created by darks and lights to help determine the placement of lines. Let the breaks outline, rather than dissect, areas of rich color and your result will be more realistic. Detail shows the relationship between the areas of base color, dark and medium applications and accent spritzes of color.


Spray on a covering of gloss medium for a polished, shiny appearance and you are done! Experiment with other combinations, base tones and accents for a personal palette of faux finishing beauty. Remember, you are in control of all finishes


1. Applications of two dark tones create a basis of depth and richness.
2. Middle tones add a nice mix of tones.
3. Spritzes of black and bright tones create a look of depth and structure.
4. Script brush lines create the breaks and cracks characteristic of marble finishes.
5. Detail of the final spritzes and breaks over base colors. Additional splatters tie the lines to the body of the faux stone.

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