DIY Make Your Painted Staircase Look Like Real Wood Again

Victoria Larsen Stencils
by Victoria Larsen Stencils
If your staircase looks anything like this one, let me show you just how easy it is to give it a real wood look and bring it back to it's former glory.
This stair case led down to my husbands music studio. What that meant was that clients would have to travel these stairs and it just didn't do a thing to make customers feel that this was the high end studio that it was really meant to be..Ick!

The staircase before, was painted gray and had glued carpet rectangles on the tread. I ripped up the carpet and what was left behind? The adhesive! It now had to be scraped off with a putty knife and sanded. I could have used a solvent, but I didn't want the added mess.

I wanted them to go back to the look of real wood.
I thought of stenciling the risers (since I'm a stencil designer) but I opted to paint the risers the same cream color of the walls.

I wanted the treads to look like golden oak but had never tried my hand at faux wood finishes. S0 I decided to search the internet for oak photos and printed one as my color guide.

If you dissect natural wood, you see that there is a background color (this one being a yellow/orange and then a wood grain color (brown).

So I painted the treads yellow/orange and let it dry. When you first see your stairs painted yellow/orange, it tends to freak you out a in "Oh My God what have I done". (I have to laugh now).
Adding wood grain was actually pretty fun.

I mixed brown paint with just a little bit of translucent wall glaze. What this does is help the paint to become workable much longer without diluting the color.

I dipped an artists brush in to the brown glaze and began creating horizontal streaks on to the paint surface to give the impression of wood grain. It didn't have to be perfect, but just to give the illusion of grain.

Though not pictured, I also used a very small artists liner brush to create the finer lines in the finished product.
I even created the look of a knot hole with the smaller brush.
When the grain was done on each stair, I used a dry brush to very lightly "blur" the grain lines. I did only one stair at a time, completing all of the steps. Starting at the top and working my way down made it easier (since I had a lower floor door to exit that floor).
3 coats of Varithane's floor varnish protected the finish and the stairs were done. It was a great make over that I was proud of and certainly made entering the music studio a much more pleasant experience!

Since this project, I learned a few things about faux finish wood grain: If you use two different, yet similar colors in "streaks" for the background and blend them well, it looks a lot more realistic. And if you use a tiny artists brush or what is called a "fan brush" to create the grain lines, that too, looks more like real wood grain.

But what this project also accomplished was prompting me to create a line of wood grain stencils that make the job faster and easier.

I actually used real wood grain to create the designs which was a lot of work, but I knew it would make future project go really quick and look more realistic.
Simply tape the wood grain stencil on to the surface. Mix darker brown paint with a little translucent wall glaze (again, to make it workable longer) and simply a, standard paint brush with the glaze over the stencil openings.

If you're not going to use a graining stencil, this is the time you would hand paint your grain lines.
Remove the stencil to reveal the grain lines, then again, use a dry brush to slightly blur the lines. Varnish to protect.
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  • Jan Jan on Nov 10, 2015
    well I tried to buy on but your site would not take my credit card info. :( Any suggestions?
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