How to Fake Marble, Leather, and Other Expensive-Looking Surface Finishes

How to Fake Marble, Leather, and Other Expensive-Looking Surface Finishes
Photo: Photographee.eu, Shutterstock

If you want to breath new life into some old furniture or decor, a little paint can do the trick. These faux finishes will elevate a regular piece and add elegance to older furniture, and you can DIY them for less expense than you might think.

The elegance of marble, sans the cost

Adding faux marble is a great way to revitalize old furniture or add some flair to any home improvement project. There’s a cheap and tricky way to fake the look of marble you can handle yourself. All you’ll need is a feather, three shades of your marble colour, some glaze, and a glossy, clear finish top coat.

Before you get started, it’s helpful to look at some real marble to get an idea of the colour and type of veins you want. (Don’t have a chunk of marble lying around for comparison? Look it up on a stone supply site.) Apply your base colour first and allow it to dry. Then, use a feather from the craft store to paint lines on using your second colour, mixed 50/50 with glaze, and allow to dry. Next, apply a small number of feather stripes in your third colour, also mixed 50/50 with your glaze, slightly overlapping with the first layer of stripes. Once that’s dry, apply your clear coat. Make sure to allow for adequate drying time as per the product label, and your project will be ready to go. (For more detail and photos, check out this tutorial.)

Aged plaster without the age

For a faux aged plaster look, use a technique that layers paint and a paint/spackle mixture. This will work on almost any surface, including accents, moldings, or even home decor pieces. You’ll need a base colour of paint (preferably a semi-gloss latex paint), a tub of spackle, some white paint, and, if you desire to add a patina, a tinted glaze. Apply your base colour first and allow it to dry. Next, apply your 50/50 mix of white paint and spackle unevenly over your base layer to allow for the under-colour to peek through. Once that’s dry, you can top with a bright white plaster finish, or add an aged patina by using some glaze tinted with grey or another dark colour, which will tone down the white and add some contrast.

Leather that feels like fabric

You can use a mixture of paint and fabric softener to fake a leather finish on an upholstered piece. You’ll need three shades of your leather colour in latex paint, some fabric softener, and a sponge. Create a mix of paint and fabric softener (this helpful post can offer some insight as to the ratios to use — and you’re going to want to test this on scraps of fabric first to make sure you’ve gotten it right). Then, it’s time to paint your leather colours/fabric softener mixes onto your furniture piece, beginning at the edges with the darker colour and working towards the middle of the surfaces with the lighter colours. Use a moist sponge to blend the colours and blur any distinct lines. The result is a leather look with the feel of fabric.

Patina, no metal needed

Create a faux patina finish using metallic spray paint and acrylic paint in the colour of your patina. For copper, use an aquamarine colour; for darker metals, a darker green or grey will work. You’ll also need a sponge-tipped paint brush or a paint sponge that you can dampen a little bit. First, paint the whole surface with your metallic spray paint. Allow to dry overnight. Then, sponge or brush on some of your patina colour and use a damp rag or sponge to wipe some of the colour away so that the metallic hue shows through. (For a darker, more aged look, use more of your patina colour; for a slightly aged look, use less.) Allow to dry, and your project will look like a burnished, high end piece.

Log in to comment on this story!