How to Create a Black Oak Wood Grain Look

Written by mark morris
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How to Create a Black Oak Wood Grain Look
Use a very fine art brush to add the final grain details. (art brush on a green background image by Eugene Tokarev from

Creating faux wood grains on furniture, picture frames or other surfaces is a time consuming, but satisfying project. To mimic any natural surface, it is best to go straight to the source for inspiration. Hardwood flooring samples are typically sold in small pieces and feature specific grains and colour. Don't pay much more than a dollar for a 4 to 6 inch square. If you cannot find a piece of finished black oak to study, the next best thing is a stain sample. These are available for free at most paint retailers. Samples are small cards with a photographic image of wood grain on them.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sander
  • Primer
  • 2-inch soft bristle brush
  • Fine tip art brush
  • Black oak sample
  • Base paint
  • Highlight paint
  • Dark "pit" paint

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  1. 1

    Sand and prime the furniture piece, picture frame or other surface to prepare for the faux finish. Use an oil-bonding primer and apply with a roller for smooth texture. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly before proceeding.

  2. 2

    Study your wood sample. Choose a paint colour that matches the predominant tone of the wood. With black oak, this is a dark brown with a hint of red. This is your base. Choose a paint colour that best represents the lightest tone of your sample. This is your highlight. Choose a third colour for the dark "pits" in the grain. Buy enough of each colour to cover the area. Semigloss latex or acrylic paints work best.

  3. 3

    Apply a coat of the base colour to the entire project piece. Work in long straight strokes in the direction you will paint your grain. Use a soft bristle brush, loaded frequently, to keep a wet edge on your surface.

  4. 4

    Add a small amount of highlight to the surface with the same brush while the base is still wet. Apply the highlight along the grain and blend it into the base colour by lightly twisting the brush. Use the sample for inspiration and to check your work. Maintain long strokes with the grain.

  5. 5

    Allow the base and highlight to dry for at least two hours. Use a small art brush to apply the dark "pits" to the surface. Space them similarly to the pit marks in your sample. Place the brush carefully on the surface and make the pit marks with short, lifting strokes, rather than stabbing motions.

  6. 6

    On a pallet, work a little highlight into a small amount of pit colour. Make a few marks on the project surface, using this combination. Apply them the same way as the dark pit marks, with the fine art brush. Allow all of your paint to dry overnight.

  7. 7

    Coat the entire surface with spar varnish. Clean the 2-inch brush thoroughly with soap and water and use it to apply the varnish. This clear coat on top will distance the paint from the surface, giving it some depth. The spar varnish dries with a slight amber tint, furthering the wood patina. Allow the surface to dry thoroughly before using.

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