Monday, November 15, 2010

Faux Marble Painting

     One of nature's more astounding creations is metamorphic rock. Specifically, I'm thinking of the crystalline form of limestone that is hardened from heat and pressure into marble. Marble comes in so many different colors and it's crystal consistency varies so much - anything from swirls of color to dense points of color. And in almost every case, it's beautiful! It's also one of the more fun things a miniaturist can create for a dollhouse or roombox.

      On the left is the faux marble fireplace I made a few years ago. In today's blog, I'm going to share the techniques for how to paint faux marble.

Step One: Sand your wood until it is smooth. Then paint the wood with a white paint such as gesso, Kilz or Zinsser Bin primer sealer. (I prefer Bin, since it is alcohol based and doesn't raise the grain of the wood like water-based paints can.) Sand the white paint until it is smooth. If any wood shows through, add a second coat of paint and sand it smooth.

Step Two: Decide on the color you want your marble to be. Green? Teal? White or cream? Or some other coloration? I use mostly Ceramcoat hobby paints. It's not that those are my favorite paints, it's just that the hobby store near me carries a wide assortment of colors in that brand.

The teal-colored marble at left was created using the following palette of colors:
  • Med. Victorian Teal
  • Cape Cod  (blue)
  • Metalic Gunmetal Gray (Folk Art brand)
  • Blue Velvet
  • Dark Burnt Umber
 The beige and rose sample at left contains these colors:
  • Fleshtone
  • Georgia Clay
  • Burnt Umber
  • Sandstone
  • Heritage Brick (Americana Brand)
  • Blacksmith Black (Folk Art Antiquing)

 This green marble was made with these colors:
  • Dark Forest Green
  • Blue Velvet
  • Mudstone
  • Burnt Umber

And this one was made with these colors:
  • Old Parchment
  • Dark Burnt Umber
  • Lt Ivory
  • Burnt Orange (Americana brand)
If I would have had  another light brown or taupe color in my drawer, I think I would have added that to this one. (I'm not thoroughly satisfied how this one turned out.

So... now that you know the color schemes, here's what else you'll need:
  • a very tiny paint brush
  • a broad, chisel point paint brush (between 1/2 and 1 inch wide)
  • natural sponge
  • a cup of water
  • facial tissues, paper towel or toilet paper
  • a stiff paint brush
Below, you can see my first step with the green marble. I put some of my green paint onto some wax paper, then I dipped my half-inch brush into the water and then dabbed it into the green paint. I then
 unloaded some of the paint onto a piece of newspaper so that the brush was slightly less loaded with the paint. I then swished the brush across the boar. (Sorry for the slightly out of focus shot here.) As you can see, it was fairly intense in color. In fact, too intense for my first layer of paint. So, I immediately dabbed at it with a tissue, and thus the color became less opaque.

The photo below and to the right shows  how the color looked after I dabbed at it with the tissue. I continued to make dry brush marks onto the wood. I probably should have been more cautious to make sure that my strokes weren't all
vertical. As you can see here, there was a strong directionality to my strokes. The beauty of real marble is its randomness. So, make sure to be random with your paint strokes!

You can see in the photo at right that there's a second color beginning to appear. That was the dark blue color mixed with a hint of the green.

Next, I squeezed some of the  mudstone colored paint onto the newsprint and spread it out so that it wasn't a thick blob. Then I took a small piece of natural sponge and dabbed it into the mudstone paint. Then I gently blotted the grey paint over the green. I did the same with some of the green paint, and I did a small amount of this with some of the blue (watered down).

Notice how I left some of the white
peeking through the colors. If at all possible, you want to make sure that you don't totally cover over all of the white. This adds to the luminescence of your marble slab and makes it look more real.

The next step is to take a dark color such as black or dark umber and create tiny blobs of the darkness on your piece. You can do this with a the stiff paint brush. Get a little paint on the brush and then tap it on a sheet of paper until most of the paint is gone, then tap it onto your painting surface. If you get a large blog anywhere, immediately dab at it with a tissue. If that doesn't soften the color enough, moisten a tissue or a piece of paper towel and dab at the spot with the moistened tissue. Another way to get tiny dots is to take an old paint brush, dab it into the dark paint, and then flick your finger across the bristles so that the bristles flick dots of paint everywhere. (Make sure you're not doing this on your most prized antique dining room table!) It's messy, but it you don't get too much paint on the toothbrush, you can get a very nice, random effect this way.

If you want to tone down the piece, you can add a light wash of one of your dominant colors. Again, try not to paint the entire surface - swish the watered down paint across portions of your marble. Then dab at it with your tissue to keep the tone more subtle.

Finally, you need to create the fissures in the rock. That's where you use a very fine brush and use the black, burnt umber or other dark color and add the most delicate lines you can muster with this brush. These lines need to be random. Some connect. Some go a little ways and then take a sharp angle in another direction. This adds another interesting dimension to the painting.

And there you have it! Let the paint dry. Then cover it over with a couple coats of clear sealer to give the paint a deeper luster. With a modest amount of practice, you'll be able to paint a piece of marble that you can be proud of! Have fun with it, and don't be afraid to play with multiple colors!
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