Faux finishing is a decorative painting technique that combines paint with other elements to deepen color, add texture and personalize design. Traditionally, faux finishes referred to the replication of natural materials, such as wood-grain and marble, through the use of paints. Today, faux finish is an umbrella term for all kinds of creative, painted surfaces. Skilled painting contractors are generally familiar with these techniques. Options for a Faux Finish You can create an illusion of wallpaper, stonework, wainscoting or tile, frame an antique door with frescoed walls, simulate cracked plaster, add softness to an austere decor, or age a surface to give it a timeless appeal. Ceilings can be finished to look like a painted dome, canopy or cathedral. A good hand for artistry can produce one-of-a-kind stencils, brocade or borders. If you don't have a steady hand, you can buy textured paint. It contains granules of organic sand or metal flakes that absorb and reflect light. The pigment gives walls a natural, earthy feel and reacts to the shifting patterns of natural light from your windows. The scope of faux finish is limitless; here are but a few examples: Aging an old world fresco was painted by Michelangelo; new world frescoes are created by wrapping cheesecloth around a paint roller. After applying a base coat to the wall, choose complimentary colors of glaze and paint. Pour a little of each color into the two top corners of the paint tray. Push the roller into the colors so that each end of the roller absorbs a different color. Roll over the wall and blend. Alternatively, you can create the look and feel of Venetian plaster by adding ground limestone or marble dust to your paint to give it pigment. Glazing To craft the ethereal hue of twilight, apply a tinted but transparent glaze over a base coat. The darkness of the basecoat and the number of layers of glaze applied creates a saturated appearance and works well in dark reds, blues and greens. Ragging The appearance of shifting color density leaves the impression of well-worn leather or soft, faded chambray. Tie a crumpled rag around the roller and apply the paint as you normally would use the roller and paint tray. Smooshing This is a simple painting technique that lends an elegant look of marble to a room. While the paint is still wet, place a large piece of plastic over it and squeeze it to "smoosh" the paint. When the plastic is removed, lines are left behind that mimic the grain of marble. Sponging One of the more common faux finishes, sponging gives walls the mottled look of aged porcelain. This broken color effect is produced by either applying or removing color by pouncing on the walls with a natural sponge while the paint is still wet. This technique is quite dated. Striping Blocking out panels of your wall with decorator's tape and paper leaves the impression of fine linen abstracted on the walls once you are finished. Apply a base coat first; block out the striped pattern and add the complimentary, darker coat. The second layer can be softly smooshed, sponged', or stippled' to create a soft, textured look of fabric. Combing This technique uses a toothed comb pulled through wet paint or glaze. It creates cross-hatching, basket weaving or simple line and texture. The comb can be made of rubber, metal, leather, plastic or cardboard. Crackling This sophisticated finish looks like cracked plaster or paint. The undercoat shows through the cracked topcoat. A rapid-drying paint for the topcoat over a slow-drying paint for the undercoat will produce this interesting effect. Stippling You need a stippler for this decorative treatment. Apply paint to the surface; before it dries, pounce the stippler onto the surface. Your actions with the stippler should cause the glaze to disperse into tiny dots. Whether you stipple, rag, smoosh or sponge, a faux finish adds dimension and personality to your home. You can do it yourself if you have the flair for handcrafts, but if you normally spend more time cleaning up than painting; I recommend the services of a professional painting contractor.