By Joe McKernan
Posted on Monday, May 15th, 2023
Here’s my method for creating a faux wood finish on HDU board that makes it look like the face of a sign panel made with quarter-sawn wood. It’s very realistic and relatively easy to do.
First, decide on three colors of acrylic latex paint that will comprise the specific faux wood look for a particular sign project: A lighter color, a mid-tone color, and a darker color.
For example, if I am trying to get a close match to a certain wood, I take out a swatch book and find a color that is a close match to the lightest color I can see on the wood sample, then the darkest color visible on the wood sample, and finally a mid-tone that most closely resembles viewing the existing wood sample from a distance.
Next, prime the panel with a roller then drag a bristly scrub brush over the top for texture.
Now apply a reasonably thick coat of the lightest wood color with a roller. When it is still wet pull a bristly scrub brush across the paint until you have established a “grain” pattern that goes the length of the sign. Repeat this twice with the first color so that no white primer shows through.
When your lightest color is fully dry, moisten the panel with water in a spray bottle. Wipe it with a rag so there is a very light but even sheen of moisture over the panel, but NOT enough for dripping to occur.
Then apply the mid-tone color with a rag or sponge. Cover the panel unevenly with thicker and thinner streaks of this color. While it is still wet, pull a scrub brush across the paint to enhance the grain pattern. The brush marks will allow the lighter color to show through, giving visual “depth” to the grained surface.
When that layer is fully dry, moisten the panel as before. Then apply the darkest color with a rag. Cover the panel unevenly with thicker and thinner streaks. While it is still wet, pull a scrub brush across the paint to enhance the grain pattern. The brush marks will allow both lighter colors to show through, giving visual “depth” to the grained surface.
Note that I apply the most paint on the lightest color, less on the mid-tone, and least on the darker color. I always want some of the lighter color to show through after brushing to create “grain.”
Sometimes I finish the panel with a clear coat or anti-graffiti layer coating. This makes it look like lacquered wood, but, being HDU board, it lasts WAY longer than wood once it’s out in the weather.
Joe McKernan, Danthonia Designs, Elsmore, New South Wales, Australia