The term "trompe l'oeil" is French for "trick the eye." Tuscan faux finish techniques contain a fair share of visual foolery, but the end results can be gorgeous. Faux finish techniques are relatively inexpensive and can add warmth, class and atmosphere to plain, flat surfaces. Adding decorations such as wrought iron, wall art and select furniture can easily turn an ordinary setting into a place with personality.
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Colors and Finishes
Whether you select colors based on your home décor, wall hangings or flooring, be aware that there are a variety of finishing methods available that can significantly alter the appearance of the finished wall. If you have terracotta, stone or tile floors, you may want to choose complementary colors for the faux finish. Colors traditionally used are earth tones and warm palette shades such as browns, golds, tans, earthy reds and less commonly, cool tones such as blues, grays, purples and greens.
Paint is the simplest type of finish, and can be applied in a single layer over a basecoat, or in layers of multiple colors; while base colors are typically brown or red, top coats vary in tone and texture. Another method is to use Tuscan plaster to create an aged effect and lend an especially old world feel to your surroundings. Or, embed glazes between paint layers to add shine and enhance colors.
A basic Tuscan faux finish effect is achieved by first applying a base coat and allowing it to dry for 24 hours. Then paint over the base coat using criss-cross brushstrokes, working within an area of 3 feet at a time. Vary brushstrokes and paint thickness to achieve a textured, uneven look. While the paint is still wet, brush in vertical and horizontal strokes over the criss-cross strokes with a dry brush (one not loaded with paint) to smooth the texture somewhat. Alternatively, you can achieve more texture by painting the topcoat layer with a sponge instead of a brush, and skipping the dry brush step.
To achieve even more texture, use a plaster in place of the base coat, such as Frottage Plaster or another high quality Venetian or Tuscan plaster finish. Read the Pratt and Lambert Paints Product Information Guide (see Resources section at the end of this article) for tips on preparing various surfaces for the application of plaster. After application with a palette knife, and just before the plaster cures, lift selected portions of the plaster with the knife to enhance the natural look, and allow to dry completely. Paint over with a topcoat as described above.
Metallic paints and glazes are available to add extra sheen or effects to the faux finish. Professional faux finishers use other techniques, such as raised plaster stencils or textured relief stencils, and trompe l'oeil methods, in which images or scenes are painted on a wall to give a realistic 3-D impression, which is often that of objects emerging from or recessed into the wall, such as ivy, plants or garden scenes.
Home and garden magazines can be a source of ideas for different faux wall finishes with a distinctly Tuscan flavor. Since there are so many effects that can be achieved with faux finishes, you may want to have a variety of methods and looks to select from when planning. Try watching do-it-yourself, home improvement and home staging shows to give you an abundance of ideas before you apply plaster or paint to the wall.