Faux woodgrain on chairs

Original chair For the show, Night Sky, I was brought into the project very late, after the original propmaster had to depart. We had a tight budget and very little time to find furniture, which meant that I was shopping for shape, knowing that I could adjust the color later. The designer was very particular about wanting all the furniture to have the same chocolate brown finish.

As you see, this chair is honey maple. Now, if I had time and were going to do this right, I’d have stripped off the varnish at this point. But I found these piece the day tech started, so time was not my friend. I also don’t need it to look good forever.

Partially painted chairWhat you see here is a test of some different color palettes. The one on the right side of the chair (bottom of the photo) is mostly burnt umber. The darker stripe is about half burnt umber and half mars black. I also tried a spray and a rag treatment, neither of which I liked.

Finished chair For the final chair, I used a fluid satin acrylic “varnish” or medium to create a glaze. This allowed some of the original wood to show through for richness. That, combined with the brush strokes give a fairly convincing tightgrained wood. One of the tricks is to use a wide brush — in this case a three inch chinese brush for doing ink work — and long brush strokes. Any time you start or stop the brush it shows as a grain variation, so you have to either continue the stroke off the furniture or lift very smoothly.

The downside to this treatment is that it does scratch easily because it’s basically sitting on plastic. We’ve got a paint kit to do touchups, which is fairly easy, but it’s not something I’d recommend for a long run. With a long running show, taking the time to deal with the original finish would have been significantly more worthwhile. Or if this wasn’t a piece that was going to get a lot of wear, I could get away with this.

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2 thoughts on “Faux woodgrain on chairs”

  1. The day the tech started? Yeah, that definitely doesn’t give you much time.

    The color is probably more important than the texture (and whether it scratches easily or not) since it’s a play and there will be no close-ups.

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