This is a tutorial on how to paint anything to look like wood.

Almost anything.

Maybe not your kitchen sink.

Or the Eiffel Tower.

But you know when you shop the scratch and dent aisle of Hobby Lobby and everything is marked 80% off and you find all those random pieces of plaster and poly resin and plastic and some material that they make from moon rock with a $3.97 price tag and it would fit perfectly onto your mantel or your bookshelf or your dining room hutch….

….if only it looked like an antique.

Now it can.

Here’s how you can make it look just like wood.


This is the piece that I created for the red office I designed last month for Sherwin-Williams.

These pieces came from the discount aisle….

….and when I found them they looked nothing like this.

The squares above are styrofoam.

I know….right?  You thought my great, great, great, great, great grandfather brought them over on the Mayflower.  I wish I could show you what they look liked before….but I was too busy painting everything in sight red…..

….and I forgot to take before pictures.

Or pictures of any of the steps along the way.

So to demonstrate the process and how I made styrofoam look like this….

…..I went back to the Hobby Lobby discount aisle and found a new scratch and dent friend.


How to Paint Anything to Look Like Wood


paint brushes

paint (at least four different colors of brown)

scratch and dent piece


Step 1:  Prime piece

You want to start with a clean slate and cover up and scratches and dents and odd color combinations that are found on the clearance aisle.

Start fresh with a layer of primer.

Let dry.


Step 2:  Add first layer of paint

For this project I chose four different colors of brown.  I chose a dark brown, honey brown, medium brown and light brown.

To start….I painted the darkest brown any place that would have natural shadows.

That makes sense….right?

If this was real wood….the indentations would look darkest.

Let dry.

I know this seems simple….but the whole drying step is super important.  You don’t want all your paint colors running together and looking like mud instead of wood.


Step 3:  Add next layer

For this layer I lightly brushed the honey brown.

Adding a honey color is so important because it warms up your piece and really creates the illusion of wood.

Lightly brush over entire piece (but not down into the indentations).

Let dry.


Step 4:  Add next layer

This is where it starts getting exciting.

You can actually see it transforming to wood right before your eyes.

Brush your layer of medium brown lightly over the entire piece.  You want to let the other two colors show through and not cover up completely what you’ve already painted.

Remember….less is more with this layer.

Let dry.


Step 5:  Add highlights

Now you want to come in with your lightest brown and lightly brush over entire piece to create highlights.

You may also want to add some other colors of brown here and there as needed to make sure all the colors are blended.

Let dry.


Step 6:  Seal piece

After all your lowlights and highlights are painted.

Let it dry and then seal with a water based protective finish.


That’s it.

Six easy steps to transform almost anything to look like it belongs in a Pilgrim’s house.

Styrofoam has never looked so good.

Tell your kitchen sink not to be jealous. 🙂



  1. Image for Regina Regina

    You know . . . I never did actually MAKE it to Hobby Lobby the other day . . . ;) I have passed over SO MANY of those super-cheap, scratch-n-dent items! I'll look more closely next time! Thanks for the great ideas!! Happy summery day!!

  2. Image for Amber Amber

    This is an amazing tutorial! You always manage to blow my mind with every tutorial! I never look at anything the same way now! Always looking how I could change that to incorporate it, or gift it! Thank you!

    1. Image for Thistle Thistle

      Mary, So sorry! I should have listed the paint in the post! I used Folkart acrylic paints and here's the colors: Cinnamon Honeycomb Raw Sienna Coffee Bean Hope this helps! karianne

  3. Image for Mel Mel

    Thank you for sharing your inspired pieces, absolutely lovely! Just curious....on the original square accent pieces, did you base coat them in black or, do a dark antique finish? I think that I see a darker undertone than your darkest paint listed above.

  4. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    How much fun!! You don't have to be precise -- which I'm not- and you can get creatively messy. Wow that is a plus. The Pilgrims should be jealous as well as your far removed ancestors -- they never had anything that looked that good. Well done my genius friend.

  5. Image for Deb Deb

    I am AMAZED! This is go great I really love how it looks. I actually thought about doing a technique like this to a piece of furniture, and I think I may have to actually try that out eventually. Thanks for the tips!

  6. Image for Ally Ally

    So we've painted every piece of wood we can get our hands on white or robins egg blue. Now we are turning it all back into wood. I feel like breaking out my Rachel haircut. Good to see your log again. Also your blog.

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