Blue Line Studios - Wood Graining / Marbling

Wood Graining

Graining is the practice of imitating wood grain on a non-wood surface in order to increase that surface’s aesthetic appeal. My largest job was a 2 story private library located in Mclean VA. Built-ins and new molding was added around windows as well as a fireplace. Once the construction was complete all walls trim, walkway and ceiling were hand painted to look like mahaogany. Graining was common in the 19th century, as people were keen on imitating hard, expensive woods by applying a superficial layer of paint onto soft, inexpensive woods.

Once I was requested to wood grain a steel door that was leading into the garage of a large home. Airbrush was used to create shadows and the illusion of beveled edges. The fire Marshal failed the homeowners final inspection because of the “wooden” door. I took it as a compliment!

Boxes, chairs, tables, etc., were often made of ebony inlaid with ivory, sycamore, and acacia veneering with thin layers and carved devices of rare woods added as ornament on inferior surfaces; and a fondness for display induced the Egyptians to paint common boards to imitate foreign varieties so generally practiced at the present day.

Graining is the art of imitating the different types of natural wood grain It ranges from simple Clair Bois to intricate English Walnut. There are basically two types of wood graining: Coarse(rustic) and Fine(polite). In fine graining, layers are built up using water colors and finished with an oil glaze. For the water colors use a beer solution tinted with a pigment, Indian inks, or Vandyke crystals dissolved in water. Vandyke crystals are very dark, almost a match for burnt umber but by varying the amount of water you can get a color range from pale brown to nearly black.

  • Doors
  • Libraries
  • Studies
  • Trim work
  • Coffer Ceilings
  • Inlays
  • Flooors
  • Table Tops
  • Wet Bars


Faux stone painting was widely used in Pompeii, but it really took off in Europe during the Renaissance with two schools of faux painting developing. The Italian school was loose and artistic, the French school was formal and realistic. It typically took an apprentice 10 years or more to fully master the art.

The sophistication of the techniques are such that visitors are frequently unable to distinguish between false and real marble in many churches, palaces and public buildings in Europe. The techniques were perfected by the 17th century and have been used in all styles of construction well into the 20th century, including Baroque, palladian, neoclassical and historical revival styles as well as Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings. Craftsmen who are able to replicate this work are still available, as evidenced, for example, by the extensive restorations of faux marble surfaces in important Eastern Europe buildings since 1990.

In 2010 I was commissioned to hand paint 16 columns that were 12′ round and 26′ feet in height. These were for the new First Court of appeals located in Tallahassee FL. The bases were done in 5 layers to appear to be sanded down stone. The columns started out as fiberglass and are light weight wrapping around steel pillars.

  • Columns
  • Fireplaces
  • Churches
  • Furniture
  • accents
  • Crown Molding


“I have known John for a number of years now. I first meant him at a paint convention. We hit it off right away because of our compatible personalities. I also had a chance to have him as a student in Italy. His work and professional attitude translate well in his work. He brings to our trade, the rigor and professionalism of a civil servant and his artistic knowledge and eagerness to excel is the perfect combo for your mural painting needs. I can safely say that with John Kiernan, you will be in safe and good hands.”

– Pierre Finkelstein
Pierre Finkelstein is recognized worldwide as a superior craftsman and master in the art of faux painting. He was awarded the distinguished title of Best Craftsman of France in 1990.

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