Making a faux wood grain table top is easier than you think using this simple paint technique. No stripping or staining is required – in fact, this look is achieved with chalk paint and antiquing wax. In this How To Paint Furniture To Look Like Wood in 3 Simple Steps post I walk you through this easy paint technique!

About this Painting Technique

I first learned of this technique a couple of years ago and originally tried it on an old vintage end table that I picked up from the Facebook Marketplace. It was such a simple technique and 4 years later, the table still looks like the day I finished it. This little table sits on the end of our sofa and fits perfectly in this space. There are no scratches or stains and it has held up really well. The best part is that you would never know the top is a faux wood grain painting technique.

livingroom picture showing table from a distance

Recently I picked up two end tables to refinish for my vintage booth. The tops were laminate with a few marks on them so I knew this method would be the perfect solution to cover these imperfections.

Using these end tables, I will take you through the 3 steps to achieve the perfect faux wood finish!

white end table ready for chalk paint.

Why You Will Love This Project

  • Ease: No sanding, no priming (unless you want to) for this simple painting technique. Chalk paint is a breeze to work with however Valspar Antiquing Wax is the hero here! This antiquing wax goes on so smoothly and gives you plenty of time to get your finished look just right before drying and stay right in place! Doesn’t get better than that!
  • Cost: Grab an inexpensive piece of furniture at your local thrift shop or on Facebook Marketplace and give it a completely new look for a fraction of the cost of new furniture using this technique.
  • Look: Let’s face it, wood grain is timeless! One of the things I love about this technique is its faux wood grain with an artsy twist. From afar you wouldn’t know that the furniture isn’t real stained wood but up close you can see that it’s a hand-painted piece of art and a one-of-a-kind piece.

Supplies for this Project

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Step 1 – Chalk Paint

The beauty of using chalk paint is that it requires very little prep. Make sure the furniture piece is clean but other than that you can go right in with your first coat without sanding or priming UNLESS it’s a darker older piece that may bleed through the chalk paint. The old cherry and dark mahogany pieces often do. For these types of furniture, I use 2 coats of B-I-N Shellac Primer first, let dry completely, lightly sand then go in with my first coat of chalk paint. Often chalk paint requires 2 – 3 coats but luckily it dries fast.

I did not prime these tables whereas they came to me with a white finish. I also have a lot of faith in chalk paint as I use it all the time! It has a sticking quality to it and I knew with two coats of chalk paint, followed by two coats of antiquing wax and to finish polycrylic – I thought – ya, we’re good!

Step 2 – Antiquing Wax

Once the piece (or pieces in this case since I have matching end tables) have dried, for the next step I begin by using frog tape to tape off the top to avoid getting the antiquing wax on the piece.

white table with frog tape

Next, I take Valspar Antiquing Wax (available at Walmart and hardware stores) and give it a good stir. Now before we go any further….erase what you have in your mind for furniture/chalk paint wax. This Antiquing wax from Valspar is more like a gel wood stain than wax, it is not greasy as you would expect a wax to be. It is so easy to apply and best of all you have plenty of time to get the brush strokes just right. In other words, it doesn’t dry fast allowing you time to manipulate the finish to your liking.

Using an inexpensive chip brush apply the antiquing wax to the top of the table. To achieve a faux wood look you will need to apply the wax and have your brush strokes head in the same direction. If the finish is too textured for your liking have a lint-free cloth handy to rub the antiquing wax for a smooth surface.

paint brush applying antiquing wax

As you can see when you apply the wax the base coat of white chalk paint shows through the brush strokes. This gives the appearance of faux wood grain. It stands to reason that if you chose another base color you would have a different wood tone as a result. I tested this out on the outdoor table that I share below.

faux wood grain table top with 1 coat of valspar antiquing wax

After the first coat, you will have a light finish (pictured below). You can stop there or add more coats using the same techniques. If you’re looking for a super light, smooth finish I recommend you apply the antiquing wax with your brush and then wipe it down with a lint-free rag.

table with just one coat of antiquing wax.

When the first coat is dry (this takes approximately 2 hours), you can go in with your second coat using the same application process. You will see your furniture piece get darker and more blended with each coat.

two table with two coats of antiquing wax drying.

Step 3 – Sealing with Polycryllic

Let the faux wood grain finish dry overnight and then add a top coat of polyurethane to protect the finish. And that’s it! No sanding, no multiple applications of several different paints – very straightforward! We like that, yes? For these end tables, I decided to switch out the drawer knobs. I love these little wired flower knobs that I had on hand from another project.

two finished side tables with faux wood tops displayed at my vintage booth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use other base paints instead of chalk paint for this faux wood finish?

The best paint for this project is chalk paint due to its grit and ability to adhere to various surfaces. Having said that, you can try other types of paint ( oil-based paint, mineral paint, etc) as the base coat. In fact, for our outdoor table (featured below) I used exterior latex paint, and that type of paint worked really well under the antiquing wax.

Can I use this faux wood technique on laminate furniture?

Yes, in fact, the end tables above had laminate tops. To ensure your paint adheres properly you could use a shellac-based primer like Zinsser BIN Primer. Many furniture refinishers recommend that as the first step to painting laminate furniture.

Do I need to sand the furniture first?

As long as the furniture piece is in good condition, you do not need to sand it.

What type of furniture pieces is this wood-like painting technique good for?

Any old furniture you want to have a faux wood look. This technique works great on wooden furniture as well as laminate furniture. You can find great pieces at a thrift store or Facebook Marketplace. This finish would look beautiful on a kitchen table, coffee table, end table or dining table.

Variations and Other Considerations

Other base paint colors: I think about this a lot – probably more than I should! The base paint color for the end tables above is white so when you use the dry brush the white paint is what shows through. This “under” color impacts the outcome greatly. You can use soft yellows or oranges like the outdoor table below for a warmer, more blond wood tone. For a cooler finish consider using gray.

Sample boards: If this is your first time using this technique or you are using a color you haven’t used before I highly suggest you make a sample board. Grab a spare piece of wood and paint it the base coat followed by the antiquing wax. This way you will know exactly what to expect. You can also determine if you like the texture of the brush strokes or if you want a smoother more blended finish using a rag.

Distressing techniques: Chalk paint and distressing go hand in hand. You may want to take a light to medium grit sandpaper to the legs of your table to give it some character. For more information on distressing visit my best paint for distressing furniture post, I share tips on how to distress furniture including 4 different distressing techniques.

Other Projects using this Technique

I used this technique to refinish an outdoor table that we got on FB Marketplace last summer. This thick sturdy table with matching benches was a steal at just $200. We placed it in our outdoor under-deck space to create an outdoor dining space. I loved the black legs but wanted to try my hand at a faux wood finish top. Below are my real wood inspiration (left) and the results of my DIY wood-look table top (right).

For this table, I first painted it with Benjamin Moore exterior latex paint in Seagull gray to match the color of our home. I then went in with a more orangey exterior latex because I was hoping to match some natural rattan chairs we have (seen in the background in the photo above). The plan was to have the wood-like finish be warm. I used a wood grain tool on this table. I simply rolled on the orange-tone paint and dragged the tool through stopping and rolling to create faux knots on the table. The result was….well awful! But I wasn’t done yet! Valspar antiquing wax to the rescue! Here’s the before Valspar saved the day!

Thoughts on the Wood Graining Tool: I thought I would like the wood grain tool more than I did. I found the pattern to be too big and prefer the more blended look of a dry paintbrush. (Note: I linked similar as the exact one I used is currently unavailable)

The finish before the Valspar was super choppy and the colors together looked terrible. I knew going in that by using Valspar antiquing wax for the top coat I would have a more blended look that would closely resemble my real wood inspiration table. For this application, I took a t-shirt rag and rubbed the antiquing wax onto the table and finally my vision came to life!

I sealed this table with outdoor clear decking sealer since this table is somewhat open to the elements here in Massachusetts. I’ve had a lot of questions about the antiquing waxing holding up in the heat. Due to the fact that it resembles more of a gel stain than wax, I have had zero problems with it in the heat.

finished table with a table runner of white pumpkins, clay pots and candles.

You can see more views of this table in this Simple Fall DIY Dining Table Centerpiece Idea post. Here is a photo of the table in our outdoor dining space.

outdoor dining table with a fall garland and pumpkins.

I also used this same technique with a dining table that I refinished for my booth. I used Fusion mineral paint in this beautiful green color (Bayberry) for the skirt and the legs, white chalk paint as the base coat on the table top, and then Valspar antiquing wax to create the faux wood table top. For this project, I used a lint-free rag instead of a brush to give it a more blended finish.

dining table with Bayberry green legs and skirt with faux wood top. This table has a smooth wood finish.

Lastly, I refinished this entryway table using the same technique as the original project. Did mention this look sells well at my vintage booth? This table was a Facebook marketplace find for $25. The legs are painted using cream-colored chalk paint and the top is my 3-step process for a wood-like finish.

an entry way table or a console table with cream color legs with faux wood table top.

I love DIY projects that take an entire piece of furniture and give it new life! This finish is so easy to achieve and Valspar antiquing wax is the way to go when looking for a faux wood finish.

Thanks for visiting the blog today. I loved sharing How To Paint Furniture To Look Like Wood in 3 Simple Steps with you! For more fun DIY projects be sure to check out my furniture refinishing projects including this adorable DIY dog bed!

Keep creating friends!

my signature, a drawing of me holding a cup of coffee.

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  1. Hello stephanie I am roro from danmark I want a help to give my white smoothy dinning table a faux wood look with high protection ,so what I need to do and save in money as possible

    1. Hi Roro, If your dining room table is already white you are half way there! I would suggest getting the Valspar antiquing wax and follow the instructions in the blog post to apply. For a dining room table I would suggest two coats of polycryllic. Be sure to let the polycrylic dry completely between coats and let it cure (per instructions on the can) before use.

    1. Hi Brenda, I don’t believe it is. The antiquing wax is quite unique in that it does not feel or apply like wax (despite its name!). It’s more of a gel than a wax. I have done this application a number of times with poly and the finish is beautiful and durable! Hope this helps!

    1. Hi Beth, So sorry for the delay. I apply the polycrillic with a regular brush but you can also use a sponge brush. Thank you for visiting the blog!

  2. Hi, love this! But I thought we couldn’t use polyurethane over wax? Could you please advise? I started to chalk paint my dinner table, but bought rustoleum dark wax, hoping I ll manage to create a similar effect, and cant find your recommended poly. Can any polyurethane be used over wax?

    1. Hello! I have heard folks say that however, I have never had an issue when using polyacrylic over the Valspar antiquing wax. In this application Im using the wax to create a wood grain, typically wax IS my top coat. Valspar’s antiquing wax is very unique and acts a lot like a gel stain. Very different than say Annie Sloan’s wax. This could be the reason the poly works over it. Good luck! Happy creating!

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