How to turn Drywall into Faux Wood Panels

Click to enlarge

My builder's basic breakfast bar is on the left. Before it was nondescript beige drywall with some white woodwork. Very nice corbels, but it was just plain. It didn't go with the rest of the kitchen, or the adjoining great room. The cabinet people wanted over $1,200 for real wood panels. So for less than $50 in paint and trim, I created faux panels in a day. Here's how to do it...


  • Paint & primer, brushes
  • Dropcloth
  • Miter box and saw
  • Level
  • Straight edge, square or long ruler
  • Molding, amount determined after measuring, below
  • Hammer & finishing nails, or better yet, a nail gun
  • Carpenter's glue
  • Caulk or spackle
  • Clear faux glaze (I use Behr)
  • Acrylic colorant to tint the glaze (I used burnt umber)
  • Rags for removing glaze, old t-shirt pieces work well

choose your finish & color
To coordinate with my living area's creamy white cabinetry, I used Sherwin Williams Alabaster gloss latex. (happens to be the color of all my woodwork). Don't worry about too much shine because the glaze takes care of that. I prefer the scrubbable gloss finish in this area because people unconsiously kick your bar (I know because I'm doing it right now as I type).

Plan your panel widths. I did several different widths because of the corbel placement. Otherwise, you can space them evenly. But I think the different widths add interest.

For the height, use the same spacing at the top and the bottom of the panels. Using a level and straight edge, pencil your panels on the wall. The level is your best friend in this task. Now you know how much molding to buy (+ some extra for boo boos).

Faux wood panels miter cut & apply molding

I used shelf edging from Home Depot for my molding. It looks like 1 1/4" wide mini chair rail and has nice contours that catch the glaze. Make sure you "measure twice - cut once." When all your pieces are cut, apply glue to the back and nail them in place at your pencil lines. You don't need a lot of nails because the glue will do the job. Wipe off excess glue with a damp rag - it drys FAST.

prime & paint
You'll need to prime you moldings if they weren't pre-primed. Then paint the entire area with a brush. Paint a second coat 4 hours later if needed. Let dry 4 hours, and get ready for the fun!

Faux panellingglaze
Mix a small amount of faux glaze plus a little water, tinted with a very small amount of burnt umber acrylic colorant. You will have to play with it until you get the darkness you like. A little glaze goes a long way. When you have a batch you like, WRITE DOWN THE RECIPE.

Brush on lightly in and around the crevices of the molding. Remove most of glaze with rags until you have the definition you want. You can always add more. I went for a slightly distressed look because my drywall has orange peel texture and my barstools are very distressed. You'll get the feel of glazing quickly and you can always remove it and start over. After all, it's just paint!

Click to enlargeyou're done!
Your finished wall should look something like this. If you're really daring, make it look like stained wood. There are some fairly easy faux techniques for simulating real wood with just paint color and glaze.


Lianna said...

Your project turned out beautifully! Thanks so much for sharing all your tips!

J Uribe said...

Man, that really turned out well! We redid our kitchen last year (it was kind of a Texas/ Tuscan California style) and painted the cabinets and added faux beams. We wanted the distressed cabinets like this but thought we'd have to hire a pro!! I'm going to try this myself, home depot here we come! Thanks for the tips.