Web Design, Murals, Fine Art, Faux Finishing

Faux Fresco Project 1

How to paint a mural
A Step by Step Guide

“Faux Fresco” Project 1

A Step by Step Guide To How To Paint A Faux Fresco

Since preparing the fine art studio in Bonita Springs I have been working on a few ideas

One being a series of

“Faux Fresco Projects”

What is a Fresco you ask?

A synopsis borrowed from  Wikipedia for which there are more than one fresco techniques, but roughly the definition is

Fresco (plural either frescos or frescoes) is any of several related mural painting types, done on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Italian word affresco [afˈfresːko] which derives from the Latin word for “fresh”. Frescoes were often made during the Renaissance and other early time periods.

A “Faux Fresco” would of course be a decorative way of painting a mural to resemble an authentic fresco.

By replacing the lime plaster with a synthetic absorbent plaster consisting of acrylic polymers which can be applied to either a wall or canvas and are actually are flexible enough that it can be rolled up and transported to be installed at another location with less of a chance of it cracking, and after some distressing, the finished piece takes on a pretty convincing appearance of an actual fresco but of course there is nothing more convincing than the actual thing.

I love the faux fresco style of painting because it can help you when studying trompe loeil painting by learning how to build volume translucently at first before moving on to painting in a true trompe loeil style which is actually done opaquely and requires much more skill and accuracy when mixing your paints to the correct color values to create the illusion of realism.

As most of my readers know I am all for the advancement of education in the arts and by exploring and practicing many different art forms to battle the proverbial

“Starving Artist” scenario, which sometimes results in many of us giving up on our passion.

I look at it this way, the more you learn about the many ways to expand your knowledge into a variety of art forms the more versatile you become and are able to diversify yourself to survive any economical changes that the market throws at you which is why I have committed Art-Faux Designs Studio to being an “open studio” for all artists to come to as either instructor, students or even a place for vendors to introduce a new product or even an innovated way of expanding our creativity.

I will continue to update this “Faux Fresco Project 1” as a study for future works in hopes to encourage others.

Just so everyone understands this is how I approach this style of painting and although there are other ways and techniques to painting a “faux fresco” I find this way is much easier for myself to understand and I hope it works for you as well…

Prepare Your Canvas…

By applying a texturing medium to a pre-primed canvas for which there are several available on the market. Let this dry before transferring the drawing to the surface using transfer paper but traditionally it was done with a “pouncing” technique. This particular faux fresco I did not create the “cartoon” (drawing) but drew this directly on the plaster thus saving some time, but normally you would create your drawing to the size needed and then transfer it to the surface to be painted.

Faux Fresco Project 1

I added in some shaded areas to the faux fresco very lightly for reference after doing the line drawing. The actual canvas is not as dark as what the picture shows and is actually much lighter in value. The figure is a picture of a statue that I pulled from a book written

by Ursula E. and Martin Benad


Trompe L’Oeil

Grisaille Architecture & Drapery

that I had put in a reference file of my “things to do” which is quite large to say the least.

Faux Fresco Project 1

The close up here of the faux fresco shows how simplified the drawing is and basically gives me some reference to the important facial features. This really is not necessary but being that I did the drawing directly on the plaster instead of paper and then transferring it, this saved me some time and a couple of steps.

After establishing the line drawing of the face with a watered-down mix of burnt sienna I started adding in a little red oxide to help kick up some intensity. I also started to

Painting the face

establish the fabric with some dark values where the deepest shadows would be with a mix of cerulean blue, yellow ochre and burnt umber

Faux Fresco Project 1 (The arm and the hand)

then adding a wash of the same mix to what would be the mid-tones within the fabric areas, you can see things already starting to take shape.

I try to work the whole faux fresco by first establishing the figure and then the fabric at the same time before trying to add shape and volume. I am not trying to hit on my darkest values at this point for I am just confirming their position and by using a dry rag to fade them in or out as I need to.

Faux Fresco Project 1(painting the leg)

as you can see on the fabric on the left side of the torso how fading the color works very well.

This is what I mean by working both areas at the same time and treating both the figure and the fabric as its own entity but yet also as one when establishing where my darkest darks are located as well as my mid-tones. I wanted the thigh and lower leg to appear as if it were raised and coming forward so I kicked up the intensity of the burnt sienna and the red oxide mix by adding a touch more of the red oxide, but before doing so I establish where the lightest shadows would be in the figures anatomy before blocking in the lower leg

Faux Fresco Project 1 ( Establishing the leg)

As I move further down the canvas I will go back to bringing in the fabric around the torso and follow it down to where it wraps the leg that is covered by the fabric for which we have much more light, shadow, cast shadows and reflected light which can be tricky to establish when painting in a true trompe loeil fashion and is why I believe that learning to paint a faux fresco first is actually a stepping stone towards the more advanced painting of a true trompe loeil or even a still life and eventually on to an impasto style of fine art, but that’s just my opinion and easier for myself to understand.

Anyway I am starting to wander again so back to the Faux Fresco Project and

This is where we are so far…

Faux Fresco Project 1 (Determining the figure)

At this point, I will start to block in the fabric around the legs on the faux fresco but I will also drop back and start to work in my darkest darks by adding ultramarine blue and burnt umber to the green mix because I want the shadows to be cooler and darker around the neck and arms.

I also started to bring in the fabric on the right side of the figure and confirmed a few of the darker shadows there also. Once I establish all the dark and mid-tones I will apply a wash over the entire section which will create the three values that I need to work with to start creating shape and volume within the faux fresco.

Up close you only see two values of the same color which are a dark and mid-tone at this stage but when you apply a wash over the entire section of the fabric with the mid-tone you will actually create the three shades needed to start adding shape and volume to the faux fresco thus giving you room to build opacity where needed.


Remember to consistently step back from your faux fresco to look at it from the correct viewing point and being that this canvas is 5 ft tall the viewing point would be about 7.5 ft-10 ft, depending on which way you look at it, but that has to do with perspective and we are not discussing that subject with this post……yet…

Faux Fresco Project 1(adding fabric)

A close up of where  I added the darker value of the green to create the depth I am looking for in the fabric

around the neck and shoulder.

Faux Fresco Project 1(darker values)

You can see the depth that is starting to appear in the faux fresco after adding a wash over the entire section of the fabric which pushes back the darker values that I added next to the figure and under the arm, I also established the cast shadow under the arm although it still needs to be cooler but this is only the 2nd step and I will come back to this after completing the 2nd step in the other areas.  Creating the volume within the figure will be the next step which is what I meant by saying treating both areas separately, but yet as one by working back and forth between the two areas.


This section of fabric in the faux fresco will have a particular kind of detail to it that I will come back to but for now, I will continue with just blocking it in and move on to the lower section to keep the process going

I like to work quickly on this first couple of steps and am not going for accuracy on my values just yet, but I am establishing the darks, mid-tones, and lights with only two steps and still retaining a “painterly appearance”.

Remember this is a faux fresco and is not a fine art piece and it is expected to see brush strokes in this fashion because of the little time there is to paint an actual fresco. I will build on these values with light and shadow and adjust everything with the 3rd step and once I have all the color values in place for both areas I will bring in the finer details which hopefully will bring the painting to life.

The reference I am using is only a picture of a statue that has no color and by using it as a “value study” am I able to add color.


On this section of the fabric in the faux fresco, I only spent time where I needed to lay in the values except one particular area I pushed a little further back by adding a touch of burnt umber

I will continue to update this post as I work more on the “Faux Fresco Project 1” and for my last picture for this entry I will show you where I am so far


To keep up with my updates to the Faux Fresco Project leave a comment below and sign up for my RSS feed and sign up for our newsletter because you never know what I may come up with next.

Faux Fresco Project 1 Part 2

6 thoughts on “Faux Fresco Project 1”

    • Thanks for stopping by, and yes this is painted with acrylics and I have used this technique on walls as well as canvas. The ground is a synthetic plaster which there are many available. I use several different plasters for my work for many different reason but this one in particular has a nice absorbent quality to it. Its made by Faux Effects International and can be bought online (Plaster Tex untinted)

    • Hi Dana
      I’m glad you understood. I do things in ways that are easier for me to understand. I like your new blog and theme by the way and the videos of the Tattoo Wall install are great, (Gaia is such a sweetheart!) I am helping other business owners set up blogs and one happens to be the same theme as yours if you need any help feel free to send me an email…

    • Hi Patricia,
      I was hoping that it would be understandable, my grammar is not the best to say the least but I do the best I can when trying to explain what I am doing. I love painting in this style but I this is just one of a few that I do also.
      Thanks for stopping by

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