Application Information Sheet: Decorative Painting Tools


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Last Revision: 03/19/98


This information sheet is designed to give the reader a basic understanding of the tools that are used for faux finishing and other decorative effects.

Application Description

Decorative painting ranges from simple sponging applications to creating faux (imitation) marble. Knowing the proper tool(s) needed to achieve the best effects is as important as selecting the right colors and kind of paints. Some of the tools are easily understood as to how to use them, others, such as a flogger brush, are more difficult to master.

When selecting tools for a particular job, also consider the size of the brush. When working on larger surfaces, use larger tools. There are a large variety of brushes available in all shapes and sizes.

Brushes for Decorative Finishing

Basic Brush

Also called a Utility Brush, a basic brush is a soft, inexpensive bristle brush, either natural or synthetic, used to apply house paints, decorative glazes or any other general paint application purpose. Particularly useful for Scumbling and Color Washing Techniques.

Hog Bristle Brush

Hog Bristle Brushes Also Called:
  • Stippling Brush
  • Hog Bristle Softener
  • Wolf Stippler

A natural white Chinese bristle brush used for creating stipple finishes when used with glazes. After a glaze is applied and still wet, the Stippling Brush is used to break up, or "distress" the glaze. Larger Stippling Brushes are available for working on walls. Small brushes are for furniture, molding, frames and other smaller objects. These brushes come in a variety of shapes including rectangular, square and oval.

Badger Softener

Blending Brushes Also Called:
  • Badger Blender
  • Blending Brush
  • Softening Brush

The Badger Softener is possibly the most essential brush for painting authentic faux and custom decorative finishes. Many sizes are available. The softness of badger hair reduces harsh edges between colors; thus "blending and softening" the unnatural edges from your work. The stroke is extremely light, almost tickling the surface with the tips of the hair. Use your arm from your elbow to maintain an even stroke over the surface. Avoid a stroke with only your wrist as this tends to be quite irregular, even with the lightest touch.



Also Called:

  • Square Top Grainer / Mottler
  • Wavy Top Grainer / Mottler
  • Grainer / Mottler

This brush, made from white bristle, is essential for manipulating glazes, overgraining and mottling. It is useful for creating the intricate "crossfires" found in some woods. Two styles are available in a number of sizes: Square Top and Wavy Top; each produce unique decorative effects. This flat ended, stubby handled brush is used in short repetitive downward strokes, keeping the bristles in contact with the surface.


Floggers Also Called:
  • Walnut Stippler
  • Graining Brush
  • Dragger-Flogger

This brush, made mostly from the dark bristles of long-haired hogs, is used to render small, fine, undergraining found in some woods. To use Flogger, hold a clean, dry brush loosely with bristles parallel to the working surface. Quickly tap the long bristles on the wet painted surface in short choppy taps, moving the flogger from the top to the bottom resulting in undergraining. Floggers can also be used to produce stri‚ techniques, spattering, or unique wavy strokes.

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Tools for Decorative Finishing


The common, inexpensive paint roller is mainly used for larger projects. It is used to roll on Base Colors or Custom Finishing Textures. Paint Rollers are available in a variety of naps, from very fine to very coarse. In most cases, a common broomstick can be screwed into the handle of the roller to extend its reach. Specialty Rollers are available to create unique special effects.

Natural Sponge

Sponges Also Called:
  • Sea Silk
  • Sea Wool
  • Sea Grass

Natural, organic sponges have naturally formed crevices and ridges essential for distinctive design applications which cannot be duplicated with a synthetic sponge. Wet the sponge with clean water before use and wring out thoroughly. If applying glaze to surface, load sponge with glaze, palette off excess, and apply. If removing glaze, dab off with the damp sponge.

Rubber Grainer

Rubber Grainers Useful tool for creating graining effects on painted surfaces. Usually in the shape of a triangle with different spaced teeth on each 3" side. The rubber construction allows for flexible maneuverability which enables the artist to vary the grain.

Heart Grainer

Valuable tool for producing beautiful heart graining wood effects. It is made of rubber corrugation mounted on a wooden block with a wooden handle.


A loosely woven white cotton cheesecloth is best. It is used to move glazes over a surface. The open weave of cheesecloth creates the fine blending of glazes.

Steel Graining Comb

Normally made from blue steel. These combs, mostly available in sets, are used to comb heavy body products such as Molding Paste and Gel to create textured patterns. These combs can be used with glazes to create wood grains.

Cotton Rag

High quality, white cotton rags work best for the decorative arts. They are absorbent and serve a wide variety of uses including removing brush strokes, blending colors and applying or removing wet glaze.


Pronounced Chammy, it refers to a soft leather made from the skin of sheep or goats. They offer a different pattern than cotton for ragging techniques.


A goose, turkey or duck feather can be used to draw veins in painted marble finishes. It can also be used to pull out glazes to create open areas in marbles.


Everyday recycled, clear plastic trash bags work best. It is helpful to cut apart the bags for more efficient use. This material is useful for removing wet glaze for a variety of unique effects.

Tool Cleaning, Conditioning, and Care

Brush Conditioning

After completing a project, make it a good habit to recondition the brushes. That way they are always ready to go. To preserve natural hair brushes from permanent damage, it is necessary to condition them before painting in the following method:

1) Apply a small amount of ordinary hair conditioner into bristle tips.

2) Lightly massage conditioner into tips.

3) Run your fingers through the bristles to fluff out.

4) Do not rinse the conditioner out. You are now ready to begin painting.

Cleaning Up

Acrylic and latex paints clean up easily with soap and water. Be sure to rinse your brush thoroughly as the acrylic will accumulate in the ferrule over time and may limit the lifetime of the brush.

Remember never to leave brushes immersed in water, or allow paint to dry on them. After the project is completed, wash the brushes with mild soap and rinse using clean water. Let the brush dry and repeat the conditioning process. Reshape the brush hairs and hang to dry.

Cheesecloth may be rinsed with clean water but this will often tangle the weave. After rinsing cheesecloth, wring out into a ball and let dry. Then it can be opened up, refolded, and reused.

Cotton rags may be reused. Rinse with clean water and hang to dry.


Store brushes by hanging them with the tips down.

Storing brushes with the tips up allows acrylic, over repeated use, to accumulate in the ferrule therefore shortening the life of the brush. Some professional decorative artists affix velcro taps to their brush handles and then attach them to a strip of velcro in their studio, tips down.