You are currently viewing How to Apply Paint that Looks like Stain: Rift Sawn Oak

For the last several years as we’ve visited the Parade of Homes we’ve come to love the look of rift sawn white oak in beautiful cabinetry and furniture pieces.

Imagine being able to infuse the rich elegance of rift sawn white oak into your living spaces without the hefty price tag.

This blog post is your ultimate guide to mastering the art of applying paint that looks like stain on wood, specifically focusing on the timeless charm of rift sawn white oak.

Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a creative soul seeking to redefine your interior aesthetics, in this post we’ll walk you through, step by step as we create this faux wood grain finish that breathes new life into your old or even laminate furniture pieces.

Join us as we unravel the secrets behind this technique and unleash your inner artist in ways you never thought possible.

Before we begin our painting technique that will look like stain, let’s take a look at our original bed and our modern bed frame makeover.

While our original bed is solid wood, it is pine and extremely rustic, with much more distressing and knot holes than we like!

Not the look that we were going for, or what Gavin wanted in his bedroom makeover.

We’ve already created a beautiful board and batten wall with a twist, that helps this small bedroom look larger and created custom shelves in the small closet.

Now we just needed a modern bed to make this room complete.

With a few strategic cuts and a little creativity, we were able to make this old bed look more modern.

Now, onto the paint finish that will make this rustic pine look like rift sawn white oak.

What is Rift Sawn Oak?

Rift Sawn White Oak lumber has straight tight grain with heartwood that is a light to medium brown.

Rift sawn white oak is primarily used for cabinetry, furniture, interior trim, flooring and veneer.

Similar to quarter sawn lumber, rift sawn white oak lumber is also referred to as radial grain.

This cut produces the most stable boards.

Rift planks are cut from quartered white oak logs in a tilted process making every cut perpendicular to the annual growth rings. 

This process yields the distinctive striped grain pattern, but means only about 40% of any log is used to create planks. 

The rest is waste, making rift sawn white oak more expensive.

However, we are excited to share how to paint a rustic pine bed to look like rift sawn white oak.

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What Color Paint for Faux Wood Grain?

Depending on the wood grain you’re trying to duplicate, base coats are applied in a spectrum ranging from gentle yellow tones to beige and even orangish tones.

In our case we were looking for the undertones in Steph’s family room flooring.

After several visits to Home Depot we finally settled on Crème de caramel by Behr.

In fact, the employees immediately recognized us as we approached the paint counter and would ask how our project was coming.

That gives you an idea of how many visits we made to select the right color.

As you consider what paint tones you’d like to use, take a moment to study the tones within a sample of real wood as you select your color choice.

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Supplies for a Paint That Looks Like Stain Finish

Before you begin your masterpiece, you’ll need to gather your supplies.

You’ll need a base paint color (we used Behr Crème de caramel), stain blocking primer, clear glaze, water-based stain (we used Behr Early American), white paint and a water-based polyurethane.

In addition, you need a few paint brushes like a large floppy brush, chip brush and a chisel brush.

Finally you also need a wood grain tool.

You can easily find them online, we found ours on Amazon.

Prep the Surface

We believe the most important step in any furniture refinishing project is to prepare the surface for paint.

First you’ll want to sand your surface for a beautiful smooth finish and remove dust with a tack cloth.

If you’re working with a raw wood surface or a piece with knots, you’ll want to paint your furniture piece with a coat of stain blocking primer.

When you are working with raw wood or a surface with knot holes, even if you use a chalk paint or paint and primer in one, the tannins from the wood can leach out over time and will form yellowed spots in the finish.

Clearly, after all the hard work in refinishing a piece of furniture you want it to stay looking beautiful for years to come.

So take the time to apply a coat of primer, you’ll be glad you did!

Welcome to Our Site

If you’re new here, welcome!

We’re so glad that you’re here.

We’re Michelle and Steph, a mom and daughter team who love to DIY.

Not only are we passionate about making our homes warm comfortable and unique, but we’re also on a mission to help you create that same feeling in your own home.

We’re all about repurposing, creating, decorating and making your home truly yours, but always on a budget.

Undoubtedly we love finding ways to make your home look high-end on a small budget.

Plus you’ll also find a recipe or two as we share our family favorites with you.

We’d love it if you’d join our community of doers and you won’t miss any inspiration for your home.

We love new friends.

How do you Create a Fake Wood Grain?

Creating a convincing faux wood grain involves a few simple techniques and a little creativity.

By skillfully layering paint, glaze, utilizing a wood graining tool and a large floppy paint brush you can simulate the organic patterns and textures found in real wood.

The process begins with a paint base coat, providing the foundation for the subsequent layers.

As you master the art of layering wood-toned glaze, the magic happens – as you see the subtle texture and organic feel of real wood.

With a little practice, you’ll discover how to harness the beauty of faux wood graining, breathing life into surfaces with the charm of old wood furniture pieces.

1- Apply Paint

Now we are ready for the fun part, creating our faux rift sawn white oak finish with paint that will look like stain on wood!

Apply the base paint, we used Behr Crème de caramel.

Paint is applied to the primed rails of bed frame for a faux wood grain finish.

Work in small sections and while the paint is wet, push a wood graining tool through the paint.

Depending on the look you want, you can create a lot or a little texture into your painted surface.

A wood grain tool is pushed through the wet paint to add a faux wood grain texture to the bed frame.

Because we are looking for a tight rift sawn oak look we did not tilt the wood grain tool forward much while pushing it through the paint.

Apply Paint to furniture and add texture with wood grain tool for a faux wood grain finish.

Our goal is just to add a little texture and depth to the finish.

We also worked in sections in the direction we desired for the grain.

First, focus on all of the horizontal grain and then the vertical grain sections.

Once the paint is dry, apply a second coat on top of the wood grain.

Paint is applied to the headboard after the wood graining layer has dried.

2- Apply Water-Based Stain Mixture

For our second layer that will mimic the tight grain of rift sawn oak, we did a lot of experimenting to get the look we were going for.

We first saw this technique using a large flopping brush on TikTok which led us to Katie Scott Salvage on YouTube.

Her technique intrigued us.

And while we will be using her brush technique, we have modified the products and method a bit for our project.

We experimented with gel stain, paint glazes and water-based stain, coming to the conclusion that the water-based stain gave us the look we’re going for.

Mix 1 part stain with 1 part glaze in a bucket for this faux wood grain finish.

Our second layer will be a mixture of water-based Behr Early American stain and glaze.

While the glaze isn’t necessary to thin down the stain, we found it helpful to extend the drying time to allow us to work the stain on the painted surface.

In a bucket combine 1 part stain to 1 part glaze.

This stain was left over from Steph’s built-ins and turned out to be the perfect color.

The stain must be water-based for this application.

With an old brush stain with glaze is applied over the painted headboard to achieve a paint that looks like stained rifted oak.

Again you’ll want to work in horizontal and vertical sections.

So to do this, tape off the vertical sections and then focus on one horizontal section at a time.

This layer will look a bit streaky.

To get this look we used an old cheap brush.

You can also use a chip brush for this layer.

In addition, you’ll want to only apply stain to an area you can work in about 5 minutes.

After the glaze stain layer is applied use a large floppy brush to flog the stain to achieve a paint that looks like stained rift sawn oak.

Then for the fun part, grab a large floppy paint brush and then we’re going to flog the stain.

Start at one side and with the brush angled, tap the stain moving forward and across the section.

Basically, it’s like you’re giving the wood a series of love taps or small spanks.

Once you finish one row, repeat with the next section.

Practice this technique on a scrap of wood until you get the feel of it.

Pro tip: Once a section is dry do not overlap the stain onto the dry section. This will darken the stain in that area. We learned this the hard way and had to repaint a section and then apply the stain.

Faux wood grain finish that looks like rift sawn oak.

This is what it looks like when it’s dry!

Isn’t it beautiful?!

This flogging technique along with the water-based stain really mimics the tight grain of the rift sawn white oak.

Now I believe that you can stop right here and apply a top coat.

However, Steph wanted a lighter look to the wood since Gavin’s bedroom has a dark green board and batten accent wall.

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3- White Wash

To create a cerused look we applied a white wash.

First allow the stain layer to cure before moving onto the next step.

We let ours dry overnight.

For our white wash we combined 1 part white paint, 1 part glaze and 12 parts water.

Stir until it’s thoroughly mixed.

Once again we are using the glaze to extend the drying time a bit.

Clearly you don’t want it to dry too quickly before you’re able to manipulate the paint.

White wash is applied to the dry stain layer of the furniture to create a paint finish that looks like stained rift sawn oak.

Apply the white wash with an old or chip brush, again working in sections.

White wash glaze is wiped with a lint free cloth foe this faux wood grain finish.

Then wipe with a lint free cloth.

You’ll want the white washed area to look streaky, so don’t wipe off too much.

Using a large floppy brush flog the white washed area to add texture to the paint that looks like stained rifted white oak.

And then once again take the large floppy brush and flog the surface, working in small sections.

Headboard with a paint finish that looks like rift sawn white oak.

And this is the final painted faux wood grain finish.

4- Apply Top Coat

Once the faux wood grain finish is complete seal with a polyurethane top coat.

Now we need to protect this beauty!

With all of our products being water-based, we are using a water-based polyurethane.

Apply three coats of polyurethane and sand lightly between coats with #0000 steel wool.

For a smooth finish we love to use the Zibra chisel brush, brushing with the grain of the wood.


  • Study real rift sawn oak for inspiration.
  • Practice on a sample board to hone your technique.
  • Adjust pressure and tilt on the graining tool for diverse patterns.
  • Experiment with different glaze shades for a unique twist.

Faux Wood Grain Reveal

Faux rifted oak bed frame with a green board and batten wall and black and white bedding with green and leather accents.

Wow! This faux wood grain finish looks so good with this deep green wall.

Now the bed feels modern and masculine, perfect for a teenage boy.

Footboard with a paint that looks like stain faux rifted white oak.

The faux wood grain finish is subtle and creates a modern vibe.

Footboard with a paint that looks like stain faux rifted white oak.
Section of the headboard showing detail of the finish of paint that looks like stain of a faux rift sawn white oak.
Faux rifted oak bed frame with a green board and batten wall and black and white bedding with green and leather accents.

As we wrap up this faux wood grain tutorial, do you feel ready to try this technique?

So, what will you transform in your home?

Your next masterpiece awaits – get ready to turn ordinary pieces into extraordinary works of wood-inspired wonder!

Another project we just finished in Gavin’s room is updating his closet doors with bifold sliding door hardware.

It’s a game changer for small bedroom closets!

Drop us a comment, we love to hear from you.

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Pinterest image: bed frame with a faux wood painting technique with 3 in process images.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Renae

    It looks amazing! I love this look.

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Thank you Renae, we are so pleased with the results. Have a wonderful day!

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