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Tutorial: Painting Wood Grain On Plastic

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This is a quick and easy tutorial on how to paint a wood grain pattern on plastic, in this case a Nerf rifle stock. I am certainly not the creator of this method, though I think I've made a few simple changes that I think simplify the process a bit.

This creates a very nice looking wood grain pattern on any plastic surface within minutes. Note: it does take up to two or three days to dry completely depending on the temperature and humidity.

You will need: black spray paint, some good white or "egg shell" color acrylic paint and some good oil paint.

For this tutorial I'm using acrylic white paint, plain ol' Flat Black Spray Can, and some oil paints. For white, I'm using Folk Art Acrylic Paint. This white paint is nice and thick, perfect for this kind of job. One quick coat and you are done. You don't want very liquidy paint for this so the thick Folk Art stuff works nicely, and it's available in alot of craft shops or Amazon.


First step is to paint your surface, in this case a plastic rifle stock, a good coat of solid flat black.


Then take a broad brush and dip it in the thick white paint. The brush should not be completely wet, though it should be a little bet wetter than a "dry brush method". You want the brush to paint a little bit unevenly and not to paint solid white on any portion.

Paint along the "wood grain". In this case, the wood grain is running horizontal across the stock. Using your moderately wet brush, lightly brush white streaks on the black painted plastic stock following the "wood grain". Remember to go lightly at first and adjust pressure and wetness as you got along. The goal is to get white streaks across the grain. Don't worry if some spots are lighter or darker than others or if there are some irregularities in the pattern. Wood is pretty irregular. In fact, I use the irregularities to create some "knots" in the wood.

Now comes the fun part! Your going to need some Burnt Umber, some Cadmium Red, and maybe even some Yellow Ocher. You can get all these paints in a Basic Oil Paint Set. I'm using the Windsor & Newton Set that's got all these paints and a few more for pretty cheap.

Squeeze some Burnt Umber on a piece of paper (newspaper is perfect) and prepare to paint. Why paper? Because paper will absorb some of the paint's oil and allow for quicker drying time. Take a broad brush and brush some of the Burnt Umber, and again brush along the pattern of the white wood grain. If there are any indentations in the surface, let the oil paint collect there and make it darker. You should be begin to see something that looks like wood grain start to form.

If you're feeling particularly brave you can take some Cadmium Red and apply a few dots in select areas and brush in, always across the grain. You will see some nice coloration in the wood. Red will give a nice deep color; Yellow Ocher can give the wood more of an faded aged look. The nice thing about painting with oils is that they are pretty forgiving. If you put some yellow on and don't like, just brush over some more Burnt Umber and mix in. All will be forgiven.

Once you've achieved a nice wood grain effect, leave your stock to dry over the next two days or so. Depending on the heat and humidity, drying time can take up to four days. Before then, it will smudge easily and feel sticky. Hot temperatures will speed up the drying process. I left my stock out on my deck on a sunny summer's day, and it was mostly dry by the end of the day, but you can't always count on a sunny summer day. Sounds philosophical doesn't it? "You can't always count on a sunny summer day". Deep.

And that's it. Hope this helps everyone with all their faux wood grain! Tell you the truth, it's a little a addicting. Once you see the nice wood effect on something, you suddenly want to give everything a wood look. I live in a fake wooden cabin now.


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