Trompe l'oeil is a painting technique that makes two-dimensional objects look three-dimensional by changing the perspective. In French, tromp l'oeil means to "deceive the eye". I decided to try the effect on a pair of boring closet doors in the office to make the space a little warmer, a little more interesting.
Step 1: Materials
1. 2 quarts of contrasting paint colors. I used Olympic semi-gloss paints, Sarsaparilla and Heavy Cream to create a dark brown wood color.
2. Large and small paint brushes: 4", 3", 1" and smaller artists brushes (I had a couple of old brushes smaller than 1").
3. Non-tacky painters tape
4. Tape measure or ruler
Step 2: Prep the Doors
Remove the doors and place them horizontally to make painting easier. I placed small steps underneath so they were off the floor slightly.
Clean the doors, sand rough spots (if needed) and prime (if needed). Since my doors were white, I did not prime.
Step 3: Draw the Door Frame
Sketch out the door panels. I used two vertical panels, each with a 2-inch border. The central board was a 4" height, and I opted to keep the header and footer a little wider than the central board. The header board was slightly larger than the footer since these panels are hung such that the top inch or so is hidden. Two 4" wide boards run along the sides of the panels, at the full height of the door (see schematic). These dimensions can be roughly scaled for any door size.
Step 4: Paint the "panels"
Place a strip of painters tape along the outside edge of each panel. Then paint the panels using vertical brush strokes and a mixture of the dark and light colors. I used the 4" brush for the dark color, and the 3" brush for the light color. I started with the dark color in the upper left corner, running long strokes down each "panel". I started the light colored paint at the lower right side, again painting vertical strokes on each panel. The upper left corner was dark, while the lower left was light. The space in between was gradually mixed. The right side of each panel was lighter than the left. This creates the perspective of light coming from one side.
It's really easier than you would think. I'm not an artist. At all.
Step 5: Paint the Long "boards"
Once the panels have dried, paint the boards in the same manner, starting with the horizontal boards. Use long, horizontal brush strokes to emulate the wood grain. I kept the same coloring process I had used with the panels -- darker on the upper right and lighter on the lower right. However, having it lighter in the middle of the board may have looked better. (dark - light - dark)
When the horizontal board paint has dried, repeat the process with the long vertical boards, painting in long vertical strokes along the imaginary wood grain.
I used painters tape before painting to make sure the lines were straight (see previous step's photo).
Step 6: Paint the Panel Borders
The panel borders are then painted with the smaller brushes. I used a 1" brush with the dark paint to create a base layer, then added the cream to create a lighted portion. The light color was blended in with the dark for a smooth transition.
For the upper frame, the transition was vertical, with a bright light color closest to the panel. For the left vertical frame, this same color scheme was used - dark on the edge and bright on the panel side. For the right vertical and lower frame, the lightest region was the center of the piece, so dark - light - dark. The light color on these pieces was not as bright as the upper and left vertical pieces.
The frame around each panel was done in the same way -- or at least attempted.
Step 7: Enjoy!
Once the paint has dried, re-hang and enjoy the faux-bulous doors.