I once had a neighbor who faced brilliant orange Formica counter tops in her home. Raising little ones on a single mother’s salary didn’t allow her the budget to replace those counter tops. To her, (as it would be to me), living with those counter tops would be nearly unbearable! She tried everything she could to cover them to no avail. They were still orange, they were still an eyesore.

If you face the same sort of dilemma with Formica, or even with ceramic tile, there is a great solution and not at all difficult. Faux finish them! The technique is the same for both surfaces.

The counter tops in our Everett, Washington home were white and very poorly done. Could I stand the poor glue job one more day? Not a chance. So while friend husband was on a business trip to Italy, I faux finished them to pale, but rich looking granite. The difference it made was incredible!

Faux granite counters

Here’s how:  (TBD Editors Note: Practice your granite pattern on a piece of cardboard first…this isn’t hard to do, but just takes getting the feel of it to get the effect you want…it’s very forgiving though, remember, stone is not perfect in it’s pattern, in fact, you want the opposite! Also… you do have the option of purchasing a paint kit. Photos above are from Giani, they have a paint kit that encompasses all these steps!)

Step 1) Go on the Internet and find photos of granite that appeal to you and match your decor colors. Print out a sample sheet as your working example.

Step 2) Examine the photo closely. Real granite typically consists of a main, over-all color with “blotches” or dots of secondary colors. Decide what would be the base (background color) would be and the two or three secondary colors. For instance, my granite choice required a deep gold background and dark brown, white and gold as secondary colors. Ask your local paint store employee to help you with choices if need be.

Step 3) Clean the surface well then wipe with pure white vinegar to give it a bit more “tooth”. On Formica, a very light sanding helps to make your primer adhere.

Step 4) Prime the surface with oil based primer such as “BIN” or “KILZ”. Oil based primers give you the best adhesion and durability.

Step 5) Once the primer is completely dry, you can now use water based paints to do your project. Paint the base color over the entire surface and allow to dry.

Step 6) with a brush, blot on your main secondary color (the one that seems to stand out the most in your printed sample) allowing the background color to show through. You can either use an old towel, sponge,  wall paint brush or flat end stencil brush with great results.

Depending on the look of your sample (a very blotchy look or smoother, softer colors) you may want to blend as you go. My sample showed smoother, more blended colors. Yours might be quite spotty with definite “dots” of color. In that case, don’t blend.

Step 7) Spatter on 2nd color either by blotting larger dots as with the first color, or by dipping a toothbrush in to the paint color then flicking the bristles with your fingers (Protect the floor and back splash or walls when performing this technique). Repeat the above processes with any further colors needed to complete the look.

Step 8) Allow the surface to dry completely then seal with 3 coats of water based Polyurethane sealer in “gloss” finish. The gloss gives you the appearance of shiny, polished granite. DO follow manufacturer’s directions when using all products.

There are many styles of granite to choose from and with just a bit of practice on a sample board before beginning, you can achieve basically the same look with just a paint brush and these techniques.

Granite color examples:

  • Deep Green Granite: Background dark Olive green, light olive green and black as secondary colors.
  • Gray Granite: Pale Gray background color with dark gray, brown and white as secondary colors.
  • Light brown granite: Light brown background with secondary colors of dark brown and cream.

Now you can venture out to find just the right granite color choice for your project.

Article by  Victoria Larsen. Victoria Larsen is a professional wall stencil designer and interior specialist. Her products and ideas have been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Women’s Day, Craft Trends, Creating Keepsakes, Rubber Stampin Retailer and Memory Maker magazines and The Wall Street Journal. Visit Victoria on line at http://www.victorialarsen.com

Image Credits: Release Me, Giani




41 Comments

  1. Stephanie Sparks January 29, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to show this! It looks great, and your instructions make it sound DIY friendly!

    Reply
  2. Susan January 31, 2014 at 8:07 am

    What type of paint did you use? I’ve read other websites where they used craft paint, but I don’t imagine it will hold up as well. The counters look wonderful!!!

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard February 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      As long as you properly seal it with polyurethane, you can use any paint you want. The poly is what provides the protection, not the paint!

      Reply
  3. Deb February 9, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    It looks very smooth and the ones a person can purchase at hardware stores are not smooth because of the paint layers. Does this dry smooth like granite?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard February 15, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      It was written by a guest poster, but I would guess there will be some evidence of the paint layers in certain light. I think using a gloss sealer would help disguise that.

      Reply
  4. Julie Brandt February 9, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Did you sand the formica first and then use the vinegar? Or vice versa? How long did you allow the primer to dry? How long to dry the first coat of paint before starting second color? I am really excited to do this! I have painted my cabinets black and the walls red with stainless steel appliances. Do you have a suggestion on paint colors for my “granite”? I was thinking of a very light gray with black and a tiny bit of red. Or a white background with black and red. What do you think will look the best? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard February 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Hi Julie, The post was written by a guest contributor, so I don’t have all your answers… I would be willing to guess you would use the vinegar first, then sand… I would let the first coat dry at least an hour, or however long your can says to wait before re-coating… I would choose a neutral color combination for your counters… Good luck!

      Reply
  5. Connie February 10, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Wonderful idea, but I have the old type countertops that look like paneling on the countertop, would it still work.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard February 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      You can paint anything with the proper primer, but the question is whether this will look like you want it to at the end of the project. I can’t picture the type of counters you are describing… can you give me a better idea of what “paneling” it looks like?

      Reply
  6. Mary February 10, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    can you do this over butcher block countertops too????

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard February 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      I don’t have any experience with that, but as long as you properly prime and seal them, I don’t see why not… Check with your local paint store specialist and ask them if there is any issue with painting over butcher block, specifically with moisture.

      Reply
  7. Darcy February 24, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Could you please give me a timeline from start to finish? A day? A week? Something else? I am VERY interested, but need to know the time involved before I undertake this, as I am not the only one who uses the kitchen. Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard February 24, 2014 at 9:02 pm

      I think the average homeowner can get this done in a weekend…and you do not remove the sink,unless you choose to (gasp!:) ) simply tape it off and paint around it…

      Reply
  8. Darcy February 24, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Also, what did you do about the sink? Remove it (GASP!!!!)?

    Reply
  9. Trainwreck Gillespie May 31, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    We just poured concrete countertops and I am staining them. My island I did a faux stone look. Now on to the sink area. My question is the sealer. Is the polyurethane food grade? I was tols not to use it due to the everyday use and bacteria. I bought an epoxy that is food grade. I would love to find something less expensive. Thank you and I love this!

    Reply
  10. Michelle Morgan September 20, 2014 at 4:35 am

    So I love this idea but I’m worried that cleaning the countertops might be a problem. Would strong cleaners ( like bleach mix solutions) take the paint off of the counter? How durable is this really?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard September 23, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Hi Michelle! Honestly I wouldn’t use a strong bleach mix on most counter surfaces…even stone could be damaged by that. But I have had several readers report their counters, with the proper sealants applied, have lasted for several years… Good luck!

      Reply
  11. Carolyn Lanier October 3, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    They really look great an I am going to try this just as soon as I have time. I really think that you can do any kind of counter tops if you do it correctly an after you are finished with them you need to care for them like any thing that you want to last.

    Reply
  12. martha October 21, 2014 at 4:33 am

    how do you do this with tile counter tops?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard December 17, 2014 at 5:48 pm

      Unfortunately I don’t know if you could make it look realistic on tile… readers?

      Reply
    2. Vince February 2, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      Why would you want to do this on tiles? I’m with Kathy, I’m not sure if you’ll get the same result.

      Reply
  13. Lavita March 16, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    I have used this many times in my rental properties with great success. The tenants love it, and usually mistake it for real granite. I do however, apply a couple of extra coats of polyurethane. It is a very economical way to cover that 70’s laminate until you can afford the real thing.

    Reply
    1. heather May 24, 2015 at 6:37 pm

      How has it held up?

      Reply
      1. Kathy Woodard July 9, 2015 at 3:54 pm

        I have heard of them holding up for several years before needing a touch up, as long as you take care of it!

        Reply
        1. stacy queen May 25, 2016 at 12:12 pm

          For more durability than a urethane you can use an epoxy. While regular epoxies drip and take 24hrs to dry (you have to cut the drips off after drying), there is a new roll-on epoxy that I just ordered to try on my painted countertops. It is dry to the touch in four hours with no dripping and can even go on walls such as high backsplashes which pour on epoxies can not do. I will post my results once I try it.

          Reply
  14. Julie May 18, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    Do you know if I could apply a sealer that wouldn’t give such a shiny appearance? I love the colors and depth of granite but not the sheen.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard May 21, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      You can use a satin sealer!

      Reply
      1. Cyn July 25, 2015 at 8:59 pm

        I haven’t done this but I have finished many wood products. Gloss finish is much harder than a satin finish. Try doing several coats of gloss then finish with satin.

        Reply
        1. Kathy Woodard August 4, 2015 at 11:32 am

          Great idea! Thanks!

          Reply
  15. Carmelita Morris June 30, 2015 at 7:12 am

    Hello,

    I love the countertops. I wanted to know do you know how to do it with tile counters because my kitchen and bathrooms have white tile and white grout and I would love to change them to granite without buying granite counters.

    Thank You

    Carmelita

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard July 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      Has anyone done this with tile? Any advice for Carmelita?

      Reply
  16. Ryann July 19, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Do you think you can do the same to get a quarts look counter top.. One base color… Sparkles and sealant??

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard August 4, 2015 at 11:38 am

      I do! Just practice first for the technique!I still think two colors will give you more depth, just make them very close to each other, maybe just one shade or two off… Anyone tried this?

      Reply
  17. Sheryl October 11, 2015 at 11:47 am

    How long before you can actually use the countertop after it is finished? I have read on some sites that you should wait anywhere from 14- 30 days before using it because you could damage the surface. Who can go 30 days without a kitchen top ? Not me. Any guesses?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard May 3, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      We waited 24 hours, then were just gentle on it for a few weeks… We used cutting boards religiously, etc… I’ve never heard 30 days! I agree, who could?

      Reply
  18. Eva January 29, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Could you share how the cabinets were done? :)

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard June 21, 2016 at 7:01 am

      I’m sorry, it’s not our project so we have no idea… Sorry we couldn’t be more help!

      Reply
  19. Tammy Schulz February 4, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    I want to do black countertops. My cabinets are white with black hardware. What colors would I use.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard June 21, 2016 at 7:09 am

      Hi Tammy, That post was written by a guest contributor, but I would guess a black background and two shades of gray, a dark and a lighter as secondary colors. Good luck!

      Reply
  20. Karen dooley September 15, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    I did this on my counters amazing I used an oil base poly vartine 3 coats , did silver main colour, than black , light grey, some brown and pearl white , amazing

    Reply
    1. Alyce October 12, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      You used oil base poly valtine as the top coat, or for all of the color then as the clear sealer?
      And what was your drying time between coats?

      Reply

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