Faux Tortoise Shell How To (and more)

Alright, I know a lot of you guys have been waiting patiently for this one.
  Sorry it took so long, but here is your Faux Tortoise Shell 101.
  I'm so glad all my years of decorative painting are finally good for something. 
Get the piece your want to transform. Prime and paint in a Cadmium Yellow. (We will get to the turquoise version next.) I actually found a Valspar spray paint from Lowe's in a bright yellow (Bumblebee) that worked well...
If you have a larger surface I recommend dividing the area. Tortoise shell is usually an inlay, and therefore done in smaller pieces. I divided my table into thirds, drew faint lines and taped one section off.

Next, I mixed my glazes. I used 3 parts latex glaze to 1 part paint. Use artist acrylics for your paint.  The lighter glaze is made up of raw umber, yellow ochre and a bit of burnt sienna. I unfortunately was out of yellow ochre and raw umber so I used regular a Ben Moore paint I had lying around that was close to the final glaze color. *This made it more opaque and cloudy, not really what you want, but will be good enough if in pinch.

The darker glaze uses burnt umber and black in equal parts.

Brush on your lighter glaze and sponge it off with a damp sea sponge...

Using a softening brush to feather the glaze by lightly making crisscross strokes over the area.
click here to see where to get one for $20. Mine cost $32. You need this brush, or else you'll get a big fail (see below in the turquoise section) like I did when I tried to paint this with an old, beat up one.
Next apply the darker glaze in patches/splotches. They can be big or small depending on the look you want.

Lightly sponge off any very heavy areas and soften... alot.

The softening gives it a cloudy, fogged out appearance.

Let it dry and repeat for each section.

Spray with two coats of polyurethane and you are done.
Easy, right? It really is, you just need the magic softening brush.

Now for the turquoise version. I got alot of emails and how to requests about Jennifer Boles

I know there were just as many haters as there were lovers, so haters, just skip this next section.
I happened to think it was pretty fabulous and brave.

So first paint your piece. Once again I scored with a spray paint (Valspar- Mediterranean), such a smoother finish than brushing it on.
Brush on the darker glaze from the last section, and wipe off. The main idea here is to mute the base color a bit. Let it dry. Add your splotches like before and go to town feathering and softening...

And that is it. So what happens if you don't have a softening brush?


So there is one more finish Jenny from Little Green Notebook had posted about. This one on a mirror from Todd Romano...

I was kinda digging it, so I sprayed a lamp I found for $2 turquoise
 and striped away using the leftover dark glaze.

It started feeling a little Beetle juicy, and I sorta fell out of love. I did the tortoise on the base.
My little lamp just isn't as cool as Todd's mirror frame.

"feel sorry for me, I'm just a sad $2 lamp that got sacrificed for a blog"

I did shoot some video on the yellow tortoise shell,
 and I will post it later in the morning once I get a chance to edit .
If I left anything out or was confusing just give me a shout.


Noelle at Gray Paint Decor said...

Great tutorial! The table looks chic. I happen to agree that the mantle was brave and fabulous. I think most things fabulous start out as brave risks :)

Lily said...

That tortoise table is amazing ! Love it.


Nichole @ Parlour said...

You have GOT to stop this. You are making us all look bad!!! ( =

jandjhome said...

You are just amazing. Have I told you that already?

Ispirato Design said...

Once again i feel so inspired. I'm still thinking about the lamp I want to try the malachite finish on and now I have another project to do. I'm going to stop reading your blog! kidding ;)

Ms. Manor said...

Wow! I especially LOVE the table.

DomesticJenny said...


Anonymous said...

Great job, and I think the lamp looks good, too. It's not a fail in my book.

travelkate said...

I'm so amazed at the faux tortoise shell table! It looks fabulous!

Dina @ Honey + Fitz said...

I can't believe you just whipped this together. The table looks amazing. Great work!

Jenny at LGN said...

I can't *WAIT* to try this Danika!! Thanks for the tutorial and for sharing all your creative genius!


For Me, It's You said...

I love this! The mantel was great. Now I need to find something to try this out on! :) Thanks!

Anonymous said...

A fantastic presentation. Very open and informative.You have beautifully presented your thought.

Olive Ridley Sea turtle

Em said...

I really love the lamp. I don't feel sorry for him. I want him!

I am in the middle of my own tortoise shell faux finish thanks to your instructions! Thank you.

Sadie + Stella said...

You are a freaking genius!!! Sheesh.

Lindsay said...

You are so fab, Danika!! Love reading your creative thinking come to life! Go'on and get it girl :)


Anonymous said...

Hey Danika! I know this is an old post, but would you be able to share what glaze you use? I'm in the middle of this project and for some reason I can't get it right. I think it has to do with the glaze that I'm using. Thanks!


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