A fast drying water-based painting medium that becomes water-resistant when dry. Available as paints and as an ingredient in water-soluble finishes. Compared to oil-based paints, top quality acrylic (latex) paints have greater durability in the form of better colour retention and chalk resistance, so they continue to look good for years.  Since they do not tend to get brittle as oil-based paints do, they have better resistance to cracking.

Acrylic Size

An adhesive for applying metal or gold leaf, or bronze powders to a surface. Water based, it dries to a tacky state that takes several days to dry. It replaces oil gold size, which can be used for interior or exterior architectural features.

Aged Wallpaper

At Devlin in Design, we use this term to describe our rustic, textured and distressed plaster finishes which can be painted with both a limewash effect and earth colours. Our range of rustic plaster finishes have a weathered and mellowed appearance, but retain their original brightness in the shadows of mouldings and under ledges, with faux brick work exposed where the plaster has appeared to have fallen off.


The process of making something new or freshly painted look old, well used or weathered.


A process of aging to deepen the tones, adding a richer look, and to simulate natural ageing and wear and tear.

Antiquing Solution

Any thinned paint, glaze or varnish that is coloured or stained and applied to allow the under painting to appear through it, giving the effect of aging the surface.


The wooden moulding surrounding a door or window. Architrave is also used to refer more generally to a style of mouldings (or other elements) framing the top of a door, window or other rectangular opening or structure.

Beeswax Polish

A ready mad dilution of beeswax with a solvent such as turpentine substitute. The resultant paste is easy to apply.


A liquid substance formed with a solvent ( linseed oil, casein, gum Arabic etc. ) that will hold pigment particles and form a durable film when dry.


Fine coloured clay that is used in water gilding, usually applied over gesso as an underlying coating beneath gold leaf. After application, the dry surface of the leaf may be burnished with a hard tool, which brings the bole underneath to a high gloss as part of the process.

Brecciated Marble

Consists of angular fragments of material interspersed with veining and fissures.


The process whereby a surface is painted or coated to imitate bronze, bright metal bronze, patinated metal or weathered bronze.


The process of polishing using manual pressure behind a hard tool to produce a mirror-like reflective shine on gold or metal leaf.

Cellulose Lacquers / Paints

Developed in the twentieth century, cellulose based lacquers are extremely quick drying. In the decorative arts, lacquer refers to a variety of techniques used to protect and decorate wood, metal and many other surfaces, especially carving into deep coatings of many layers of lacquer.

Claire Bois

A generic name for pale wood veneer, such as satin wood, and wood grain paint effects used to imitate them.

Colour Wash

A popular technique in decorative painting using paint thinned out with glaze to create a subtle wash of color over walls or other surfaces. Colour washing can be done in any colour of paint and is generally applied with brushes over a solid paint colour, using long sweeping strokes to meld the glaze colours together.

Colour Wheel

The visible spectrum arranged in a circle.


Technique in which a decorators comb is scraped through a surface glaze, plaster or paint to create a pattern or groove, or reveal the colour beneath.


Is generally any horizontal architectural decorative moulding that crowns a building or furniture element.

Crackle Varnish

“Crackling” is a decorative glaze finish which creates a web of cracks on a surface or object using varnish, thus giving it an ancient and lived appearance.


The fine pattern of “cracking” formed on the surface of paint and ceramics, either as part of the process of ageing or of their original formation. Craquelure gives new objects such as ceramics and painted furniture an “antique” look.


Area of wall below a moulded or painted dado rail.

Dado Rail

A protective wall rail or moulding that originated in the eighteenth century to prevent damage to walls from the back rests of chairs.


An ornate textile with a woven pattern, revealed only by differences in texture or surface sheen, which can be glowing and spectacular. The slightly raised pattern has a velvety texture in contract to its flatter silk background, or vice versa. Damask is imitated using stencils.


A process of aging in which the surface is purposely worn or damaged. Examples are scratching, denting and chipping paint or causing a finish to appear aged by the weather, use or time.


A glazing technique for achieving a a subtle mixture of fine lines by pulling a wide, long bristled brush through wet glaze.

Driers, Liquid

Paint thinner medium or additive which speeds drying time, such as turbine dryers. Added in small quantities to oil graining colour to ensure over night drying.


One of the simplest, most traditional interior paints, Distemper is a creamy chalk based paint that dries to a velvet-like finish with a beautifully subtle natural colour variation.

Dry Brushing

A painting technique in which the paint brush is pretty dry, but still holds paint. The brush strokes have a scratchy characteristic which lack the smooth appearance that a wash of paint or blended paint finish portray.

Dutch Metal

Known by various names, composition gold leaf, Dutch gold and in Germany it is known as Schlag Metal, Dutch Metal is a cheaper substitute than gold leaf, and tarnishes shortly after gilding. It closely resembles the fine appearance of genuine gold metals, although the alloys used in the production of Dutch do not have anything like the malleability of genuine gold.


To stain or finish black in imitation of ebony.

Emulsion Paint

Emulsion paint is formed from tiny droplets of a liquid polymer (plastic) that have been chemically bound to water and a chosen pigment for colour. It has a luxurious silk effect and will give more reflection of light but will show up any minor imperfections. In the UK, it is the standard paint used for interior walls.


A common name for a  mid-sheen paint finish with a low degree of gloss, resembling that of an eggshell. It is between flat and semi gloss.

Enamel Paint

A hard surfaced paint with a high gloss opaque finish.


A French term loosely defined as fake or imitation. It is the art of making something look like something else. Faux Painting or Faux Finishing are terms used in decorative painting to describe finishes that replicate materials such as stone, marble and wood. Simulating wood is called ‘faux Bois’, simulating marble, ‘faux marble’.

Finish Coat

A protective coat generally applied last in a decorative painting process.


Also called matt. A finish with no sheen, best for hiding imperfections.


A specialist painting technique for creating a small repetitive pattern eg. pores in graining. A wide, long bristled brush called a flogger can be used.

French Polishing

A wood finishing process that results in a very high gloss surface with deep colour. French polishing consists of applying many thin coats of shellac and is a beautiful method of finishing wood.


Plural frescos or frescoes.

A technique of decorative painting executed upon freshly-laid, or wet lime plaster. The water based colours penetrate the plaster and become fixed as it dries.


A long band of sculpted or painted decoration, often runs along the wall near the ceiling.


Made from gelatin and powdered chalk (or gypsum), gesso is extremely tough with a brittle coating traditionally used in the painting and gilding of the finest surfaces. It has been in use for several thousand years, and can be built up in layers and finely polished. Gesso is very similar to white acrylic paint, only thinner. It dries hard, making the surface more stiff. Gesso prepares (or “primes”) the surface for painting or gilding, making the surface slightly textured and ready to accept acrylic paint, gold leaf etc.


Gilding is the art of applying a thin layer of gold or something simulating gold to a surface. Products employed may be real gold leaf ranging in carats from 9 (white gold) up to 24; imitation leaf-composition gold, Dutch metal leaf, aluminium leaf, copper leaf; variegated leaf, mica powders


A translucent film of colour made from paint media.

Glaze Medium

A proprietary paint thinner or water soluble medium used to make opaque pigments translucent.


Specialist technique created by manipulating translucent media over dry surfaces, creating unlimited visual effects.


Shine or lustre on a smooth surface. Gloss paint is a type of paint that dries leaving a shiny surface and is very durable and easy to clean.

Gold and Metal Leaf

Gold, silver, brass, copper and aluminium beaten into thin, square sheets. The thinnest and most fragile leaf is genuine gold leaf. Gold and silver leaf are available in three forms: books, transfer, or mounted rolls.


A water based paint that is more opaque than watercolour. Very similar to acrylic, but gouache remains water soluble after it dries.


Arrangement of the fibers in wood.


The art of imitating different types of natural wood grain using paint. It ranges from simple Clair Bois (pale wood) to intricate English Walnut. Graining is the practice of imitating wood grain on a non-wood surface in order to increase that surface’s aesthetic appeal. Graining was common in the 19th century, as people were keen on imitating hard, expensive woods by applying a superficial layer of paint onto soft, inexpensive woods.


Decoration in tones of a single colour (or monochrome), especially grey.


A decorative art style characterised by fantastic or fantastically human and animal forms often interwoven with foliage or similar figures that may distort the natural into absurdity, ugliness, or caricature.

Ground Colour

A suitably coloured hard drying paint of medium sheen upon which graining, marbling and other broken colour effects are carried out.

High Gloss

The highest sheen of finish.


A colour or shade.


Embedding pieces of contrasting material into a flat surface or a depression.


A clear sealer that is very durable and does not amber when exposed to UV rays. A lacquer is also used to quicken the drying time of some finishes.

Lapis Lazuli

Treasured for its beautiful colour, lapis lazuli is an expensive and rare semi precious stone. It’s decorative paint effect is striking when created on small pedestals, columns and panels because of it’s rich colour.


Refined pressed oil from the seeds of the flax plant, used as a binder for oil paint.


A much softer stone than marble, its composition is less dense and compact, and its coarse grained texture produces a matt finish, even if polished. Limestone when recreated is excellent for rendering architectural details like columns, pedestals, mouldings and carved ornaments.

Liquid Acrylic

Premixed fluid acrylic paints, often intended for use in airbrush or spraying which we use for water based glazes.


A beautiful semi precious stone with a rich green colour. Malachite is recreated either in a rich dark green colour or a light variety of green. The distinct quality of Malachite is that the many different hues that are present in one stone form bands or rings. This makes the stone extremely interesting and unique to recreate.


Also called faux marble or marbleizing. The art of faking marbled patterns with paint.


The liquid that binds pigments together and holds them to the surface. It is also used to refer to a particular liquid substance used in a process or technique.


The change in a colour when it is seen under different lighting conditions eg. Incandescent light, daylight, fluorescent light.


Process by which a stencil or printing block can be correctly repeated in the right spot. Marks or pin holes are used to ascertain the correct position.


Composed mostly of sand, and like limestone it comes in a variety of colours and patterns. To resemble the real stone, sandstone is mostly simulated in blocks for walls and ceilings or in sections devoted to statues or ornaments.

Milk Paint

Milk paint is a water based and non-toxic paint made from milk and lime, generally with pigments added for colour.


Visual effect of different tones used to render certain linear patterns in marble or undulations in wood grain to achieve subtle differences in shade and depth.


Using various values of the same colour.


One of the oldest decorative art forms, the principle of mosaic art is simple, small coloured squares or cuts (tesserae) made of glass, marble, china or clay are formed into designs or pictorial patterns and embedded in cement walls, panels, objects, floors, columns and ceilings.

Mother of Pearl

A shiny, pearlescent substance that lines the shells of certain molluscs. It’s highly reflective surface, which changes appearance as the light shifts, is imitated with special pearlescent, iridescent or interference acrylic paints and mica powders or with metallic leaf.


The process of imitating the soft lights and darks seen beneath the surface grain of many woods.


One of the essential ingredients to decorative painting, it is used to impart colour and texture to both interior and exterior surfaces. There are many different types of paint but each is always composed of three elements – pigment, binder and solvent.

Painted Finishes

Coats of paint that are used to enhance a surface. They may be abstract, all over designs or simulations of real substances.


A form of platinum that is non-tarnishing and with a dark silver colour. Available in metal leaf for decorative gilding work.


Both transparent or opaque, a patina is the coating which slowly builds on a surface with the passage of time. An example is Verdigris.


Colouring material in the form of a powder that is mixed with a medium to yield the required colour of paint. Early painters created their own pigment by grinding minerals and other natural substances, today a wide range of natural and synthetic pigments are used.

Polished Plaster

Polished plaster is a term for the finish of some plasters and for the description of new and updated forms of traditional Italian plaster finishes. The term covers a whole range of decorative plaster finishes – from the very highly polished Venetian plaster and Marmorino to the rugged look of textured polished plasters. Polished plaster tends consist of slaked lime, marble dust, and/or marble chips, giving each plaster its distinctive look. Polished plaster is used on walls and ceilings, to give a finish that looks like polished marble, limestone or travertine. They are usually applied over a primer and basecoat base, with up to four layers. They are finished (burnished) with a specialised steel trowel to give a smooth glass-like sheen, and protected with a coat of wax.


The first layer of paint, usually white, under the base coat, used to provide a nonporous and opaque surface for painting.


A vinyl polymer that will happily form an emulsion in water. A simple binder, or glue, with many commercial and industrial uses in plaster, paint, and as a wood glue.


Process by which a stencil or printing block can be correctly repeated in the right spot. Marks or pin holes are used to ascertain the correct position.


Composed mostly of sand, and like limestone it comes in a variety of colours and patterns. To resemble the real stone, sandstone is mostly simulated in blocks for walls and ceilings or in sections devoted to statues or ornaments.


Any surface with a sheen between matt and high gloss.


The art of creating a form by carving stone or wood or by casting metal or plaster.

Scumble Glaze

A medium used to facilitate decorative effects and manipulated to produce broken colour effects by providing a paint or certain colour with a longer drying time.


A finish with a sheen between eggshell and high gloss.


A technique used in wall decor, produced by applying layers of plaster tinted in contrasting colours to a moistened surface, and then scratching the top layers so as to reveal the colour below.


Any hue plus black.


A skin taken from certain types of sharks and stingray, featuring tiny round scales radiating from a central ridge. Shagreen was popular with the art deco style, when it was widely used in furniture and objects. Devlin in Design have developed their own technique for applying a faux shagreen finish for panels, furniture and walls.


An alcohol soluble liquid derived from stick-lac, the resinous secretion of the lac beetle. Deep orange brown in its natural state, shellac is bleached to make clear shellac.

Silver Leaf

Silver that has been beaten into a very thin sheet, suitable for applying to surfaces as a decoration by gilding.

Sirapite Plaster

Internal plaster used for walls.


A broken colour effect produced by flicking or spraying small specks of colour onto a surface. Also used in marbling and over graining.


Used to deepen the colour of the surface it is applied to. There are both oil based and water based stains, oil based is a penetrating stain, whereas water based stains are available in both transparent and a penetrating stain.


A pattern that is cut out of either plastic or a thick paper to make multiple copies of the same image.


Applying paint on to a surface through the open areas of a stencil. By designing and cutting our own stencils, we can create any motif, in any style, custom fit to any size or proportion.


The process of removing the brush marks from, or simply texturing a wet coating by dabbing with a stippling brush, rag, sponge or paper.

Stucco / Stucco Lustro

An Italian word for plaster, in English meaning plaster work modelled or cast with a slow setting lime plaster in the traditional manner.


Highly durable, water-resistant and breathable, Tadelakt is a traditional Moroccan plaster finish that has a shiny and smooth appearance.


A painting technique where an emulsion binder such as egg yolk is used. Tempera paint does not discolour and the colours remain remarkably vivid and undamaged with the passing of time. This technique was popular with easel artists in the Middle Ages.


Refers to a colour to which white has been added to make it lighter.


The lightness or darkness of a colour.


Acquiring genuine tortoise shell is illegal, and as a result specialist decorators recreate the look using paints. This finish is particularly suited to smaller objects. Real tortoise shells come in an infinite variety of colours and designs.


A triptych is a work of art divided into three sections or carved panels and hinged together.

Trompe L'oeil

French term meaning ‘deceive the eye’. A technique in which the illusion of depth is created by emphasising highlights and shadows as if an element is seen under a defined light source.

Vandyke Crystals

Dark brown dye crystals formulated for staining wood and useful in wood graining.


Transparent finishes comprised of natural resins and drying oils.


The process of imitating the pattern of veins and fine lines of marble.

Venetian Plaster / Stucco Veneziano / Polished Plaster

The technique whereby pigments, marble dust and glue are added to the plaster, allowing it to be finely polished under the trowel and then laboriously polished to a gloss when dry. Devlin in Design have used many Venetian Plaster products to create a smooth surface with the illusion of depth and texture, such as Marmarino Classic, Marmorino Carrara, Intoanchino, and Tadelakt. The term covers a whole range of decorative plaster finishes – from the very highly polished Venetian plaster and Marmorino to the rugged look of textured polished plasters.


The green colour produced as a result of naturally occurring corrosion on copper, bronze and brass. This can be reproduced both chemically and with paint.

Verre Eglomise

Verre églomisé, from the French term meaning ‘glass gilded’, is a process where the reverse side of a piece of glass is gilded with gold or silver leaf using a gelatin adhesive. The result is a mirror-like, softly reflective surface that when combined with reverse painting techniques creates rich, shimmering and beautifully reflective pieces of artwork.


A very thin coating of a medium.


Thin, water based painting medium made up from pigment, gum Arabic, glycerin and water.

Water Gilding

This is the finest quality of gilding work, and most expensive. Water gilding is a delicate process where squares of metal leaf, a few microns thick, are laid with a brush onto a film of fine wet glue. The surface is usually built up with many layers of gesso, followed by one or two layers of bole before the fine glue is applied. Once dry, the leaf can be polished or burnished.

Wood Graining

Trees are comprised primarily of wood, a solid, fibrous material. The art of simulating wood with paint is referred to as faux wood, graining or wood graining and faux bois. To successfully duplicate a wood’s subtle beauty decorative painters must understand the elements of the tree from which it is taken, the configurations of its various grain patterns and colours.