Trompe Loeil Stenciling

Trompe l'oeil is a French term for 'deceive the eye.’

It is an art technique involving realistic imagery in order to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects appear in three dimensions, instead of actually being a two-dimensional painting. Pronounced “trum ploy,” it is a fun art form that is experiencing a recent revival in interior decorating along with the faux finish style of painting.

This beautiful painting by Tori Hinn is a great example of Tromp e Loeil Painting. (Yes! It's painted!)

What this page has to offer you: A Short History, Tips on Painting and links to fun projects that will inspire you and show you how to use some simple rules to pull off the trick. Plus you'll find a great video below!

For a view into a project which transformed two plain doors into a show stopper go to Tromp e Loeil Stencils.

A Short History

Although the phrase has its origin in the Baroque period, history shows that the Art of Trompe l'oeil Painting has been used for over two thousand years and as a painting style dates back to 400 B. C. Ancient examples of trompe l’oeil art have been lost but some murals exist in the ruins of Pompeii which are dated back to the first century A.D.

After the discovery of perspective in the fifteenth-century, the trompe l'oeil style in mural painting flourished. Artists used these techniques in perspective to create false openings. A typical mural might depict a window, door, or hallway, intended to suggest more space.

In Europe, the wealthy and clergy used this form of three dimensional art on a two-dimensional surface extensively. Churches and grand cathedrals became a common place for these paintings, giving them the appropriate splendor they deserved. The walls and ceilings of palaces, villas and homes of the rich were decorated with trompe l'oeil paintings, opening rooms to a grander scale. Rich architectural elements, like columns, pillars and arches were painted adding to the sophistication of their interiors.

A version of an oft-told ancient Greek story concerns a contest between two renowned painters. Zeuxis produced a still life painting so convincing that birds flew down from the sky to peck at the painted grapes. He then asked his opponent, Parrhasius, to pull back a pair of very tattered curtains, believing the painting was behind them. Parrhasius won the contest, as his painting was the curtains themselves.

If you want to see the tips and ideas on this page put to the test, just click on the picture of the Painted Mail Plaque when you finish reading this page, because I put together some notes and photos of a project I completed on the doors in my own home.

Trompe L'oeil is easy with stencils! The book below has several designs that will allow you to put images in place that will pull off the trick.

Antique Door Hardware: A Book of Stencils

This collection includes 5 designs- Lion Head Door Knocker, Key Bow, Lock Plate and Mail Box Plaque (with two word options). These images should add a little fun and even some humor to the doors in your home while they introduce a touch of the past.

This purchase is of a PDF file with 25 pages.

Price: $9.95

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To get this book in print for just $19.95 click here:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Solution Graphics

Tips on Painting Trompe L'Oeil

In order for a painting to make the illusion believable and accomplish the trick, some basic principles need to be applied. The first concerns perspective, which allows the eye to see an illusion of three dimensional space on a flat piece of paper. Simply put, objects get smaller the farther away they are. Perspective can be tricky and that makes working with stencils a great advantage. They provide the correct perspective for you.

In most cases, for the illusion to be effective it can only be viewed form one position. If the viewer moves, the painting becomes distorted.

Also when painting objects within your mural make sure that they are completely contained within the paintings' borders or wrapped around edges and/or corners. If something is partially portrayed or cut off abruptly it will immediately give the subject away as a painting and will not trick or fool someone into believing it is real. Remember you do want the it to eventually be recognized as a painting, but you do need a little time to accomplish the trick.

Here are some ways to help in accomplishing your trompe l'oeil painting:

Study the lighting of the room where you intend to paint the subject, make sure your shadows, 
shading and lighting in the piece of art match the light sources in the room.

Make sure the objects you are painting make sense in the intended surroundings.

Pay close attention to their size, they need to be life size or at least sized right according to the perspective.

Trompe L Oeil Key Bow Stencil

Most Trompe l'oeil paintings depict inanimate or stationary objects. Plant life, animals and people are usually expected to move, so the true trick would be lost. However in today's field these are all very common subject matters so don’t shy away from using these objects in your painting.

I am so sure that you can do this and that you'll love the results I created a free stencil for you to try. Just click on the image to the right for the free stencil, written instructions and even a video so you can follow along with me while I paint this Antique Key Bow on a door in my home.

Lion Head Door Knocker Stencil

You’ll be amazed at what you can do with a little paint and some stencils. These doors were transformed from plain dark brown stained doors to this! Follow along as I tell you how it was done with Trompe Loeil Stencils.

I truly hope that you have found what you were searching for and I hope you give this fun art style a try.

And hey! Don’t forget that I (and everyone else) want to see what you have done with your Trompe L’oeil Stencils (or any of your stenciling arts and crafts for that matter). Just click on Contact Me to get your masterpiece showcased here on this web site. Won’t that be exciting! Or if you have any questions or want to share information join in on the Stencil Blog. Well, I hope to hear from you soon.

Happy Stenciling,


P.S. If you're looking for Stencil Designs (like these), that you can open at your computer and print now or save (No waiting on the Mail Man), just check out our Stencils Catalog for your next project.

If you’d rather get your Stencil Pattern Books in Print, then visit our Printer’s Book Shop for the same designs in book format that will be mailed to you. You’ll find all of the stencils used as examples throughout this site.

Would you like to build a web site like this one and turn a passion into a business? Well, if I did it, you can too. Don't think that you have to be a web designer and know all about computer codes and complicated html stuff. I didn't. With Solo Build It! it's easy and they have the tools in place to help you build pages and teach you how to create a successful web site. Want more information? Just click on Powered by Solo Build It! and watch a cool video that will explain everything. I know you'll get excited like I did.

Oh wait! Here's that great video I promised you. Enjoy!

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