How to Paint Concrete to Look Like Brick

Bricking a walkway -- or a wall -- is expensive and both labor- and time-intensive. But painting concrete to look like brick takes just a few hours of work and the cost of paint and rollers or sponges. A few methods make it work -- the more effort you put in to refine the details, the more your faux brick will fool the eye.

Roller Brick

The base for a brick wall, walkway or patio is a coat or two of grout-colored paint -- usually light gray or an off-white. Once you paint the "bricks" on top of it, the spaces between them look like real mortar. Use a concrete resurfacer for the primer coat; tint it darker gray if you want a different "grout" color. A 4-inch roller is perfect for rolling on uniform brick shapes. Use one 4-inch length to make brick borders that look like bricks on end, two lengths of the roller side-by-side to make 8-inch long bricks for the middle of a path or the bricks around a fireplace. Use brick-red or terra-cotta paint for the first pass, and give it some authenticity with a sponged or dry-brushed hint of lighter and darker brick and clay shades layered over the dry base bricks. Or just leave the bricks without detail -- they still simulate a brick surface at first glance, and maybe second glance, too.

Sponge Brick

Head for the hardware store and find a couple of synthetic sponges the size of a brick. New concrete has to cure: A freshly-poured patio or driveway can take up to a year to cure before you tackle it. But an older surface in need of facelift is ready for a coat of grout-colored concrete resurfacing, which acts as a bonding primer for the paint to grip. Tape areas to work in for a large job -- you need just an outline of a section to keep it more or less straight. Real brick is not uniformly perfect, so some rough edges or a minor slant here and there just looks normal. Pour a small amount of two paint colors in wide containers or on plastic-coated plates. Dampen the sponges and wring them out nearly dry; then barely touch them to the paint and press the bricks on the prepared concrete. The base coat of bricks should be more "solid" -- a bit of pressure but not much -- and the topcoat more rough and irregular -- barely pounce the sponge on the painted brick. Use an indoor or outdoor clear sealer over the dried brick to protect your work.

Stenciled Brick

After preparing the concrete for painting with a concrete surfacer in the color you want for the faux grout, tape a stencil on the wall, walkway or terrace and create an elaborate brick fantasy in whatever pattern appeals to you. Brick stencils come in fan, herringbone, cobble, basket-weave, facing brick, and irregular antique brick patterns to help you simulate the real deal. Choose your brick paint to match a photograph or an example of your pattern style: Vintage bricks might be faded and worn with pink and white tones; bricks around a fireplace could be sooty and time-darkened, especially for the hearth floor. Allow a section of painted brick to dry, once you remove the stencil, to avoid smearing your work when you tape the stencil down for the next section.

Freehand Brick

Michelangelo had nothing on you. Your eye is steady and your aim is true, so just pick up a brush and start bricking. But do yourself a favor and paint the entire floor, walkway or wall grout first. Painting brick on concrete is actually more work than the sponge or roller methods, but your inner artist can be seriously smug about it when you're finished. Embellishments such as spot sponging with a sea sponge to apply a bit of "smoke-blackening" or "aging" in a lighter or darker color are up to your patience and imagination. Paint a small area at a time so you can blend paint colors while they are still wet. Try a darker shade of red or brick on the bottom of each brick with a lighter shade towards the top and blot or rub the edges of additional color layers to simulate natural gradations in the clay. Tape the dry grout-painted surface with a few straight lines of painter's tape for reference so your freehand bricks don't make a leaning tower of Pisa by the time you've made it across the wall or patio floor.