Flat cabinet doors, door facings and walls can be drab. One solution is to add a faux raised panel effect to these surfaces to add architectural detail and depth. There are a number of different techniques you can use to create this effect, depending on the look you want, the surface you are working with and your skill level.
One of the simplest ways to achieve a faux raised panel is with a detail molding bead. Chair-rail mold and screen moldings work well for this purpose. Typically the pattern will be laid out as a concentric rectangle on a larger field, with mitered corners to create a constant line of molding around the panel. The molding can be pin nailed, or applied with a bead of construction adhesive or caulking along the back of the molding.
Another simple method that requires some special tool skills is to use a router detail. In this process, a cutout in the shape of the panel is made and clamped to the surface. A detail cut bit is installed into the router and the depth is set to less than half the thickness of the panel. Run the router around the inside of the cutout template to cut a detail line around the surface to create the faux panel look. You can heighten the effect by painting the bottom of the detail with either a darker or lighter color than the surrounding surface for contrast.
Faux Rails and Styles
This is the closest to a true raised panel. It works well on flat cabinet doors. Cut out side styles, or vertical trim, and top and bottom rails. Router the inside of the trim pieces with a router bit, such as a roundover, cove or ogee. Fit the pieces to the door to create a frame around the door, leaving the center of the area lowered. To provide more detail, cut a panel to fit the center area and apply it as well to make the center panel raised.
This technique works well for walls. Use a color similar to the wall color. The same tone a few shades darker can be used for a monochromatic wall, or use a color wheel and choose a complementary contrasting color. To give the panel even more depth, add a thin highlight of white along the top and one side of the panel, and a thin shadow of black along the bottom and opposite side. This creates a faux three-dimensional effect.