John Faed was the elder brother of James Faed, the engraver. He painted scenes from stories and poems of Scottish authors. The early part of his career was spent in Edinburgh, having studied life drawing and painting at The Trustees' Academy.
He visited the Middle East in 1857 and in the 1860s he moved to London where his other brother, Thomas, was having considerable success. He also had a house at Gatehouse-of-Fleet, near where he had been born, to which he returned in the 1880s.