When I first started painting furniture, my idea of creating a distressed look was taking some sandpaper to a painted finish to reveal some of the wood behind the finish. That is probably the most obvious description of distressing a painted finish. I have since learned that there are many methods to achieve a distressed look and thought I would share a few of them with you along with photos of these methods.
- Sanding By Hand With Sandpaper: This is just what it sounds like. You take a piece of sandpaper and strategically choose areas to sand back the painted finish, revealing the wood behind the paint. Sometimes this results in residual scratches surrounding the area from which you intended to remove the paint. Once you apply a finish, some of these marks will disappear.
- Wet Sanding: This has become one of my favorite methods of distressing and only works with chalk-based paints. After your final coat of paint has dried, take a blue Scotch Brite sponge and dampen it with water. Wipe the area where you want the paint removed to dampen the paint and then use the scouring pad side to gently rub the dampened area. It doesn’t require much pressure at all to begin removing the finish.
- Using A Power Sander: This is quick and kind of fun and gives a more heavy distressed look. Just take an orbital sander with 220 grit sand paper to your piece in the desired areas.
- Dry Brushing: Another favorite of mine is dry brushing. This is done by barely dipping your paint brush in the desired color (a cheap chip brush is usually best) and dabbing off the excess on a paper towel. Then lightly and quickly brush the paint back and forth on your piece. This can be fun to layer over an existing base color you’ve already painted or directly on a wood finish.
- Dark Wax: Using dark wax is a great option to make something look old and weathered. Simply apply the dark wax with a wax brush and wipe away the excess. You can cover an entire piece in dark wax or choose to use it in strategic areas of the piece.
If you choose to use a sanding technique of any kind, remember to start with light pressure until you get a feel for how much paint is being removed. Then you can apply more pressure as needed to achieve the look you want. Also regarding sanding, I always distress before applying a finish. Some people do it the opposite way. I think it’s really a personal preference. There isn’t a wrong or right order for distressing and finishing.
I would love to know what your favorite distressed look is and if you’ve tried any of these methods. Leave a comment below and thanks for reading!