When I first started this venture, my idea of how to distress painted furniture was taking some sandpaper to the finish to reveal some of the wood behind it. That is probably the most obvious method of distressing a painted finish. I have since learned that there are many ways to distress painted furniture. Keep reading to learn about a few of them and to see photos of these methods.
5 Ways To Distress Painted Furniture
- Sanding By Hand With Sandpaper: This is exactly what it sounds like. 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 top coat, some of these marks will disappear.
- Wet Sanding: This has become one of my favorite methods to distress painted furniture and works best with chalk-type paints. After your final coat of paint has dried, take a blue Scotch Brite sponge or soft lint-free cloth and dampen it with water. Wipe the area(s) where you want the paint to be removed. It doesn’t require much pressure at all to begin removing the finish. I like to use this method when I have layers of various colors of paint and I want to see the different layers of color.
- 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. Barely dip your paint brush in the desired color (a cheap chip brush is usually best) and dab off the excess on a paper towel. Then lightly and quickly brush the paint back and forth on your piece. This is fun to layer over an existing base color you’ve already painted or directly on a wood finish.
- Dark Wax: This isn’t technically distressing, but the idea behind distressing is to make something look old and weathered. Dark wax is a great option to do just that when you have something with lots of details. Simply apply the dark wax 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. I like these water-based gel waxes from Heirloom Traditions because they are easy to work with. Use a damp cloth to wipe back the excess wax for super easy removal. For the look below, go with Dark Umber.
A Couple Of General Distressing Tips
1. For any sanding/wet distressing technique, 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.
2. I always distress before applying a top coat. That way your top coat is protecting the entire finish, including the areas you sanded.
3. The general rule of thumb for where to distress your piece is to stick to the areas where the piece would normally receive wear. So along the edges, near the drawers knobs/pulls, around the base of the piece where feet might brush it on their way past, etc.
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!
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