The purchase of our beach cottage prompted my interest in painted and distressed furniture. I had very little experience with this process, but big dreams about reviving thrift store and Craig's List pieces of furniture. I had a lot to learn, which I soon realized when I got started. Overall, it was fun to get a chance to learn something new and get to apply it in so many different ways. This is a summary of my experience with these three methods over the past year.
These three methods can be used to create a weathered/distressed look when painting. Most of this information can be found within my individual posts for each project, but I decided a summary might be helpful for anyone looking for some general direction and advice. I'll start with the pro's and con's of each technique...
Provides a good look but takes some elbow grease to sand the paint down to the next level. This works on flat surfaces if you want a slightly scraped weathered look. If you want to weather corners and edges - using just sandpaper is possible, but note that candlewax will make the process easier. When you use sandpaper alone - you run the risk of weathering right past a layer you are trying to expose. Sandpaper alone is not a good choice if you are trying to achieve a chipped paint look exposing multiple layers of paint.
When using just sandpaper to distress, I wait until my piece is really dry. If the piece is still slightly wet, you might end up messing up your piece. Depending on the look you want, you can use any grit of sandpaper, I would recommend starting with a lighter grit (120 or less) and moving to heavier (80 or more) if you are not getting the results you want. Once I'm finished distressing, I typically finish my pieces off with a final coat or two of clear acrylic polyurethane if I am concerned about durability.
Here are some of my projects where I used sandpaper to do some weathering...
|The flat surface weathering was done here with just sandpaper. Note - candlewax was used to create the letters and it ws used on the edges/corners of the plaque. (See link to post here)|
|Sandpaper was used to weather this barn wood sign. It worked particularly well because of the texture of the barn wood. (See link to post here)|
|Nightstand distressed with sandpaper. (See link to post here)|
|Dive flag made from barn wood and distressed with sandpaper. (See link to post here)|
|Old Cola Crate painted and then sanded with sandpaper (See link to post here)|
|Chairs finished with a drift wood inspired painted finish with a light sanding to expose bare wood underneath. (See link to post here)|
A great option for weathering and exposing corners and edges. It is MUCH easier to remove paint with sandpaper if candlewax is applied prior to painting. The candlewax does a great job of preventing the paint from adhering to the surface, and it is easily scraped/sanded off. This is ideal for subtle distressing and tends to look more weathered than chipped. The application of candlewax is very easy, as you can simply focus on edges and corners and scratches and dents. If you want to have a more chipped paint effect - Vaseline is a better way to go.
Start with a base layer. This can be bare wood, stained wood or paint. To do this technique, take any old candle (I choose to use cream or white just so there aren't any issues with colors you don't want on your finished piece). Rub the candlewax on any surface where you will want the base layer exposed (corners, edges, cracks, dents, any area you want). Paint over the entire surface of your piece and let dry. Use sandpaper to remove the paint where you applied the candlewax. I typically finish my pieces off with a final coat or two of clear acrylic polyurethane if I am concerned about durability.
- Don't be afraid to apply enough candlewax. If I'm going over corners - I try to "over do it" onto the edges a little bit for a more visibly noticeable weathered effect, otherwise you might be disappointed.
- Use old pieces of sandpaper when weathering a piece after using candlewax - the sandpaper becomes gooped up with paint and candlewax and you will likely need to throw these pieces away.
- If you don't want any inadvertent scratches on the remaining paint - be careful to just sand the areas where the candlewax was applied (although, sometimes these scratches can add more character).
Here are some of my projects where I used candlewax to do some distressing...
|Dresser distressed using candlewax primarily on edges and corners. (See link to post here)|
|Wall plaque with letters created using a paper stencil and candlewax. (See link to post here)|
|Bar stools distressed using candlewax. (See link to post here)|
|Nightstands distressed using candlewax on corners and onto flat surfaces to create a pretty weathered effect. (See link to post here)|
|Candlewax used on light distressing of media table. (See link to post here)|
A great option for a chipped paint technique. This method takes some getting used to if using a lot of Vaseline on areas and brushing paint overtop (see tips below on this process). It's a little messy. Vaseline is really the way to go if you are trying to expose multiple layers of paint. Be sure you have a good distressing plan to avoid it looking too contrived.
Start with a base layer. This can be bare wood, stained wood or paint. With a small to medium sized artist brush, apply Vaseline to the areas where you wish for the base layer to be exposed. Next, paint over the entire surface of your piece. Note that where the Vaseline is - the paint will look messy and goopy - that's OK - just leave it - this will help you know where to scrape off the paint later. Let the paint mostly dry. Use a plastic scraper to remove the paint where you applied the Vaseline. You can also go over these areas lightly with sandpaper. Your piece will feel a little greasy after scraping off the paint from the residual Vaseline. Clean up with a little all-purpose cleaner before doing any more layers of paint or polyurethane. If you are doing multiple layers of different colored paint - simply keep repeating this process. I typically finish my pieces off with a final coat or two of clear acrylic polyurethane if I am concerned about durability.
- Apply the Vaseline with a small to medium sized artist brush.
- If you are brushing on paint over Vaseline - be prepared for the paint on top of the Vaseline to look goopy and messed up. Know that it's OK - leave it that way. Resist the temptation to try to smooth it out - you are going to scrape off this paint anyway. Furthermore - that goopy look will later help you identify what you need to scrape off.
- After using Vaseline on a piece it will feel a little greasy/slimy. I recommend going over your piece with a little all purpose cleaner and a wipe with a cloth rag. This is important if you are going to apply additional coats of paint for distressing (more Vaseline can be applied to focused areas after cleaning up the piece to prepare for the next coat of paint). It is also important if you are applying a coat of polyurethane.
- Use a plastic scraper when removing paint for the Vaseline technique. A metal scraper can tend to scratch where you don't want it to.
Here are some of my projects where I used Vaseline to do some chipped paint looks...
|Distressed chest of drawers created with both Vaseline and candlewax. (See link to post here)|
|End table heavy distressed with Vaseline as well as candlewax. (See link to post here)|
GENERAL MISTAKES TO AVOID
- If you are trying to expose a wood stain as a base coat - and if you have to do some sanding to prepare for painting (to rough up a top coat of polyurethane) - be sure to sand lightly in order to avoid going all the way down to the bare wood.
- Also, if you are trying to expose wood stain and have mistakenly sanded down to bare wood in some areas (don't worry) - just place candlewax or Vaseline on the stained areas (rather than bare wood) so the stained areas will be exposed with your distressing (rather than bare wood).
- Distressing Plan - If you are doing heavy distressing - don't make what I call the leopard print mistake (a bunch of small areas of distressing placed over the entire area of your piece). It will look very silly and contrived. A good plan - distress edges and corners, distress existing scratches/dents and imperfections, if you want to create large areas (example with Vaseline to create large areas of chipped paint - pick a few large areas to distress. See this post on my experience with heavy distressing.
|What NOT to do when distressing - "the leopard print mistake". See a better example of distressing here.|
- Test the paint techniques on small scrap pieces. It's worth the time to help you understand how these different techniques work, and do a test run of paint colors.
- I'm a big fan of using Lowe's paint samples - they are only $3 each - and you can have them mix any custom color you want. Note - The Valspar samples only come in Satin Latex.
- If you are doing heavy distressing and focusing on large areas - I have found using chalk to mark out your distressing plan on a piece is very helpful. It can identify your areas of distressing and can easily be wiped off after candlewax or Vaseline has been applied.
- Use the existing scratches and dents on a piece to your advantage. Focus on these areas for some distressing. Real scratches or dents don't look manufactured or contrived like some faux distressing.