How to get the antique white distressed look on cabinets

Written by brynne chandler
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How to get the antique white distressed look on cabinets
Always prime your cabinets before brushing on the white paint. (les pinceaux image by richard villalon from

The familiar saying is that everything old is new again, but with modern painting materials and techniques, you can make even the newest cabinets look old and well-loved. Antique white distressed cabinets are often referred to as "shabby chic," and they can be very expensive to buy in small boutiques and antique shops. Fortunately, it's not hard to distress white paint.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Small bowl
  • De-greasing cleanser
  • Sponge
  • Warm water
  • Bucket
  • Clean, lint-free shop cloths
  • Primer
  • White, water-based paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Crackle glaze
  • 180-grit sandpaper
  • Water-based polyurethane spray

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  1. 1

    Use the screwdriver to remove the cabinet doors. Put the screws and hardware in a small bowl so you can find them later. Empty the cabinets.

  2. 2

    Clean the cabinet doors and the frames with the degreasing cleanser. Gentle dish soap works well. Go over the cabinet doors and frame with a sponge soaked in clear water to rinse off any soap residue, then wipe them dry with a clean, lint-free cloth.

  3. 3

    Apply a coat of primer to the cabinet doors and frames. Make sure the primer you use is compatible with the paint. Let the primer dry completely

  4. 4

    Put a coat of paint on top of the primer and let it dry completely.

  5. 5

    Paint a thin layer of crackle glaze onto your cabinet doors and frame, and let it dry completely.

  6. 6

    Apply another layer of paint over the crackle glaze. Work quickly, and always in the same direction, because the crackle effect will start immediately. Let the crackle glaze dry completely, according to the instructions on the label.

  7. 7

    Use the sandpaper to lightly sand off areas of the cabinet that would naturally wear down over time, like the corners, edges and around the handles or pulls. You can gouge out larger chips with a putty knife, but an authentic antique look is more subtle. Wipe off the sanding dust with a clean, lint-free cloth.

  8. 8

    Apply one or two coats of water-based spray polyurethane to seal your cabinets. Let each coat dry thoroughly, then replace all of the hardware and rehang the doors.

Tips and warnings

  • The thicker the layer of paint you put over the crackle glaze, the larger the "crackles" will be.
  • Always use paint and polyurethane spray in a well-ventilated area.

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