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How to Distress Wood With Paint

Updated March 23, 2017

Shabby chic decor adds character to a room. You can create a distressed look for your wood furniture with paint and a few other materials. Choose one colour as a base coat, and another as the top coat. Select complementary colours, since the base coat will show through the top coat once you start distressing the wood. A piece of distressed wooden furniture can be created in just one weekend.

Create dents in the wood with a hammer, mallet or sock filled with nuts and bolts. The amount of distress you create is up to you. Swing the object against the wood many times with great force to create a very distressed look, or just a few times with minimal force to create more subtle distress.

Sand the entire surface with sandpaper. The thickness of the paint and finish on the wood will determine the grit of sandpaper necessary; the thicker the existing finish, the heavier the grit you should use.

Wipe down the wood with a damp cloth to eliminate the dust created from sanding.

Apply a coat of primer with a brush or roller if there is already a coat of paint on the wood. Follow the manufacturer's drying time recommendations to allow the primer to dry fully.

Apply a base coat of flat colour with a brush or roller in the direction of the wood grain. The colour that you choose will show through in the finished piece. Allow the paint to dry overnight.

Use a rag to apply a thin coat of paste wax over the areas of the wood that you plan to distress with sandpaper later. Allow the wax to dry for one hour.

Apply a coat of wood glaze to the entire surface with a paintbrush. Use strokes that run in the direction of the wood grain. Let the glaze dry overnight, but not more than 24 hours.

Use sandpaper to scratch away the glaze on the areas where paste wax was applied. Pay special attention to areas that naturally wear, such as corners, to give your piece a more naturally distressed look.

Apply polyurethane to the entire surface with a brush to seal the paint. Allow the polyurethane to dry per the manufacturer's instructions before you attempt to touch or move your furniture.

Things You'll Need

  • Hammer
  • Mallet
  • Sandpaper
  • Damp rag
  • Primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Paste wax
  • Rag
  • Paint
  • Polyurethane
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About the Author

Lara Webster has been writing professionally since 2009. Her work has been featured on Relationships in the Raw, The Nursery Book, Spark Trust and several travel-related websites. Webster holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in mass communication and media studies, both from San Diego State University.