How to paint a shelf in a distressed look

Written by fiona fearey
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How to paint a shelf in a distressed look
Use two layers of paint in different colours for a distressed surface. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

New items look out of place in a collection of antique and vintage furnishings. But it is possible to blend an eclectic collection of furniture with faux finishes. Distressing surfaces to give them an instant ageing is a simple technique and does not require any special tools. Painting a shelf to look distressed is an appropriate project for painters of all levels of experience. Applying areas of wax prevents the paint on the top coat from adhering to the base coat, making the process of removing paint for a distressed finish less laborious.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sandpaper
  • Rag
  • 2 latex paint colours in a satin finish
  • 3-inch flat paintbrush with synthetic bristles
  • Beeswax

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  1. 1

    Sand the shelf to scuff a glossy finish. Wipe off the shelf with a damp rag.

  2. 2

    Apply a layer of latex paint for a base coat. Don't worry about achieving full coverage, as you will paint over this coat. This colour will show only in spots where the top coat of paint is distressed.

  3. 3

    Allow the base coat to dry. Rub beeswax on the shelf with a rag. Apply the wax to places where you will want the base coat to show through.

  4. 4

    Paint the finish coat of paint in the colour of your choice. Use a wide paintbrush. Apply even strokes, in the same direction as the wood grain. Let the paint dry.

  5. 5

    Rub the waxed areas with a rag to remove the top layer of paint. The paint will come off the waxed areas with ease. Lightly sand the shelf. Focus on removing paint from the edges of the shelf and other areas that would become naturally worn. Keep sanding the shelf until it shows the desired degree of wear and tear.

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