Distressing Old Furniture with Paint: DIY Tutorial

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Want to bring color and character to your room? Paint your furniture. It’s easy and it creates a fun, energetic vibe. Especially if you’re constrained to boring white walls because of rental agreements.

My landlord provided me with my dresser, so I didn’t have to search for one. But you can find a functional, used piece of furniture at a garage sale for very cheap. Even if the knobs are missing, you can buy new ones for around 5 dollars.

I finished this dresser in about a day and got all my supplies from my local hardware store.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • Satin Latex Paint (base coat)
  • Satin Latex Paint (brown, white)
  • Wood Finish
  • Painting supplies
  • Screwdriver (to remove hardware)
  • Sander or Sandpaper
  • Furniture to be distressed

Prep
Remove drawers and hardware.

What I learned after: I’d suggest setting up your entire work space before you even start. Lay down your newspaper, open your paint, and have your paint supplies ready.

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Sand

Sand the entire piece. Pay close attention to corners and edges (where a piece would naturally get roughed up). Sand all the flat surfaces, then the corners and edges. Wipe down the piece once you have completed this step.

What I learned after: I used a handheld sanding block because I’m lazy and it was available, but I really didn’t need it. A coarse piece of sandpaper and some arm strength will work just fine.

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Paint

Apply a coat of the base color you chose. Let this dry completely (about 2 hours).

What I learned: I used a gallon of Clark + Kensington Turquoise Bay. I loved the color, but used less than a quarter of it. I definitely could’ve gotten away with buying a quart.

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Distress

Now for the fun part. This is where you’ll use your brown and white paint. I mixed mine with a little water to dilute the colors. Dip the tip of your brush–and I mean the very tip–into the brown paint. Stroke it a few times on newspaper to remove any excess paint. The brush should have as little paint on it as possible. Using that brush, paint a coat of “stokes” wherever you want it to look distressed. Once that has dried, do the same thing with your white paint.

What I learned: I found that the more dried out I could get the brush before I used it, the more authentic my stokes looked.

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Finish

Once you’re happy with the look you’ve created and the paint has had a chance to dry, apply a coat of wood finish. This will afford a rustic look by adding a brownish-tint. I chose a golden pecan color. If you want, you could sand the edges once more using a very find sandpaper (360- to 600-grit) when everything has dried. Now just add your hardware and enjoy your new creation!

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6 thoughts on “Distressing Old Furniture with Paint: DIY Tutorial

  1. I love the colors you used!! Could you tell me what colors, brands? What type of brush did you use? Also wondering if it could be done with a piece that isn’t solid wood?

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  2. Thank you! I used Clark + Kensington Turquoise Bay, Bark Brown, and New Canvas. I also used a Miniwax wood finish. I used a roller for the Turquoise and just regular bristled brushes for the rest. I would say you should be fine doing it with a piece that isn’t solid wood. Good luck! 🙂

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