As a DIY farmhouse blogger, I’m no stranger to painting furniture. I put together these 5 tips for antiquing & distressing painted furniture to share with you what I’ve learned along the way.
The following tips are for antiquing and distressing a project to look like an actual vintage piece. In other words, these tips are for making a project look like what it would if the aging process happened naturally. Now, I have no problem with projects that don’t follow that rule. It’s just my personal preference to keep my projects looking as close to authentic vintage pieces as possible.
1. Chalk paint is the best paint to use on a project you want to antique and distress.
Chalk paint (or something similar, like milk paint) is the way you want to go if you want to antique or distress a project after painting it. Not only does chalk paint give a project vintage look right off the bat, antiquing and distressing techniques come out much better on a chalk paint finish hands down.
2. Use antiquing wax on inner crevices and corners.
Antiquing wax is meant to be applied in corners, crevices, etc. on a project where dust would normally catch and be hard to clean. The examples above are from my Chalk Paint Entertainment Center Makeover. One way to tell is to imagine you were trying to dust the project in question after it had been sitting in an attic for many years. What areas would the dust be hardest to clean off? That’s where you want to apply the antiquing wax.
Once you’ve applied the anitquing wax, blend it in and outwards a bit so it looks natural. One of the most common newbie mistakes I see is to apply it evenly to the entire project instead of focusing on the inner crevices and corners, which results in the project looking “dirty” instead of aged. It can also result in changing the paint color, especially with lighter colored paints. If you do want to apply antiquing wax to the entire project, make sure to apply it very sparingly on the flat areas (mixing it with clear wax helps) and wipe it off immediately.
3. Distress outer edges and corners.
If you have a lot of detailed work on your project like my Shabby Chic Fall Wreath Tutorial pictured above, it might be a bit confusing what to distress in order to get an authentic look. Basically, you want to distress almost everything that “sticks out.” I use the word almost because you don’t have to drive yourself crazy making sure you distress every little bump and edge. Wearing – which is what you’re trying to imitate by distressing – doesn’t occur evenly, so you should just shoot for somewhat symmetrical look (so the project doesn’t have a “lopsided” look when finished) without driving yourself crazy making sure you’ve distressed every single bump and ridge.
4. Go with the grain on smooth or flat surfaces.
The two pictures above are from an old table that has aged naturally over time. You can see how paint wore off along the grain in the wood. This, in my opinion, looks the most natural for distressing any flat or smooth areas.
In order to achieve the same effect, sand your project with the grain using sweeping motions like you would if you were sweeping a floor. If you work against the grain, the finish will look more like it was banged up instead of naturally worn.
Antiquing wax can be applied in these areas, but should be wiped almost completely off to give the paint a vintage look without making it look dirty as I explained in tip #2.
5. Less is more!
I always feel that less is more with any project you’re trying to make look vintage. In the two pics above from my Picture Frame Herb & Flower Drying Rack. I really tried to take it easy on the antiquing wax on the frame since it was a pretty simple frame with no detail work. I actually put more wax on the wire rack part where all the wires crossed because that is where the most dust would have gathered naturally.
Let me know what you think of 5 tips for antiquing & distressing painted furniture, or if you have any tips of your own to share!