The best way to practice distressing techniques is on an old piece of furniture that is either a thrift store find, or something you don't mind donating if the end result is not what you expected. Don't begin your experiment with pieces that are valuable or antique furniture passed down in your family until you have tried this technique and are confident in the results.
Distressing adds a lot of interest and detail on painted furniture. It is the one technique that will improve a painted finish guaranteed! Over the years of selling white furniture, I have had more men love distressing than women. Distressing can look primitive, rustic and even masculine.
Your painted furniture should either have one coat or multiple coats of paint in the same color with bare wood under the paint. When distressing the piece of furniture, you should see the top color and the wood.
For a layered effect, use a neutral color as your base coat such as gray or black. When you distress the furniture, black will also show along side the natural wood color and your top coat paint color.
The worst thing you can do with distressing is have a white primer under a color. If your top color is white, then, it works just fine. Although you don't want a red dresser with white paint peeking through.
The way to get around this is to fully sand your furniture before painting so you will have one coat of paint and your natural wood color which shows through distressing.
1. Distressing can be very simple. The first way of distressing is with sandpaper. Start by sanding it with fine sandpaper in the direction of the wood grain. This will greatly improve the look of your finished piece. Sand in the areas which would get banged up over time. The edges of the chest, the feet, the areas around the handle. You want your distressing to look as natural as possible. Use a hand sander, or a foam sander for great results.
2. Heavy distressing involves more than just sandpaper. Metal chains whipped on to a wood chest can depressions to the piece. Be careful that your distressing is random, and not obvious such as a screw driver, or a hammer. Chains work quite well for heavy distressing because the indents will be random than purposeful.
A. Now you want to emphasize the marks you made. You can either use a wood stain in walnut, or brown glazing. Either of these two colors will give the impression of dirt. Both techniques are simply done by painting on a coat of glaze or stain, and wiping it off quickly. Be sure not to use flat white paint with either two approches, as both the glaze and stain will permanently stain the white.
Antique Walnut Polyshade in Satin, or Pecan Polyshade in Satin are great stains to use over white or a color. Apply it with a brush and paint thinner, and wipe it off with a rag.
Be sure to wear throw away Vinyl gloves through this process, as it will save the time getting the chemicals off your skin once you are finished. Vinyl gloves stay on your hands easier than latex and can be used many times before throwing them away through out your painting projects
Simply paint on the stain or the glaze, and within a couple minutes after it sets and dries, wipe the stain off the piece which should leave just enough stain to collect in the holes to emphasize the distressed wood. Often times after glazing I like to add a polycrylic sealant to the furniture. With stain no sealant is necessarily. Enjoy your new antique looking white furniture!
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