In my opinion, a project is not finished without at least slight distressing. I’m not saying everyone would agree with me on this but as a warning to those people, you may want to stop reading here because the rest of this post is going to go ahead full force as if that belief is fact ! Not everyone likes shabby, and that’s ok – I’ve finished lots of pieces for people and have had to walk away without distressing – it’s not always easy for me but I must respect that we don’t all have good taste, ahem.. I mean, the same taste (just kidding folks !).
The idea of distressing can cause some people enough distress to skip this step entirely, but I promise you… when done right (although, there aren’t many wrong ways to do it), it really adds to your pieces. It’s almost like proving that the piece has a story, it’s been somewhere, it’s been through some s**t – and in my home, there isn’t a piece without a story. Hell, my home could write a book.
Keep in mind as you read this that my biggest and best tip when it comes to distressing is that you distress areas that would naturally experience wear and tear over time. Ie. Focus on corners and edges and avoid larger flat surface areas.
There are a lot of options, and I’ll cover some of my favourites.
Dry brushing is a fairly simple technique, I usually do it with white paint or primer (for a more washed-out look). It’s best to use a lower quality brush but not one that will leave bristles behind. Dip the brush in the paint and remove most of the paint from your brush. Then, lightly apply the paint to the piece in long stokes, start light and add more layers to achieve desired look. Here’s a photo of my bathroom vanity finished this way.
Sanding can be done on paint finishes, and stain finished to add some wear to a piece. This method is simple and quick without the fuss of adding another product. Just simply sand as much or as little around the edges and corners to reveal the under layer of the piece, and then apply a top coat. I recommend starting with a fine grit sand paper and working your way up if more distressing is desired. Here is an example of the finish on a bed photo prop I made for Jen Harris Photography.
Chalk Paint & Dark Wax Distressing
Ok, there are many tutorials on youtube and pinterest regarding chalk paint / dark wax distressing so I won’t go into full detail here. Basically, you paint on the chalk paint, sand lightly or heavily (to your liking) around any corners, edges, and protrusions. Then apply dark wax to the piece all over, but especially in those cervices and places you just sanded. Once dry, cover the piece in clear wax for protection.
Another option with chalk paint, or any painted furniture is to use a dark stain like espresso and drybrush or lightly wipe on with a rag around corners/edges. This is best when trying to achieve heavy distressing. I did it on another little bed photo prop I made for Jen Harris Photography.
This is my favourite finish right now. It’s for the distressed lovers out there. Sometimes you get lucky and find a piece that already has layers of paint to work with and sometimes, you have to work a little harder for it and make the piece look as though it has weathered a lifetime of wear and tear.
I found this method on Pinterest from a Sawdust 2 Stiches blog post and after experimenting with it a few times, I am addicted and I love the authenticity this method produces.
First, stain your piece if you want a different colour to show through as the base layer. If you want the base layer to be the natural colour of your piece, then skip to the next step.
Second, find an old candle. Side note: as I only use Scentsy burners now, I tried the used wax from my burner and it worked very well … and it gives me another use instead of throwing the used wax in the trash
Third, rub the candle or wax over edges, corners, and parts of the surface where you would like the paint to chip off. Wipe off only the excess wax debris the wax crumbles left on the piece.
Then, paint your first colour over the wax. You can use the dry brush technique here if you want a really worn look. Once dry, use a scraper – if you don’t have a scraper, an old plastic card will work just fine. Scrape away the wax and this will leave an authentic chipped paint look. You can then add more wax and layer with more paint/different colours of paint and continue until the amount of wear you desire is attained.
Isn’t it wonderful?
There are so many options when it comes to a finish, and then you’re not done there, there are even more options at the distressing stage! These are my favourites and they are easy to accomplish for those of you who are brave enough to rough up your piece!!