Decorative Paint Technique: Distressing Instructions

From our online exclusive Decorative Paint Techniques with Danielle Hirsch of Color Splash . Distressing is the modern approach to creating a timeless treasure. Follow these instructions from Danielle Hirsch.


Distressing is the modern approach to creating a timeless treasure.

Difficulty level: 2.5 out of 5

Danielle's Tips

  • Universal tints never dry unless mixed with another agent. If you spill some on the drop cloth, throw it away or cut out the stained area.
  • Paint with the grain of the wood to alleviate brush marks.

Materials and Tools:

wax (Original, Dark Brown) – Briwax
220-grit sandpaper
universal tint (Burnt Umber) – CAL-TINT® by Degussa
clear latex interior wood stain – Pratt & Lambert
unfinished piece of furniture
china bristle brushes
very fine steel wool
distressing items (hex bolts, wire brush, chain, nails, screws, hammer, chisel)
latex glaze (Studio Finishes 405) – Benjamin Moore
plastic containers
latex paint, eggshell sheen (Black 2132-10, Lafayette Green HC-135, Covington Blue HC-138) – Benjamin Moore


1. Practice this technique on scrap wood before distressing the chosen piece. Use the hex bolts tied on wire, the wire brush, chain, nails, screws, hammer and chisel to remove the newness of the piece.

2. Mix one squeeze of Burnt Umber universal tint into the wood stain, and use a brush to apply it to the entire piece. Let dry thoroughly. This latex stain mixture dries fast and isn't as toxic as oil. It also seals the wood so it can be painted later.

3. Mix eight parts Black paint with one part water and sparingly brush the mixture on with the grain of the wood where desired. The brush should be practically dry, which will mean less sanding for an antiqued look later. Let dry.

4. Mix one part Lafayette Green with one part glaze and one part water. In another container, mix one part Covington Blue with one part glaze and one part water. Lightly brush the colors onto the same areas as desired.

5. Once dry, use sandpaper (or a wire brush in hard-to-reach areas) to remove portions of the paint and stain in areas you'd expect wear and tear to be.

6. Use steel wool and wax to shine/scuff the entire piece, which will add instant age.

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