Crackle Paint Technique

Create cracks in paint to reveal the color underneath with these step-by-step instructions.

Crackle medium creates large and small cracks in a top coat of paint to let the base coat show through. It looks like a clear paste and has the consistency of paint. Craft stores sell it in small containers, and paint stores sell it in 1-quart and 1-gallon containers. Here's how to apply it:

Materials and Tools:

satin- or semigloss-finish paints
crackle medium
paintbrush (for latex paint)
roller and roller cover with ¼-inch nap
drop cloths
masking tape 

Steps:

  1. Select a satin- or semigloss-sheen base-coat paint that will contrast with and show through the cracks in your top coat nicely. Apply the base coat to your project surface, allowing the paint to dry at least overnight.

  2. Use masking tape to mask off any part of your project that you don't want to crackle. With a brush (or a brush and then a roller, depending on the size of your project), cut in the edges and roll on the crackle finish. Allow the crackle finish to dry (read the manufacturer's directions for drying time and any additional instructions or recommendations. Note: For small projects such as flowerpots and picture frames, you can do this step all at once. For larger projects such as furniture and walls, work one section at a time.

  3. Apply the crackle finish two ways with a natural sea sponge (which gives you small, random hairline cracks) or with a paintbrush (which creates much bigger cracks that generally flow in the direction you brush). Note: If you choose to use a brush on a wall, you're going to get a workout.

  4. Starting in a corner, apply the top coat. You need to work quickly, and once you've applied paint to a section, you need to move on, because the crackling will begin immediately. If you go back and apply more to an area or run the brush through it again, you'll erase the cracks. When blending brush strokes into a previously painted section, don't blend too far or you run the risk of pulling the crackle finish off the wall.

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