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How To Make Painted Furniture Look Old

There are several special techniques to make freshly painted furniture look old. For today’s furniture makeover, I actually used a combination of techniques. I painted the chest, distressed it heavily with a power sander, used a toner to age the paint, and then I finished up with dark wax.

How To Make Painted Furniture Look Old

The 5 steps to antique painted furniture  or to make painted furniture look old are easy, really easy. The whole process can be completed in a day or two depending on the type of paint used. I’m listing the 5 steps here along with a detailed tutorial and photos.

I started on this chest of drawers a few days ago and finished up yesterday. It could actually be completed in one day if you don’t have a ton of errands to run or anything like that.

Step 1. Select the proper paint.

When I say the proper paint I’m really referring to the paint sheen. A flat or matte finish works best for the antiquing process. Satin or eggshell can also be used with slightly different results. The glossier finishes will not soak up the toner or wax we use to make the furniture look old. The paint brand or type doesn’t matter so much.

I’ve used Caromal Colours Textured Paint, Reclaim Beyond Paint, Behr latex flat paint, and Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint on the pieces I’ve antiqued. I wouldn’t suggest using chalk paint because it really grabs onto the antiquing products and the look is too dark. The process usually involves applying the toner or some kind of glaze and wiping it back to get the right amount of aging or antiquing. With chalk paint once the paint soaks up the toner it’s hard to wipe off.

The Reclaim paint has a slight sheen and it looks great antiqued but I do prefer the flatter look of the other paints. I’m definitely not saying these are the only paint choices to achieve the perfect antiqued look. These are the ones I’ve used.

furniture project before Petticoat Junktion

This is the piece before painting. I got this chest at ….you guessed it……My Favorite Junk Shop. I think I paid $40 for it and we only had to do a few minor repairs.

reclaim paint flat finish Petticoat Junktion
Step 2. Paint the furniture

I used the Caromal Colours Paint for this project. It is trademarked by Country Living and the color is Peppercorn (black). I love this paint. It’s really thick and you can spread it on thin or mush it on for a textured country look. The paint is made to stick to anything. It’s great for painting cabinets. A name-brand black latex paint with a flat sheen would also be a great paint choice.

I applied one coat of paint on the chest. When distressing a piece heavily I don’t worry about covering every little bit of furniture with the paint. Why waste paint….I’m taking a lot of it off later! Of course, just distressing painted furniture makes it look old too.

Step 3. Distress the paint.

Of course just distressing painted furniture makes it look old and you could stop there but we are going a few steps further. I use 60 or 80 grit sandpaper and distress the whole piece with an electric sander. The lower the number of the sandpaper the coarser the grit and the more paint it takes off. I normally use 100 or 150 to distress paint. The gray/white crazed looking part will go away…trust me.

paint after distressing Petticoat Junktion

One drawer after distressing. Yep, it looks rough but it’ll be okay. I call this look heavily distressed.

Step 4. Apply toner.

*Important. Wait until the paint has cured for at least 24 hours or maybe 3-4 days depending on the type of paint used. If the paint hasn’t dried long enough when you apply the toner and wipe it down it may remove some of the paint. The Caromal Colours paint I used dries to a hard finish that really, really adheres to the furniture surface. I only waited a few hours before applying the toner to this piece.

applying caromal colours toner for antiquing Petticoat Junktion


How to apply the Caromal Colours Toner:

I use an inexpensive chip brush to brush the toner on. In the photo above the toner has been applied to the drawer front only. I apply the toner all over then wipe it off with a dry cloth. The dry cloth leaves a lot of the toner behind. To remove most of the toner I use a damp rag. The more toner left on the furniture the more old and aged the paint will look. Removing a lot of the toner gives the furniture a slightly aged appearance.

On black or dark paint it really doesn’t make a lot of difference. On white paint the toner shows up a lot so a damp rag works best. I have a complete tutorial on the toner here. Wait until the toner is completely dry before moving on to step 5.

applying dark wax Petticoat Junktion

Step 5. Apply a dark wax to make

Once the toner is dry I apply a coat of Howard’s Wax in Golden Oak or Walnut using a lint free cloth. Old sheets are perfect! The wax dries in about 15 minutes then I buff it with a dry lint free rag.

All Done!

distressed Black painted chest Petticoat Junktion

You can make paint look old by just using one of the products, either the toner or the dark wax. The wax gives the paint a nice patina so I try to always use it over the toner. Find a project here where I only used the dark Howards’ wax….The Secret To Antiquing Furniture The Easy Way

5 steps to antique painted furniture Petticoat Junktion

 How To Make Painted Furniture Look Old

Quick Video Tutorial: How to Antique Painted Furniture Using Caromal Colours Toner

Find Howard’s Wax here , Caromal Colours Toner here,  and my favorite DIY Products here.

Thanks for being here and have a great weekend, Kathy

Kathy Owen founder of Petticoat Junktion
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Author: Kathy Owen
Kathy Owen is the founder of the home decor blog Petticoat Junktion where she shares tutorials on painting furniture and upcycling thrifty finds into unique home décor. Her DIY projects have been featured on the Home Depot Blog, Plaid Crafts, Behr Designer Series, and in numerous magazines. Kathy’s newest website is HappyHomeDIY.com

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  1. Hi Kathy! This looks awesome! I have never heard of this name brand paint and toner. Where do you buy it? One more question, the wax is colored? Hmm. I may have to try this.

  2. Thanks for the post! Love the finished dresser, so beautiful. wondering, Is there any prep to the furniture needed with the Country Living paint?

  3. You stuff is so delightful…I wish I lived closer…. what is toner? is it like a glaze I don’t think I have seen toner in a paint store – although I haven’t really looked.

  4. Good Morning Kathy~ Thank you for sharing the tutorial. Dark paint has intimidated me. You make it look quite simple. Your other projects are always spot on. Have a Beauty-full day.