Home » Painted Furniture » How To Distress Latex Paint Using Sandpaper – Dresser Makeover

How To Distress Latex Paint Using Sandpaper – Dresser Makeover

There is a right way and a wrong way to distress latex paint using sandpaper. If you use coarse grit sandpaper and go at the paint like a mad man then the paint will be scratched up instead of distressed. I speak from experience. Distress Latex Paint Using Sandpaper

I distressed the latex paint on this vintage dresser the proper way. I used 220 grit sandpaper and achieved a nice smooth distressed finish without scratches. The finer grit sandpaper and a gentle hand with the sandpaper makes for a perfect distressed paint finish. I made a short video showing you how I distressed the edges and details on the vintage dresser. 

furniture fixer upper makeovers by diy bloggers

Today is Furniture Fixer Upper Day and as usual the girls have outdone themselves with the paint makeovers. Be sure and check them out after I walk you through the dresser makeover!

how to distress latex painted furntiure - dresser makeover

I have a question for you guys so think about it while reading the project details and looking at the photos. Do you like the contrast of the off-white mirror and gray paint or would you prefer the dresser and mirror be the same color?

dresser (2)

The small photo above is a picture from the online auction where I bought the dresser and mirror. I think I paid $65 for the dresser.

vintage dresser with mirror to paint

Once I got it home I checked it over and it was in pretty good shape. I did put a couple of nails in one of the drawers where the front and side were joined.

dovetail drawer on vintage dresser

As you can see the drawers are solid wood and the joints are dovetailed. The piece was probably pricy in it’s day.

dirty furniture

There was a lot of dust on the inside and I vacuumed it out before grabbing the Simple Green for an all over cleaning job.

dirty furniture knobs

There was dust and lint on the backsides of the drawer pulls too. Always remove drawer pulls and handles before painting furniture

furniture makeover

I also like to put a small piece of painters tape over the drawer pull screw holes on the inside of the drawer front to keep paint from leaking into the drawers. 

Painters tape on a mirror

And since I’m a messy painter I line the outside of the mirror around the frame with painters tape to keep from getting paint on the mirror.oops paint

The gray oops paint is Behr Paint & Primer In One Latex paint. I bought it a while ago at Home Depot. It’s a pretty color but I decided to lighten it up a bit. 

mix paints together for a custom paint color

I poured a bit of off-white paint from a small sample jar into the gray paint until I was happy with the color. 

Distress Furniture With Sandpaper Tutorial

Does the mirror seem a little frufru for the dresser or is that just me? I painted it with Behr color Swiss Coffee. 

{find all of the reasons I like latex paint for furniture here}

how to paint a mirror

The paint was really, really, white and I felt it would definitely be too much of a contrast to the gray paint. So I added a bit of the gray paint to the white just to give it a gray tone and darken the paint just a bit. Then I brushed on a second coat of paint.

mixing paint to paint furniture pulls

I also mixed paint colors for the drawer pulls. I wanted the pulls to be just a tad darker than the dresser.

painting a drawer pull

I really can’t tell much difference in the drawer pull color and the dresser color when looking at the finished dresser.

Distress Latex Paint Using Sandpaper - Dresser Makeover

Everyone knows distressing paint adds depth and it is an easy job to distress drawer pulls. I used 3M  flexible 22o grit sandpaper to distress the drawer pulls. The higher the grit number on sandpaper the finer the abrasive.

The sandpaper grits I use most frequently are 80, 100, 150, and 220. The 80 grit is the coarsest and I use it for really hard to distress paint like for furniture that has been painted a long time.

Distress Latex Paint Using Sandpaper - Dresser Makeover

I also used the 220 grit sandpaper on the mirror and the body of the dresser. The edges of the mirror along with the curvy details of the mirror frame are the perfect areas for distressing.

Distress Latex Paint Using Sandpaper

Then I distressed the front edges of the drawers and the nice groove details on the sides of the dresser and any other edges or corners I could find.

vintage dresser -how to distress latex painted furniture with sandpaper

Remember I used oops paint on the dresser. You can see a chest of drawers I painted with the gray oops paint here.


how to use sandpaper to distress paint by hand

It’s true that distressed paint adds depth and character to furniture. More often than not I distress my painted pieces. Just me, but I love the look. 

Now you can take a look at the short video I made while distressing areas of the dresser. See it below. If you can’t see the arrow to start the video you probably have an adblocker on your browser. Just turn it off for a bit and you’re good to go.

Video- How to Distress Latex Painted Furniture with Sandpaper

the easy way to distress latex painted furniture with sandpaper


So what do you think about the white mirror and the gray dresser…..too much of a contrast…..or just right. Leave a note if you have time before heading out on the Furniture Fixer Upper Tour.

To take the tour just click on the pink text links below the “before” makeovers photo collage….

furniture fixer upper makeover projects

Furniture Fixer Uppers Tour:

Thrift Store Desk Makeover from Confessions of a Serial DIY’er

 Paint Furniture With Black Chalk Paint from Girl In The Garage

 Transfers On Painted Fabric from Salvaged Inspirations

As always, thanks for being here and have a great day, 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. I love me some Home Depot oops paint! I have a large collection.

    Vote for same color for mirror and dresser.

  2. Kathy, I love the new look! I’m usually a “safe” painter and I’d do it all the same color, but this looks good too. I like how you take your own approach to projects. 🙂

  3. To me the two colors look like two different pieces put together. Maybe add accent with one of the colors on either mirror or dresser. I love to find oops paint, but am really tired of grey!

  4. For my taste, using the two colors looks like you didn’t have options (or took a shortcut) and “married” the two pieces together. I definitely prefer the same color – it is a nice piece.

  5. Hello!

    I love the final looks and colors, they are both gorgeous. I actually like the two pieces separated. I have a dresser similar to this and the matching highboy dresser. I’m inspired to do this to them. Thank you for the great inspiration!


  6. I prefer the same color on both. I don’t like the contrast. The white is to bright when against the grey.

  7. Those are both great paint shades, but I would prefer one color on a piece like this. Nice job.

  8. One nice way of using two colors might be to stripe the drawers white and gray to go with the white mirror and gray dresser. Just a thought.

  9. Looks good! The 2 colors work well together. For my own personal use I would prefer just 1 color.

  10. You find the best oops paints! This is such a lovely soft gray! I think I might have done them the same color, but I don’t mind the mix at all and what a steal! XOXO

  11. Nicely done painting and distressing! I think matching or more contrast would be better. First impression of these 2 pieces was that it was trying to match but missed.

  12. I like the two different colors! I almost always lightly distress my painted furniture. I’m not a fan of the heavy distress that looks “unnatural” but love the chippy finish of milk paint on some pieces. I’m really interested in your views on latex paint vs chalk paint. I’ve had trouble with it rolling when distressing and I’m sure I was using 120 grit so will try 220. So…do you have trouble with bleed through or adhesion using latex paint? I would have been afraid that dresser would have bled through. Also, I used to use latex and mix in calcium carbonate for “chalk paint” but it looks like you use it as is. Thanks for your help!

  13. Love the distressing! But my two cents – I prefer all one colour. It still looks lovely – but I personally would just like it to match.

  14. Hi Kathy
    For me , I would prefer the same color, mirror and dresser
    But I do like contrast, too, but I would like more contrast. Like maybe a deep tone of gray or another rich, deep tone , for the mirror against that pretty dresser
    I just feel like it is not enough contrast as painted
    Thank you for all the painting and distressing tips! Good post!!

  15. It’s a beautiful soft contrast, Kathy! Lately, I’ve really been into mixing colors as well. It’s a great way to use up leftover paints!