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How To Distress MDF Furniture And Plastic Furniture

In this tutorial I’ll show you guys how to distress mdf furniture (fake wood) and give it a layered paint look. I made a video too!

How To Distress MDF Furniture And Plastic Furniture

I think all of us at one time or another have had experience with mdf furniture. Probably not a good experience. My video shows how to use a layering block to get this look.

If mdf furniture is in good condition, meaning no water damage or major scratches, this technique will turn the piece into a real beauty. You’ll never know it’s mdf masquerading  as wood.

furniture chest before makeoverI bought this chest at the junk shop I talk about all the time. It was only $35. Not only is it made of mdf, the detailed pieces on the drawer fronts are plastic….including the beaded details.

Fake A Distressed Layered Paint Look On MDF Furniture

A bit of  paint can work miracles. I knew the details would pop if I could figure out a way to highlight them.

mixing paints together

The paint is a custom mix….by me. I wanted to paint the chest a pretty coral then realized the coral paint can was mostly empty. I found a can of hot pink in my paint stash and added the tiny bit of coral paint I had left over. The coral cut the pink, pink, look.

As I’ve repeated many times “Don’t be afraid to mix paints together, even different sheens”. The experts will tell you not to do that. Be a rebel.

one layer of paint

This is what the chest looked like after one coat of paint. Two coats of paint did the trick.

layering block for fake distressing

Once the paint was dry I pulled out my FolkArt layering block. I have to admit I had my doubts about the block….before I used it. It’s one my favorite paint tools now.

How to use the layering block…… apply a thin layer of paint to the block using a paint brush then run the block over the areas you want to look distressed. This would be the drawer edges, the corners and edges of the chest body, and all of that rippled or bumpy trim.

Then for good measure if there are uneven areas on the top of the chest or the drawer fronts run the layering block lightly over these areas too.

painte technique using FolkArt layering block

I reapply paint to the layering block as needed. The detailed beaded areas were a little iffy. I ran the block over the top of the beaded trim and then down the sides. Remember there is no need to make the “distressing” or layering look perfect.

fake worm holes on painted furniture

Now this is the cool part. I brushed paint onto the block then wiped most of it off until there was a really thin layer of paint. Next I ran the block over the surface of the drawer fronts.

We all know that there are little imperfections in just about everything. The places on the drawer where there were bumps or unevenness picked up the brown paint.

clean hardware with Howard's Feed n Wax

With the paint job finished I moved on to the hardware. I decided to use the original pulls on the bottom three drawers. A cleaning with Howard’s Feed n Wax shined them right up. The wax is for wood but it shines up metal too.

How to fake a distressed layered paint look on mdf furniture

For the top drawer I bought fancy pulls at Hobby Lobby. I love how the “distressed” details turned out. This piece is a really beauty now.

I wish you guys could see the chest in person. The details really look distressed and the specks on the drawer fronts look like worm holes.

I made a video using the layering block on another project. It shows the technique really well. See it below…

How To Use A Layering Block

If you have water damaged mdf furniture I have a technique for that to. You can see it here…Painting Damaged MDF Furniture.

How to create a distressed layered paint look on MDF furniture

How to Distress MDF Furniture And Painted Plastic Furniture

What do you guys think of the paint project? Do you have any mdf furniture? I took the chest to my booth and it sold in just a few days. Wish my projects always sold that fast.

I have another post using the distressing block here….How To Fake Distressed Paint.

Have a great day, Kathy

Products used in this project:
FolkArt Layering Block
Howard’s Feed n’ Wax

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. Bravo! Such an awesome transformation. Love your creativity. I am happy to feature this at Love Your Creativity.

  2. Hi Kathy, Thanks for the tip on Howard’s Feed n’ Wax….bought some last week. And now l know it can work on metal !

  3. Hi Kathy. A very informative post, thank you. What kind of brown paint did you use on the distressing block, and have you ever used a different kind of paint than the one on the piece you are distressing? I don’t have a large variety of house paint colours on hand and I am wondering whether I might be able to use folk art/craft acrylic paints to do the distressing. Thanks.

  4. This is really helpful stuff. Thank you for your continuing great generosity Kathy in publishing these tips and techniques for all of us.

  5. I have always wondered what to do with mdf fiurniture. I am not afraid of messing with it now after seeing what you did with it…very, very nice.
    I had no idea there was a painting block like that. I just love how there’s always someone out there that comes up with great tools that make life easier for the rest of us ?

  6. Kathy, this is spectacular! You’re so clever, love your “can do” attitude! The painting block really made a difference-we learned something today (always do when I visit your blog). As for the roof-sitting Hubs, my dad used to tie a rope from him to the chimney. Not a perfect method, but it helped.

  7. Wow… Will certainly not turn up my nose to MDF anymore! Love the block! Will have to find one! Beautiful piece!