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How To Make Paint Look Distressed Without Sanding

There are times when I want to make paint look distressed but using sandpaper is not the way to go. That was the case with the two wood chests I just re-painted and was hoping to distress with a sander. The chests had been painted before and when I distressed the paint with my sander the paint underneath came shining thru. Sometimes that isn’t a bad thing but it is when the top layer of paint is a pretty light blue and the under layer of paint is Pepto Bismol pink.

How to make paint look distressed without sanding

You also don’t want to use sandpaper if the furniture or piece you are looking to distress is made of MDF or fake wood. The “wood” will crumble and what is left will plump us when it gets wet. Not pretty. You also might not want to use a sander or sandpaper because you don’t have an open area or place where you can let the dust fly.

how to distress paint without using sandpaper

One very good reason not to use sandpaper and try this method instead is because you can get the high end furniture look that is oh so popular now. The furniture for sell at the high end furniture stores is not really distressed. The distressed look is achieved by applying dark paint over lighter paint. This gives the look of distressed paint. But you need to do it the right way. I’ll show you how and I also have a neat video I made while faux distressing the pair of chests.

wood chest from my favorite junk shop

I bought the two wood chests at My Favorite Junk Shop. They were $10 each. The blue color was really pretty, soft and muted. I originally planned to just clean it up and distress it a bit more.

pink painted chest from my favorite junk shop

The pink chest was not a pretty color. The smaller wood chest fits inside the pink chest. I think these may have been sold by the Bombay company someone mentioned when I painted and aged the small table with the white top. The chests were a dark wood finish originally.

sanding paint with a battery sander

I first cleaned up the blue chest because I really did like the paint color. Then I started distressing the paint because the painted finish was uneven and had some scuffed places. Well, the pink paint started showing through and that was it for me.

repainting furniture

I went to my paint shelves and couldn’t find a blue color similar to the color of the chest. I started mixing paints and came up with a blue a bit lighter and not as muted as the original color.

painting furniture hardware

I painted the whole chest including the small pulls on either end.

painting small wood chests

You can see the difference in paint colors in the photo above. The bottom paint is the new paint. It’s wet here but dried a shade darker.

painting over paint

I brushed two coats of blue paint over the pink. Both chests had paint drips, cracked paint, and split wood areas. I just painted over it all as it was. That’s the beauty of distressing and faux distressing paint. The flawed areas and little raised details look beautiful distressed.

how to use a layering block

Once the paint was nice and dry I started the process of layering paint on the raised details of the chests to make the paint look distressed. Watch the video below to see how it works. Still photos do not show this well.

How To Make Paint Look Distressed Without Sanding

using a wood block to layer paint to look distressed

The layering block is from FolkArt and you can find it on Amazon by clicking here. To use the layering block you apply a thin coat of paint to the bottom of the wood block and then dab some of it off with a paper towel. Next run the block over the details and edges of the piece or do like I do and run it over the whole thing. Re-apply paint to the block as needed.

How to make painted furniture look distressed without sanding

The wood chests look so much better. I thought about stenciling something in the circle on top and the circles on the front but I couldn’t figure out what to use. Sometimes it’s best to just leave things plain.

How to distress painted furniture without the mess

You would never know that the blue paint is not really distressed. The dark areas look like the wood layer under the paint. What do you guys think of this method to “distress” paint?

How to use dark paint to faux distress painted furniture (3) (1)

There are other ways to distress paint. I like to use the wet distress method here Wet Distress Paint Technique: Use A Household Cleaner

This method to distress paint is one of my personal favorites..How To Distress Furniture Using Baby Wipes

I also like to use Vaseline to layer paint like here..Vaseline Paint Layering Technique For Furniture

As always thanks for being here. I know you guys have other things to do. 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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