Tips to Achieve Distressed Cabinet Doors

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Distressing is one of several faux painting techniques used to achieve distressed cabinet doors.

The distressed effect on wooden items endows them with an antique or shabby chic look that is essential in a variety of decor schemes, from antique elegance to the informal rustic style.

Distressing is an effective way to age doors on bedroom, kitchen and other cabinets to produced a textured and less bland appearance.

There are several ways to achieve a distressed look on cabinet doors.

Perhaps the simplest is to give a new-looking cabinet door a controlled bashing and scraping with hammer and chisel, but paint techniques are the favored way of simulating age.

The basic technique involves creating the illusion of wear and age-related texture using two layers of paint.

  • For a more variegated effect, more than two colors can be used.
  • Scraping and scarring the topcoat so the layer beneath shows through gives the impression of age.
  • It is possible to achieve a similar effect by painting streaks with a fine brush, but this may require more artistic expertise.
  • Applying a top coat and then, before it has dried, using the dragging or combing technique to remove areas of paint can also create a distressed look on wooden doors.
  • Usually, the base coat, which will be showing through, will be a lighter.
  • The darker topcoat gives the impression of patina, the deep glow that develops over decades or centuries on old wood.
  • You can use shades of the same color (typically shades of brown) but different effects can be achieved with different combination’s, such as gray undercoat and brown topcoat.

Distressing With Wax

  • One of the most popular methods entails using wax to ensure that the base paint layer is exposed.
  • Beeswax is especially suitable though candle and other waxes can be used.
  • The wax is applied in streaks and/or patches and allowed to dry before the second coat is applied.
  • When dry the door is then sanded down.
  • Paint applied on top of the wax comes off easily, exposing the undercoat.
  • Depending on how vigorously you sand, a textured effect with clean wood showing through the patina surface will result.

Bri-Wax Tudor Brown

My Favorite All Time Wax For Distressing And Aging Cabinets.  It’s not like stain… it doesn’t leave a shine or look “stained”.   This tinted wax just makes everything look old.

It collects in cracks and if you have sanded the edges of the cabinet doors it leaves this area very dark. It stays work”able” for a long time… but when buffed leaves no residue.

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Crackle Glaze

Distressing With Crackle Glaze is a special kind of paint that is meant to crack and peel as it dries, giving the effect of varnish peeling with age.

The crackle glaze is painted on top of the base coat and the topcoat is painted on top of the crackle glaze.

You need to use latex paint for this technique, since oil paints will not crackle properly.

Pickling  Gel Stain

This is a paint technique that involves applying paint to an unpainted wooden cabinet door and then fairly randomly wiping it off before it dries.

This technique is an easy way to give the impression of years of use and wear and is good if you want to leave some wood grain exposed to view.

Distressing is a relatively uncomplicated way of adding texture and color to a uniform, flat surface, enhancing its visual interest.

Click Here to read another THAT Painter Lady Article on the steps involved in Creating A Distressed Look

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  1. Gemma says

    Hi Debra,
    I can’t say I ever liked the distressed look (too much in me?!) but my furniture generally looks that way just because that is how it was bought – tatty and cheap (or thrown out!). A more expensive manner to distress furniture is to employ Dutch removals men (judging by the scratches on my friend’s furniture and doors!)

    I have moved home too – and aside from some boring painting (white but clean and fresh after dull and dirtygrey) – I got down to the floor … have a look at this!

    All my own idea, and came from trying to be original. Sometimes it actually works for me. But it ain’t paint.

    My biggest problem when I moved home was … I couldn’t find my client to discuss their wishes. I was quite puzzled as I had never had to choose these things for myself before. So I got some Laura Ashley paper from a second hand shop (€25 for 20 rolls) and thought if I didn’t like it, it would do until I found something I did. Actually it’s lovely.

    BTW the Dutch do put their (oil) brushes in water to keep them overnight, but it does leave a horrid build up around the stock and the bristles go a little stiff – but they don’t seem to mind. I just dunk mine in salad oil: goo, dust and all.

    It’s nice to get your emails again, I lost my website for a while (Dutch software is as clever as their removals men).

    If you have a look at my website, do you guys have “fotobehang” in the US – and if so, what do you call it? With love from Gemma

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