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Distress Kitchen Cabinets

Distressing describes a host of techniques and tricks that decorative painters use to transform new or everyday wood furniture and surfaces into pieces with vintage charm and character.


The main technique described here involves applying two layers of contrasting paint and then sanding the surface to reveal underlayers of paint and bare wood. For the appearance of additional use, you can further distress any surface by hitting it with a hammer, screwdriver, or a heavy chain.

Distressing wood furniture - such as these painted, sanded, and stained cabinets - is a time-consuming, labour-intensive process. But the one-of-kind finish that results can be well worth the effort.

You will need:

120- and 240-grit sandpaper, clean cloth, dust mask.
Light-colour acrylic paint for base coat, darker-colour acrylic paint for top coat, acrylic sealer to finish.





Here's how:

  1. Prepare the surface. by lightly sanding the entire surface to be distressed. Use 120-grit sandpaper followed by 240-grit) to prepare the wood. Wear a dust mask. Depending on the desired results, you generally don’t need to completely remove all stain or paint from the wood. Simply remove the shine from the wood and get it ready to absorb fresh paint. Wipe the sanded surface with a clean cloth.
  2. Using a 10cm trim brush, apply the undercoat of acrylic paint. Paint with the grain of the wood. Let dry. Based on your decorating needs, the undercoat can be lighter or darker than the top-coat colour; the contrast between the colours of the layers is more important.
  3. Using a new or clean 10cm trim brush, apply the top-coat colour of acrylic paint. Brush with the grain. Let dry. For an old, often-painted look, build up extra paint on inside corners and in the bottoms of details.
  4. Using 240-grit sandpaper to sand the edges, raised portions, and details of the surface, revealing the undercoat and spots of bare wood. Sand a few flat areas of the surface as well, attempting to replicate where actual use and wear might occur. Wipe with a clean cloth. For a more well-used look, you can hit the surface with metal tools, keys, or other objects.
  5. With a new brush, apply a coat of acrylic sealer - tinted with a small amount of brown or grey artists acrylic - to give the surface an aged look. Let dry. Buff the finish with a fine nylon pad. Apply a second coat.