There are several methods for creating an antique look for your painted projects, including the two most popular: Distressed paint finishes and antiquing. Here’s a quick overview of each. Antiquing gives the item that old, worn look that’s so popular on ceramics, furniture and brass fixtures. This is a surprisingly simple technique which can add character and an elegant air to your project.
What you’ll need to create an antique patina
First, you’ll need to select the color of paint you’ll use for the antiquing. For most projects, this is a dark metallic gold or bronze, though some projects look great with solid black or brown paints. Generally, you’ll want to be sure that the antiquing paint is the same type as the base coat.
Let’s get started. You’ll need a wide paintbrush, paint for both the base coat and the antiquing coat, and several paper towels. If you have oil-based paint, you will also need a clear oil base to thin the paint so it flows easily. Do not use paint thinners for this; paint thinner could damage the base coat. Water-based paints need only a little bit of water.
- Paint your item with the base coat or coats. Let the paint dry thoroughly. Some types of crafts may require a light matte coating before antiquing; an all-purpose spray-on coat works well for this, as it only needs to prevent excess staining on the base coat of paint.
- Start with a good-sized dollop of paint in a small dish — you won’t be able to use a flat pallet for this one. Mix in some water or clear oil base until the paint flows easily and just barely sticks to the sides of the dish when it’s sloshed. The consistency should be similar to whipping cream
- Wet the brush and tap the excess water off. Apply a generous layer of the prepared antiquing paint over a portion of your project. Make sure the paint covers the portion completely and gets well into any cracks.
- Wipe the painted section off with a dry paper towel, making sure all flat areas are thoroughly wiped. Do not push the paper towel into cracks to completely remove the paint; just wipe over the top of them to soak up any excess paint that could run.
- Repeat for the entire project, doing a small portion at a time.
This technique works well for unpainted wood as well. Make sure you’re using a water-based paint for these, since the varnish could pull away from oil-based paints. Apply the antiquing coat in between coats of varnish, again taking care that the paint is completely dry before varnishing over the top of it.
How to create a distressed antique finish
The distressed look is characterized by its old, peeling-paint type feel. Think the painted piece of furniture that’s been sitting in a barn for the last 50 years. It’s still painted in the cracks — the same areas that you might antique to get the patina effect — but it’s wearing away elsewhere. It works for cute little keepsake figurines just as well as it does furniture or painted metal. Grab a bucket of paint and a piece of sandpaper, because this one is the easy one.
- Cover the entire piece you want to distress with an even coat of paint. Let dry thoroughly.
- Systematically sand over every flat surface on the piece until you can see the base material. Do not sand in the cracks.
- Paint the entire item again, and let the paint dry.
- Sand again, but this time only go to the bare material in some spots, especially around the edges or any surface that would get a lot of normal use, and leave paint in others.
That’s it, your piece is properly distressed. The resulting piece has missing or thin paint over exposed surfaces, but a good vibrant coverage in the less-exposed cracks and crevices. Use “vintage” colors like white, mint or salmon to get an authentic, aged feel out of your pieces.
While there are techniques to create a distressed crackle finish on furniture and household decor, it’s beyond the scope of this article. These two techniques are an excellent introduction into the world of antiquing, and are an awesome and surprisingly easy way to give old furniture new life. Clear out your storage unit or visit the closest thrift store, then let your imagination run with whatever you find.