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The “stain-over-paint” technique I’m going to share with you today can be used to achieve a wide variety of antique-looking or “distressed” finishes.

This is an overview photo of the Shaker-style entry table I made using this technique:


You should always practice on a few pieces of scrap wood that is from the project you are working on, to make sure you will achieve the look you want.

In this example, I painted it with one coat of “Antique White” latex paint.  I didn’t prime the wood first or use paint with primer in it.  On new unpainted, un-primed wood, will always absorb a lot of the paint on first coat, leaving an uneven coating where porous areas look almost like natural wood and other areas have good paint coverage.  This creates the effect I want.  Now when I stain over the paint, the stain will absorb in some areas more than other creating a “mottled” look as shown below:


You can see that in some areas the stain is darker than other areas, and in the light areas a bit of the white paint shows through.

I used Jacobean stain for this.  Jacobean, on its own, gives a aged-wood sort of color.  It’s a rich reddish-brown, leaning toward the yellow spectrum, as the closeup below demonstrates:


As I previously mentioned, this technique can be used to create a variety of “distressed” appearances.  If you want a distressed paint look, rather than a distressed stained look, paint you furniture whatever color you want (green, blue, red, white, etc.).  For the distressed paint look, you will probably want to prime the wood, and give it at least two coats of paint, so you have a nice even painted finish.

Once it’s painted, there are two techniques you can use:

  1. Stain the piece normally with a brush or rag, let it set about 5 to 10 minutes, then wipe the excess off with a clean rag, leaving mostly natural paint color, with stain darkened areas.
  2. Use a stain rag or brush that has had most of the stain removed (so that when you rub or brush a clean board, you just get dark smudges) and go over your piece with that, just adding the amount of darkening you want.

I would also suggest trying this technique with Ebony stain.  It leaves the wood with an old grayed appearance, rather than the yellowed aged look the Jacobean creates.  Both are very nice distressed looks.

Have you used this technique before?  If so, or if you try it after reading this, share your experiences and results in the comments.