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For a muted look, try this color-wash technique on any unsealed material -- wood, terra-cotta, wicker, and bamboo all absorb watered-down paint pigment.
What you'll need:
TIP: Removing legs or other elements from furniture pieces makes the color-wash process easier.
Pour paint and water into bucket in a 1-to-10 ratio and stir thoroughly.
Test the concentration of the color-wash mixture by dipping scrap wood in solution. Add water or paint to change concentration and fill container to desired level of liquid.
Dip about two-thirds of item in the color wash, allowing it to touch the bottom. Use a brush to draw up the paint and coat the remaining exposed surface, creating a soft, faded effect.
Let dry. Minimize contact between item and drop cloth to ensure a smooth, consistent finish on all sides.
Remove about one-third of mixture and add the amount of paint in Step 1, roughly doubling the concentration of color in the solution. Stir.
Test the concentration of the solution.
Dip the item again and use the brush to gently blend color intensities. Do not brush the entire item. Allow to dry as in step 4.
Mix increasingly intense washes by removing one-third of liquid and doubling the paint. Continue to test and compare washes.
When final wash is dry, sand lightly and seal with clear polyurethane.