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How To: Color Wash Furniture

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.


    Everything in this slideshow

    • Layers of Color

      Our photos show a blue-tint color wash on the console table, but you can use any color, including white or cream for the look of classic whitewashing.

      What you'll need:

      • Half gallon latex paint
      • Scrap wood (we used shims)
      • Trash can, bucket, or other container deep enough to submerge about two-thirds of the item
      • Unfinished wood, wicker, or other natural material
      • Paintbrush
      • Drop cloth

      TIP: Removing legs or other elements from furniture pieces makes the color-wash process easier.

    • Step 1

      Pour paint and water into bucket in a 1-to-10 ratio and stir thoroughly. 

    • Step 2

      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.

    • Step 3

      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. 

    • Step 4

      Let dry. Minimize contact between item and drop cloth to ensure a smooth, consistent finish on all sides. 

    • Step 5

      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.

    • Step 6

      Test the concentration of the solution.

    • Step 7

      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.

    • Step 8

      Mix increasingly intense washes by removing one-third of liquid and doubling the paint. Continue to test and compare washes.

    • 10 of 11

      Step 9

      When final wash is dry, sand lightly and seal with clear polyurethane.

    • 11 of 11
      Next Slideshow Drab-to-Fab DIY Furniture Projects

      Drab-to-Fab DIY Furniture Projects

      Have old, boring furniture sitting around? Not anymore. Thanks to these fab makeovers, your tired dressers, hutches, chairs, and nightstands are just a project away from a new lease on life.
      Begin Slideshow »



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