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.

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    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.

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    Step 1

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

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    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.

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    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. 

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    Step 4

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

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    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.

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    Step 6

    Test the concentration of the solution.

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    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.

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    Step 8

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

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    Step 9

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

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