How to Paint and Distress Wood Furniture for Perfect Patina

Distressed wood furniture is perfect for rooms decorated with flea market finds and antique treasures. Learn how to distress furniture in almost no time using this easy guide.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Kid-friendly

Before getting started, choose the piece of furniture you're going to give a distressed paint finish. Scour flea markets or secondhand shops for a piece that's solid wood with a stained finish. Don't worry if it has scratches or watermarks; the painted finish will hide those flaws. Look for a wood furniture piece with lines you love and that will look good in your space.

You'll also need to select two colors of furniture paint to complete your distressed finish. You can choose two shades of the same color as we did or choose complementary or contrasting colors for a bolder look. We chose latex paint for its ease of use; however, oil-based paints are known for their durability and oftentimes the go-to option for wood trim and cabinetry. Once you have your wood furniture and paint colors, it's time to get started! Follow our step-by-step instructions for painting and distressing wood furniture for an aged-over-time look.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Drop cloth
  • 1 Sandpaper
  • 1 Paintbrush
  • 1 Small container for mixing paint
  • 1 Foam brush
  • 1 Paper towels
  • 1 Tack cloth or rag


  • 1 Wood furniture
  • 2 Paint, in desired colors


  1. Prep the Surface

    prepping the wood surface
    Jason Donnelly

    Place your wood furniture piece on top of a drop cloth and lightly sand the wood to create a rough surface. Apply different levels of pressure as you sand; this causes the wood to absorb more paint in some areas. Wipe clean using a tack cloth or rag.

  2. Apply Base Paint

    Using your darkest shade of paint, apply the first coat to the furniture. Spread the paint thin enough to allow cracks to show through. Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours.

  3. Create a Paint Wash

    creating a paint wash
    Jason Donnelly

    Place a small amount of your lighter shade of paint in a container. Mix in water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until paint is thin like a wash but not so thin that it bubbles when you apply it. This will go over your first coat of paint to help with the layered distressed look.

  4. Apply Paint Wash

    applying top layer paint on table
    Jason Donnelly

    Apply the wash to your wood furniture piece using a foam brush. While it is wet, wipe some areas with paper towels to achieve an antiqued look. Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours.

  5. Distress Wood Furniture Edges

    distress edges of table
    Greg Scheidemann

    To create an even more antiqued look, lightly sand the edges and corners of the table with fine-grit sandpaper, concentrating on edges and areas of natural wear to keep it authentic looking. Wipe clean with a tack cloth to complete your painted distressed furniture.

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