How To: Color Wash Furniture

Finished legs
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.

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.

Step 9

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

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