How to Glaze Furniture

Make furniture details instantly stand out with this simple glaze tutorial.

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No project is truly complete until you've added a finishing touch: a cherry on top, wrapped with a bow, or spritzed with hairspray! In the case of wood furniture, though, we're talking about material finish. Glaze is a second treatment applied to wood that has already been painted and finished. The technique highlights the crevices and corners of a painted piece, giving it an antiquated, distressed finish.

For this living room end table, we accentuated the furniture details by adding a colored, water-based glaze. You can buy premade glaze, but mixing your own gives you more control over the color and shade, so we'll demonstrate that method. Glazes can also be oil-based or water-based. Keep in mind that an oil-based glaze will not wipe off with a wet rag as shown here.  

What You'll Need

  • Paintbrush
  • Paint
  • Water-based glaze
  • Mixing cup
  • Lint-free rags
  • Water
  • Gloves
  • Stir stick or plastic spoon
  • Plastic sheet
  • Painters tape (if needed)
  • Polycrylic (optional)

Step 1: Prep Your Work Space

Start by placing all of your supplies and your wood furniture piece on a plastic sheet or drop cloth to protect your work surface. You will need to tape over or remove any drawer pulls, handles, or hardware from the wood to prevent unintentional staining. Wear gloves while mixing and glazing to avoid staining or irritating your skin as well. You may also want to wear a mask to avoid breathing in any fumes or particulates. 

Step 2: Mix the Glaze

With the furniture and supplies prepared, begin mixing your paint and glaze with a stir stick or spoon. Follow the directions on the packaging to pour the proper ratios, then stir well to combine. You can vary the color of the paint you mix with the glaze as desired. For example, to weather a white piece, you may want to add brown or black to give it the vintage look you want. Note that some glazes come pre-tinted, so pay attention to labels!

Step 3: Apply the Glaze

Work quickly to apply the paint-glaze mixture to your unfinished wood surface. Don't glaze too much of a piece of furniture at once; if it dries, it may become difficult to wipe off. Allow the mixture to seep into any cracks and crevices, as this will make any textural details stand out. While the mixture is still wet, use a clean, damp rag to gently wipe the surface of the furniture, removing the excess mixture. Let dry fully. If the piece is something that will be getting a lot of use, you may also want to apply a water-based polycrylic to seal it.

Tip: Glaze may alter the base paint color. Try out a small test spot in an inconspicuous location to make sure you're getting the effect you want.

Where to Use Glaze

Glazing works best to bring out textured surfaces. Attempting it on a flat surface might emphasize the wood grain, but it won't be as dramatic of an impact. Look for crests, wood scrolls, columns, and other unique molding and millwork. The rope molding details framing this old cabinet were practically begging for a coat of glaze. Other items of furniture that might be good candidates for glazing include:

  • intricate wood photo frames
  • chair or table legs
  • kitchen cabinets
  • antique desks and hutches
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