How to Paint Distressed Wood Furniture

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.

Distress wood with this easy painting technique. Layers of color, plus a little sanding is all it takes to achieve this antiqued look.

Before getting started, chose 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 water marks; the painted finish will hide those flaws. Look for a piece with lines you love and 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-base paints are known for their durability and oftentimes the go-to option for wood trim and cabinetry.

  • Working Time 2 Hours
  • Start to Finish 2 Days
  • Difficulty         Projects Easy
  • Involves Painting

What you need


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


  • Wood furniture
  • Paint, in desired colors (x2)

How to do it

Step 1 Prep the Surface

Place your 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. 

Step 2 Apply Base Paint

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

Step 3 Create a Paint Wash

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.

Step 4 Apply Top Layer

Apply the wash to the table 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.

Step 5 Distress Edges

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.

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  1. Looks like a project I’d like to try.

    1. Carlybear, although may not be as tactful as she could be, is entitled to her comments/opinions just like the rest of us. So, I think kindness is the right response; or silence.

  2. I think it's beautiful.

  3. It's easy to ruin a piece of furniture. Real wood furniture that isn't masse of Pine or Rubberwood is hard to find these days. Furthermore, if it's an old, antique piece you are totally ruining its worth. If you choose to ruin furniture by sanding not stripping first, and doing it unevenly you are ruining what was once a beautiful piece of wood. Please use your "distressing" technique on junk furniture. This makes me sick.

    1. Wow, aren't you a mean bitter person. That's your opinion, and it's really weird of you to behave this way over distressed wood.

    2. What someone decides to do with THEIR furniture is THEIR business, not yours!!

    3. Who cares if it's REAL wood! Glad to see it made someone happy to teach a technique vs you complaining about how sick it makes you. Those who complain ~ remain. Make it a great day and be happy.

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