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Crackle Paint Technique

I've been wanting to make a huge distressed sign in our house for a while now, so I finally did it! I can't seem to get away from using sandpaper to rough up the painted surface (this is a technique I've always used since I started painting for a living), but this go-around I also incorporated a new technique: using white glue to create a crackle finish. It's really easy but can also be tricky, however, I'm pretty happy with how my distressed sign came out.

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Time: 1 Hours Cost: $13 Difficulty: Easy
  • crackle paint technique

-wood (Again, I was making a sign so I used a panel that was ¾”x12”x48” from Lowe’s. You can use this technique on wooden chairs, stools, tables, whatever it is you’re trying to give a distressed look to.)
-paint brushes (Wooster Pro and Purdy)
-Behr exterior flat paint (Colors: cozy cottage and a custom made indigo color)
-Elmer’s School Glue
Not pictured:
-hair dryer (optional)

  • crackle paint technique

STEP 1: Paint wood (optional)
You don't have to paint your wood surface if you don't want to, because I was going to be making a sign, I wanted my letters to be a vintage white, so I painted my wood panel Cozy Cottage white and let that dry first. Because I was making a sign, I cut out the words I wanted (I chose a Bible verse) with my Silhouette Cameo machine (it's basically a mini plotter that cuts vinyl among other functions) and applied them to my wood panel.

  • crackle paint technique

STEP 2: Apply white glue
Next, I took regular Elmer's glue (Rob has used this technique using wood glue which worked well also) and applied a thin coat in random places on my sign using a paint brush. I know you probably have Elmer's glue at home, but I love that they have different types of glue.

  • crackle paint technique
After I brushed on the glue, I let it dry just until it was still tacky. This is super important because if you don't let the glue dry enough, you'll just mix the overlay paint (next step) in with the glue and it won't looked cracked, but if you let it dry too long, you'll simply be painting over dried glue.

If you want a brush that won't leave bristles and streaks, I recommend using Purdy brushes or Wooster Pro. You can find a whole selection of them here.
  • crackle paint technique
STEP 3: Paint
While the white glue was still tacky, I brushed on a thick coat of acrylic paint. Then, to make the drying process quicker, I used a blow dryer to dry the paint.

  • crackle paint technique
Here is what the crackle should look like. I made the mistake of not applying a thick enough coat of paint on one half of my sign so I used sandpaper to distress it so that the whole thing looked equally distressed.
  • crackle paint technique
*OPTIONAL: I'm not really making this a step because not everyone will use this technique for making a sign but figured I'd throw in a picture of me removing my stencil so you could see the concept.
  • crackle paint technique
Rob wasn't crazy about the finished sign--he felt it needed something--so I plan to rub on some glaze to tone down the white and give it a more worn look. Overall though, I'm really happy with my huge sign and I'm in love with the font!

Materials I used for this project:

  • Wood (¾”x12”x48” panel)   (Lowe's)
  • Paint brushes (Wooster Pro and Purdy)   (on hand (from Home Depot))
  • Behr exterior flat paint   (on hand (from Home Depot))
See all materials
  • Peg Hutnik
    Peg Hutnik Madison, WI

    My pictures didn't show any crackling in the paint.

    • Rob & Courtney M, Hometalk Team
      Rob & Courtney M,... Mastic Beach, NY

      If you look at the pic in STEP 3, you should be able to see the crackle.

  • Naomie Moore aka baileyanddaisey

    Great job! I love the crackle but sometimes it can be too much. This is perfect! Just the right amount in my opinion. Thanks for the helpful share! You guys always do such wonderful projects. 🤗

    • Rob & Courtney M, Hometalk Team
      Rob & Courtney M,... Mastic Beach, NY

      Thanks so much Naomie! It's always nice getting your feedback--you're always so kind. :)

  • Liz
    Liz Foothill Ranch, CA

    Courtney, this is wonderful! We have this Scripture on a board in our home office. You mentioned glazing it, & I wonder if you were to lightly sand the edges of the board, then wipe on dark wax & buff it, if this would blend the colors of the

    • Rob & Courtney M, Hometalk Team
      Rob & Courtney M,... Mastic Beach, NY

      Thanks so much Liz! Those are definitely good points. I just mentioned glaze bc I've worked with it so many times in the past and it always has been a good medium to use to just slightly change the look of a piece. I'll look into dark wax too

  • Mary
    Mary Little Egg Harbor, NJ


  • Becky Partain

    Awesome. I want to adopt you two!! Lol. I love all of your ideas, tips and projects.

Inspired? Will you try this project? Let the author know!