How To Create a Layered Chippy Paint Finish

10 Materials
1 Day

We recently created a faux fireplace mantel surround for our bedroom. I wanted to achieve a layered, chippy paint finish and vintage look. What I wasn’t quite sure about, was the technique I wanted to use to get that distressed, chippy appearance. After doing some research, I found bits and pieces from each technique that I could use for my own look.After making adjustments, I finally came up with a process that worked for my needs.

Apply stain or sand the wood, depending on the age of your wood

Because I started with new pine wood, I wanted to use a dark stain. Then, when the paint peels away, the dark stain will show underneath. If you are using a piece that is old and has many layers of paint, you will need to sand the piece first, and then wipe off the dust before staining. You can also skip this step, and apply your first coat of paint, followed by the glue application.

Apply the glue

Apply a layer of glue with a paint brush to the areas you want to have a chippy look. I ended up using a foam brush. Covering the area with a thick layer of glue will create a bigger “crackle”. For a more realistic look, I tried to mix it up a bit. I applied thicker layers in some spots, and thinner layers in others. Regular school glue was used here, but you can use wood glue as well.

Apply the first coat of paint

For the first coat of paint, I used a dark gray colored chalk paint to cover the dark stain and the layer of glue. This was so there would be another layer shown underneath the white paint layer. Make sure you apply the paint when the glue is still tacky, after a minute or two. As the glue dries under the top coats of paint, the paint will shrink and crack.

Scrape off the paint for a chippy look

After the glue and paint layers have all dried, use a putty knife to scrape off the paint for the “chippy” appearance. Leave the areas you do not want to look chippy, alone. I felt that I scraped off too much paint. So I added more paint to the areas I wanted to look less distressed.

Apply a second coat of paint

Add the second coat of paint. I used a white chalk paint.

Sand and wax

If you want a more antiqued look in certain areas, apply some dark wax for a finished coat. Wipe any areas you want to wax, with a wet rag, to help from getting too much wax applied. Use the wax sparingly. Sand any areas that you want to look older.

My mantel looks just as beautiful as the vintage mantels I found all across the country. I’m so happy with how it turned out! You can see the full tutorial over at my blog, Shiplap and Shells.

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Shiplap and Shells

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Johanne Palange
    Johanne Palange
    on Nov 20, 2020

    I'm wondering if this could be done with regular matte latex. I would want to skip the waxing part. Also, I have achieve the crackle look with a bottom layer of alkyd paint covered with a layer of latex, finally protected with a layer of clear matte marine varnish.

    • Shiplap and Shells
      Shiplap and Shells
      on Nov 20, 2020

      I've also used matte latex on another project when I didn't have any chalk paint in the house and it seemed to work just fine. Thanks for the tip on the marine varnish. My husband has a lot of that in the garage.

Join the conversation

3 of 18 comments
  • MJ
    on Nov 21, 2020

    You achieved the look many love. 20 years ago our home sold because the inside had chippy and old accents - however “fake!” We didn’t know about chalk paint flat worked just fine.

    • Shiplap and Shells
      Shiplap and Shells
      on Nov 24, 2020

      I've done it with flat too, seems to work just fine. Who would have ever thought years ago that we would be doing this to our furniture? My grandmother would have laughed hysterically!

  • Debbie Petrilli
    Debbie Petrilli
    on Nov 27, 2020

    I LOVE what you did. I’m going to try that in the future. I have never tried any of the ideas here but this one I really really like. And it seems like it would be simple enough for somebody like me that doesn’t really craft much anymore. I hope mine comes out as nice as yours did!

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