Crackle Paint Technique

5 Materials
1 Hour
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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-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)

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.
*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. icon
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!

Suggested materials:
  • 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
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 6 questions
  • Kim Sobaszek Kim Sobaszek on Apr 25, 2018

    Love it! I want to do a 24x36 crackled sign and was searching and seen this. I wanted to crackle first and then apply the vinyl - can I asked why you did it the opposite way? Will my vinyl not stick to the crackle. Any insight would be appreciated.

  • Wacky Pup Wacky Pup on May 16, 2018

    Greatjob! Beautiful! What font is it?

  • Tracy Tracy on Apr 17, 2021

    What did you use for the lettering? I've used sticker letters before and they can be tough to get off! Yours look great!!

Join the conversation
2 of 18 comments
  • Marlene drasher Marlene drasher on Sep 05, 2019

    lovely job. i would like to do this. found something else for my bucket list of wanting to do's..

  • Janice Janice on Nov 04, 2021

    I have done crackle painting before and the trick is the thicker the glue the more it will crack. I have a table that I did more than 30 years ago and it still looks the same. The crackling was much smaller and crackled all over kind of like crackled glass.