DIY Antiques: Age Wood Decades in Moments With Dry Brush Painting

Hometalk Skills
by Hometalk Skills

Nobody has the time to wait decades for that rustic, well-worn look. Forget forking out hundreds of dollars for pieces of antique wood though, our dry brushing technique tutorial will help you turn those brand new cupboard doors or baseboards into something guests are guaranteed to remark on. No sanding or power tools required!

Tools and Materials

  • Flat bristle brush
  • Can of chalk paint
  • Paper Towels

Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Materials

I know that Hometalkers love to put together lots of elaborate and beautiful creations, but some of the best projects don't involve many tools or materials at all. This is that kind of project! The only items you'll need to distress your wood with the dry brushing technique is a flat bristle brush (I used a synthetic Annie Sloan brush) that gives good coverage of the area you are working on and a can of paint. Again, I opted for an Annie Sloan product (Pure White chalk paint). You should also pick up some absorbent paper towels to wipe excess paint from the brush as we proceed.

Step 2: Dip Your Brush in Paint

First of all, forget dipping your paintbrush into the paint can! All the paint you'll need for dry brush painting is (usually) on the inside of the paint can lid. We're only going to be using a tiny amount, after all. So, when you're ready, open up your paint tin and load the brush by dabbing the flat edge against the lid. I like to make sure I've got about an inch of paint on the end of my brush but don't worry about picking up too much or making it a little thick. We'll fix that in the next step.

Step 3: Wipe Your Brush Off

Now that we've got all the paint we need on our brush, it's time to wipe it off again! My best dry brushing results come from what I like to call residual paint, that is, the thin coat left on the bristles when I've finished cleaning most of it off. Here, you simply need to grab a paper towel and, using a 'swirly' motion (it gets the most paint off without damaging your brush bristles) aim to remove as much of the paint as you can. Too little paint is much better than too much at this stage, as you can layer paint on top of paint if it's too thin.

Step 4: Paint the Edges of Your Piece

For the best results, your brush should appear dry now. Before applying any paint to your wood though, I always think about how a piece of wood might naturally become distressed. The worst-affected areas are usually the edges and places with a high relief, such as the base-cap moldings and shoes on baseboards. Start painting in these areas, as more paint means a higher level of distress. You'll want to flick your wrist when painting and use short, sharp strokes. Feel free to add extra paint or wipe some off depending on the strength and kind of dry brushing technique you are going for. 

Step 5: Use the Residual Paint on Your Brush 

By this point, you should only have residual paint left on your brush so, now, it's time to distress the remaining areas of your wood. Begin by using long, horizontal strokes to ensure good coverage but you can create a 'haze' effect too by lightly scrubbing your brush against the wood, with a similar motion to how you might use an eraser. Remember, the secret to dry brushing is to build up an effect slowly. Don't aim for complete coverage as your worn effect won't look authentic.

Admire Your Ancient Wood!

You've turned time forward and barely moved an inch! Your newly-distressed piece of wood should look as though it has been scratched, kicked, rubbed, and worn over decades - but a subtle effect is definitely superior to a bold one, in my opinion. You could try using dry brush painting on cupboard or wardrobe doors that only have a flat color, for example, to add a bit more texture to a room.

If you enjoyed learning about dry brush painting, let me know if you plan to give it a try in the comments below. Or why not show me a picture of your handiwork?

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