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Tips & Techniques for a Distressed Finish

An authentic-looking, time-worn finish is very popular these days. Even better yet, this finishing technique is easy and very forgiving. Read on to learn how you can give your projects a great-looking, distressed finish.

First, Some Wear & Tear
To create a distressed look, you will need to simulate age. Start by vigorously sanding; this will add some serious wear to your project. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive. Focus on sharp edges, corners, and certain areas that would naturally receive more wear. Then, use distressing tools to create dings, dents, and scratches to give your project character. Distressing tools can be just about anything—keys, bolts, nails, a screwdriver, or any other hard object will all work well.

First, Some Wear & Tear

Put On Some Paint
Now comes the fun part—time to put on some paint! Applying a casual, distressed-paint finish offers a nice break from the much more demanding and time-consuming “formal” finish. When going for an old and well-worn look, the technique is easy and very forgiving. Highlighted below are two great options.

Milk Paint Header
Milk Paint Image A good way to create this casual look is with the vibrant colors of traditional milk paint. It comes in powdered form and is mixed with water as needed. Milk paint is easily to apply, dries fast, and gives you a rustic, washed look that instantly adds authenticity.

To create a distressed look, choose two contrasting colors of milk paint. Apply a thin coat of the first color. Next, sand some surfaces and edges to bare wood and apply the second color. When the paint is dry, sand through to expose the first color and the bare wood, creating the aged look you desire. For a final touch, you can add a light brown oil stain to darken the bare wood and soften the bright color of the milk paint.

Petroleum Jelly Header
Petroleum Jelly Image Another method comes from our friends at Shanty2Chic. They used petroleum jelly while painting to create a distressed look. For this technique, you will need two paints: a base coat and a top coat. For your base, you can use acrylic, latex, or spray paint. First, apply your base coat on any section of your project where you would like it to show through. For a more distressed look, give your entire project a base coat.

After the first coat dries, rub a little petroleum jelly on any surface you want to show through your top coat. Focus on corners and edges. The jelly will keep your top coat from sticking. After applying the jelly, it’s time for a top coat. Latex paint provides a great distressed look, but you can also use acrylic paint.  Depending on the color, you may want to apply two coats.

After your top coat has dried, you can wipe off the areas where you put the petroleum jelly to add more wear. Use a sanding block or steel wool to sand down your project lightly, revealing more of the base coat and some bare wood. And that’s it, you’re done! See the final result of this technique here.

Share What You Create
Many of you share your projects with us via Kreg social platforms and in the Kreg Owners’ Community. Now there’s another great way to share them! Simply email photos and a brief description of your project to Then, be sure to connect with Kreg on all of our social platforms. Your project might be the next thing we share!

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