Distressed furniture is all the rage right now in interior design. It brings a classic rugged yet stylish country kind of vibe to any object or wall.
You probably already know how to get this rustic vintage kind of look without breaking your wallet at an antique store or aging your furniture with you for decades. Crackle paint is the secret.
Crackle paint is a finish with an intentional fracturing of the top coat to resemble a cracked coat of paint. This effect is achieved by painting over a crackle medium, though regular school glue like Elmer’s or any watered-down PVA glue would work too.
The resulting effect is the top coat breaking into random lines revealing the base coat through the cracks. The base and the top coat are usually highly contrasting colors to make the cracks pop. And even better if the base coat is satin or semi-gloss.
DIYers are now transforming their ordinary doors, furniture, and walls into a beautiful faux weathered appearance almost instantly. Unfortunately, like any other painting project, crackle paint can flop badly.
It is always unpredictable, and you never know with certainty how it will turn out until the very end. The paint could just sit there looking drippy, globby, and defiant, failing to crackle altogether, or break a lot more, or way less for your liking.
So what next? Did you ruin your most prized piece? Do not despair! Any paint job can be restored, including crackle paint.
How do you fix a bad crackle paint job? You can fix a bad crackle paint job by sanding down the parts of the paint job you want to fix (or all of it) to the base coat and then reapplying the crackle medium and paint on those sections. Or you can sand off the crackle paint job and apply a smooth paint instead.
This post offers a step by step guide on how to fix a bad crackle paint job. We’ll walk you through the process step by step and also share some of the reasons your crackle paint might have gone wrong, so you can avoid the problem altogether in the future. Let’s get to it!
7 Easy Steps To Fix A Bad Crackle Paint Finish
Technically, there are no mistakes in a crackle paint job – unless there are no crackles to begin with. Every outcome is unique and interesting. That notwithstanding, if your crackle paint job appears inadequate to your eyes, it probably is.
How you fix the mess depends on the outcome you’re looking for. Do you need more and deeper cracks or fewer and smaller ones? If it didn’t crackle, are you willing to redo it or prefer to call it quits and replace it with a smooth paint coat instead?
Whichever direction you choose to take, here are the steps for fixing a lousy crackle paint job:
Step 1: Analyze the results.
Step back and look at the outcome after it has thoroughly dried, which is usually overnight. Take note of what you dislike about the crackle paint finish.
Sometimes you only need to touch up a few areas with sandpaper to create a more even aged look. You could also sand more along the edges where it is prone to wear for a more realistic rugged appeal.
If you had applied the crackle paint too thin in specific parts such that it did not crackle adequately, add a fresh coat of crackle glaze to those areas. This will improve the crackle effect and enhance the depth of the fissures.
If the paint did not crackle at all or is already too thick and cannot be remedied by adding another layer of crackle paint or sanding, you have to take it all off in step 2 below.
Step 2: Remove the unwanted crackle top coat.
Depending on the project’s size, you could use medium-grit sandpaper or an electric sanding device to sand down all the crackle paint. You want to remove just the textured top coat. So, sand only down to the base coat and until it is all smooth.
Dust the surface and wipe clean with a damp cloth. Ensure you are doing this in an airy room or open space wearing a dust mask.
Not up to such a laborious task? You can alternatively strip down the bad crackle paint job using a chemical stripper. It is easier but also messier, so ensure your floors are lined with layers of old newspaper sheets. Allow for ample drying time of the soiled paper before discarding it with the rest of the trash.
Another method of removing the crackle paint on top is to use paint thinner.
Start by applying a generous amount of paint thinner and leave for a few minutes. Using a wire brush or an abrasive pad like steel wool, scour the surface to remove the paint. Finish by wiping the object clean.
Step 3: Decide between a smooth or a crackle finish.
With the top coat out of the way, you have to decide what you want to do next.
If you are done attempting to get the crackle effect and just want an even, smooth coat of paint, proceed to paint your piece as you normally would. Start with a primer and then a coat of paint with ample drying time between them.
Otherwise, go to step 4 to redo the crackle finish once more, hopefully, right this time.
Step 4: Reapply the base coat.
You already have your base coat intact but you might want to reapply a light coat in areas where you over sanded right through it. Let it dry.
Step 5: Reapply the medium.
Apply your crackle medium or Elmer’s glue evenly.
The thickness of the medium layer also determines the size of the cracks.
If you were hoping for richer, deeper cracks at first but failed to achieve it, try making the layer of crackle medium thicker than before by using generous amounts. Otherwise, apply sparingly and randomly to create finer cracks.
Step 6: Wait for the medium to dry.
Allow the medium to dry, but don’t wait too long.
It is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions though it should be top coat ready in typically an hour or two. It is ready when it is still tacky.
Over-drying the crackle medium may cause it to lose its effectiveness and is perhaps the reason the initial one did not crackle. If you go with glue, do not wait for it to dry out completely.
Step 7: Apply the top coat and wait for the magic.
Next, brush on the top coat of paint. The tips in this step are the determining factor of the final outcome. So, pay attention to your application technique.
Going back and forth on the same spot is one mistake that will cost you the coveted crackle. Once you dip your brush or roller in the can of paint, make sure it is holding enough paint for one pass.
How you apply the top layer affects the final look of the crackle paint. Long brush strokes result in longer cracks, while short passes result in smaller cracks.
The cracks follow the direction of the brush strokes. For a random pattern and more authentic look sweep in multiple directions. Otherwise, you can go for a defined regular pattern. For mini spider veins kind of cracks, opt to splotch paint all over using a sponge or spray the paint.
You should start noticing the crackling almost instantly. But don’t get excited or disappointed yet. The reaction will go on for hours, and there could be a huge difference between how it looked the first few minutes and many hours later.
Finish: Seal your crackle paint.
Like what you see? Then seal the crackle paint with acrylic polyurethane to create a protective barrier. Crackle painted surfaces are more susceptible to natural wear when left bare, even indoors.
Can You Paint Over Crackle Paint?
You can paint over crackle paint, and there are two ways of doing it.
For a highly textured surface, you’ll have to invest in a spackling paste such as DAP. This is a construction putty made from gypsum plaster used as a sealant or repairing compound.
To paint over the crackle, follow these easy steps:
- Start by filling the spackling paste into the gaps. Using your fingers really helps get it in every nook.
- Once every cranny is covered, allow it to dry and then lightly sand the entire surface.
- Apply a primer, followed by two coats of paint. (You should allow the surface to dry between.)
- If the crackle paint was applied thinly such that the surface isn’t textured or is lightly textured, you can go straight ahead and apply a layer of primer followed by two or three coats of paint, light sanding between coats.
Depending on the coverage and type of paint, you might notice a faint background pattern (which some people find interesting) or not.
Why is My Crackle Paint Not Working?
Prevention is always better than cure. It is better to find out why your crackle paint job failed or turned out contrary to how you had imagined it would.
While crackle medium is super unpredictable, its moodiness and failure to work are often the painters’ own doing. Here are a few reasons why your crackle paint is not working properly.
Applying the Top Coat Too Soon (or Too Late)
Applying the top coat over the crackle medium too late is a problem. When left too long, the crackle medium dries out and becomes ineffective, so waiting until this point to start painting your last layer is useless.
Being impatient and applying the top coat too early is also catastrophic. The medium needs some time to set.
You want to apply the top coat when the medium is still tacky. Always adhere to manufacturers’ timing recommendations.
Choosing a Glossy Finish Top Coat
We are sorry to disappoint you if you are totally in love with shine. The top coat should, however, be matte for any reaction to take place and see results.
Over-Brushing the Top Coat
Continuously going over the top coat disturbs the crackling effect as it usually happens almost immediately when the paint touches the medium. Aim for one pass of the brush and be sure there is enough paint for the amount of surface you want to cover.
Combining the Wrong Paint/Primer With the Medium
Latex paints are the best known medium to achieve this faux aging effect. Oil, enamel and other paint types may be crackled too but with a specific medium and primer.
But you also have to check the compatibility between the crackle medium, primer, and paint. Latex paint won’t do you any good if it won’t work with your primer, or if you bought a crackle medium that won’t work with it.
Also, read through the label and instructions to determine whether the medium should go at the base or the middle of two paint coats.
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