Making your own distressed furniture can be a fun DIY project that brings a lot of character to your home. No matter what two colors you choose, the distressed look using chalk paint is becoming increasingly popular in-home décor.
So, how can you do two color distressing with chalk paint? To do two color distressing with chalk paint, you’ll need to choose your two colors. Paint two coats of your base layer color, then paint on one or two coats of your top color. Rub sandpaper in the areas you want to distress, which will reveal the base layer in those areas. Finish with wax.
The two-color distressing with chalk paint method is actually incredibly easy! While it may look like the furniture took years to achieve that appearance, you can achieve it in just a few days.
If you’re looking to spruce up your home décor or old furniture pieces with two color distressing, then keep reading. We’ll provide everything you need to know to do two color distressing with chalk paint.
What Is Two Color Distressing?
Two color distressing is when you use two different colors of paint and layer them, then sand the top layer to reveal the layer underneath. The effect created is a sort of distressed and weathered look, as if the original paint has faded over time.
This type of furniture style is very popular for the farmhouse chic interior design aesthetic but is becoming more common in homes regardless of the interior design theme.
Furniture that’s been refinished with the two-color distressed look has a dynamic and eye-catching look. It’s usually used as a focal point of the room.
It’s common to use two color distressing on bed frames, chairs, tables, and shelving units or cabinets. But you can also use the two-color distressing method on other smaller items such as lamps, mirrors, and picture frames.
Why Do You Use Chalk Paint For Two Color Distressing?
Chalk paint is great to use for two color distressing because it sands easier than interior paint. The type of paint you may otherwise use on furniture would be the same interior paint you apply to walls. It’s long-lasting, durable, and has a nice finish.
However, for two color distressing, you don’t want it to be too durable. You want to be able to sand down the top layer of chalk paint to get to the layer underneath.
Some people may be wary of using chalk paint because it has such a matte, flat finish, but you’ll end up coating it in wax and an additional layer of sealer, if desired. The wax will give it a nice, glossy finish.
Another great thing about chalk paint is that it also makes a lot of economic sense when you’re working with a small furniture item.
If you’re only painting the frame of a small mirror, you don’t need a whole big can of paint. Chalk paint comes in smaller jars for a decent price, so you get to stretch your money with your DIY projects.
Supplies For Two Color Distressing With Chalk Paint On Furniture
Before you start on two-color distressing your furniture, you’ll need to gather the right supplies. Check out our list below for recommended products:
- Chalk paint
- Chalk paint brushes
- Finishing wax (clear)
- Finishing wax (dark)
- Lint-free cloths
It’s important to use chalk paint brushes instead of regular paint brushes. Chalk paint has very different texture than interior house paint, so it’ll need a different style of bristle and brush head to be applied effectively.
Before you buy a set of paint brushes or use ones you have lying around, make sure they’re good to use specifically for chalk paint.
It’s also key to get both clear wax and dark wax. The clear wax will go on first, and that step is a must. The clear wax will help deepen the colors and really highlight the two color distressing you’ve created.
Dark wax is optional but can really add an interesting color play. Although the can says “brown,” it won’t turn your whole piece brown. It will just add even more depth and color play to the two-color distressing you’ve created.
It’s best to use fine grit sandpaper, but if you find that isn’t working well enough to get through the paint, you can move down to medium grit and even coarse grit, depending on your paint and the look you’re going for.
We recommend purchasing sandpaper blocks because they’re easier to hold and are flexible, so they work great to get into small crevices and corners.
If you don’t want to invest in a whole pack of lint-free cloths for one furniture piece, you can always use an old t-shirt instead. T-shirts tend to be lint free and would also be fine to use instead.
Finally, the last sealer coat is optional. Wax will harden, creating a durable coating around your paint. However, for high-traffic areas or items that get a lot of use, such as a table or chair, you may want to consider that additional sealer layer.
If you only use wax, you’ll have to reapply it every few months to keep your furniture in top condition. If you add an additional coat of clear sealer, your furniture will be better protected from scratches, scuffs, and other wear and tear.
How To Do Two Color Distressing With Chalk Paint
After you’ve gathered all of your supplies, you’re nearly ready to begin! Before you start the process, you’ll want to consider one thing: do you want to wax before or after sanding?
Some people wax before sanding because it cuts down on the amount of dust particles that circulate in the air. Others wax after sanding because it’s easier to cut through the layers of paint before wax has been applied.
Both methods work well, but for the purposes of this article, we will be doing the waxing after sanding. It makes the sanding process much easier and helps you get that distressed look without too much elbow grease.
- Prepare your furniture item. If you’re working with a furniture piece made of wood that’s already stained, you’ll have to sand it before you start painting. Whether or not the furniture is wood, you’ll need to give it a really good clean.
- Start with your base color of paint and apply it using your chalk paint brush. Use varied strokes going in different directions. This will help highlight the distressing and give it a more dynamic appearance.
- Allow the first coat of your base layer to dry completely (usually around 24 hours). Then paint a second coat of your base layer.
- Allow the second coat of your base layer to dry completely.
- Using a clean brush, apply the second color to your furniture piece. Be sure to get really good coverage.
- Allow the final paint layer to dry.
- Once the paint is completely dry, get your sandpaper block and begin distressing in the areas you want distressed. This is typically any raised areas of the furniture piece, along with any edges or corners.
- After you’ve sanded down enough to where the piece is looking distressed in all the places you want it to, you can apply your clear wax. Use a chalk paint brush and get a small amount of wax, then apply to your furniture piece. A little bit of wax goes a long way! If you get too much on the brush and it appears white on the furniture piece, simply spread it around the other areas.
- Once you’ve applied your clear wax, you can now apply your dark wax, if you choose. The dark wax is optional, but it does add a great drama to the piece and highlights the distressing.
- Allow the wax to dry completely. It’s best to leave the furniture piece alone for a few days after this to allow the wax to harden.
- After the wax has hardened, you can either use your furniture item or apply your final layer of topcoat sealer.
And that’s it! You now have a piece of furniture with two color distressing using chalk paint.
For those who do better with a video tutorial, we have two that would be great. The first comes from Annie Sloan, a company that makes chalk paint and wax that is often used for two color distressing. This video from Annie Sloan herself shows waxing before sanding.
The second video tutorial is from an Annie Sloan studio done by an employee for a news segment on WDTV 5 News. The instructor does a great job with the step-by-step process. This video from Annie Sloan shows waxing after sanding.
Tips For Two Color Distressing With Chalk Paint
Aside from the basic how-to steps for two color distress with chalk paint, there are other tips for success with this project. The first is to choose whether you want a dark or light layer as your base layer.
Some people say that the darker color should go on the base, but it also looks great to do a light color, such as cream, for the base layer. It all depends on the type of distressed look you’re going for, as well as the colors you chose.
If you’re working with black and white, it will look better to have the piece be predominantly white with little areas of distressed black than the other way around.
Try to imagine what your colors will look like together when they’re done, then decide which one will be the base and which will go on top. You can even try doing it both ways on scrap pieces of wood to see which one you like better!
Another great tip is to only paint the area you want to distress with your base color. This is especially helpful for large scale furniture pieces, such as tables or headboards.
When you have all that expanse of flat areas, you’re likely not going to distress it too much in the middle. Simply use your base layer in the places you’re going to distress.
This will not only save your paint, but it will save you money! Just make sure to take a picture of the item before painting your top color, that way you know which areas to distress.
We recommended above that you use two coats of your base color. Some people only use one coat, and it will depend again on the distressed look you’re going for.
If you want some of the wood to show through too, then you can only use one coat of your base layer. This will help you more easily get through to the wood.
Just be careful and use a fine grit sandpaper so you don’t completely grind through your base color. If you want it to only be your base color showing through with the distressing and you don’t want to see any wood, then use two coats.
This will create a thicker layer of paint for the sandpaper to break through, so you’re less likely to have large areas of wood poking through.
You can also thin the paint of the top color. Thinning the paint with just a little bit of water will help you get to the base layer easier, so it will make the distressing step a little easier.
As we mentioned above in the supplies section, if you don’t have a lint-free cloth on hand, you can always use an old t-shirt.
It is important to use something lint-free, though. Do not use paper towels or tissue. The lint from these items will get stuck in the wax and create a mess of your nearly finished furniture piece, ruining the project. We also mentioned above that it’s best to alternate brush strokes.
Normally when you’re painting, you want to create nice, even brush strokes all going the same direction. This helps the paint fade away into a solid, flat layer and minimizes the visual brush strokes.
However, with distressed furniture, you want to do the opposite! Use alternating brush strokes. Start in one direction, then go in a perpendicular direction. Swipe the paintbrush in small strokes going in lots of different directions across your furniture piece.
The more you alternate your brush strokes, the more dynamic your furniture piece will appear. This helps truly give it a distressed, worn look.
Can You Layer Different Colors Of Chalk Paint?
Yes! That’s what two color distressing is all about. You’ll use two different colors, usually one dark and one light, and sand areas of one color away to expose the other.
You can even layer three different colors if you’ve done two color distressing before and understand the process.
If you add in a third color, remember that this third color will have to also be a distressed highlight color. You can sand lightly until you hit the middle color in some areas, then sand more deeply to cut through to the bottom color in other areas.
How Long Should Chalk Paint Dry Before Distressing?
The recommended time is at least 24 hours. While it may be tempting to just move forward with your project, it’s important to allow the paint to fully dry.
If you try painting your second color before the first color has had sufficient time to dry, they’ll end up combining to create one new blended color
It’s best to be patient and let the paint dry completely before moving to the next step in two color distressing.