Furniture Crackle Painting Techniques

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Crackled paint adds an aged appearance to furniture and cabinetry.

Aged painting techniques add character and a relaxed, informal look to furniture and cabinetry. Even new pieces achieve a level of authentic-looking age with interesting base colors peeking through crackled paint textures. Choose from quick applications of commercially available crackling compounds or opt for a more lengthy, and more richly colored, result by causing crackles with layers of materials available in the paint section of your hardware store.

Ready-To-Use Crackle Glaze

Paint the piece of furniture with a water-based paint in a color that contrasts with the top, or crackle, coat. Contrasting colors give the most striking appeal. Using water-based latex paint, thoroughly paint the entire piece and allow it to dry at least 24 hours, or more in humid or cooler temperatures. Don't paint in temperatures lower than 42 degrees Fahrenheit, because the paint will take an excessive amount of time to dry. Since you cannot control where the crackle layer separates, make sure all surfaces are evenly painted with the base coat.

After the base coat is dry, paint the piece with a ready-to-use crackle glaze in one direction only. Don't go back and forth or in different directions. If you like a delicately crazed, or lightly cracked, finish, use a thin layer of glaze. If you prefer dramatic, heavy cracks in the finish, apply a thick coat of glaze, as recommended at the website Seal the piece with a commercial varnish or sealer recommended by the crackle glaze manufacturer.

Stain, Glue and Paint

For a more naturally aged appearance without the use of a special crackling glaze, apply a rich colored wood stain to bare wood. After the stain dries, brush on a coat of natural glue, not synthetic glue. Animal-based glues are best, and the ordinary white, liquid glue that school children use produces a good result. Large areas require you to work quickly. Allow the glue to become tacky, but not dry, according to Bob Vila. While the glue is tacky, brush a coat of contrasting water-based paint on the surface. As the glue and top layer of paint begin to dry, they will separate and crack to reveal the stain color underneath.

Paint and Varnish

A technique that requires a little more time and work involves layers of paint and varnish. Brush the item with a base coat of oil-based paint and allow it to dry. Apply a coat of oil-based varnish, but only allow it to become tacky--not dry. While it is tacky, apply a thick layer of water-based varnish. Cracks and separations will appear and multiply as the layers of varnish dry. Be certain the piece is fully dry before moving to the next step, or you will ruin the cracks.

Once the piece is dry, rub the surface with a rag dampened with oil-based paint in a contrasting color. If the base coat is deep, choose a lighter, contrasting color. Once this layer is dry, wipe the piece down with a rich colored varnish, especially working it into the cracks, to enhance the aged appearance, recommends Sharon Jacobsen of All That Women Want.

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Lee Carroll

Lee Carroll

Carole Oldroyd, a writer based in East Tennessee, has authored numerous DIY home improvement, Human Resources, HR and Law articles. In addition to holding a degree in paralegal studies, she has more than 10 years of experience renovating newer homes and restoring historic property.