A crackle finish on a piece of furniture typically pairs two paint colors -- a base coat to show through the cracks in a top coat. But crackling can also be done with a wood stain and a paint color for an antiqued look. By treating the current stain on your furniture as your base coat rather than painting one on, you can get the crackle look with less cost. Before you begin, select a color and shade of paint that match the room the furniture will be in.
Take any hardware pieces, such as knobs, handles or hinges, off the furniture, if necessary, with a screwdriver. Set these pieces aside and place your furniture on a drop cloth. If there are drawers or doors to the piece, set them on the drop cloth as well so they aren't touching.
Paint on a ready-made crackle medium over the piece, drawer faces and doors with a paintbrush using even strokes running from side to side. Applying the crackle in a thin coating will create small, almost hairline cracks. Coating a thick layer of the crackle creates larger cracks for more of the stain to show through.
Let the crackle dry for as long as recommended on your brand's packaging. Drying time can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Apply a coat of acrylic paint in the color of your choice over the crackle. Work the paintbrush up and down the furniture item to apply the paint. Paint over every surface and leave the paint to dry for one to two hours.
Reattach any removed hardware to the furniture once the paint is fully dry and no longer tacky. Place the furniture in the desired room of your home and note the splits in the paint that allow the original stain to show through.