Whitewash Painting Techniques

If you like furniture with a clean but rustic finish, whitewashing can give a beautiful effect. Whitewash paint allows the base layer to show through slightly, and is also known as pickling or milk washing. In addition, it is fairly easy to do at home. There are a few different methods to whitewash wood, each with its own pros and cons. Deciding which is right for your furniture or wooden floors depends on your time commitments, as well as which method looks most visually appealing to you.

House painting
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Whitewash Painting Techniques

Whitewash Paint

A common method of whitewashing uses latex paint. After prepping your wood by sanding (and removing old paint if necessary), apply your whitewash paint. This can be purchased ready-made, and is sometimes called white wood stain, or whitewash pickling. You can also create your own whitewash paint by mixing white latex paint with water. Start with a 2:1 paint to water ratio and add more water to increase the sheerness of the wash.

Use a paint brush (which gives a nicer look than a roller) and apply your paint mixture in the direction of the wood grain. The mixture dries quickly, so you may want to work in one segment at a time. This method is fairly quick and easy, though it can look a little "homemade."

Whitewash Stain

To create a white wood stain, the starting process is the same as with whitewash paint. After your paint is applied but still wet, use a rag to rub in the paint while it's still wet. You can build up layers to achieve your desired opacity. To make sure your whitewashing lasts, seal your work with any water-based sealant.

This method is more time-consuming, but does give a more uniform wash of color than any other. When most people talk about whitewashing, this is the method they're referring to.

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing to whitewash boards or furniture is a faster method, but can look a little rushed if not done correctly. For this method, use undiluted paint and a dry brush. Take as little of the paint as possible and drag your brush over the wood. Move rapidly and lightly to achieve the most even coverage. If you do notice any uneven spots, you can blend by tapping with a sponge or rag.

You can also use this method to whitewash in different colors. For example, you can uniformly paint a piece of furniture or floor with a light, pastel shade, then go over the top with a dry brush to add an uneven white coating. This gives the impression of a slightly worn white paint job, and is a great way to subtly introduce some color to your home.

The Wax Method

To create a rustic, vintage vibe, prep your wood before whitewashing using a candle. Rub your candle across the wood to leave an uneven, waxy coating. The wax will resist the paint and give a slightly worn vibe to the wood. This method is fantastic if you want an authentic look, but does not produce the neatest results.

The Drag Method

This is another great method for a speedy, whitewashed look. Using a squeegee or similar tool to drag undiluted paint unevenly across the surface of untreated wood can also give a whitewash effect. This method is extremely quick and great for larger areas, although it can look a little slapdash.

Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle is a freelance writer based in Manchester, UK. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Daily Telegraph, Professional Photography Magazine, Bustle, Ravishly and more. When not writing, she enjoys pubs, knitting, nature and mysteries.