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Favorite Makeovers

How To Beautify Your Furniture Using A Paint Color Wash


Spruce up your furniture using a new twist on a classic color wash painting technique
Color washing furniture not only imitates the look of stain, but it can also be an easy way to add texture, dimension and natural paint layers to your piece.  Learn how to create a color washed effect, then pin this tutorial so you can reference it again later!



Thank you for all of the lovely compliments on our recent nightstands makeover project! I'm so glad you loved the color as much as we did! We're stepping away from color on this next makeover to share a new spin on a classic color washing furniture technique! 



Our goal was to replicate the look of an old rustic Spanish styled cabinet and we'd like to know what you think. Is it mission accomplished? If you love it, keep reading because we're about to show you how we did it!



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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links to products I love and use everyday. You can view our full disclosure here.



What in the world is color washing? It sounds rather silly, doesn't it? In short, color washing creates a really nice subtle aged look simply by diluting your paint. The furniture or wood you want color washed can be dipped into the diluted paint or it can be brushed onto your wood surface and then wiped off with a lint free cloth



Here are some great examples of color washing in white, grey and blue. In most of these color washing examples, the color wash was applied AFTER the base coat was applied. 




Today, I'm going to show you what a color wash looks like on a piece of furniture BEFORE you apply your main paint color and the effect is pretty neat!




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Here's what I started with... I snatched up this old 70's pecan cabinet on Craigslist for $35. It was love at first site with those intricate swirly details. The cabinet was heavy and well made but the wood grain looked like it had been stuck in a time warp.



Color washing as a stain is a great way to cover up old and outdated wood finishes. In a moment, I'm going to show you exactly how I was able to disguise this outdated pecan finish by using a black color wash as an imitation stain!



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How To Color Wash Your Furniture


Color Washing Supplies:


Paint (I used this paint color for this project.)
- Paper or plastic container/cup
-Water



How To Prepare Your Color Wash



  • Clean Your Piece of FurnitureAlways prep and clean your pieces so that they are free from dust, dirt and oils. This cleaner is one of my favorites!
  • Pour a 1:1 ratio of paint to water in a plastic container or cup and stir. Depending on your project, you won't need much. A little bit goes a long way and it's easy to mix up more. 
  • Grab your lint free cloths, a paint brush and some damp paper towels (to tidy up your hands.)





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How To Apply Color Wash To Wood Furniture


If you're doing a traditional color wash (i.e. applying the color wash AFTER your main paint color has been applied), you would dip your paint brush into the diluted paint and brush it over a small section of your piece. Then, using a damp rag you'd lightly wipe it off. You would continue in this same matter for another small section and repeat until the entire piece as been covered.



However, for this media console makeover, I wanted to use the black color wash as a stain to darken up the existing wood tone before I painted it with straight Lamp Black. This easy technique comes in handy when you're wanting to hide or darken an existing outdated wood grain! To use your color wash as a stain, dip your lint free cloth into your 1:1 paint/water solution and rub the cloth over your piece. You can apply the color wash with a paint brush. I simply prefer to use a cloth because I think it tends to be less messy.



Here you can see where the diluted paint has been applied. There's no rhyme or reason to wiping it on. If your piece has a distinct wood grain, then go in that direction. The important part of this step is to make sure that the color wash is rubbed in and that there aren't any drips. This looks like a hot mess right now, but I promise... once you add your 1st coat over the top of it, it will leave you with a gorgeous rustic finish!



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Above, is a picture of the cabinet with the black color wash still wet. Below you can see what it looks like after it has dried. I was really surprised to see so much pigment even with paint diluted at 50%. If you find that the first coat of your color wash is too light, add a second color wash to darken the color. The Lamp Black color wash gave this cabinet door a really nice imitation walnut stain color and a warm base for our next step... painting!




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I'm not going to go into specific painting details here. Over the years, I've learned how to distress my furniture pieces as I paint. It's a simple technique that I call, Reverse Distressing and it consists of layering paint in varying degrees so that it gives you a naturally distressed and worn look without ever using an ounce of sandpaper. I finished painting the rest of this cabinet using that technique which you can read about here


The combination of the black color wash and the Lamp Black paint gave this cabinet a variety of cool rustic brown and black layers, the perfect coloring for a Spanish styled piece. 




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Would you have never known that the original wood tone was a light pecan color? Have I convinced you to give it color washing a try? I sure hope so!



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While you're here stop by and see what my DIY Furniture Refinishing Friends did with these incredible furniture finds. I promise you'll be amazed AND you'll learn something new!



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1. How To Turn An Old Dry Sink Into A New Bar by That Sweet Tea Life
2. CeCe Caldwell's Grand Prairie Sage Dining Room Set Makeover by Lynn Fern
3. Creating A Layered Finish Using Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint by The Purple Hydrangea
4. How To Beautify Your Furniture Using A Paint Color Wash by Thirty Eighth Street
5. How To Stop Bleed Through Without Using Primer by Just The Woods
6. How To Strip Old Furniture To Create New Art by Whimsy and Wood



Which one of these furniture makeovers are you drawn to? Leave a comment down below to let us which of these made your heart go pitter-patter! :) If you have the chance to experiment with color washing we'd love to hear about it! Post your project to our FB page, ...we want to see what you're doing!






Have a great week!

Carrie || Thirty Eighth Street





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26 comments

  1. Any furniture piece with a black finish just always looks so elegant. I love the way this turned out.

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  2. Love this look to bits! Thank you for the tutorial :-)

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  3. Oh my gosh Carrie, I am super in love with this technique. I'm going to try it for sure on my next piece. All of your work is always stunning!

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    1. I hope that you do! Thank you for your kind words!

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  4. Another awesome paint project as always. I think I have a Pinterest board and it is all full of your projects Carrie!

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    1. Ah, thank you Mary! You make me feel like a million bucks! :)

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  5. Love this technique! I have a similar piece in my horde that will be trying this on. Thanks Carrie :)

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    1. Yay! I hope you'll give it a go, Annie! It's so easy to do. :)

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  6. I love the color wash technique for wooden furniture because it shows the grain below. Beautiful piece as always!

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  7. I love that Craiglist find! And what an amazing transformation. I didn't realize you could colour wash in such a deep tone! Gorgeous!

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    1. I was excited to snatch this one up and give it a face lift. Yes, you can get a dark rich color similar to a stain simply by color washing and it's so easy!

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  8. This is such an amazing painting technique! It looks beautiful!

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    1. Thank you, Emy! Color washing is an easy painting technique! I hope you'll give it a try!

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  9. Your furniture projects are always stunning

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  10. Ohh! I love how this turned out. I will definitely be trying this technique soon.

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  11. I love this look and your tutorial is great! Thanks for sharing at Snickerdoodle. Pinning.

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  12. I love the before and after! The end product looks like a million bucks. You'd never guess it was a DIY. Now I'm inspired!

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    1. Thanks, Jolina! It is amazing what a little paint can do for old and outdated furniture!

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  13. This piece is amazing. You are truly talented! I love your stuff!

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  14. Ah, thank you! I'm glad you are enjoying our furniture makeovers!

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