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Reverse Paint Distressing Technique With Chalk Paint®

Did you know that you can distress a piece of furniture as you're painting it? It's called the Reverse Paint Distressing technique and it's No. 5 of our 7th distressed furniture tutorial series.  

If you're painting a furniture piece with lots of details & some chalk paint® you can achieve a distressed look without using an ounce of sand paper! 

Put yours away... It's messy, time consuming and if executed improperly can sand away your original wood undertones. This is easier!

There are several different methods that you can use to distress furniture. 

Reverse and wet distressing are my two very favorite go to furniture distressing techniques. Both of them require zero sand paper, messy vaseline or wax!

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You'll often find seasoned chalk paint® enthusiasts using damp cloths to help them distress furniture. 

Rubbing a damp cloth along the edge of furniture and drawers does a great job of wiping the paint off in targeted areas without having any of the messy sand paper residue to clean up. 

This painting technique is often referred to as Wet Distressing.

But, what if you wanted some worn and faded areas in addition to those distressed edges? 

If you use that same wet distressing method to try and get some natural fading on the flat surfaces of your furniture, it can get tricky really quickly.

If you apply too much pressure as you rub there's a chance that you'll rub too much paint off and instead of getting a furniture piece that looks like it has naturally faded, you'll end up with bare spots which will give you the exact opposite effect of natural. 

The Reverse Distressing technique will give you those natural looking worn areas!

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This swirly dresser was born in the 1970's. It has busy drawer fronts, chunky hardware and thick molding. 

It's the perfect candidate for our reverse paint distressing technique

It has all sorts of lovely curvy details that would really nice painted and distressed. 

But, that's a lot of details to go back over with a damp cloth. 

Who has time for that? 

Not me! 

I chose the reverse distressing technique for this project because it will cut my distressing time in half.




What Is Reverse Distressing?

What does that mean? Reverse distressing means that you're giving something a distressed look simply by reversing your paint. In other words-

1. You don't paint in that spot or
2. You dry brush paint in that spot with very little paint on your brush.

Painting random areas with less paint will give you the same effect as if you've painted the piece and then rubbed back some of the paint. 

It gives you a naturally distressed look without having to go back over it with a damp cloth later.

Watch what happens when I add a little dabble of Old White Chalk Paint® decorative paint by Annie Sloan and apply my reverse painting distress technique.

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You'll notice that I dabbed my paint brush into the crooks and crannies of the details but I didn't go for full coverage. 

There are areas where the paint is thinner and there are areas where the piece hasn't had paint touch it at all.

If you want to build more layers and add a little bit more coverage, simply put a tiny bit more paint on my paint brush once the first coat has dried and dab again. 

Keep building until your satisfied with the level of "distressing". :)

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So. Much. Better.

Do you have any questions about this technique? 

Hop on over and get step by step instructions to our Reverse Paint Distressing Technique that we used for this nightstand makeover!

Have you tried our reverse distressing technique before? Leave a comment below, we'd love to hear about your experience!

See another painted dresser idea here!

Carrie || Thirty Eighth Street

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  1. Lovely! Could you elaborate more on your technique. Thanks!

  2. Hi Stephany! When I paint the drawers I paint with a push motion rather than back and forth. I'm pushing the paint into the crooks and crannies but I don't go for full coverage. I want some of that original wood to show through. That's what gives it the distressed look. I hope that helps!... Carrie

  3. The 1970's dresser looks great, now. The reverse distressing technique makes so much sense! Do you go back over it with a clear sealer or clear wax?

    1. Thanks, Carol! Yes! I protected this piece with General Finishes High Performance in Flat.

  4. I've done this before, but I didn't know it had a name! Thanks for sharing your tips with us at Snickerdoodle! Pinned.

    1. Doesn't it make distressing furniture so easy?! Thanks, Beverly!

  5. The reverse distressing technique makes so perfect sense to save time. I definitely need to try this technique. The dresser with all the swirls and curlicues is so pretty now that you have painted it. Thank you for sharing at Vintage Charm.

    1. It definitely helps skip a step! Those swirls were my favorite part of the piece! :)

  6. That dresser is very pretty. Love the reverse distressing technique.
    Thanks for sharing at Waste Not Wednesday.

  7. Hello, I love, love, love, your project. I'm pretty inexperienced but these chunky 1970s pieces are my absolute favorite to work on. I understand what you mean when you're talking about the revese technique but I don't get how you can get such good coverage in the lowest reassessed area of the actual base of the drawer front but have bare spots on the scrolly part... What kind of sorcery is this? Haha. Whenever I've tried to get full coverage in those spots, I find myself using a heavy amount of paint to get all the nooks filled and uniform coverage in the lowest parts. I hope that made some sense. I know, trial and error. I'm just sick of all the erroring lately. Thanks for your time. Again, beautiful work my friend!

    1. Hi Alicia! Great question! This is how that magic works. ;) I stipple (or paint in a dabbling motion in those areas.) That allows me to get good coverage in a controlled area. I hope that helps!