How to Apply a Paint Wash Technique

Most of my blog posts include the finished project along with how-to photos. The chifferobe I'm currently working on is a large project with a lot of steps, so I decided to break down the process into smaller posts so you can follow along. Today's post will bring you up to speed and explain how to apply a paint wash to create a "boutique finish". If you're crunched for time then you can simply read the captions in the photos for the short story.

Use a paint wash to create a boutique finish

Prep Work

The first step (after fixing the doors) was to clean the cabinet inside and out. Sorry but there are no photos of this exciting step. I vacuumed the interior and then used soap and water to clean it. After it was dry I applied two coats of shellac to prevent the tannins in the wood from bleeding through the paint. This step isn't always necessary, but many times it is with vintage furniture. Alternatively you could apply a coat of stain-blocking primer, but shellac is so much easier to apply and it dries quickly.

Apply shellac as a base coat.
Apply shellac as a base coat.


Inspiration

I found this Waverly fabric with a toile pattern and decided to incorporate it into my design. I needed 2 1/2 to 3 yards of fabric, but there were only two yards left on the bolt, and I couldn't find anymore fabric online. Ugh! But I was already in love with my fabric choice, so somehow I would just need to make it work.

Waverly fabric with toile pattern used for inspiration of color scheme.
Waverly fabric with toile pattern used for inspiration of color scheme.

Mixing Colors

I didn't need an exact match to the blue in the fabric, but I definitely wanted something that wouldn't clash. I mixed up a batch of Louis Blue, Old Ochre, Old White, and Greek Blue.

Custom mix of Chalk Paint: Louis Blue, Old Ochre, Greek Blue, and Old White.
Custom mix of Chalk Paint: Louis Blue, Old Ochre, Greek Blue, and Old White.

I first work in very small batches when custom mixing paint colors and paint samples on paint sticks. Once I decide on a final color I jot down the formula on the paint stick for future reference in case I need to mix more for the project. I didn't get a close up shot of the final mixed color, but you can see it in the plastic container in the shot below.

Mix up a small batch first and write down the formula.
Mix up a small batch first and write down the formula.


Applying the Paint Wash:

I painted the panels and the doors in my custom blue (two coats) then used a fine sanding sponge to lightly distress the paint.

Use a fine sanding sponge to lightly distress paint.
Use a fine sanding sponge to lightly distress paint.

I wanted to apply a wash of Old Ochre paint over the blue to add some depth to the project. The first step before applying the wash is to seal the Chalk Paint. There are a couple of reasons to seal the paint: first it allows the paint to glide over the base coat, and secondly it will prevent the base coat from being wiped off.

I wasn't sure if I would have enough clear wax for the entire project, so I used white wax to seal the blue. Using the white wax gave a little extra dimension to the color. I applied a generous amount with my wax brush and then wiped it off with a lint free cloth.

Apply wax to seal the base coat before apply the paint wash.
Apply wax to seal the base coat before apply the paint wash.

Next I prepared a wash of Old Ochre. I used a tablespoon of paint and diluted it with a few tablespoons (more or less) of water for a very thin consistency.

Dilute Chalk Paint with water to create a paint wash.
Dilute Chalk Paint with water to create a paint wash.

I had to work quickly before the paint dried, so my photos are a bit sparse. But I did manage to get a few shots. Using a brush I quickly spread the watered-down paint all over the blue. You can see in the photo that the paint wash beads up slightly when applied over the wax. No worries since I'll be wiping it back. This part doesn't need to be perfect.

Quickly apply the wash over the sealed base coat.
Quickly apply the wash over the sealed base coat.

This is the wash applied in an all over fashion over the door before wiping it back. The paint is still quite wet at this point.

Wash applied all over. The paint is still wet at this point.
Wash applied all over. The paint is still wet at this point.

I had a large bag of shop rags on hand for this step. Using a shop rag I began wiping the paint wash off the door. As the rag became saturated with paint I would grab a new one. I used an up and down motion, but you could use a random motion depending on the look you are going for. I used a light touch and then repeated the process to remove more paint until I got the look I was after. The added bonus is the wash works into the the routed details of the doors, so I didn't have to (painstakingly) paint that area by hand.

Use shop rags to wipe away the wash.
Use shop rags to wipe away the wash.

I'm including a side-by-side photo of the doors before and after the paint wash. The door on the left has the wash applied. I'm not sure how well the photo shows the difference as it is subtle and I was working in the shade (it was really hot outside), but it gives the blue a more muted color. I'll try to get better close up photos when I finish the project.

Before and after paint wash.
Before and after paint wash.

For the top and the trim pieces, I applied a layered paint technique using a base coat of Coco followed by Old Ochre, then Coco again, Old White, and finished with a final layer of Old Ochre. I applied light distressing here and there with a fine sanding sponge. I finished the exterior with a coat of clear soft wax.

Layering Chalk Paint.
Layering Chalk Paint.


There's More to this Story!

 Now it's time to begin the interior and work the fabric into my design. Stay tuned for more updates as the project progresses! If you'd like to receive updates via email then enter your address in the "subscribe" button at the top right of the page. Or you're always welcome to follow me on Facebook.

Fabric and painted furniture.
Fabric and painted furniture.

EDITED: You can view the finalized project HERE.

After: Boutique Style Armoire


Supply List

Below are the supplies I used for this project. Some links are affiliate links which  means I earn a few pennies. The best news it doesn't cost you more! 


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