Distressing Painted Furniture

It can be a little tricky sometimes to get distressing to look just right on painted furniture.  Here are some tips to help you get your furniture distressing to look natural and accentuate the detail and shape of the piece.

What Type of Sander Should I Use?
For the best control over your distressing, a non-electric, hand sander is recommended. We recommend a handheld drywall sander. An electric mouse sander can be used, but it will remove more paint quickly. We would not recommend it for novice furniture painters. It can sometimes remove too much paint and then repainting is needed. An orbital sander is usually too harsh for distressing painted furniture.

What Type of Sanding Grit Should I Use?
We recommend between 220-320 grit sandpaper for distressing. Remember to change the sandpaper a few times as you go. The sandpaper will wear down and become less effective after a few minutes. Once the piece has been distressed, go over the whole thing with 320-400 grit sandpaper. That is the perfect grit for finishing.

Where Should I Start Distressing?
Make sure to sand heavily in the areas that would naturally be distressed – corners, edges, details, everything that might naturally be worn down. You may want to lightly sand the flat surfaces, but avoid removing too much paint there. Distressing the flat areas tends to look unnatural.

How Much Should I Distress?
It depends on the look you are going for. Some like just a really light distressing over the edges and maybe spend 5 minutes doing it. Others want to bring out the look of the dark stained wood underneath and will carefully go over all the edges until 1/8″ of wood is showing through all over. It depends on how distressed you want the piece to appear. There’s no rule for how much to remove, as long as the distressing is being done in places where paint would come off naturally. Also, it usually looks better when there are not big blotches of paint removed in one area.

What if I Mess Up?
The nice thing about distressing is that all mistakes can be fixed easily. Just use a little touch up paint over the areas where too much paint was removed or you just don’t like the way it looks. Then, once the touch up paint is dry, go back and sand and distress again.


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