a kitchen island with faux crackle
More in Painting

How to Paint a Crackle Finish on Furniture

Bypass the flea market and go straight to a faux-aged finish

Vintage-furniture hounds spend years tracking down painted pieces that have just the right patina, its cracked layers of color just oozing with charm. You can shortcut that journey with contrasting shades of flat latex paint and a special medium that comes out of the can as a milky liquid, goes on clear, and shrinks and cracks the paint color layered on top of it, revealing glimpses of the base shade. Crackle medium ages furniture right before your eyes. Which means you can create your own version of a piece's history, with colors of your choosing, whether you're aging one that's actually old or not.

Paint: Benjamin Moore's Sweet Pea (base coat) and Autumn Purple (top coat)


Steps // How to Paint a Crackle Finish on Furniture
1 ×

Tip

 
Step One // How to Paint a Crackle Finish on Furniture

Tip

finished faux crackle on a kitchen island
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

To artificially age the kitchen island shown here, decorative painter Ingrid Leess started by priming it, then brushing on a coat of flat lime green. The following day, she applied a thick layer of crackle medium, using a clean brush and taking care not to overwork it and dry it out. She let it dry for an hour (the medium must cure for 1 to 4 hours to work), then used a clean, dry brush to add a coat of purple. Soon after, it began to shrink, revealing bits of green—and faux history—beneath. A protective clear coat is an option, but here an unvarnished finish reinforces the worn look.

 
2 ×

Prime, Then Paint the Base Coat

 
Step Two // How to Paint a Crackle Finish on Furniture

Prime, Then Paint the Base Coat

applying a base coat of green paint to a kitchen island before applying faux crackle
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

No need for a lot of prep work here—surface imperfections are at the heart of this finish's charm. Just wipe it down with a wet sponge to remove surface dirt, and once it's dry, brush on a coat of primer. When the primed piece is dry, use a paintbrush to apply the color you want to show through in the crackle finish, brushing in the direction of the grain. Be sure to dab paint in the cracks and crevices of the furniture.

Once you have an even coat, let it dry overnight.

 
3 ×

Apply the Crackle Medium

 
Step Three // How to Paint a Crackle Finish on Furniture

Apply the Crackle Medium

applying faux crackle to a kitchen island
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Using a clean paintbrush, apply a thick layer of crackle medium to all surfaces. Work from top to bottom in an orderly fashion so that you can keep track of where you've been, since the milky-looking coating goes on clear.

Once you have an even coat, let it dry for at least an hour (but not more than 4 hours).

 
4 ×

Paint the Top Coat

 
Step Four // How to Paint a Crackle Finish on Furniture

Paint the Top Coat

applying a top coat of purple paint over faux crackle for a kitchen island
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Using a clean, dry brush, apply the top-coat color in a flat finish over all the painted surfaces. Even before you're finished with the entire piece, you'll see the top coat start to shrink up and reveal the color—and history—beneath.

Let the piece cure overnight before using it.

Finally, if you're crackling a surface that will get a lot of wear and tear—such as a tabletop, a chair seat, or a step stool—finish it with a satin clear coat to keep it from chipping. Otherwise, leave it as is for the most realistic aged finish.

 
 
 

TV Listings

Find TV Listing for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.