Color Washing 101: Bring New Life to Wood

So you want to add some color to a piece of wood or furniture, but you still want the grain to show? How about using a color wash? A color wash is a thinned-down, translucent version of paint.

First, it’s important to make sure the piece will take paint properly. A chalk-based paint will stick to most anything—even if there’s a layer of wax or any kind of sealer. But the point of a color wash is for the paint to be absorbed into the grain, so if the piece has a finish on it, this process won’t work until you remove the finish. Stain is fine, but a poly coat or varnish keeps the paint from seeping into the wood.


With that in mind, step one is to remove any sealer or wax, if needed. Since I’m not an expert on the removal process, I’ll leave that advice to the experts. Next, you want to thin your paint. I thinned mine by adding 1 tablespoon of gray paint to 1/4 cup of water. I highly recommend you test on a piece of wood first to try out your technique. You might prefer to a different dilution.


After stirring the paint, I applied it to the piece. As I painted, I removed the excess. After the paint dries, you can look at your piece and decide if the paint is too dark or too light. If it’s not heavy enough for your taste, add more paint. If you added too much paint, you can try removing some with a wet cloth. If that doesn’t work, try lightly sanding.

I found the most difficult part was making it look rather uniform. You don’t want the left side to look darker than the right side, or the top to be darker than the bottom. One area looked a bit dark, so I added a bit more paint there to make it look more even. Exercise caution, because you really don’t want a blotchy look.


Also, keep in mind that I didn’t push the paint into every crevice. I wanted those areas to look dark, and the raised areas to catch the most paint so that the carved design would be even more obvious.


This was fun and a very easy project.

For more DIY inspiration from Anita, check out her blog Cedar Hill Farmhouse.

Get Ready, Get Set, Create – with Bali! There are so many options to explore. . .So many colors, fabrics, styles, and features. . . so much potential for bringing a little zing into a room, or injecting your style into a whole house. So . . .where do you start? Start here. With Bali.

One thought on “Color Washing 101: Bring New Life to Wood

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