Take the Stress out of Distressing

Take the Stress out of Distressing

December 19, 2017

Warm Wht - Isnt that Pretty - Debbie Reeves

Shabby-chic. Aged. Worn. Perfectly imperfect. Distressed.

Whatever you call it, just go for it! Creating an effective and beautiful distressed finish on your freshly FAT Paint’d furniture look isn’t something to stress about. A lot of people are a bit apprehensive about the process, but you really shouldn’t sweat it. Frankly, I consider distressing the most creative part of refinishing furniture, but the effect is purely a personal choice.

Before you take a brush to any project, think about the look final you are trying to achieve. If you’re after a rustic farmhouse look, for example, enhance imperfections to give your distress some purpose.

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If mid-century modern is more your style, use a gentler touch when sanding your piece after you apply a couple of coats of FAT Paint. That’ll keep the surface smooth and the edges clean.

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If you do go with a shabby, aged, worn or perfectly imperfect look on your upcycled furniture, here are some general rules of thumb to keep in mind.

  • Make sure the paint is completely dry before you start. Chances are you’ll create marks or flaws in the surface if you start too soon. When in doubt, just wait longer.
  • Wear should occur in areas it where it make sense; don’t distress purely for the sake of distressing. Embrace and enhance any nicks, scrapes and cuts you may find in the surface. Focus on areas that would naturally wear and tear over time, like corners, edges, tops, raised decorative details, knobs and protrusions.

Detail_Ocean Spray_White Wax

  • Think about your tools. Sanding sponges with a medium grit on one side and a medium-fine on the other are (in my humble opinion) the easiest to use and give you the most control. They easily fit in your hand, allow for a comfortable grip and have a straight edge for hard-to-reach areas. That said, you can opt for plain sand paper, but make sure to think about the grit level. Using anything too abrasive may result in removing too much paint.  
  • Start with flat surfaces, then move onto the nooks and crannies. Trust us, it’s just easier that way.


  • Remove sanding dust as it builds up. Excess dust on your surface—or sanding sponge for that matter—may result in a mark or divot. Keep a soft cloth nearby during the distressing process, lightly running it over the surface when needed. If you need to clean your sponge, the easiest way to do this is to keep a second one nearby, rubbing them together to get rid of the residue.
  • Less is more. When in doubt, start with a very light distressing before amping up the elbow grease. Remember: It’s easy to add more. Because FAT Paint covers like a dream, you can easily throw on an extra coat if you have gone too far, even if you’ve already FAT Wax’d the piece. That obviously takes more time and effort, so save yourself the hassle if you can.

Cascadia chair - spindle 2

Dresser_Orangeapalooza 12

  • By Dana Kelly

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