Google+ Nine Red: School of Restoration: Color Wash

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

School of Restoration: Color Wash

Wow, is it July already?  These months keep sneaking up on me. Welcome to another session in the School of Restoration, that I did for The Divine Minimalist.  Today I want to touch base on one of my favorite techniques, the color wash.  This is perfect when you want to update something with color, but still want to show the underlying wood grain.  I chose to do this outdoors since it's pretty messy, plus it's been beautiful out lately.  Before we start, check out my before and after:

  • Furniture
  • Sanding sponge
  • Fine & Medium Sandpaper
  • Water based paint 
  • Empty containers for mixing
  • Paint Brushes
  • Minwax Polycrylic - Satin
  • Old shirts or clean rags
  • Gloves
  • Mask
  • All purpose cleaner

The color wash technique is I think officially called a white wash, but since I'm using grey I felt that it was a little misleading!  So I renamed it, big deal. The process is the same, and you can do this with any color.  Seems like the lighter colors would highlight best, but you never know until you try!  First, choose your piece of furniture.  I chose this Armoire for the wash because I loved the wood grain, and all those knots.
Inspect the overall piece for damage, and make sure whatever repairs it needs are ones your willing to do.  I don't know how many times I've jumped the gun on a project, only to find that the repairs it needed were going to hold me back for a while.  In this case, just some trim was missing, and a few strange screws here and there.
That's an easy enough fix, especially since I had the piece that was missing.
Give your piece a proper cleaning.  I chose simple green, it's an excellent de-greaser and all purpose cleaner. Make sure you get in the little corners to get the dust and webs out, if they get caught up in your paint later you'll get some interesting textures.
Your piece may not have the trim problem, but since it was an easy fix I thought I'd throw a tip in here real quick.  So it looks like someone stood on the trim, probably some kid trying to grab cookies from the top or something, ha! Just kidding. The nails were still in tact, just bent.  I rested the trim against the side of a table, and gently tapped the nails straight again.  Afterwards it was as simple as applying some wood glue and lining the trim up to the existing holes in the armoire. Simple enough, moving on!
Remove your hardware.  I keep a lot of soup containers from when we get chinese food for projects like this. Actually all the containers in my shop are from there! They are so thick and durable, I love 'em. There's a tip for you, go get wonton soup before starting this project if you need containers (and lunch!).  I like to seal up all the hardware I'm going to re-use, I can't tell you how many times ONE screw or bolt has gone MIA.
Since we are going to be washing over the current finish, I roughed up all the sides gently by hand, using a sanding sponge.  My sponge was a little too fine for the job, so I wrapped another piece of sandpaper around my sponge.  This is also great when your sponge is pretty much shot but you don't want to run to the store for a newbie. OK, sand your piece to give the paint something to grab, no need to get crazy.
Hooray, let's mix paint! So I'm using the color "Woodsmoke", gotta hand it to those paint namers. Make sure your paint is water-based, because we are going to be adding water.  To create the wash, mix 2 parts of your paint with 1 part water.  If that's too thick or thin for you, adjust accordingly.  This stuff is pretty forgiving.  Mix it well in your wonton soup container.
So, in the side by side above, I just started brushing the paint on liberally.  You may want to work in small sections, as sometimes it dries pretty quick. I was working in 70 degree weather, in the shade, and had no problems doing 1 whole side at a time. Oh, and wear gloves! This stuff gets all over.
Let the paint rest for 3-4 minutes, then using a clean rag (I use old T shirts) wipe away the excess paint.  I did long, smooth strokes for this look.  You'll immediately get a feel for what's happening here, and you can tailor this look to be to your taste.  The more you wipe, the more you reveal from underneath.  Here you see I'm onto the next side:
Stand back and admire your work, don't worry if you see an area that isn't perfect - the flaws are what make this great.  As you can see in mine, there are a few areas where the paint globbed up a bit, but we'll fix that later when we attack it with the sanding sponge.
While letting the outside dry, I went ahead and did the inside of the doors too.  For the interior sides however, I just dipped a clean cloth into the wash, and quickly rubbed the sides with it.  This allowed me to spread just enough paint for it to match, without having to do the entire wash inside.  You could even do that treatment over the whole piece, if you like the thinner look.
Now, I kind of liked it as is, with a lot of wood showing. But, in the name of pushing out of my comfort zone, I went ahead and did a second coat.  Let the piece dry completely before you start the next coat, I waited about an hour.

Here we have the finish after a second coat, and I chose to stop there:

Let the piece dry completely.  Here's the fun part! Get your mask on, your sanding sponge out, and just have fun. Rub the edges, scrape any areas you want the wood to show through.  You'll find that since the paint was so watered down, distressing is much easier!

 I took a before and after photo to demonstrate the look I was aiming for:

I love those highlighted corners! I also used the sponge to remove the paint from pretty much every knot on this armoire. I adore knots. Next up, let's spruce up the interior a little bit.  So the drawers on this were snores-ville, and I felt since the outside was so soft and calm, the inside needed a bang.  Let's go with red. "One must have a hint of color..." that's a quote from one of my favorite movies: The Birdcage. Just so you know...

I don't have the exact name of this red paint, but I call it barn red.  I was lucky enough to get it for a dollar in the oops paint aisle. Yay!

See how much better that drawer is with red inside? By now I'm sure you've noticed the error in the order of my photography, that drawer front wasn't finished yet... I admit, I didn't do this in the order that I'm teaching it, why? Because since I painted the red BEFORE washing that drawer front, I had little grey drips all over my red interior.  So I had to repaint, and I want to save you from that. Anyway, Check out the inside back:

I chose not to distress the red, it's entirely up to you. I'm sure it would look great both ways.  Last step, are those feet there. I grabbed a trial can of Martha Stewarts "Francesa" because it was black/grey, and nearby.

I really like this color, not quite black.  Remove the feet if your piece has any, and apply a liberal coat of paint. I used a table mounted clamp to hold the foot upside down so I didn't get paint all over me. After they dry, take your sanding sponge and show them what you're made of.

Once everything is to your liking and completely dry, it's time to clear coat.  A clear coat is essential. As you've probably noticed, the paint is pretty easily chipped off, and without a protective layer it'll be all over your house.  I used Minwax Water based polycrylic because it's my absolute favorite.  The satin is a true satin, no shine, and after 2 coats of this your paint is totally protected.  Make sure to stir well, gently, otherwise the finish may be shiny. I've had this problem before, but not since I became a consistent stirrer.

Side story here, I had a major disaster during this project.  I was happily clear coating, whistling and enjoying life, a brush in one hand - the can of clear in the other.  When BAM! The almost full can flew out of my hand, into my lap, and finally onto the floor.  Polycrylic went everywhere, all over my clothes, it was devastating. I have to admit that my first thought was "that's so expensive!" (the poly, not my clothes!) ha! So, I don't have any tips for not dropping a whole can of it other than, don't drop a whole can of it. Oh, and wear clothes you don't care about.  I had no choice but to laugh it off and clean it up, and now my painters pants are stiff as a board.  Just thought I'd share..that stuff is slippery when it gets on the outside of the can!

Last step of course, and the most rewarding, is reattaching the hardware.  I chose the original, because I liked how tarnished and old it was. I feel it matches the style pretty well.

There you have it! Stand back and admire your work, take pictures, share with friends, send us some photos while you're at it! We love seeing other peoples work.

Ah that's a nice close up of the top, I left it a little thick here and there.  So what do you think, are you going to try it? And if you did try it, how did you like it? Color Wash (or white wash..) is really fun in my opinion, and it gives a lot of flexibility to really tailor the look to how you like it.

Thanks for tuning in for yet another session of School of Restoration. If you decide to try this on something of yours, send in your pictures - we'd love to see & share them.  If you missed the last few tutorials, you can find them all here. If this was your first, Welcome! Tune in next month for another technique tutorial in the School of Restoration, that I post for  The Divine Minimalist. To our American readers, have a fantastic and fun Independence Day!

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You anda Nine Red on my blog today.
    With love,

  3. Jesse, this looks amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am featuring today, as my 1st feature! Opens at 2:00. Hope you have a great weekend. -K

  4. Beautiful!! From your latest follower....I found you from Redoux. Blessings!

  5. Wow, what an awesome transformation! LOVE the little red splash too. :)

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Great tutorial. I have a few pieces of furniture I'd like to attack...and this is the look I am after.

  8. Lisa LaPlante: Saturday, March 9, 2013
    This is wonderful!! Just what we needed. I've been everywhere today looking for a glaze - or whatever. I'm putting a tourcoise (sp) finish on an antique table. Your method is spot on. Thank you so much!!!

    1. Great! Thank you so much, let me know how it comes out! PICTURES ! :D

  9. Awesome tutorial! Aren't ya glad that spill was Polycrylic! Imagine Polyurethane...or Shellac!

  10. me desculpe mas vc estragou o móvel


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