Distressing a Picture Frame

In this tutorial we will be distressing a picture frame. If you’re into shabby chic, then this project will be perfect for you. For those of you that are not familiar with this style, shabby chic look basically involves taking new objects and giving them an old worn out look that you would see in your grandmothers house. Whether it is a picture frame or a piece of furniture, our goal is to make it look as though we had it for years. I have a side table in a hallway that was done this way. My grandmother, upon seeing it, offered to cover it with a coat of paint. I had a hard time explaining to her that this was done on purpose. She just couldn’t understand it. To her this type of furniture means poverty. When I told her that some of these pieces are sold in trendy stores for hundreds of dollars, she was shocked. In any case, enough talk and let’s get to distressing. Things you will need:

1. sand paper fine and coarse
2. painting brush (the cheaper the better)
3. wooden picture frame
4. candle (or wax)
5. regular paint in two different colors plus white (here you can use any combination you want. One color and white will do just as well)

Picture frame and paints

If your picture frame has a glossy finish on it, do sand it a little bit so that the paint will stick. Start painting the frame. It doesn’t matter whether you choose red or green. I chose red first. I use satin finish because there isn’t too much gloss in satin. Allow paint to dry completely to the touch – about 25 minutes depending on the paint.

Picture Frame Tutorial 2

Before we put the second coat on, we have to rub some candle wax on the frame. Our goal is to later expose corners and edges because these are the places that would normally see heavy wear and tear over the years. You can rub in other spot as well to give it a really beat up look. The reason for using candle wax is to prevent the second coat from sticking to the first. Some people use paper cement which works good too, but I try to stay away from it due to the smell and fumes. Don’t be shy with the wax. Put on a lot. Later on you will take a piece of coarse sandpaper and scratch off at the places where you rubbed the candle wax on.

Picture Frame Tutorial Wax

Now put on a coat of green (in your case it might be red if you started of with green). Wait until the paint is dry.

Picture Frame Tutorial Green

Take that sand paper and fold it to form a sharp edge. Start scratching at the spots where you put the candle wax. Once you see the red coming through – stop. You don’t want to scratch the red off. Scratch next to the exposed red if you want more red to show through. How much you want to expose is up to you.

Picture Frame Tutorial Rub Off

Once you’re done with the sand paper, we are going to rub candle wax again but with a little trick. Make sure you put a lot on the exposed red and on the green surrounding it. In the end you want red and green to show through the white, so put that wax on both colors. We want the picture frame to look as though it’s been painted many times over the years with different colors and now some colors peeled off and we see all three. Put a coat of white. Wait until it is dry to the touch. Grab that sand paper again and start scratching where you previously rubbed the candle wax on. You should see both colors coming through now.

Distressed Picture Frame
Distressed Picture Frame 2

When you are satisfied with the look you might want to lightly rub with fine sand paper just to get rid of any loose pieces of paint if there are any. You’re almost done. In order to keep paint from scratching during use, I usually throw a coat of water based minwax polycrylic protective finish (clear satin) on it. It will seal the paint and give it a matte, slightly off white finish. That’s it for distressing a picture frame. Please upload pictures of your projects with your comments!


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