There are a few things you can do that will really help your furniture distressing job look right. Here are some of the ways it can go wrong and how to improve the…

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1. The Wood Showing Through Should Be Dark – I’ve tried painting and distressing over light colored wood and it just doesn’t have the same ‘pop’ that distressing over dark wood does.  I’ve tried doing a dark wax over the distressed areas, stain, everything, it just doesn’t work.  If you are starting with a light colored piece, I would stain it before you start the painting process.  Just do a light sanding and apply the stain over the top.

2.  An Electric Sander Can Be Too Harsh – Sometimes I use an electric sander to distress, but keep in mind, it does remove a lot of paint and if you take off too much, you will actually have to go back and start over with the painting process in order to fix it.  Whereas, if you use a hand sander, you can always go back and sand more without too much extra work.

3.  What To Do If the Paint is Balling Up or Peeling – If you are sanding latex paint, sometimes if the paint has not dried enough first, you can end up with the paint kind of balling up or peeling away instead of evenly sanding down.  For this reason, I think that chalk paint is great for distressing, since it tends to sand away in a powdery form, like chalk, than a rubbery, plasticy form like latex sometimes does.

4.  Go Heavy on Beveled Edges & Details – When distressing a piece, go heavier on the sanding around the edges, drawers, details, the dark wood showing through will accent those details and add character to the piece.   When distressing, I will usually go lightly over the top and sides and heavy around the edges and details, legs, etc.