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How to distress paint decorative crates

Painted crates add great character and design to a home
Painted crates add great character and design to a home
Stephanie Carley

Take advantage of nice weather by checking all those DIY projects off your list. Distressed and rustic items are very popular in home design and crafting right now. You don’t need to pay big bucks to get distressed decorative home accents. You can do it yourself!

Believe it or not, distressing an item is fairly simple and doesn’t take all day. All you need is a few hours! This step-by-step list is how to distress paint a decorative crate, but it can easily be applied to other wooden items.

Hit up the local flea markets, vintage sales, or make the items yourself! Crates can be made with scrap wood, but if you’re not too handy with power tools, you can get them at your local home improvement store, craft store, or online vendor.

Wood crate
Wood crate James Wellington/Flickr

Wood crate

Prep crate

Find the crate or crates you want to paint. The ones pictured at the end of this list started unfinished wood. However, if you have barn wood crates, the end result will be even more rustic and distressed. Don’t sand the barn wood down. The extra texture will make the crates more unique.

Paint colors
Paint colors Ben Husmann/Flickr

Paint colors

Find paint colors
You’re going to want two different colors of paint in a flat finish. Home interior paint is good, but craft paint would work as well. One as a base coat (usually a dark color like brown) and then a top color. In this tutorial an off white and a blue were used for the top color. While a dark undercoat is typical for distressing items, any color can be used. Get creative! You can reverse the dark and light or even use a dark shade of a color and top with a light shade. For example: dark blue topped with light blue.

Brown paint colors
Brown paint colors Nomadic Lass

Brown paint colors

Paint base coat

Paint your crates with the darker shade of paint that you chose. This doesn’t need to be perfect or thick because you will be painting over top of it. This whole process is about giving the crate character, so imperfect is good.

Distress painted crates
Distress painted crates Stephanie Carley

Distress painted crates

Paint top coat

Once the base coat has dried, paint over top of it with your top coat. Don’t put a lot of paint on your brush and go quickly. You want the coat to be thin in area so the under coat shows through. You can paint over the base coat as much or as little as you want. Some people recommend putting Vaseline in areas you want the base coat to show. Once the top coat is dry you can go back and sand the areas with the Vaseline. Painting a thin coat over the base works just as well as the Vaseline method. If you want to add extra character you can definitely do some sanding once the paint is dry.