How To Paint Distressed White For That Shabby Chic Look!

If you've been around DIY furniture for any time, you may be wondering how to white chalk paint distressed white.

This popular technique gives furniture a rustic and antique look.

It's the perfect way to quickly add charm and character to a household. So let's look at some ways to white chalk paint distressed white. 

Distressing furniture is the act of making it appear aged and weathered. By painting distressed white, painters can add an antique feel to even the most modern furniture.

Distressing differs from painting in that an abrasive element is used on the furniture after the painting is complete. 

Distressing has grown in popularity in recent years among DIYers. It is a popular technique for many reasons. Distressing provides a lot of character to pieces of furniture, something that might be missing from modern furniture purchased at a big box store.

As more retro aesthetics have become popular, so too has distressing. It is also relatively easy for DIYers to do at home. 

The best temperature to apply paint is room temperature. That's also the best condition to let your paint dry.

Bucket of White Paint with Brushes

Preparation Required for Painting Distressed White Furniture 

Home DIYers should know the necessary safety precautions needed before painting for a furniture project. White latex paint is the most obvious need, but painters will need other tools for the process of distressing. 

Painters should gather a paintbrush, paint stirrer, and bucket for the painting process. Fine grit sandpaper may also be useful. 

For the distressing process, there are a few tools to choose from. Fine grit sandpaper is a viable option, but a lint-free rag or wool yarn pad can also get the job done. Painters can replace fine grit sandpaper with sanding blockor sanding sponges if those are more available. 

Before painting furniture, DIYers should ensure there is adequate ventilation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends working in a well-ventilated area.

Paints contain several chemicals that can be harmful to humans when concentrated at a high level. OSHA also recommends wearing any necessary personal protective equipment. If working indoors, it’s best to open up any windows or doors to keep air flowing. 

Painters should also put down drop cloth or tack cloth if painting indoors to catch any spilled paint. Extra rags are also helpful to have around as well. For good painted finish, it is good to have polyurethane and a stain to protect the distressed paint job. 

You should remove any knobs or non-wooden pieces before beginning the process. If you're painting a previously painted surface, then it's better to give the paint a good chance to cure.

While not required, DIYers should sand the piece before the furniture is painted distressed white. This is especially true for bare wood that already has a painted finish on it, which will require a more thorough sanding process. 

While sanding, DIYers can smooth edges and corners that are too sharp before painting a furniture project. These paint distressing techniques work on any painted surface.

Painting Furniture White Distressed Look (How-To Guide)

Once you have taken care of all the necessary preparations, it is time to white chalk paint. Ensure you have proper ventilation and the wood on the furniture has received a quick sanding. 

1.  Apply The First Coat Of Paint 

Begin the process with an initial layer of white chalk paint. You can either use white paint for the initial layer or a contrasting color for a two-tone look later.

You can choose to distress only the edges of your piece or to distress it on flat surfaces as well.

Make sure to light sanding the flat surfaces as well. Keep in mind using paint for both coats will allow the natural wood to show through after the distressing process. 

2.  Apply The Second Coat Of Paint 

While not necessary if using just one latex paint, a second coat can be beneficial to ensure total coverage.

Allow the first coat of paint enough time to dry completely, then apply the second coat. For a two-tone approach, you will use white paint as your second coat for that white distressed look.  

If you take a two-tone approach, coat parts of the first layer in wax before adding the second coat. You can apply wax by rubbing a candle on the piece of furniture.

The wax from the candle will prevent the second layer from sticking to the wood, allowing you to peel it away later. Once the wax has been applied, paint the second coat of white paint. 

3.  Creating The Distressed White Paint Texture 

After the paint dries, it’s finally time to create that much sought-after white distressed look. You can use sandpaper or steel wool for this process.

Gently rub the sandpaper or steel wool on the furniture to chip away some of the paint and give it the distressed look. Start gradually and continue to distress the wood to your desired look. 

If you are attempting a two-tone look, use the steel wool on any places you've applied wax. This will chip away the paint and let the base coat shine through. Then, gradually take off the top coat of paint until it has the desired amount of weathering. 

Edges and corners are a great place to distress, as it gives the furniture a more natural and well-used look.

These areas are most likely to see wear and tear, so distressing here is a realistic way to make the furniture look more antique. Once you’ve finished distressing, wipe away the excess paint chips. 

4.  Finishing 

When you’ve finished distressing, all that remains is to put the finishing touches on the piece. While not required, applying a stain can make your piece look great. Apply a coat of stain and wipe the excess off with a rag. 

A layer of polyurethane over the paint on the finished product is highly recommended. Polyurethane will seal in the paint and protect your hard work. 

Once the polyurethane has dried completely, reinstall any pieces removed before painting, and you have finished the job. You now have a beautiful piece of white distress painted furniture. 

polyurethane Finished Kitchen Drawer

Common Distressed White Painting Questions 

How can I distress wood furniture without sanding? 

Wool yarn can replace sandpaper in the distressing process of wood furniture. It is recommended to sand the furniture before painting, however. 

Can I distress already painted furniture? 

Yes! The distress painted furniture process can even allow some of the previous paint to shine through for a more antique feel. 

Can you distress furniture with stains? 

If the distress painted furniture is already stained, painters should remove it before painting. Sanding is the easiest way to remove the stain. 

How do you paint two-tone distressed furniture? 

A contrasting base layer is first applied to create a two-tone piece of distress painted furniture. Then, remove some white paint during the distressing process to give it a two-tone look. 


It’s not hard to learn how to paint distressed white furniture. But, with some time and ingenuity, anyone can make a piece of furniture at home that has an antique and rustic feel.