This simple technique can turn any old piece of wood into your next favorite piece of décor. You can literally whitewash wood any color you’d like.
Whitewashing has been around for pretty much as long as painting wood has been a thing. I’ve whitewashed everything from bricks to plaster to wood over the last several years, and I really like the finish it leaves. It surprised me when I learned recently that not a lot of people realize that you can whitewash wood any color you want.
I know that sounds a bit contradictory. Can it still be called “whitewash” if the paint is blue? I won’t pretend to know the technical terms, but I still call it whitewash because bluewash just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The technique is the same regardless of the color used. Whitewashing wood is similar to staining wood. You slap on brush on the paint, give it some time to soak in, and then wipe it off with a rag. Like with stain, you can add a second coat or wait a longer time before wiping off the excess if you want a darker color.
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Also like stain, the wood grain shows through the paint. Another similarity to stain is that whitewash paint is very thin. You can control how thin it actually is, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re trying to cover the wood completely, though, you need to try another painting technique because whitewash isn’t going to do it.
Before I really get into the examples I created, I want to take a second to talk about whitewashing brick. The very first whitewashing project I did was my fireplace.The bricks and the mortar had a weird beige tint to them, and I didn’t like it at all. Since it wasn’t in the budget to refinish it, I took some leftover light-gray paint from our newly repainted kitchen cabinets and used it to whitewash the brick. The result was subtle but noticeably better.
This post is about whitewashing wood with more vibrant colors, but I had to share my fireplace pictures in case you happen to have your own eyesore centered along a prominent wall in your home. Now, I don’t think it would look too great to whitewash your brick royal blue, but if you want to transform your old, discolored brick, you could try whitewashing it.
Okay, for the following examples, I used some repurposed tongue-and-groove paneling that came out of an old restaurant built in the early 1900’s. I love this old wood, and I’ve used it for everything from molding to shelving.
The paint choices were well thought out and planned well in advance—Just kidding. I used some paint that I bought for other projects. There is a color list at the bottom of the post if you’re interested.
The crate I bought at Walmart on a whim with the intention of hanging it on my son’s wall as a shelf. I’ve been looking for something that will look good with the recent changes I’ve made in there while still matching the style I have going throughout the rest of the house. Whitewashing the wooden crate royal blue is a good mesh of both styles.
Mix your paint and water at a ratio or 1:2. This paint goes a long way so I would recommend starting with ¼ to ½ cup of paint and ½ to 1 cup of water. I used a disposable cup and a plastic spoon to mix my paint.
I didn’t want to pour paint into a measuring cup to get the right amount. So, instead, I poured ½ cup of water into a measuring cup. I poured the water into the disposable cup and held the cup up to the light. Then I marked it at the water level. Once it was marked, I poured out the water and filled the cup to the line with paint. I used my measuring cup to get the right amount of water and added it to the paint. Then I mixed it really well with the plastic spoon.
I started with a light-yellow paint that I’d previously bought to paint the tables in my living room. Once I mixed the paint, I used a cheap chip brush to apply the paint, going with the grain. I let the paint stay on for a couple of minutes and then wiped it off with an old rag.
Just to save you the headache I experienced, I’ll advise you not to use a towel or any other terry cloth. It kept getting caught on the rough surface of the old wood and left behind bits of the towel. Finally, I’d had enough and grabbed an old t-shirt to finish the project. It worked much better.
I will admit that the yellow turned into more of cream color on the wood. After adding a second coat, it looked a little better. I didn’t have that problem with the darker colors, though.
Whitewash Wood Any Color
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Water-based paint in any color. (latex, acrylic, etc.)
- Chip brush (or whatever you have on hand)
Don’t bother with an expensive brush for this project. A simple chip brush will get the job done. Just paint in the direction of the wood grain. It doesn’t matter if there are brush lines.
Allow 2-3 minutes for the paint to dry and then wipe it off with your rag, moving with the grain again. If you want a more uneven look, you can wipe more in some sections and less in others. This will allow the paint to be thicker in places.
You can add a second coat to make it darker. If you’re looking for a more worn look, you can lightly sand it once it’s dry. Otherwise, you’re finished. Apply a light wax or some Polycrylic to help preserve the finish if you plan on using it regularly or plan to put it outside. It’s not absolutely necessary, though, since the wood absorbs the paint.
I’m going to use one of the pallet-like signs that I created to add decoration to my front porch. I’m going to add the red “welcome” sign to a fall wreath I haven’t had the chance to make yet. I also made a simple towel rack for the bathroom I’m working on.
Here is a list of the paint colors used in the above pictures.
The Red Welcome Plaque – FolkArt brand acrylic paint in Lipstick Red
The Blue Crate and Pallet – Glidden High-Endurance latex paint in Definitely Donald
The Cream Colored Pallet – Glidden High-Endurance latex paint in Pale Lemon
The Blue Towel Rack – FolkArt brand acrylic paint in Calypso Sky
So, what do you think? The red welcome sign is my favorite. It reminds me of an old barn. If you have some old paint and an old piece of wood handy, you have the makings of your next project waiting for you.
If you like this paint technique, check out my post on how to make chalk paint.