Learn the Finish

Distressing can add charm and character to any object. Painting a piece of furniture to change its color is a simple task. Telling a story about that piece of furniture through the art of distressing is clearly a whole different experience.

When you decide to distress something, think about the story you wish to tell. This will help you accomplish this painted finish in a whole new way.

For example, when applying your basecoat color, if you paint it thin and do a lot of sanding, your piece may look as though the paint has been worn away over time by wind and weather. If you apply the paint thick and sand only the edges it may look as though your piece has had many coats of paint over the years and has gotten minimal wear and tear. Don’t be afraid to paint thick or thin, to sand a lot or a little, to bang with a brick or a nail.

Have fun and remember, it’s your distressing story to tell.


Step one – basecoat

Be sure your surface is clean and dry.
NO STRIPPING, SANDING, OR PRIMING required!Apply the basecoat. You can use the chip brush provided, a larger brush or even a roller for a large surface.Allow it to dry.


  • We suggest cleaning the surface with a mild cleaning solution and making sure the surface is thoroughly dry.
  • Caromal Colours Basecoat or Textured Basecoat makes almost any surface paintable.
  • It can be applied over an oil, varnish, urethane, or latex surface.
  • It will bond to raw or painted wood, metal, tile, glass, brick, stone, or even laminate and plastic.
  • If you are painting an extremely challenging surface and you notice the basecoat crackles slightly when drying. Simply sand the crackling areas and apply the basecoat again.
  • No need to worry about the way you apply the basecoat. The more irregularly you apply it the more interesting your distressing story will become.
  • On the piece of molding shown here, we brushed the textured basecoat every which way. We pushed and mushed, separating the bristles of the brush, painted it sideways and pounced the paint this way and that. That will achieve the interesting texture you will see in our end result.



Step two – sand to distress

Think about where normal wear and tear would occur on your piece and concentrate your sanding in those areas.For example…a chair would be more distressed on the arms or bottom of the legs, where the back would hit the chair rail and where you would sit and lean on it.
You can “cheat” by using a little hand sander as shown. No household should be without one of these!
Brush or wipe sanding dust from object.


  • Sand as much or as little as you like. Use 220 grit sandpaper for mild sanding and 80-100 grit for more dramatic distressing.
  • Adjust the size of your sandpaper to the size of the item you are sanding by tearing or folding or both.
  • Avoid even or repetitive sanding, (like going over all the edges perfectly the same).
  • You can sand flat areas as well as edges and wear areas.
  • You may also want to “ding” and “bang” your object using things like old keys, bricks, or putting in little nail holes to represent wear from bugs.



Step three – toning

Apply the toner. You can use the chip brush provided, a larger brush or even a roller for a large surface.
Wipe back the toner using any soft cloth. If the cloth is slightly damp it will remove more of the toner. Or you can use a dry cloth that will “smear” more and remove less of the toner.

Toner wiped with damp cloth.
Toner wiped with dry cloth.


  • The way you use your toner will help to tell your distressing story.Leaving more toner, heavier in crevices, will give you a more dramatic effect.Sanding back areas to raw wood will allow the toner to “stain” the edges creating a darker effect on those areas.

    There is no right or wrong when it comes to how much toner to leave on or remove.

    You can always reapply a second layer of toner to certain areas to distress even more.

    You can seal your surface using any topcoat as desired. (We like Liberon Wax)



 Optional Step. Flyspecking.

Using an old toothbrush, dip it into the toner , dab off some of the toner onto a cloth or paper towel and create “flyspecks” by pulling your finger or thumb through the toothbrush.Flyspecks add age and character to any piece