How to Dull a Wood Finish


Applying a finish to your wood, whether it's a tabletop, bookcase or hardwood floor, serves two basic functions. The finish protects the wood from the effects of normal wear and tear, while adding an attractive coloring or shine to your wood. There are times when the shine might be too glossy, however, and you wish to dull the finish to flatness. One effective method of doing this is by applying an additional layer of finish consisting of a mixture of clear coat and a flattening agent. The transparent clear coat allows the already painted or stained wood surface to show through the finish unimpeded, while the flattening agent reduces the light reflection, reducing the glossy shine to a nice dull finish.

Things You'll Need

  • Drop cloth
  • Clear coat paint
  • Flattening agent
  • Paint can
  • Wooden stir stick
  • Paint thinner
  • Air paint sprayer
  • Disposable piece of glass
  • Exhaust fan
  • Face mask or respirator
  • Place a drop cloth beneath the wood to collect any overspray.

  • Mix a clear coat paint with flattening agent in a paint can. Pour the clear coat into the can, followed by an equal amount of the flattening agent by weight. Stir the two with a wooden paint stirrer stick.

  • Thin out the mix to about 50 percent of its current thickness with a thinner formulated for use with your clear coat paint type. Mix in the thinner thoroughly with the paint stirrer.

  • Place the mixture into an air paint sprayer. Test the mixture for flatness on a disposable piece of glass. Hold the sprayer about 6 inches from the glass and then spray the surface of the glass with a light coating of the clear paint. Allow it to dry for two hours and then examine the coating for its shine. If the coating is too flat, then remix the clear coat and flattening agent, using less of the agent by weight. Retest until you achieve the desired results.

  • Spray your wood surface with the preferred flat finish mix. Spray on a very light layer of the mix for best results. The thicker your application, the shinier the finish, because the flattening agent sinks into the wood. Allow the coating time to dry. Drying time will vary according to environment, but wait between 24 and 48 hours before touching the wood.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can build a heavier protective clear layer by spraying on multiple moderate thickness layers, allowing each to dry and then following with the thin final coat to flatten the finish.
  • Apply the finish in a well-ventilated area only to prevent breathing in the finish fumes. Ventilate the area by opening windows and doors and placing an exhaust fan in a window or doorway.
  • Wear a face mask or respirator when applying the finish to avoid breathing the fumes from the finish.

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  • Photo Credit drop lid secretary desk image by James Phelps from
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