How to Paint a Dresser to Look Rustic

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Applying a rustic finish to a dresser involves distressing the wood to add character. Create a rustic look on your dresser with the help of a successful contractor in this free video.

Part of the Video Series: Furniture Painting
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Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Chris Wade. I'm a contractor from the city of Los Angeles. Today, I'm going to show you how to make a dresser have a rustic finish. For this particular project, we're going to use this drawer front that I've taken off an old wooden dresser. First thing you want to do, is you want to remove all the hardware that you don't want to paint, or change the appearance. And, you want to basically just wipe it clean, get all the loose debris of it. There's really no sanding involves in this sort of a project, because we want it to have a distressed, rustic look. There are several ways you can distress a piece of wood. You can take a claw hammer and just run it across. You can take a screwdriver and just gouge it a little. The main thing you want to do, is you don't want to try to create any sort of a pattern. You want it to look its most natural as possible. You could take a chisel, and just gouge it wherever you want. You can take an old file, just randomly run around it. And, one thing that I find very creative is to find an old broken piece of concrete that's just jagged, and no consistency to it, and just run it across there a couple times. Just run it across there a couple times, and that will really give it that really distressed look that you're looking for. Wipe it down, get all the loose debris off of it. And, the first thing you want to do, is you want to get your base color down. Your base color is going to be the color that is seen behind your second coat, and we're going to use white today. And, you want to get a brush. And, the main thing is, you want to use a satin or a semi-gloss, because that's going to give it an easy, washable surface when you apply your second coat. So, you pretty much just want to just put it on. Again, just keep in mind that everything is going to be rustic and distressed, so we're not looking for any sort of a perfection. Just basically have to get coverage on it. Don't worry too much about any voids in the paint, anything of that nature, because you want it, again, to look aged, like it's been sitting around for 100 years or so. You do want to minimize any of your brush strokes, like this sort of stuff. That doesn't kind of come into play. So, you just want to finish it off with just long strokes. Again, make sure you're using a semi-gloss, and hit all the areas that you want coverage on. Now, we've applied our first base coat, we're going to let it dry for about 15 or 20 minutes, possibly a little longer considering the conditions you're in. And then, once it's dry, we'll move on to the next step. Okay, our first coat of the - our base coat - has dried. And, the next step is, we want to take whatever color you choose to use for the top coat. Really, all you do is just put it on, apply it the same way. Just go ahead and put it on, you know, haphazardly if you, guess you can call it that. Not trying to get full coverage, because the purpose of the top or the first coat, base coat, is what's going to basically be bleeding through the second coat, the color coat. Just apply it on all over. Now, after you get this on, you don't want to wait any length of time for the second step. You want to do it right away before the paint dries, otherwise you've defeated the whole purpose. Just get it on there. Sometimes, the second coat, you can just use an old dingy brush, because the harder the brush is, the actual grain, I mean, just better. Okay, once that is on, you want to take, I find using a rag, just an old rag that's didn't have to be quite 100 percent clean or smooth, you basically just want to just lightly wipe, taking off the wet paint. And, you can start to see how the base coat is bleeding through. That's the whole purpose of the distressing and the rustic look. Looks like the top paint, the top coat paint, is starting to go away, which is something that would happen over time. And, you just keep working it until you get a pattern that you like, a look that you like. If you go harder, then more of the base coat starts to bleed through. I'll go ahead and do it kind of hard. And, if after done wiping it, you don't particularly care for the way it looks, can always just take your paint, and paint it over again, and just try again. That's the actual reason for using the semi-gloss paint, because it's got a glossy, shiny surface where the paint will wipe off evenly. So, you know, just find that look that you're comfortable with, that you like. You know, it's not supposed to look pretty, or new, or whatever you want to do. That's pretty much how you do a rustic finish on a wooden dresser.

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