Check out this simple tutorial on how to paint wash furniture or color wash wood. Paint washing furniture is so easy and I’m going to show you how.
I had no intention of writing this post. My plan was to continue with my two toned furniture makeover and do a big reveal blog post that included the tan wash steps in it. BUT… as I was preparing for this project I realized there wasn’t much information or examples of paint washing or tan washing furniture anywhere on the web. I decided I needed to share my experience about how to tan wash furniture.
Table of Contents
What is a paint wash or color wash for furniture?
Color washing furniture is similar to white washing furniture in that you dilute your paint with water, apply it to the surface and then wipe it off with a lint free cloth. Applying color wash or paint wash to a surface is a similar process to staining a piece of wood.
Color washing a piece of wood is a way to give the surface a “washed” look, meaning you can still see a hint of the wood grain or the remaining surface underneath. This is a great technique if you are simply wanting to mute the tones in the existing wood or change them slightly.
What paint to use to color wash furniture
My favorite paint for color washing furniture is a regular old latex (or any water based) paint. This way it can be easily mixed with water for a beautiful color wash effect.
If you are using an oil based paint, you will need to thin the paint with a solvent like turpentine or mineral spirits.
I personally never use an oil based paint to create a tan wash or color wash effect because of the high VOCs. I can achieve the same look with a water based paint and less harmful ingredients.
As far as what color to use? That is entirely up to you. You can use any color to paint wash wood! If you want something vibrant, use a deep bold color like blue or red! If you are looking to mute the wood tones, stick with a lighter white or tan tone. If you want to make the wood darker, try using a brown or dark navy tone.
For this post I chose to use the color Swaying Hammock by Clark and Kensington in satin.
What ratio do you mix for a color wash furniture finish?
The mix ratio for a paint wash finish is ultimately a personal preference. The most common ratio is 1:1 paint to water (or paint to solvent) solution.
If you want a more translucent look, add a higher ratio of water or solvent to paint. If you want a more opaque look, you add a higher ratio of paint to water.
- lint free cloths
- water based paint of your choice
- cup of water
- seperate cup for mixing
- Stir stick
Below is a piece of Heart Pine Wood that I’m going to color wash. I wanted to mute the orangish red tones and give it a lighter look.
Do you need to sand the furniture before paint washing the wood?
Yes, it is generally recommended to sand furniture before painting it. Sanding helps to smooth out any rough patches or imperfections on the surface of the furniture, which can help the paint to adhere better and create a more even finish. Sanding also helps to remove any existing finish or varnish on the furniture, which can prevent the new paint from adhering properly. The extent of sanding required will depend on the type of furniture and the existing finish that is currently on the surface.
Since you are applying a “wash” over the existing wood, chances are you won’t have to sand the entire surface down to raw wood to get the desired look you are going for. My best suggestion is to sand lightly with a fine grit sandpaper if the surface has a matte or satin paint or sealer. If it has a high gloss finish, you will probably want to start with a heavier grit sandpaper (40-60 grit) and then end with a finer grit (120-360).
Always test a small area first. This is key!
How do you color wash or paint wash wood?
This technique is really simple and there are a few ways to do it. I’m going to show you the easiest way I like to paint wash wood.
- Mix one part water based paint to one part water in a separate container.
- Using a stir stick, make sure it’s mixed really well to an even consistency.
- Dip a lint free cloth in the paint wash and apply it to the wood surface IN THE DIRECTION of the wood grain.
- Continue to wipe the wood with (or without) the paint wash until you get the desired finish you want.
- If necessary, use a clean lint free cloth to wipe away any excess paint wash on the surface.
- Once the surface is dry, if it’s still not the color you want then repeat steps 3-5 until you are pleased.
- When you are done make sure to seal it!
Note; If you want a more translucent look and more wood grain to show, use more water and less paint. If you want a more opaque look, use more paint and less water. Ultimately this is a personal preference and will require some experimenting. It’s best if you have a sample piece of wood to try out first before you begin applying the wash on the entire surface.
As far as sealers go, I’ve got a few resources for that. Always seal the finished wood!
Like I said there are a few other ways to create a paint wash. I’ve even seen some creators dip a wet rag in an undiluted paint can and then wipe the surface. The problem with this is that it can create an uneven blotchy look. This is why I prefer to mix the paint with water BEFORE applying it to the surface.
Another tip; If you want an non blotchy finish try using a wood conditioner before you apply the paint wash.
Wasn’t that easy? I wish all my paint projects were this simple. For more simple paint techniques like this check out my painting and refinishing page here.
Thanks for stopping by!