Saturday, February 14, 2009


... Or how to create that fab old-time crackle finish on your shabby chic pieces.

No I'm not the super star who wrote these instructions (c'mon, you knew that!), they're straight from this Ebay Guides board. I've always loved the look (not on everything though, it can definitely be over done) and have always bought the spendy 'crackle medium', because I'm a dork, obviously. So if you want to crackle that fab find from the flea market, try this method out:
Did you know that the expensive "crackle medium" you buy in cans is really just plain old white glue? Any white glue will work just like the really expensive stuff in cans.

We all love the "shabby chic" look of old crackled paint. When we're lucky, it happens naturally. But most times we have to help it along.
Crackling is great for covering up flaws. If you're considering sanding off old layers of paint, crackle instead - it's much faster & gives the item a lot of character.

How it's done:

There are two different methods of crackling that I use - one where the color in the cracks comes from underneath - the other where the color in the cracks in rubbed on. I like the second method best. It looks like dirt has naturally accumulated in old paint cracks.

Method One: Color underneath

1) Primer your item if it wasn't previously painted
2) Paint it with the color you want to show in the cracks (use a color with a lot of contrast to your top color if you want your effect to be dramatic.)
3) Paint the glue on. You can dilute it a little to make it easier to work with. Use a brush, not a roller. Cheap brushes work better - they leave more lines & therefore more detail in the cracks. PUT IT ON THICK! Thin coats don't crack well

Experiment - the more glue you put on, the bigger the cracks.
I like to use a funky, random pattern so the cracks aren't all in nice neat brush lines.
And I like to vary the thickness of the glue from one part to the next so the cracks look natural.

TIP: Thin coats work best on vertical surfaces. This is true for both the glue and the topcoat. If you paint them on too thick, it will all run down & be a gloppy mess. You can turn your item on it's back, crackle the front, turn it on the side, crackle the side, etc. I did this on an armoire. It's time consuming, but works great.

4) After the glue is set up, but still tacky,(more than 1 hour, but not more than 2 or 3 - depends on your thickness & weather) paint on the main color. Don't let the glue dry too much - it won't crack if it's too dry.
As the top color dries, the underneath color will be revealed in the cracks.

Method 2: Color rubbed in

1) Primer your item if it wasn't previously painted
2) Paint the glue on - see details above
3) After the glue is tacky (see details above) paint on the main color. Cracks will appear as it dries, but they will be very subtle.
4) After the main color has dried overnight, take a rag and rub gel stain onto the item, working it into the cracks. Work in small, manageable patches. This is a really beautiful effect - gives gorgeous age, texture & patina.

Here are some photos of a dresser I did for a guest bedroom with this method of rubbing in gel stain:

On the dresser, I used a basecoat of french vanilla and did the crackle finish just on some parts.
Then rubbed the entire piece in two different colors of gel stain, to give it an aged, patinized look. I rubbed it in with a rag, alternating the colors in about 12 inch irregular patches.
Gel stain works great for this, because it dries slowly so you can work with it until you have the look you like.

You'll get the hang of this technique pretty quickly - you just glop the gel stain on with one rag or a sponge brush, and then rag it off with a clean rag.
Try to clean more off in some places and leave some spots darker, and leave plenty in the nooks & crannies to accentuate the carving. This really brings out the details of a furniture piece.

Jenn here - So that ladies and gents is how you create that fab crazing/crackled look! I find crackling isn't so much like distressing though in the land of shabby chic. Distressing you can do to every single piece of furniture you own and it's just marvy. Crackling you kind of have to select a few pieces to do and try to leave it at that. Easier said than done though, I know! It's kind of like me a spray paint cans. There is nothing better than a full can of creamy white paint, I don't think I've ever had to put away a partially used can. Ever. Once I get that puppy going there's no stopping me, everything in my path will be white until I run out. It's a sickness really...
As you can tell I'm feeling much more like my shabby self ;) Good old junking... is there anything it can't do?

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