A DIY: Hand distressed painted picture frames

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about going to the Ruby Rhino Furniture painting workshop and all the inspiration and confidence it gave me to get on with a DIY painting project that I have in mind, (coming soon to the blog!) While we were there we also were allowed to paint a photo frame that we then took away with us to practice our technique and Hannah has very kindly allowed me to share a brief overview of what is involved. I’m pretty proud of mine!

I chose to ‘distress’ mine as it was my favourite look, but this was of course only 1 of several techniques we mastered on the day.

So here is how you could make something similar for your home, with thanks to Hannah and her Dad at Ruby Rhino for showing me the techniques.

1. First, take your chosen frame and give it a very light sand over to give the paint a ‘key’ (otherwise known as a bit of grip!) The paints we were using actually didn’t require this but I think it’s good advice for most projects, it certainly won’t do any harm.

When you are ‘distressing’ a piece, you remove a top layer of paint to show either a contrasting colour underneath, or perhaps to reveal the actual wood. In my case I wanted to have another paint colour coming through so I started with my base colour of mid-grey and gave it a single coat all over the frame.

2. After allowing it to dry, you then rub a piece of candle all over the frame, concentrating on the areas that would naturally get the most wear to make the distress look authentic – think about the corners and any raised parts of your frame. This is where your first coat of paint will eventually show through. Be liberal!

3. Next, apply a second coat of your contrasting paint – this will be the colour of the final piece and I chose a deep turquoise blue.

5. Once the top coat has dried, take a piece of light sand paper and start to buff off some of your top coat, gently revealing the colour underneath. This takes time and don’t go too heavily – or you’ll go straight through to the wood. Take it slowly and keep standing back to look at it and decide where it needs more distressing. Most importantly – know when to stop!

6-7. Once you are happy with the effect you have created, apply a layer of soft clear furniture wax all over the piece and allow to dry. Once dry, buff it off with a soft cloth, to seal your paint effect.

And voila!

The print you see here in the frame is by Brighton based photographer Cassia Beck on Etsy that Hannah sells in her shop. I decided to fill the frame there and then, as it’s often had to find something that suits once you get home and the photographs were beautiful – see more here.

Do let me know if you have any questions and thanks once again to Hannah from Ruby Rhino. I’d highly recommend the course if you have a project to plan, if only to give you the confidence to tackle to job!


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22 thoughts on “A DIY: Hand distressed painted picture frames

  1. This looks fab! I will definitely be trying this out when we finally move to our new house and have more room to hang up more pictures. Great post.

  2. Is there any particular kind of paint that you need for this? I have a mirror frame I wouldn’t mind trying this on!

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  6. I can’t seem to understand what the point of the wax is? Does that help the next layer of paint come off easier?

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  8. New to this kind of crafting. Just to be sure – you were using the same wax for steps 2 and 6, correct? And are chalk paints what you would generally recommend for getting the distressed look? Thanks!

    • Yes re the wax…
      Re the paints, I think you can get this effect with any paint, as it’s the wax layer between that makes the top layer come off easily to distress it, but these paints are easy to use as you don’t need to prep the piece you are working on. Having used them myself though, I’d recommend watering the paint down (half and half,) and doing extra layers for a smoother finish.

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