How to distress a picture frame

How to make a distressed picture frame

You will need:

  • A plain, unfinished wooden frame, preferably with plenty of grooves
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood primer
  • Vinyl emulsion in two shades - one shade to 'show through' the other one
  • Plain white candle
  • Steel wool

Don't let your favourite photos languish in a drawer - add a luxurious feel to any room by putting them in this easy-to-make antique-looking frame. For an added sumptuous touch, use a scrap of fabric to complement your curtains or cushions and carry the theme around the room.

Time to complete the job: One day (includes drying time).
Approximate budget: Simple wooden frame from £5.

First steps:
Remove the backing and glass from the frame to make sure they don't get splattered when you're painting. A mirror with an unfinished wooden frame would work beautifully with this approach as well - just cover the edges of the mirror with masking tape before you begin painting to protect it from paint splatters.

It's best to use a dark colour for the undercoat, with a lighter colour for the top so that the distressing is effective. Small sample pots of paint are more than enough for this size of project - so don't fork out for a large tin unless you're planning on painting lots of frames.

  • Sand the surface

    Sand the surface

    Sand the frame. Unfinished wooden products tend to be quite rough and ready, so be ready to use some elbow grease to get the surface you need for a smooth paint finish.

    Tip: Wipe the frame with a damp cloth before proceeding to remove any dust.

  • Apply the primer and undercoats

    Apply the primer and undercoats

    Apply a coat of wood primer to the frame. This ensures a good base for your layers of paint. Let it dry.

    Apply two coats of your first colour. Let it dry completely between coats.

    Tip: Remember that the first colour should be darker than your final colour. The frame pictured used an antique blue for its first colour, followed by a creamy-white.

  • Rub with a candle

    Rub with a candle

    Rub the frame all over using the bottom end of a plain white household candle. This gives a slippery surface for the final colour to ensure that it comes off easily when rubbed with the steel wool.

    Tip: Be sure to get the candle into all the grooves.

  • Apply the topcoat

    Apply the topcoat

    Apply two coats of the second colour - let it dry completely between the coats.

  • Rub with steel wool

    Rub with steel wool

    When the paint has dried completely, rub the frame with steel wool to remove flakes of the topcoat and let the bottom colour show through, giving a pleasing distressed finish.

    Tip: Rub until you have the finish you want - and remember that it's easier to take off the paint than to apply it, so stop frequently and step back to admire the effect before continuing. Be sure to use your fingers to get the steel wool well into the grooves. Put in your chosen picture or fabric and reinsert the glass and backing. Display proudly!