3 July 2008

Distressed letter tutorial

I wanted a funky, shabby, distressed letter M in our living room. I looked at a few online but as usual couldn't bear to spend money on something I could make myself.

So I bought a plain MDF letter from this eBay seller. I kind of made up this technique as I went along, but had the forethought to take pictures as I did it in case it worked out okay. I didn't want a crackle finish exactly, and I didn't want a simple sanded distressed finish either, I wanted it to look kind of chipped and old.

I forgot to take a pic of the letter before I started, but here is a shot of the back so you can see the material it's made of. Just cheap fibreboard.

I began by slapping on a coat of dark brown acrylic paint.

You can see here that it wasn't a total even coverage, but that's okay.

Then I burnt a new tealight until the wax had mostly melted.

I used a paper towel and my fingers to wipe the wax all over the front and edges of the letter. I guess you could just use a dinner candle and rub it all over.

Then I used one of my Pampered Chef scrapers to scrape the wax mostly off - a credit card would work too.

Then I slapped on a coat of white emulsion. Here is what the first coat looked like - you can see how the wax is preventing the white paint from adhering to the brown properly.

I forgot to take a picture after I did a second coat, so I'll just describe it: it was more evenly coated and pretty much white, although it wasn't neat and smooth. But pretty much all of the brown was covered.

Then I took a sanding block and sanded the edges so the brown would show through. The wax makes this easy.

Then I simply used my nails to scratch at the white paint. Because of the wax underneath, the white paint just chipped and pulled right off, leaving exactly the kind of distressed finish I was hoping for!

I just kept scratching here and there, and sanding a little (although the sandpaper only really made a difference on the edges) until I liked the look of it.

You can click this one, it will open up bigger so you can see properly:

And here it is, hung on the living room wall! I love how it turned out, and I think it will look even better when the wall is a pale taupe colour (although I'm not sure how long it will be before that happens.) Oh, and I have to mention that I have a new lamp in mind - that one won't be staying, it's too small.

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  1. That's great! I was wanting to do something similar but have never distressed anything before. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. wonderful tutorial and great result! Rachel Aswell would be so proud!

    (p.s. love the blog... your photographs are simply amazing!)

  3. I love how that turned out!

  4. What a great idea!! The letter looks fabulous--you did a wonderful job!

  5. Anonymous12:22 pm

    That looks great! You are very creative (and clever!)

    Love the blog, found it on two peas!

    love annie

  6. How fantastic! I've saved details of the ebay seller as I wasn't sure before now where to get the large letters from. I see a project with them in the future.............

  7. I love it! Great job. :) Thanks for the step by step instructions with pictures!

  8. I love the way this turned out!!!! I'm saving this page for later. Your instructions sound very easy to follow. And the pictures are awesome!!! :o)

  9. I LOVE THIS! I have always wanted to know how to achieve this look and am so excited you shared a tutorial! I just bought a bunch of these letters from Michaels as they were on clearance and can't wait to try it! I only hope mine looks half as good as yours! Thanks So Much!

  10. Thanks for sharing another technique for distressing! I like the non-crackle distressing style. I'll have to remember this. :) Love the way your M turned out!

  11. This is great! I'm trying to make some things for our home using only what I have on hand and/or "thrift" this year and this will come in handy I hope!

  12. Wow, I love this! You letter remodel turned out beautifully! I hope to try this very soon. When i do ill post some pictures on my blog and link back to your tutorial:)



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