One of my Workshop students asked a question the other day about whitewashing over oak. I’ve been meaning to add a new coat of wash to my pine kitchen table, so what better time to talk about liming and whitewashing with Chalk Paint®?
There are several ways to get a limed or whitewashed effect depending on the wood and the existing finish and I’ll go over my favorites. I like to use these methods to achieve the grey toned look so popular now. I believe they work best over a lighter wood, but the look can be achieved over darker or painted pieces, they just take a few more steps.
1) If the wood is unfinished, the easiest method is to dilute the Chalk Paint® then paint or wipe onto the surface, wiping it into and with the grain of the wood as you go. If painting it on, use a clean rag to immediately wipe back – you will need a lot of clean rags.
The wood will soak up the paint and show off the grain nicely. I dilute the paint starting with about a third water to paint, then add more water if I want a thinner or more translucent wash. Work a section at a time. Work fast because the paint dries fast! This method works especially well with highly grained wood like over the top of my pine table and the oak piece below painted by Annie Sloan.
You can also accomplish this with full strength paint for a “heavier” look. If the paint dries then dampen your cloth and go back over the paint. Try using a “baby wipe” – they are pre-moistened. Once the paint has dried it is harder to work with, but if this happens take a high grit sandpaper and lightly sand back. This works well if you also want to reveal a little of the wood underneath.
I like to use Old White as my wash but you can also use Pure White or any light color such as Duck Egg or Antionette.
If the piece has a finish on it but is unpainted, you can still use this method, it will work, but you may not see as much grain. You really just need to try and see.
2) If the piece is unfinished without a lot of grain, like the table below, I like to first paint a wash of Paris Grey or French Linen and then another wash of Old White over that. Because there isn’t a lot of grain, just the Old White can look a little boring. I used long strokes and do not go back over them to keep some of the striations of the paint visible.
3) If the piece is painted or a really dark wood that you don’t want to show through, then consider first painting it a solid light color such as Paris Grey or French Linen, then whitewashing over that.
Sometimes you just have to try the different methods to see which will work on your particular piece. Whichever method you use, remember to wipe side to side with the grain. Also, the more you wipe the less you will see the striations in the paint and more of a “haze” of color. Practice to see which look you like more and wipe accordingly. Finally, a coat of Clear Soft Wax after any method will keep your piece beautiful!
Remember also that a whitewash is the same as a color wash, just using white paint. So, if you want to you can use these same methods to “color wash”. See my Tutorial on Color Washing.