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How To Create A Crackle Finish In Three Easy Steps

I recommend starting with a scrap piece of wood to practice before you do that amazing piece of furniture you have. So grab your scrap piece of wood and paint it with dark grey or black. It doesn’t have to be perfect full coverage, but you need to paint the whole piece.

Step 1 – Apply A dark Basecoat

This dark color is what will show through when your top coat crackles.

For this tutorial I am using Waverly Chalk Paint from Walmart. My dark color is Elephant and my top color is Cashew. So this technique works for both high end and cheap chalk paints.


Step 2 – Apply The Crackle Medium (Wood Glue)

After your basecoat is good and dry, we’re going to apply the glue by squirting and then spreading it with a paint brush.

I start with just squirting a good bit all over the board. If you are doing a large piece of furniture you will want to do this part in manageable sections.

Timing is critical.

Today I am using Gorilla Wood Glue. I have also used Elmers many of times, I just happen to be out at the moment. And wood glue tends to be a little bit easier to work with.

The next step is to take your paint brush and start smearing the glue all around. You want the whole section covered with a relatively thick layer. The thicker the glue the bigger the “crackle” and the thinner the glue the smaller the “crackle”

As you can see I have some thinner areas and some that are thicker. This makes it look more realistic when it’s all done.

Now for the perfect timing and why I recommend a hair dryer. We need a skin to form on top of the glue as it does when it’s starting to dry so we can apply the next layer of paint easily. We don’t want the paint to mix with the glue, but the glue can’t completely dry or we won’t get any crackle.

A hair dryer easily manages this. Just a minute or so with the hair dryer over the thicker areas will get that skin to form quickly.

Step 3 – Apply the Top Coat (The Crackle Layer)

Now we get to paint our final color that will crackle! I pour a bit of paint all over the board and lightly use my brush to drag the paint across. You don’t want to apply a lot of pressure with your brush and break the skin of the glue.

As you can see the part I have painted doesn’t look all that great. You can see the bumps of the glue and some brush strokes. But all of that goes away once it’s dry. That’s why I like using chalk paint the best.

You can break out the hair dryer again on a low setting if you want to speed up the drying time. As the glue dries under the top coat of paint, it causes the paint to shrink and crackle. It’s a beautiful thing!

The thin layer of glue is those small lacy cracks spaced close together. And the deep farther spaced cracks are where the glue was a really thick layer.

That’s it! Now you know the secret to getting perfect crackle paint.

One last thing… this doesn’t work well with acrylic paints.

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