barb blairbefore & after basicsbefore and after

before and after basics: dry brush painting

by Barb

Hello, hello! It’s time for Before & After Basics again and today I want to teach you a little trick that I love to perform on furniture called dry brushing! It is a relatively simple technique that goes on quickly, but the results look like it took hours to create.

Oh, and before I forget, I’m taking requests today! So if you have any topics that you’d like to see covered in this column please leave a comment with your request and I’ll get to work. Let’s get to painting! –Barb

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • paint brush
  • paint
  • sanding sponge
  • rags
  • drop cloth
  • water-based poly


1. Make sure the piece you have chosen for this project is completely sanded down and dust free. I personally always choose a dark wood piece for this type of project, because the contrast is so much better. Just a little nugget of wisdom for you!

2. There are a couple key elements to this project — the amount of paint on your brush and speed! Barely dip the very tips of the brush into the paint and wipe or dab a little bit of the paint off on a rag before applying to the surface. The success of this finish depends on the wood NOT being completely covered.

3. Quickly apply the paint to the section you are working on with light-handed back-and-forth strokes. When I say “light handed,” I mean don’t insert a lot of pressure when first making contact with the surface, as doing so will leave a heavy paint spot. Continue to work your brush back and forth until the whole area you’re working on is covered. Make sure you really work the brush quickly in the corners because stopping creates heaviness. Keep your hands and brush moving!

4. Step back and stare at the area you just completed. Do you feel any spots are uneven or heavy? If so, take a rag or your sanding sponge and work those areas until they are blended. Again, remember to maintain a soft, light touch at all times. The paint will be wet during this process so you won’t have to work hard to blend.

5. Continue Step 3 until you have covered the entire piece. You will be amazed at how quickly this process moves!

6. Once you’ve finished the dry-brush technique and any sanding you feel is needed for blending, apply two coats of water-based poly to protect all that gorgeous work you just completed!

7. Add hardware and any other finishing details.

That sounds like a walk in the park right?! Now get to work!

See you all next week friends!

Note: Process shots were recreated from another piece, but the “after” photo is a piece that I just finished using this process. — Barb

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    • annie, amanda hooked you up like a pro! that is the only source that you can find these vases right now. I thought they had been discontinued, but I think they have lots of stock to sell through.

      amanda, thank you :)

      susan, I have removed veneer several times off pieces that are going to get painted, and I chisel it off and then sand the underneath surface very smooth to either paint or do a paper application. It would all depend on what you are doing to the piece afterward. But , either way the removal of old veneer is a labor of love. :)

  • Painting old furniture is a great way of giving it renewed life. I get a lot of people asking me about painting their existing kitchen. It’s amazing how you can transform your tired looking kitchen for a few hundred euro.

  • I cannot tell you how much I enjoy these make-overs! They are so inspiring, I feel like running out to the Goodwill RIGHT NOW! I particularly enjoyed the kitchen make-overs!

  • Your makeovers provide SO much inspiration! Thank you ~ if you’re still taking suggestions, I’m wondering how to give a wood frame that distressed driftwood feeling. Can it be done without paint? I’m thinking that after stripping and sanding, you’re sort of stuck with that color and can’t go lighter unless you use paint. Maybe milk paint or your dry brush technique…

  • BARB!!! Where do you get your GORGEOUS knobs?????? I’m so in need of these exact ones… Pink Rose Knobs! On a deadline pls respond ASAP! Thanks!


  • I have found that spending a bit of time in antique/junk stores and garage sales is a great way to let your creative juices begin to flow. Take a look at friends’ garages, attics, etc. and see if they want to trade something with you. Don’t hurry. Try to visualize pieces. Look at home items as you might view your clothing items and play with creating something new. There is no right or wrong here.

  • I have an old end table with the leather inlay on top. Can I paint the whole table including the leather part and if so, is there anything that I need to do to it prior to painting?

  • Could you tell me what the paint color is in the photo just above step 3? I have several tables and I am getting ready to refinish them a sort of a rosy greige for a barnwood or driftwood looks. All pieces are stained dark cherry with poly on top with the bases painted high gloss black. Should I strip the pieces completely or just the black bases?

  • Hello, Barb! I have new bedroom that is all white and dry brushing would be great to antique it up. I have not painted before. Do I need to sand the furniture or can I paint directly on the finished product?

  • Hi,Barb!!
    I have a piece that I want to look just like the piece above,what color of paint did you use? the color underneath looks just like your piece,do we have to sand the whole piece? I love it exactly what I want!!! Thanks for your help!!

  • I have an old metal pot that I would like to paint with the old fashioned speckled look – any ideas on how to achieve this?

  • Barb- I have gone thru tons of examples and instructions regarding dry brush painting, but yurs is the first that addressed a top coat . My problem is that the polycrylic instructions say to sand prior to using, but if I sand my dry brush using a sand block with 320 paper, it ruins the fine brush marks I was trying to retain. I wondered if the polycrylic would adhere to the surface if I do not sand. Can you provide more details regarding prepping for top coat? Thanks so much for your great instructions. Your emphasis on light pressure initially is what I wish had been included in other instructions on dry brushing when I first started.

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