barb blairbefore & after basics

before and after basics: putting the snap in your crackle

by Barb

Crackle finishes always seem to elude me. I follow the directions explicitly, only to have a few tiny cracks show up for the party! Choosing to remain positive and lick this trick, I tried again and again to create the perfect crackle. Sadly, I was left with a piece of furniture whose finish rivaled that of a Thanksgiving gourd due to all of my over brushing! To be super honest with you, I’ve never been a big fan of an entire piece being crackled but do find the intentional use of this product perfect for creating authentic finishes. While crackling has long been associated with country decor, today on Before and After Basics, I will show you how to do it Knack style!  — Barb

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


  • latex paint (two colors: base coat satin, top coat flat)
  • crackle glaze
  • 1/4-inch nap roller
  • paintbrush
  • sanding sponge


1. Make sure that the piece of furniture you are working on is sanded and ready for paint. Apply your satin-finish base coat in the color of your choice using the roller. I chose a darker color for my base and a lighter shade for the top coat, but you can choose whichever version suits your fancy!

2. Allow the base coat to dry for at least four hours or overnight before applying the crackle medium.

3. Apply the crackle medium using the roller. This is where it gets really tricky and where my way might be a bit new. I only apply crackle to the areas where I want some weathering. It may seem weird at first to just apply crackle to certain spots and in random patterns, but it creates a truly authentic look in the end. I solemnly swear it! When applying the crackle medium, try to get it on in one swipe of the roller and as evenly as possible. Do not work the roller back and forth. Crackle medium is super moody!

4. Allow the crackle medium to dry for one to two hours. Do not get impatient; it will ruin the effect if you start too early! If you give the piece more than four hours of drying time, you will have to reapply.

5. Once the crackle medium is dry, it is time to apply the top coat. You must use a flat paint for the top coat or the crackle will not work at all. So make sure that your top coat is flat. If you don’t get anything else right, get this! You have ONE shot to go over the crackle medium, so make sure that there is enough paint on your brush to cover the crackle area. You absolutely cannot go back over the medium once you have painted it. If you go back over the medium a second time, it will make your medium lumpy and smear the crackle effect. Super bad news!

6. Finish applying the top coat to the entire piece and let dry. You will see crackles appear after only a few short minutes. Don’t worry if you’re unhappy with some areas; you can get them once the top coat is dry and you move on to finishing the piece. I speak from experience!

7. After the top coat is dry, I like to completely sand the piece as I normally would. This is also great for any uneven places or areas that may seem not quite right to you. The sanding unifies the entire piece.

8. With the sanding complete, apply a coat of dark stain to create the final touch of intentional weathering!

Crackling is a very tricky process but can be fun for creating aged spots. I hope you enjoy trying your hand at it!

See you next week!

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  • That was a great, in-depth tutorial. I’ve only ever tried it on litle things– boxes and such, and the results are typically so-so. I think the final light sanding and staining is an important factor (that I never incorporated) that helps the end result look truly aged and authentic. Thanks for sharing!

  • This is very helpful! Thank you.

    Question: when you apply the dark stain at the end, do you apply it to the whole piece, or only stain the spots where you’ve sanded/distressed?

  • I love the technique of putting the crackle just where you want it. That makes much more sense than covering an entire piece of furniture with it. I always felt it was overkill and trendy. Classic is so much better than trendy.

  • While I thoroughly enjoyed the tutorial, I can’t stop staring at the newspaper decorations. They are fabulous.

    • Angela, Thank you so much! The newspaper flowers are a piece of cake to make! I use every bit of the newspaper, and the grocery adds are the most colorful! It is a great low cost recycling project. I will look into doing a tutorial on them soon!

      Anacelie, yes, you would stain the entire piece for a nice uniform consistency.

      LSW, the fabulous mustard wreath was made for mr by my sister, but you can get them in her etsy shop :http://www.etsy.com/shop/crannyfoundfavorites {thank you ruth ann for providing the link!}

      ** For those of you wanting to know the color names…I picked these just for this project, and the swatches are at the studio:) I will get back to you with the colors…I promise!

  • Oh my. I am thrilled to read this tutorial. AND the photos are amazing. I have a piece I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly to do with and now I think I know.

    PS what colors did you use. I love the whole look.

  • oh i love this post. everything about it! i have tried and FAILED at crackle. this is the best tutorial i’ve ever read on the process! THANK YOU!!

  • I LOVE THIS! It’s like you’re in my head. I have a piece in my bedroom that I’ve wanted to do this to. What are the colors you used? They would be perfect for my room.

  • Thanks for posting Barb! I’ve also found the process a tough nut to crack with varying results. Sometimes Iv’ e used a small hairdryer to help. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it turns the surface to oatmeal! But have not given Valspar a shot. Hmmmm.
    : { )

  • Thanks!! I wanted to post this to the “Wish List” of topics, but felt it was too late by the time I saw the request. Cheers and a safe holiday to you and yours.

  • This is perfect. I’ve had crackle medium on my shelf for too long, always aiming to re-do my night stand. Now I have the tools I need to do a good job. Thanks so much.

    And THANKS in advance for doing the newspaper flower tutorial. Although the after of the dresser is gorgeous, it was the flowers which really caught my eye in the photo!

  • Since the top coat on the piece is matte,do you alter the way that you apply the stain so that it isn’t uneven and smeary? Thanks!

    • Daynia, with a flat paint, it will tend to darken the finish a little more than a satin finish, but when you apply it with a rag evenly and wipe any excess areas the finish is nice and smooth.

      Sheila, thank you so much! I’m glad that this was a wish list topic for you! I will add the stain right now…thanks for pointing that out.

      ** For all of you wanting to know the paint colors…the light color top coat is Cafe Blue in flat by Valspar and the darker base coat is Slate Court in satin by Valspar.

  • I am loving your articles. I’m so inspired. I had dismissed crackle paint, but had never thought to use it sparingly. Genius! It looks wonderful! I featured your articles on my blog in today’s post. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Hi Barb. I just absolutely LOVE your tutorials for Before and After basics! And those colors are exactly what I had in mind for a piece, but couldn’t quite figure it out at the paint store. When you put the topcoat on how do you remember where you put the crackle glaze? Will it have a sheen to it that is visible? Thanks in advance!

  • Hi great teacher Barb, I have a dresser that I’m planning to paint and distress. I know you always say to stain after painting and distressing, is this only meant for the areas where the wood has been exposed or does the stain go over the the painted areas as well? Might be a silly question but I was once told a question stops being silly once it is asked. Thanks!!!

  • Hi Barb:
    It is a beautiful work and thanks for sharing it. I have 3 questions: 1. on part # 5 you mentioned that “make sure you have enough paint on brush but on picture it shows that you are using roller” so should we use roller or brush? 2: on # 8 you said apply dark satin color for final touch, do you mean the same base satin color we used now apply it on the top? 3. what is the name of colors you used it is very lovely color. thanks again

  • Hello!! LOVE LOVE LOVE this piece! Please tell me what colors you used. I want to paint my corner cabinet!!

  • One more question, please!!! Doyou put the stain on the whole piece or just the weathered and bare spots?


  • just read this ! by far one of the most helpful articles i have read! just one question please! there are SOOO MANY!!! crackle mediums to choose from!!! do you recommend one??what did you use for this project?????

  • I did this to my kitchen cabinets and I haven’t stained them or put a protective top coat on. They are a little lighter than I wanted was wondering about the stain and or a protective top coat please help! What stain should I use and do u wipe it on and then off or brush it on and leave it?????

  • Did you do a newspaper flower tutorial? I was hoping to find how to view it. Thanks.

  • I read an article that said let the crackle paint dry only until tacky. But the container says dry completely. And you said in here only a few hours… What do you suggest?
    Also do you think I could crackle paint on bare wood? I want the wood to Tahoe through the bottom instead of paint.
    Thanks -Renee

  • My mom painted my dresser with crackle paint many years ago. I just recently bought my first home and I’ve always loved the crackle paint look, so I just decided to paint my bathroom with it. It was my first doing it and it’s a different technique that my mom use fed. Anyways! If your using a crackle medium, then add a heavy coat. Don’t leave any part of the wall bare. You can use a brush or a roller. I used a roller, because I had a lot of wall to cover. After you coat the wall with the crackle medium. Let it dry. After its dry, then add a decent amount of paint with a roller very quickly. Try not to go over the same spot more than twice.

  • Hi I have just used a crackle paint and in parts I haven’t applied enough crackle but I have put my top coat on what can I do? Also twice I have gone over the same area twice (old habits) and have coursed a mass of paint, in 2 areas, is there any way to flatten this out or should I try to blend in.. thanks for you article though very detailed.