How to: Distressing Wood With Vaseline

How to: Distressing Wood With Vaseline

If you’re looking to get that distressed, painted a few times Shabby Chic look, here’s a fun and easy way to accomplish it.


Two colors of latex paint. One will be your peek-a-boo, underneath color and the other will be your primary color.

Vaseline, but a light-colored candle will work too.

Steel wool.

Water-based polyurethane, if the piece will get wear.


First sand your piece, if necessary, and then put on a few coats of your peek-a-boo color. Mine is called Mudstone.

When your piece is completely dry, apply small amounts of petroleum jelly (or rub the tip of your candle) to the areas you want to look worn. Wood wears at corners and edges and such, so you’ll definitely want to apply some in those areas.

If you want to get the knocked around look of aged furniture, at this point you can take a chain to your piece and beat it up or scratch it with a set of keys.

Now you’ll want to apply a couple coats of your primary color. Mine is white.

When your final application is dry, take a bit of steel wool and rub those areas where you applied the Vaseline. Your top coats of paint won’t stick to those areas and will come off, leaving glimpses of your undercoat and maybe even some raw wood if you rub hard enough.

If the piece will get wear, you’ll want to apply a few coats of water-based poly, sanding between coats for a smooth surface, of course. Note: the greater the contrast between colors means their dissimilarity will be more noticeable, which makes for a great look too.

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DIY Maven on Nov 07, 2012:

@toni--if you're going to expose the wood to the elements, I'd probably opt for a marine varnish. You can find it in a satin finish but matte might be tricky. 

toni on Nov 06, 2012:

these are good instructions - I really like the look of this effect. I have a shop sign and want this effect on it, is there anything you can suggest to protect it and make it weather and waterproof? and if so is there anything that will give a matte effect?

Thanks ...

cissy on Aug 19, 2012:

This method works well for the two color effect, but I have just used sandpaper when using one color.  It works just fine.

Angie K on Aug 14, 2012:

Has anyone ever done this without vaseline or anything else? Will it still work? I just finished spray painting a wooden picture frame but didn't plan to distress it. Now I think it would be cool and am wondering if I just sand it if it will turn out alright? Or I could add vaseline to this coat and paint overtop but I really think it would look cool to expose the original wood underneath....

cissy on Aug 10, 2012:

I make picture frames to sell at flea markets and this trick is wonderful.  Thanks so much

DIY Maven on Jul 18, 2012:

@Ano--Craft store acrylic paint will work just fine!

Anonymous on Jul 15, 2012:

This technique worked great for me! I can't find any small bottles of laytex in my local craft stores. I would have to order a small can in the color I want from the hardware. Would this work using acrylic paint? Thats much easyer for me to find.

Sophie on Jun 18, 2012:

Thanks for such a simple and easy-to-follow tutorial.  I followed your instructions on a nightstand, and it came out amazing!!  Can't wait to paint the dresser next. :)  Thanks again! 

DIY Maven on Feb 04, 2012:

@mjones--I can't remember, but if I'd have to guess, I'd say one of the usual brands from the craft store like Americana, Deco Art...etc.

mjones on Feb 04, 2012:

Can you tell me the brand of paint you used?  I LOVE that Mudstone color.  I have an old window frame I'm looking to re-paint and distress and this color is perfect! Thanks :)

whitehouse on Jan 06, 2012:

these are great instructions - so clear and easy to follow - worked well on my box frame,  very pleased with the result


jomopro on Dec 04, 2011:

thanks so much for the step by step instructions. Very VERY HELPFUL!

bakelite on Mar 13, 2008:

Thanks for the tip. I now use this for the frames arround my telephone pictures (fits in well with the older Bakelite ones. Cheers

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