Rustic Dry Brush & Distressing Tutorial

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

If you’re looking to achieve a very rustic, white washed, distressed appearance to a wood project of your own, this may just be the tutorial for you! I’m going to show you, step-by-step, how I finished my DIY Wood Crate Side Table with this Rustic Dry Brush & Distressing Tutorial.

First I have to say that the more rough the wood to begin with, the better this looks and the better it works out. I have used it on smoother sanded wood projects with success—it does look nice—but the rougher wood just adds to that rustic look, which is what we’re going for, right? For  the wood crates turned end tables project I’m showing you these steps on, the crate is quite inexpensive and so the most of it was very rough. The legs were cut from cheap lumber, and also had rough sides, so I did not sand any of it and used the texture to my benefit! This is great because, well, less sanding so less work - yessss! That being said, if you find your piece too rough and worry about splinters or catching clothes is rubbed against it, go ahead and give it a very light sanding just to eliminate that, but leave lots of texture there. Now let me show you how I do it…

Supply List
A Wood Project to Finish
Wood Stain
Matte White Paint
Stir Sticks
Clean Rags
Paint Brush
Sanding Block or Electric Sander

Step 1
Put on your gloves to protect your hands from getting stained and use a stir stick to make sure your stain is well mixed. Grab your clean rag to rub your stain into the entire surface of your project. You can do this pretty quickly, and it really doesn’t have to be perfect for this application, so don’t obsess. I used Minwax Wood Stain in Special Walnut for this project. It’s a warm deep brown, but is not too dark, especially when applied this way. LET DRY AT LEAST 6 HOURS. I let mine dry overnight since I wasn’t able to get back to it before then.

Step 2
Grab your sandpaper and sanding block or electric sander—as you can see I used our electric 1/4 sheet palm sander—to sand off A LOT of the stain you just applied and waited so long to dry… just truuuussst meet! 

Step 3
Wipe all the sanding dust off your project with a tack cloth - these things are great!!!

Step 4
Pick up your DRY paint brush—it HAS to be dry—and dip it into your matte white paint, drop it over the edge of your paint can to remove a lot of the paint on the brush, lightly drag your paint brush over your stained, sanded wood. You want the wood to show through the paint, not for the paint to cover it completely. Try working in longer strokes as well. Once your piece is fully covered, allow the paint to dry for the recommended time on the can.

Step 5
Sand your dry paint so that you start revealing more wood in spots all over your piece, but don’t removed all the paint. This shouldn’t look too evenly sanded. Again, since you don’t have to be too obsessive about making it perfect, you can do this really quickly and messy! You’ll notice the scratchy brush strokes beginning to soften a bit.

Step 6
Use a clean cloth—or tack cloth again—to dust away the residue from sanding the paint.

Step 7
Apply another coat of your matte white paint using the same technique in Step 4. Make sure the paint doesn’t look too solid, use light pressure if you have to. Let it dry.

Step 8 *optional*
You can seal your project to protect it. I wouldn’t recommend using anything that has an ambering effect, which most wood sealers will. Even if it’s water based, even if it says “clear finish”, make sure to read the label because that’s where it will tell you about any ambering of the product. I didn't seal mine, but I am thinking I might. If I do, I will probably use a clear finish spray sealer that is used for many surfaces, including wood, since those don’t tend to have any yellowing built in. We want to keep our white projects nice and white!

I hope you’ll try this technique out for yourselves! It definitely helps but the finishing touch on any rustic or farmhouse furniture piece. You can try it with many other colours of paint as well. In fact, I used a similar, but slightly different, technique for my DIY Barn Board Tutorial, check that out, too, to make anything look like old barn board! And if you like the look of the table I used in this drybrush/whitewash look tutorial, check out my DIY Wood Crate End Table Tutorial! That’s all for this post, my friends! See you soon!



  1. You should begin by sanding the whole floor utilizing an electric sander. To have a flawless bothered look you should utilize harsh sandpaper. As general guideline you should work the sander in various ways with a specific end goal to get a roughed-look.


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