Distressed picture frames are a popular staple of rustic decor, and they are easy to replicate with The Spruce Best Home chalky finish paint. You may have seen tons of white distressed frames online, but we wanted to mix it up with a fun color instead. These yellow frames are more cheerful than white but still work well with the farmhouse style.

This DIY chalk paint tutorial will show you how to make a pair of distressed picture frames in a few easy-to-follow steps. First, look around your house for a frame that needs a makeover, pick a paint color, and then keep reading.

Remember, chalk paint works on most frames without much prep, but solid wood frames are the easiest to distress. If you are shopping for this project, try to buy solid wood frames and avoid ones with veneer. If the frame you want to use is damaged, apply some wood filler, then give the piece a light sanding before proceeding.

Tools and Supplies 

  • Old picture frames
  • Chalky finish paint (We used The Spruce Best Home chalky finish paint in Lemon Cream and Casual Sophistication)
  • Sealing wax
  • Paintbrush
  • Sanding block
  • Clean rag
old picture frame on newspaper


Remove the Glass and Artwork

If possible, carefully remove the glass and artwork from the frame. Don’t rush this step because you’re excited to paint. Old wavy glass breaks and chips easily and can cut you if you’re not careful.

If it’s too risky to remove the glass or there is a dust cover you don’t want to remove, you can paint the frame with the art inside. Use painters tape to tape off the glass if you aren’t removing the insides.

empty wood picture frame on newspaper

Clean the Frame Thoroughly

In most cases, you shouldn’t need to sand a picture frame to coat it with chalk paint. However, you will want to work with a smooth, dust-free surface. If you notice any peeling paint, be sure to scrape it away prior to painting.

Take precautions if the frame is old and you suspect it might have lead paint on it.

To clean this wood frame, we used a damp cloth to wipe down the wood, but you might need to use a mild cleanser. Make sure the frame is dry after cleaning.

cleaning a frame before painting it with chalk paint

Prep the Paint and Apply the First Coat

You may need to mix your paint with water depending on the type of chalk paint you choose. Follow the manufacturer instructions and work to get a medium consistency. Paint consistency is a personal preference, but you don’t want chalk paint too thin or too thick. Experiment with a consistency that works best for you.

Once you have the consistency to your liking, paint on a thin, even coat of chalk paint. Then, let it dry completely before proceeding.

yellow paint being applied to wood frame

Watch for Drips Before Applying Another Coat

Be careful that you clean up any paint drips before they dry. The edges are especially prone to dripping paint, but you can minimize this by painting on thinner coats and wiping any excess paint away right away.

Don’t paint on the first coat and walk away immediately. Some drips might take a minute or two to form on the sides of the frame.

If you accidentally let paint drips dry, scrape away the drip as soon as you notice it and start again. Once you have a smooth surface, allow each coat to dry completely.

freshly painted wooden picture frame

Buff Off Some Paint Using a Sanding Block

If you want a distressed picture frame, this step is very important. If you like how your picture frame looks with a solid coat of chalk paint, skip ahead to the next step.

Use a sanding block to lightly scuff away the top coat of chalk paint. You want to expose wood or some other color underneath. No two frames will look alike, but if you want the aging to look natural, sand the corners, edges, and high points only.

The grit of the sandpaper doesn’t matter as much as the technique. We opted to use a 120-grit sanding block because that is what we had on hand.

how to distress a picture frame

Use a Wax Sealant to Protect the Finish

Chalk paint is prone to smudging and scuffing off if it is not sealed with wax or some other protective finish. Since most frames hang on a wall without being touched, you could get away without a wax sealer, but we highly recommend it. Your colors will look more saturated, and your distressing will look more defined.

To apply the wax finish, use a clean, lint-free rag and buff some wax into the grain using circular motions. Some finishes won’t require a lot of sealing wax, and some pieces will require more. Use your best judgment to make sure the entire surface is covered.

Corner of frame with wax on it

Enjoy the Chalk Painted Picture Frame

Once the wax dries, you’re done!

yellow chalk painted picture frames

Your chalk paint adventures don’t have to stop here. You can also use chalk paint to spruce up your candlesticks.

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