How to Crackle Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Created on Saturday, 17 November 2007 11:32
Last Updated on Monday, 11 March 2019 23:31
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Here, I did a crackle faux paint finish and distressed these kitchen cabinets.  Of course, this effect will work on any surface, such as walls, furniture, and accessories. 

Here's an up close picture of the doors.


Here's the sink area.  I painted the counter tops too!

This was a major transformation.  Before, the cabinets had that old dark dated 70's look.  However, the dark finish actually came in handy, because that's the color that came through, creating a good cracked pattern, and also showed through where I distressed it with sandpaper.

Here's how you can do it, and what supplies you will need to buy:

There are a couple of ways to prepare your wood cabinets for the crackle paint effect.  If the cabinets are greasy, wash them with a good cleanser.  For stained wood cabinets, you can use Liquid Sand (you can buy this at Lowe's or Home Depot).  Or, you can just sand them with fine sandpaper.

If the doors have panels, then the seams will most likely need to be caulked, unless the seams are really tight.  If you want the original cabinet color as the base color, make sure you caulk all the cracks with a color that matches as close to the cabinet color as possible.  This is because this color is what you are going to see underneath, as it crackles.  If you don't have a color that matches, then just use any color of caulk and paint it to match the base color as close as possible.  Don't worry; it doesn't have to match exactly, just in the color range.

If you want another color of crackle to show through, then you will have to prepare the entire base with the color you want to show through.  First prime the cabinets with a good primer recommended for the surface you are covering.  Paint the entire cabinets with the particular color you choose, using any latex paint.  (I always buy oops paints that have been miss-tinted, and keep them on hand for projects.)  

If the doors are Formica or have an oil-based paint, then I recommend using a good primer recommended for that surface, or you can use an oil-based paint over them.  Black is a really good color to use underneath.  If the color you have is what you want to show in the cracks, but needs priming, buy Scotch Draw Tite.  It is a clear primer and saves you from having to prime and paint before applying the crackle glaze.

If you aren't going to crackle paint the hinges on the doors, then you should either protect them with painter's tape or take the doors and off and remove the hinges before painting them. 

Lay the doors out on an open area.  Put something under them to lift them up a bit, so you can do the sides, and the paint won't dry and stick to the surface they're on.  Do one side, and then after that side is dry, do the other side.  I much rather prefer to just do them as they are hanging, so I can do them all in one pun intended.  It saves me time doing it that way.

If you don't like the color of your hinges and/or knobs, You can spray paint them a different color, or just buy some new ones.  If you decide to paint them, lay all the hinges down on a protective surface.  Get a cardboard box and punch holes in the bottom.  insert all the knob screws up through the box holes, and then screw the knobs on.  This way, they will be free standing so they can be spray painted without touching anything.  If you do this now, they should be dry enough to put on your doors when the crackle finish is done.

Now, how to apply the crackle glaze?  You can use different brands.  On the cabinets you see here, I used American Tradition" faux weathered crackle glaze #96664.  It works really well.  After applying the crackle glaze to the base coat, let dry 1-4 hours before applying the top coat of paint.  Waiting longer than 4 hours may require re-application.

Oh, let the fun begin!  Apply any brand of flat latex paint, using a short nap roller or latex brush.  You need to work fast, with one stroke up and at the most one stroke back (one application in a single direction works best).  I use a little mini mop roller (available at Lowe's or Home Depot, or other local hardware stores may carry them, too), and then use a brush in smaller areas.  Make sure you don't go back and forth more than once while applying the paint on the crackle medium or the paint will start to slide around on the surface.  If this accidentally happens, just leave that area.  Don't overwork it.  You can come back to it when it later after it dries. 

Apply the paint evenly to the surface.  Uneven application will cause unwanted variation in the cracking pattern.  A heavier application will yield a larger crackle pattern.

After the surface has dried, you can even out the areas that have an uneven application of paint, and/or where the paint may have started to slide earlier.  I usually use a brush to do this.

After the entire surface is dry, lightly sand the surface and edges to give it that antiqued worn furniture look.
Optionally, I recommend applying a top protective finish.  You can use either water-based or oil-based polyurethane.  The difference in these two is that the water-based won't yellow, like an oil-based will, and will only darken the surface a bit, whereas the oil-based will yellow considerably more. 

This is what the paint I used looks like before applying the protective coating.

This is what it looks like with a water-based sealer.

And, this is what the same paint looks like, after applying an oil-based sealer.  It wasn't this yellow when I first applied it but yellowed over time.

It's just a matter of preference in the way you want your piece to turn out.


Check out my invention.  I have 3 US Utility patents on it.