4 Thrifted Frames, 1 Easy Distress Technique

How to easily distress anything – plastic, wood, glass, resin – for an authentic looking antique finish using just paint and Vaseline.

Hey y’all! I think I’m finally getting back into my groove after last week’s Myrtle Beach trip.
This project I’m sharing with you guys today is really a little teaser for what’s to come.
Remember my mash up of gallery wall inspirations that made my head swirl with ideas? I have figured out my direction and I’m so excited for our naked stairway wall to have some bling on it! And by bling I mean distressed vintage-inspired awesomeness. If you have any picture frames lying around waiting to be jazzed up, this project is perfect.
Over the course of several months, I’ve had a little collection going of random frames I’ve discovered in thrift stores or craft stores that I thought had interesting details.
I knew I wanted to eventually do a gallery wall. Some were as cheap as 99 cents (poppin’ tags yo) and some I paid a little more at around $10. I always always check the frame section of thrift stores when I visit. I chose 6 total to distress for our wall- 4 thrifted and 2 from Hobby Lobby.

 Okay, they’re really not too bad. And I originally thought they would be pretty in Olivia’s ballet theme room, but I swiped them for our living room instead…I know, shame on me…so greedy.

The other two of the 6 were this brassy gold plastic, which, unfortunately, I forgot to snap a before shot of (bad blogger!).

Believe it or not, I have never done a chalk paint project. (Say whaaat?)  I had always wanted to! And, y’all, I gotta say, I have found the elixer of life. Okay, I exaggerate. But it’s amazing stuff.

From this point on, if you stand still long enough, I might slather you with a layer of chalk paint. I think I shyed away from it before because I was so scared of ruining a paint project and ending up with wasted funds. That stuff ain’t cheap! Annie Sloan projects are beautiful, but I can’t swing over $22 for 8 ounces and potentially mess it up. (Update:  I finally did it, and it was SUPER easy! I had no reason to be scared. And I discovered a little of that paint goes a long way. See my beginner’s guide to chalk paint here.)

BUT I found a super cheap alternative.

I’m loving this Plaid brand, Folk Art Home Decor Chalk Paint,  so if you’re a beginner at chalk paint, like me, I highly suggest trying it out.
So back to the frames.
Supplies I used:  (Affiliate links are provided below for convenience. For more info, see my full disclosure here.)
  • 2 colors of chalk paint (I used Folk Art paint in Java and Parisian Grey.)
  • Vaseline
  • A clean, dry rag
  • Paper towels
  • 2-3 large artist brushes

Step 1.  Paint frames with a coat of your base color (the shade that will show underneath the distress finish). I used the Folk Art Chalk Paint in Java on four of the frames, and I used Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze  on the other two just to see if there would be a major difference. Both came out great. You can really use anything.

Step 2.  After the paint is dry, rub Vaseline onto various spots on the frame.
I focused mainly on the corners and edges where normal wear and tear would occur. And, hey, I got a little skin softening treatment in the process. 🙂
Step 3.  Paint on a layer of your top coat color of chalk paint. Don’t worry about painting into every cranny and crevice of your detail as that adds to the distressing. You can apply the paint immediately after rubbing on the Vaseline. Spray paint would even work too if you didn’t have chalk paint. This part is where it gets really fun! You can immediately see the distressed places. For my top coat color, I used the Folk Art Chalk Paint in Parisian Grey.
Step 4. Once the top coat of paint is dry, use a clean, dry rag to wipe away the Vaseline.
Then, (optional) dry brush your frame. I chose to use the Java color again leftover from my base coat. To dry brush, dip an artist brush into the paint, and swipe off the paint onto a paper towel until the bristles are dry. Brush it on your frame, focusing on the detail work of the frame if you have any.
As you dry brush, you’ll see the color very faintly to add more dimension to the distressed finish.
And that’s it! It took longer for the paint between coats to dry than the actual distressing steps themselves. It was super easy! And the best part is you can do this finish on practically anything since there isn’t any sanding required. Two of my frames were plastic (like the one pictured below), and they ended up looking like distressed painted wood when I was finished.
Now they’re ready to be hung up for the gallery wall! I have other frames that I spray painted a darker color to add some contrast. I can’t wait to see what it all looks like.
Update:  You can see the full gallery wall reveal here plus tips to make hanging gallery walls incredibly easy.
What distressing projects have y’all done lately?



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  1. So you don’t put pictures behind glass?? I’ve always figured it’s too much trouble to find glass for frames I find at thrift stores. If I don’t have to then Goodwill here I come!!

  2. How did you get your pictures to stay without being in a picture frame? Did you tape the photos to your wall and is there anything protecting your pictures? Thank you for sharing I didn’t know you could use vasoline!!!!! This looks so freaking easy I can’t wait to try!

  3. Your projects inspire me so much, and your pictures and step-by-step instructions are a god send. I also love that you explain the things that didn’t work so your followers can avoid making the same Oopsies! I did my first chalk paint project after finding you in my search for “how to use chalk paint” and it turned out beautifully. Love the vaseline tip for distressing. I am going to have so much fun this summer thanks to you.

  4. After reading the tutorial, my question is what about the vaseline? I get why you put it on, but when/how do you remove the vaseline. When you apply the topcoat, the vaseline is still there on top of the base coat, so does the vaseline just mix with the topcoat as u paint, and then you wipe it off after the topcoat dries? Super new to this so just trying to understand the process. Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Vincent! I put the Vaseline on in different little spots after the base coat dries (where I want the distressing to show), then just brush on the top coat or spray paint over top of it. The Vaseline pretty much stays in place where I applied it. Once the top coat is dry, I wipe the entire piece down with a clean, dry rag to remove the Vaseline and reveal the base coat underneath in those “distressed” places. I hope that makes sense. 🙂

  5. I have been painting furniture, cabinets, frames…you name it for years and I have never used chalk paint. I think it the same reason as you said. Expensive, and I just haven’t had the courage to try it. Your tutorial and tips were great. I think I am going to get me some of that paint and try a project with it. Thank you!

    1. I don’t think I’ve used the Folk Art wax. I’ve just used their chalk paints. I’ll have to try it out and see though. I know some waxes do give white paint a yellowish hue, which is why I typically use the Annie Sloan clear wax. Never a yellowing issue with that one.

  6. Is it possible to do this without chalk paint? I want to make some frames look like drift wood… so I’m looking for a brown on brown, not white. Thank you!

    1. Hi Christine! Absolutely! Pretty much any flat/matte paint can work since this technique doesn’t require sanding.

  7. also on amazon I got 2 sets of 12 bottles I think for 70$ or less each and u get all the colors they sell in the regular size bottles or at Michaels and ac Moore u can use the coupons for 40-60 % off

  8. Hey I was wondering what size the biggest frame is like that family picture on the right? Thanks! I’m trying to make a gallery wall and I’m having a hard time decided how big to go.

  9. I stumbled on this product at my local Walmart. While I have not tried it on furniture just yet, Ilike you I did try it out on a lovely thrift store frame and it turned out great. Love how your frames turned out. I cant wait to try it on a piece of furniture:-)

    1. So glad to hear it, Shyrlene! I tried it out on furniture and discovered it took a lot of it to cover. Annie Sloan is more expensive but the coverage is much better, so you end up using less. I think both are great though. 🙂

    1. Yay! Hope it turns out well! I put a moderate amount. It’s better to put it on on the thicker side. You could always wipe it away and add paint in its place if it’s too much.

  10. On my gosh girl……I am so excited to have found your blog. I am IN LOVE with everything I see. I love cottage, shabby, industrial type DIY. I love doing it on a budget. I love love love Goodwill. And…..I love Jesus!! So…..I feel like I have found my decorating kindred spirit sister! So flipping excited!

  11. Hi, these frames look lovely! I’ve never heard of chalk paint before- how is it different to normal paint?

    1. Thanks, Helen! Chalk paint is like a flat finish paint that sticks to all sorts of finishes and is great for distressing pieces. No prep work, priming, sanding or anything is required beforehand. Beware, it’s addictive stuff. 🙂

    1. Thanks girl! I still use this trick constantly and it’s so much easier than sanding until your arm is ready to fall off. Haha

  12. Lauren,

    I don’t know how I found you, but I’m glad I did. 🙂 I have an old table that I’ve inherited and want to attempt my first chalk painting on it. Thanks for the wonderful tutorial, and alternative to the ASCP price. Love your site and all the hard work you do! So creative. Brandi

    1. Aw thank you so much, Brandi! I will say since I’ve started using ASCP quite a bit now that one quart goes a long way. I’ve used one quart on a huge coffee table trunk and four dining chairs and still have half a quart left. It’s crazy. The Folk Art kind definitely seemed to take more than that. But I still liked the results of that one too. Hope your table turns out awesome!

  13. Love your frames! I always have my “frame radar” on when at Goodwill, yard sales,etc. You really should try making your own chalk paint with plaster of Paris and latex paint. You can pick up “oops” paint at Home Depot and Lowes and also 8oz pots of awesome colors at Lowes!

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