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Three Easy Steps to a DIY Driftwood Finish on Any Surface

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Faux Driftwood Finish for a Weathered Wood Paint Effect with Latex Paint

Whether you want to refinish a stained table or a painted dresser, this easy driftwood stain technique will give you a driftwood finish on any surface!

Ever wonder how to get the look of driftwood on your existing furniture?  Many tutorials will show you how to get this weathered wood look on raw wood as a driftwood finish stain, but this process gives you the same look on ANY surface – even metal. 

This is a great tutorial for you if you:

  • like the look of a farmhouse finish on furniture and decor
  • need to refinish a previously stained or painted antique but don’t want to strip it
  • like the coastal look of a beachwood finish on decor
  • don’t like the smell and unpredictable nature of stain
  • want to make your own driftwood!

Do you love the weathered wood finish that you often see in Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn?  That dreamy finish is MUCH easier to replicate than you think!

faux driftwood


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☑️ MY ALL-TIME BEST FURNITURE PAINTING TIPS (FREE PRINTABLE) Want to transform a furniture piece but don’t know where to begin?  Download your FREE step-by-step printable checklist that shows you the exact process I’ve used on dozens of furniture pieces while saving you time and money! And it costs you nothing. #confetti toss  Click here to access your checklist now : FREE Must-Have Painting Checklist

Why Driftwood Finishing Techniques are Better than a Driftwood Stain

Time and time again I’ve seen the same thing happen with traditional stain.  I think it’s going to look one way and it never does.  That’s because with traditional stain, it’s impossible to know how one coat of stain is going to look on raw wood.  Depending on how wet the wood is and the type, stains just absorb differently.  That’s why I use faux stains for everything now.  Your results are predictable every single time.

Also, with a faux stain, you have the luxury of being able to refinish a stained or painted piece of furniture without the hassle and mess of stripping.  For a traditional stain you have strip the piece down to the raw wood but with this faux finish you can just prime it and add the faux finish over the old stain.

To see all my Faux Stain Shades, CLICK HERE.  One of these faux stains is Barnwood and the driftwood finish is just barnwood with one last step – a whitewash.

Faux Driftwood: DIY Tutorial

Reese Witherspoon once said, “My rule is: if it’s not moving, monogram it.”  As a Southern girl myself, I definitely love her classy taste and desire to monogram ‘all the things’.

However, my own version of her quote would have a different spin: “My rule is: if it’s not moving, paint it!”

driftwood stain

It’s true that some furniture in my house have been painted not once but twice or EVEN three different times.  I’m not much of a pack-rat but I’m very sentimental about furniture for some reason.

The cabinet that held our 20 gallon aquarium when I was a kid is not repainted and in our office.  The headboard my dad used was transformed into a set of shelves, now in my daughter’s room in a shade of soft pink.  And the desk I am sitting at is made of an old door and two short shelves that were once my grandmother’s.

So what is driftwood finish? I’m sure you have noticed the driftwood or weathered wood finish on the pages of your latest Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn catalog.  Often times their stained furniture looks like distressed beach wood and goes well with farmhouse and coastal home decor.  See my DIY farmhouse home decor here.

After some trial and error, I’ve figured out how to paint a driftwood finish on any surface, not just raw wood.  In other words, whether it’s a dark stained coffee table, a laminate desk or a painted dresser, you can get a Restoration Hardware stain – DIY version!

Also, If you read my post Why I Don’t Use Chalk Paint, I’m a big fan of using good, old latex on furniture.  You could probably get a driftwood finish with chalk paint but latex has been around for decades and I’m convinced you can get a more durable faux driftwood finish with less hassle and pay much less.

 

Supply List: How to Create a Faux Driftwood Finish

Satin Latex Paint in Valspar Coastal Villa at Lowe’s*

Satin Latex in Valspar Harvest Brown at Lowe’s*

Valspar Clear Mixing Glaze at Lowe’s – I’ve tried others.  Get this!

Brushesthis set is great!

Zinsser Cover Stain Primer – Click here for the current price!

Sample Container of White Latex Paint*

Baby wipes (I recommend Huggies Natural Care)

Top CoatI LOVE this stuff!      You can also click here for my favorite top coats: Best Clear Coats for Furniture.

Don’t forget to download my Best Furniture Painting Tips and Tricks Printable for FREE HERE.

*Cost-saving tip:  If you are doing a small piece of furniture or just the top of a piece, you can get the sample sizes of these colors.

driftwood stain

 

DIY Driftwood Tutorial

Before you get started it’s good to have a goal or look in mind.  Here is some driftwood inspiration so in case you want to refer back to it during the process.

Does your furniture piece have any damage like holes, deep scratches or chipped drawers?  Then, read this post for an easy fix:  The Ultimate Guide to Fix Furniture Damage

1. Prep Work for Your DIY Driftwood Stain

 Stop! Before you do anything…take a before pic.  When you are done, post the before and after pics here, so I can see the amazing work you’ve done! ❤️

I‘m a big proponent of sanding and priming furniture before painting because you want to make sure that your base coat sticks to the surface now and for years to come.  In my post How to Sand Furniture in Less Than 5 Minutes, I share about how to prep your furniture surface easily.

Remember you are not sanding off the old finish.  Just take a few minutes to scuff up the existing surface so it absorbs the new paint.  Then, wipe with a damp rag.

After sanding, paint over the surface with a primer like Zinsser Cover Stain.  (To save a step, you could even have your primer tinted the same color as the base coat and skip the base coat altogether.)  Let the primer dry for 24 hours.

At this point I also painted the rest of my dresser in Behr Sonata, a really nice light blue.

faux driftwood

 

Step 2:  Driftwood Gray Paint for a Base Coat

Perfect for a driftwood (weathered wood) finish, Valspar (at Lowe’s) carries a color called Coastal Villa that we will use as our base coat.  You can get it in the Valspar brand or Sherwin Williams brand but just make sure to get the color Coastal Villa.

Paint it over your furniture surface with a brush, not a roller.  This is the one time we actually don’t mind seeing brush strokes because they will mimic the texture of wood grain.  Be sure to brush in long strokes from one side to the other.

Step 3: Adding a Glaze Layer to Create a Wood Look

After your base coat has dried (check the re-coat time on the can), you can add your ‘wood grain color’ by mixing a 1:1 ratio of the Valspar Harvest Brown color with the clear mixing glaze.  Stir it well and then paint that mixture on your piece.

The mixing glaze helps it to stay wet longer but I wouldn’t waste a lot of time during this part.  Paint this mixture on your piece in long strokes, not picking up your brush until AFTER you have reached the edge.

For the same technique, you can see the video above where I show you how to do a stained wood look with latex paint.  The only difference with the driftwood finish is that you add the whitewash in the next step

Again, this glaze mixture will naturally have long streak marks from your brush and that gives it the look of wood grain.  Just keep making brush strokes from left to right until you get the look you want.  If it’s getting too dark.  Wipe off your brush with a paper towel between strokes.  Getting too light?  Add a little more of your paint/glaze mixture.

You can really determine how dark or light you want your finish with this process.

Just keep brushing in long strokes and you will start to see the glaze mimic the look of wood grains like in the picture below.  When you get the look you want (and it will look AMAZING!), decide you are done with this part and don’t touch it again until it’s dry.  

Let it dry at least 24 hours.  (I actually had to refinish the top of this piece because I got a little cocky and thought I could do the glaze and whitewash in one day.  When I went to do the whitewash, the glaze began to come up because it wasn’t completely dry.  I knew better and won’t make that mistake again!)

At this point, it should kind of look like this picture below and where I would stop this process if I was doing my regular faux stain.  But on to whitewashing for a driftwood look!

faux driftwood

 

Step 4: Dry Brush –  The Final Step for a Faux Driftwood Finish

IMPORTANT – For this step, my instructions previously said to whitewash but because the chemicals in some baby wipes vary, a few readers had trouble with the baby wipes removing some of the brown layer.  The best solution is to dry brush instead of whitewash.  Don’t worry; you will get the SAME look but with  a slightly different technique.  Here’s how to dry brush for the last step:

Now that we have the look of wood grain, we want to add that smokey finish to get the beachy, weathered look.

We are going to use the clear mixing glaze a second time.  Mix a 1:1 ratio of white paint to your clear mixing glaze and paint it all over the piece.  

Get a couple paper plates.  On one plate put about a tsp of your white paint/glaze mixture.  Add a little bit of white paint to your brush.  On the other paper plate, wipe off as much as the paint as you can.  

Now brush the paint on in long strokes in the direction of the grain.  If the streaks of paint are too white, use your finger to smudge it but be sure to go in the direction of the grain.  Keep doing this until you add enough white to get the look you want.

best furniture painting tips

Step 5: Protecting Your Faux Driftwood Paint Technique

It’s not completely necessary but I like to add a topcoat for added durability, especially if you are refinishing a piece that will get regular use.  After my post The Best Clear Coat for Furniture, I found the best options is Varathane’s Water-based Topcoat (check the current price here).  This topcoat is nice because it is water-based meaning it’s easier to clean up brushes and also has little odor.  It also will not yellow like some top coats will over time.

Just paint the top coat on and check for drips after a few minutes.  If this is a high-use furniture piece, I would do three coats of top-coat.  Fortunately, it goes on fast and dries fast.

To save time on your furniture project, be sure to check out my best painting tips.  I promise you will be happy you did.

Now that you are done, I’d love to see how it turned out! ❤️  Post your before and after photos here!
 

driftwood stain
driftwood stain

What’s nice about this process is that it’s so versatile as it can be used on any surface including painted furniture, stained furniture, metal etc.  I have a friend who wanted to know how to make sticks look like driftwood for a “bouquet” on her mantel.  She tried this process for sticks in her backyard and it worked!

You can also check out this post for the big reveal of this dresser.  It went from a horrific, stinky mess to one of my absolute favorite furniture pieces so far!  Here is the before picture.  Click here to see how it turned out!

driftwood stain

Be sure to save this pin so you can comment on it later with your before and after pics!  Pin it here: 

faux driftwood finish
You can also check out How To Create A Raw Wood Finish With Paint. This console table is white laminate!

 How To Faux Finish A Metal Door To Look Like Wood

Did you know you can use any faux stain on a metal or fiberglass door to make it look like its made out of real hardwood? To see how I painted my metal back door, click here: The Easy Way To Paint Any Door To Look Like Wood

How to Create a Driftwood Stain – Related Posts:

 ☑️ My All-Time Best Furniture Painting Tips & Tricks (FREE PRINTABLE)

Don’t forget to download the FREE step-by-step printable checklist that shows you the exact process I’ve used on dozens of furniture pieces while saving you time and money!

Driftwood Technique with Latex – FAQ’s:

What color is driftwood furniture?  

Driftwood can have more of a gray tone or a brown tone.  If you want to have a brown or taupe undertone, don’t use very much of the whitewash finish.  If you want a grayer tone, you can use more of the whitewash.   The nice thing about this process is that it can be easily customized and if you get to much whitewash on the surface, you can simply wipe it off.  

Can you do a driftwood finish with chalk paint?

You absolutely can do a driftwood finish with chalk paint.  I like using latex because it is much cheaper but also because the texture of latex allows the glaze to glide over it easier giving the look of wood grains underneath the white wash.  You can read more about why I don’t use chalk paint here: Why I Don’t Use Chalk Paint: A Better Alternative

How to Make Driftwood

You can use this same process to make driftwood for decor purposes.  Just find some branches that are thick and your length of choice.  Let them dry out well in your garage or a covered area.  Then, use this same finish as described above.  I would not use the glaze step on the ends, only on the areas where there would be bark.  Here are some fun ideas for driftwood crafts: 15 Driftwood Craft Ideas

Driftwood stain for raw wood:

If you are wondering how to get a driftwood stain on maple, pine or oak, you’d follow the exact same process as described.  However, I wouldn’t worry about primer with raw wood; just sand over it if you want a smooth surface.

Driftwood Finish Stain – Final Thoughts

Whether you are are refinishing a brand new piece of unfinished wood or a 50 year old stained antique, this process will never let you down.  I love that it is so easy to get a gorgeous faux driftwood stain with the same results every time.  No only is it simple, but it’s also inexpensive and can be easily customized to whatever tone or shade of driftwood stain you want.  

What are your thoughts, my friend?  Do you have a project in mind that could use a faux driftwood stain?  I would love to hear your thoughts and questions!  Scroll down to leave a comment and I WILL reply! ❤️

Blessings,

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How to Make a Driftwood Stain with Paint

105 Comments

  1. I used this driftwood finish on my dining room table a month ago and it turned out beautifully! I finished it with 4 coats of Varathane Matte water based polyurethane since it is a high use area. Today after lunch I was wiping the table with a wet washcloth and a 2 inch by 1/2 inch chunk peeled off down to the white primer coat right in the middle of the table top. I’m not sure what to do! Can I “patch” it in any way, or do I need to start over and re-do the whole table top?

    1. Carol, I’m so sorry that happened! For a big chunk to peel off, it sounds like an adhesion issue. Did it peel to the table or to the primer layer or can you tell. What I would do is get some wood filler and fill in the little ridges so that it doesn’t look like a crater in the top of the table. Just add a tiny bit to fill in the height difference. Don’t sand it, just use a moist paper towel to wipe off excess after it dries. Let it dry really well, then do the base coat on the hole. Let it dry overnight. Follow the rest of the steps on that spot. You can blend on your very last step dry brushing the white to get it to blend together. Let me know if you have any other questions. My email is [email protected] if you need me.

  2. Karin,
    I am refinishing my dining room table with your technique. I love it so far!
    I did the brown/glaze mix yesterday but I noticed a lot of bubbles in my mixture when I was applying it to the table. I did get rid of most of them but brushing many times. Is there something I can do differently with the whitewash so that I do not get those bubbles?
    Thanks for this post!

  3. Hi Karin,
    Using your technique to do my 2 dressers , when I started brushing the glaze/brown paint to the base coat it pulled the paint is some areas, did you have that problem? I let it dry over 24 hours before doing step 3 so I’m not sure what happened. Any ideas?

    1. That’s weird. Try adding more water to the glaze. That will make it so you don’t have to drag your brush with as much pressure and will hopefully prevent it from happening again. Let me know if you have ANY other questions, Giani. Blessings, Karin

  4. Karin, Thank you for sharing all this information. I repurposed a desk that I found on trash day. LOVE the results!!! I will send you a before and after picture.

  5. Hi there, I wanted to upload my before and after pics to show you all how nice they came out ( I did a dresser and desk for the guest room) but I don’t see the option to upload pics. It was my first time using this technique and it really came out nice! 😍 Actually, I loved it soo much that I decided to do the driftwood on a sofa table my husband just built me.

  6. I tried this technique on my metal front door (inside) and it came out amazing. I cannot stop looking at it. A few tips for those who may want to attempt this on a metal door:

    Remember, the wood grain on doors goes in various directions. Center points in the top, middle, and bottom travel horizontal, the recessed lower part runs verticle, and the sides run the full verticle length top to bottom. After letting my base color dry, I worked in stages, taping off sections as I went. I started with the horizontal grain effect, let it dry, then moved the tape to do the verticle. This resulted in a nice clean edge where wood would naturally be fit together. I let it dry for 24 hours, then did the whole taping technique again to dry brush the white. 24 hours after that, I covered the whole thing with 3 coats of Waverly matte finish chalk paint varnish. (I chose this varnish over the one suggested because it said it’s approved for painting on metal.)

    Overall, I am so happy I found this website. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome discovery with us!

    1. I’m so happy it worked out well! Good for you for painting a door and yes, you definitely have more to think about in terms of taping with a door. I’ll make a blog post on how to do doors early in 2021 but I’m so impressed you figured out it. I’d love to see a picture of your door ([email protected]). Thanks for your great information Toni!

  7. Hi Karin! I’m going to give this a go on a tv console table I have. I painted it navy hale – do I need to maybe paint it white and then do this or can I go right over the blue??

    Thank you so much!!!

    1. Hey Amanda, If you painted it with latex, just start with the base coat but you might need two coats of base coat to cover the dark navy color. Let me know if you have any more questions! Thanks Amanda! – Karin

    2. Thanks for mentioning that color. My husband just built me a sofa console table and I was debating what color to do the legs. (Using the driftwood on top) I painted my bedroom room accent wall using that navy color and have some left over!

  8. Hello Karin,

    I have this farmhouse table top I’m working on… I’ve painted it this beautiful olive fig color with a latex enamel Behr paint. I want to add some texture to it now because it’s just not what I wanted, too flat and one dimensional. I love your techniques. I still want to see the green top but I was wondering what you suggest to make it more of a wood grain look. I’m trying to stay away from anything dark as my floors are a very dark white oak. Any suggestion would be helpful.

  9. Any suggestions on doing this technique on a long beam? I won’t be able to do one long brush stroke. Thanks!

    1. Great question Pam! You have a couple of options. The first option is to tape off all but one side of the beam. You can work on one side at a time and let it dry before going to the next. I would recommend having someone help you with the brown paint/glaze step. I know this isn’t ideal but it will get the best result. The other option is doing about 4 feet of one side at a time. When you get down to the end, do thin brush strokes so it kind of feathers into the next section when you are ready to paint it. Just make sure the first section is dry. Let me know if you have any other questions and have a great day! – Karin

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