How to Color Wash Wood with Acrylic Paint

Color washing wood with acrylic paint is a creative and versatile technique that allows you to impart a beautiful, translucent hue to your wooden surfaces while maintaining the natural grain and texture of the wood.

Whether you’re looking to revitalize old furniture, enhance the appearance of wooden decor, or give a new piece of wood a weathered, antique look, color washing is an excellent option.

How to Color Wash Wood with Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint, known for its fast-drying and water-based properties, is particularly well-suited for this technique. By diluting the acrylic paint with water and applying it in a specific manner, you can achieve a soft, muted effect that complements the wood’s inherent character.

This process not only adds visual interest but also provides a protective layer to the wood. In this article, we’ll guide you through the step-by-step process of how to color wash wood with acrylic paint, empowering you to bring a touch of artistry to your woodworking projects.

Benefits of Using Acrylic Paint for Color Washing Wood

Acrylic paint is an excellent choice for color washing wood because it sticks to almost any surface. It also has a fast drying time, allowing you to finish the project quickly and easily. Additionally, acrylic paints come in a variety of colors and can be mixed together to create custom hues. This allows you to customize the color wash look to match your design aesthetic.

The easy application of acrylic paint also makes it a great choice for color washing wood projects. It can be applied with either a brush or a roller, and if you make any mistakes, it is easily wiped away with water before the paint has had time to dry. This makes it much easier to achieve the desired look without spending too much time and effort.

Finally, acrylic paint is relatively inexpensive and easy to find in most art supply stores. This makes it a great option for beginners looking to learn the color washing technique without breaking the bank. The ease of use also means that even experienced painters can complete projects quickly and easily with excellent results.

Choosing the Right Acrylic Paint Colors

Acrylic Paint is Relatively Inexpensive

When it comes to color washing with acrylic paint, the colors you choose will make all the difference. The key is to pick two or three shades of a single hue and blend them together on your wood surface.

For instance, if you want to create a subtle blue wash, begin by selecting a light blue and then adding in both medium and dark blues at alternating sections. This will help to create more depth and interest in your color wash than if you just used a single color.

The same goes for other hues as well. If you’re looking to add some warmth with an orange was, try combining light oranges with peaches and tangerines. A green wash could be created using shades of soft jade, olive, and hunter greens. Experiment with different colors to find the combination that works best for your project. Once you have the colors selected, it’s time to move onto the actual painting process!

To ensure a smooth color wash effect, use either a brush or sponge applicator instead of a conventional paint roller. Be sure to keep your strokes in one direction when applying the paint.

If you feel like there’s too much contrast between the colors, go back over the areas with a slightly watered down version of your base color to help blend them together for a subtle finish. Allow plenty of time for the paint to dry before sealing it in with a coat of clear polyurethane or varnish sealer.

10 Steps How to Color Wash Wood with Acrylic Paint

1. Gather Your Supplies:

Before you begin the process of color washing wood with acrylic paint, you will need to gather your supplies. This includes a clean paintbrush, a cup of water, and the acrylic paint of your choice. You may also want to have some sandpaper or steel wool on hand in case you need to lightly sand down any rough patches on the wood before painting.

2. Prepare the Wood:

Giving It a Light Sanding

Once you have gathered your supplies, it’s time to prepare the wood for painting. Start by giving it a light sanding if needed, then wipe away any dust or debris with a damp cloth. If there are any cracks or crevices, fill them in with wood filler and allow it to dry before continuing. However, if you are working with a wax-based finish like chalk paint, it is best to skip the sanding and wood filler step as you can potentially damage the existing finish.

3. Apply the Base Coat:

Now that the wood is prepared, it’s time to apply the base coat of paint. Choose an acrylic paint color that is close to what you would like your final color wash result to be – this will provide a good foundation for your color wash effect and ensure that all areas are evenly covered. Use long brush strokes when applying the base coat and wait for it to dry completely before moving on to step four.

4. Mix Your Color Wash Solution:

Now that the base coat has dried, mix up your color wash solution by combining one part acrylic paint with two parts water in a cup or bowl (you can use more or less depending on how dark you want your color wash effect). Stir until everything is combined and there are no lumps in the mixture – this should create a thin liquid that resembles watered-down paint.

5. Apply Color Wash Solution:

Using Your Clean Paintbrush

Using your clean paintbrush, start applying the color wash solution onto your piece of wood starting at one end and working towards the other end in long brush strokes – make sure not to go back over areas as this can cause streaks in your finish! Allow each section to dry before continuing onto another area so that they don’t overlap and create an uneven finish.

Once you are done, if you want to make your piece of wood look even more unique, try adding a second coat in a contrasting color. This will give the piece an interesting layered effect and can really add depth and character.

6. Add More Layers:

Once you have applied one layer of color wash solution across all areas of wood, repeat steps four and five until you reach your desired level of coverage – keep in mind that multiple layers will create darker hues so adjust accordingly!

Additionally, if you would like to create a distressed look, use a fine-grit sandpaper to lightly distress the wood once you have achieved your desired color. This will add texture and depth to the overall appearance of the piece. Finally, seal your project with a clear topcoat for added protection. Allow it to dry overnight before using your newly transformed furniture or décor.

7. Dry Completely:

After adding all desired layers of color wash solution, allow everything to dry completely before moving onto step eight – this could take anywhere from several hours up to overnight depending on humidity levels and other factors so be patient! To speed up the drying process, a hair dryer can be used.

8. Seal with Polyurethane:

To protect your newly created finish from wear and tear over time, seal everything with polyurethane using either a foam brush or spray can application method (make sure not to use too much as this can cause drips!). Allow everything to dry completely before handling or using again (this could take up 24 hours).

9. Sand Edges Smoothly:

After sealing with polyurethane, lightly sand down any edges that may feel rough or jagged using either sandpaper or steel wool – this will help ensure a smooth finish overall! When you’re done, take a damp cloth and wipe down the surface to remove any dust or sanding residue.

Seal Your Project With a Clear Topcoat

10. Enjoy Your Creation!:

Once everything is complete and dry, enjoy admiring your beautiful new creation! This color washing technique is a great way to add unique dimension and texture to any piece of wood furniture. If you want to make the colors pop even more, consider adding a wax or sealer over the finished product. Don’t forget to share your beautiful masterpiece with friends and family!


In recap, color washing wood with acrylic paint is a great way to add texture and visual depth to your next home design project. You can create subtle and unique effects quickly and easily by adjusting the ratio of paint to water as you go.

Start with some practice pieces and experiment until you find just the right combination that you are looking for. Remember, whenever working with paint it’s important to wear proper protection like a mask and gloves, plus use a dust sheet or tarp underneath your workpiece.

With commitment, determination and a few basic supplies, anyone can tackle this simple yet advanced painting technique with great success. So why not challenge yourself today by learning how to color wash wood with acrylic paint? You’ll be glad you did!

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Adrian Green

Adrian has been interested in woodworking since he was a child. His father had a woodworking shop, and Adrian would help him out and learn from him. He gained basic carpentry knowledge as well as an understanding of how to work hard and take care of business. He enjoys woodworking as a hobby. He loves the feeling of creating something with his own hands, and the satisfaction that comes from seeing his finished products used by others. So he started this blog to spread his passion and knowledge to those interested in DIY wood-working projects. He knows that with a little guidance and practice, anyone can create beautiful pieces of furniture or décor from scratch.

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