What's So Great About Saltwash?

chippy paint paint finish saltwash

I love a chippy, layered paint finish.  I have tried so many brands of paint to recreate this look from milk paint to chalk paint to clay. And although I love my DIY paint, it still could not give me exactly what I looking for alone.

I heard of Saltwash a few years ago but thought I could make something that did the same thing.  I didn't need to buy anything. I tried adding Plaster of Paris and even sea salt to paint.  Both were epic failures and were a huge mess.  Recently, I saw Jami Ray from Jami Ray Vintage on YouTube use Saltwash.  It looked so easy that I decided to purchase it and try it for myself.

The best part about Saltwash is that it can transform even something brand new into a chippy, old painted masterpiece.  For my first project, I decided to use a piece of salvage in my garage and turn it into an old "No Vacancy" sign for my porch.  This piece of wood was once an old footboard to a bed.  I love to salvage, repurpose, and create so I am a bit of hoarder when I find items that I think can be reused.  This project helped me to use up my salvage pile.

 Originally part of a footboard for a bed. Now perfect to repurpose as a sign.

 The first step was to apply the Saltwash.  Saltwash is just a paint additive to create the chippy look.  You need to add it to paint to apply.  The best part about this is that you can use any paint to add Saltwash to.  Using Saltwash is the perfect way to use up any old paint that you have.  The paint and Saltwash layer will be the undercoat, so the color choice is not really a big deal.  For my sign, I decided to use old milk paint that I had.  I mixed the milk paint as usual and then added an equal amount of Saltwash to the paint.  (Saltwash even comes with its own little scoop to help you measure.) I stirred with a plastic spoon until I got the consistency of a lumpy cake batter.  If you think you need more lumps to add more Saltwash.  If you need fewer lumps than add more paint.  You do not have to be super exact with your measuring and I really like that about Saltwash.

Now for the fun part.  When you apply your basecoat of paint with Saltwash you want to create texture.  You want the paint to mound up.  You want to paint it in different directions.  You want to pounce the brush-up and down.  The more texture you can create the better the final product.  I love painting furniture, but somethings smooth strokes all in one direction is just boring.  Your Saltwash and paint layer can be fun.  Slap the paint on.  Make texture.  If you think the Saltwash is a little too high when you are done just go over the top of it lighting in a smoothing stroke.  I did leave the center with a little less texture because I was planning on stenciling on it.  Too much texture I thought might be tricky.  I loved how I could control where I wanted the texture to be.

First coat of paint with Saltwash.


The next step is the topcoat.  Use your good paint and pick the color you want.  My favorite paint of all time is DIY Paint so of course, I grabbed that for the topcoat.  I chose DIY Paint in Aviary.  If you want to read more about what is so great about DIY Paint you can read my post called Why I Love DIY Paint.

After the paint is dry I stenciled the letters "No Vacancy" using my Uppercase JRV Stencils.  JRV Stencils are like four times thicker than any other stencil that I have ever used.  That means no bleed-through of paint when stenciling and they can be used over and over without ripping and tearing. I never thought I was a very good at stencilling until I started to use these stencils.  If you want to read more about JRV Stencils check out my blog post, How to Be an A+ Stenciller.

Once the stenciling was completed and the paint was dry I grabbed my orbital sander and my 220 grit sandpaper and began to distress.  Since the Saltwash lumps up it creates amazing texture when you distress.  See all the chippy layered goodness?  Distress as much as you want, but try to make the wear look random for a more authentic look.

The next step is to seal your piece and the choice is up to you.  If you need some help read my post, Wax, Poly, or Topcoat - How to Finish Your Piece. I used DIY Paint Big Top for this sign and covered it with two coats.

DIY Paint - Big Top (picture courtesy of DIY Paint) 


After the top coat was dry I attached two D-ring picture hangers to the back and found the perfect spot to hang my new sign.

This is why I love Saltwash.  Look at all the chippy, layered goodness.  Do you love this look, too?  Quit trying so hard to achieve it on your own- just try a little Saltwash and make it easy.

Happy (Chippy) Painting!




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