Easy Driftwood Finish Effect-Mirror Frame Makeover

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I’ve been looking for a while now for a technique I could use to create a driftwood finish effect with chalk paint. I wanted something I could use to paint wood, furniture, and laminate, as I have a few Ikea pieces waiting for a makeover.

You can find many ways to do it, and many different color mixes are called driftwood finish. Some are grayer, some of them browner, and  I wanted something lighter as my living room is kind of dark without much natural sunlight.

To test the colors and choose the technique, I was later going to use it on the rest of the furniture; I decided to paint a mirror frame I had that was a very dark brown color. 


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I used chalk paint powder that you can mix with any water-based paint to make chalk paint. The beauty of it is that you don’t have to spend a tonne of money on branded chalk paint this way.

I’ve bought a big tub of white latex paint and made around 1l of white chalk paint for various projects. Then I bought a couple of latex paint tester pots in different brown shades and made as much chalk paint as I wanted with the powder. 

I have also bought charcoal chalk paint from Aldi(jeez, it’s cheap :)), but you can use any other chalk paint or make it with tester pot latex paint.

I wanted to add a layer of gray tone to the brown, so mixed the charcoal with white. It may sound confusing, lol. You’ll see what I meant in the process below.

The final effect will depend on the start color of the surface and the material the surface is made from, like wood or laminate or other. This mirrors frame was a dark brown wood(?). I’m not totally sure. Probably more like a wood effect with some texture.

How to create a driftwood finish with paint step by step

tools and materials

  • Old paintbrush/chip paintbrush
  • Painters tape/masking tape
  • Foam paintbrush
  • A rag
  • A plastic container or plastic plate
  • A paper towel
  • Chalk paint powder/chalk paint
  • latex paint: white, charcoal, brown-I used soft truffle from Dulux

1. prep

There wasn’t a lot of prep here, as you don’t have to stress about prep when using chalk paint. I made sure that the surface was clean and dry. 

Put some masking tape on the mirror surface along the frame for protection.

2. Painting the first base layer

Use a foam brush and paint a thin layer of white paint. Make sure you got all of the surfaces, but I didn’t bother with the back of the frame as it wasn’t going to be visible. Go along one direction to create the wood grain effect. 

3. Adding another color

At this point, I mixed some of the brown test pot paint with the chalk paint powder, and I painted another layer using a dry brush technique. 

The dry brush technique is straightforward. First, you need to dip the tip of your brush in the paint. Just a tiny bit. Then wipe it on a paper towel, making sure that very little paint is left on the brush.

Then you paint in long, quick strokes. Because your paintbrush is almost dry, you only leave some of the color behind, so you don’t have to worry about overdoing the color. Brush it as long as the color stays on the surface, and then let it dry.

4. Painting the second base layer

Once the brown layer is dry, paint another layer of white. It doesn’t have to cover the surface completely. It would be best if the color were coming through.

5. Rinse and repeat

Now you have to decide what colors you want to add. I went with another layer of brown, and then I mixed some of the charcoal with white to make gray and added another layer once the previous was dry.

6. Sealing

Once the paint was dry, I sealed it with a coat of clear wax and buffed it 10 min or so. After it dried, it went back on the wall.

This was a quick makeover project to create a driftwood finish using paint. I’m going to use the same technique to paint my Ikea furniture. I might experiment with the paint shades for sure, adding more brown or gray.

I have some black photo frames with a smoother surface, so I will probably do them soon. Watch this space.

I hope you enjoyed this post and have found it helpful. If you have any questions, leave a comment in the box below, and I’ll do my best to help. And don’t forget to pin this post to your Upcycling/painting tips board 🙂 Thank you!

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