DIY Vintage Crackled Paint Effect

Hiiiiiii guys! Anyone up for a little DIY project today? I sure hope so because this post is all about how to do a DIY vintage crackled paint effect that will make any piece look like a real deal antique. And you might be surprised to see that this fun, three step paint technique is done using glue. Yep. GLUE. Good old fashioned Elmer’s Glue is the secret ingredient here, along with a blow dryer. Sounds interesting, right?! Some of you may already be familiar with this process, but I’ve never tried it out for myself. Well a few weeks ago I decided to give it a whirl and I gotta admit–it took a lot of trial and error to make this work for me. I ended up doing three different pieces (the first two were failures!) in order to figure out how to get that vintage inspired crackled paint look I was going for. But I finally got the hang of it and I’m excited to show you how to do it, plus I’ll share a few tips I learned in the process. Now before I jump into it let me show you what the vintage crackled paint effect looks like just in case you’re not familiar with it:

DIY Vintage Crackled Paint Effect

Pretty nifty, huh? It’s definitely an antique/vintage inspired look, like something you’d see on an old piece of barn wood that’s been left out in the sun for years. I love how the paint looks like it’s actually cracked and weathered–imperfect like a true antique. Ok, now let me show you how to do it!

Easy DIY Cracked Paint

Supplies needed:

  • Elmer’s Glue
  • Paint Brush & Foam Brush
  • Blow dryer
  • Paint (I experimented with acrylic and chalk paint–I think chalk paint works better!)
  • Something to paint**

**I think this technique works best on raw wood that has no other paint or staining on it. I tried three different pieces and this unfinished, wooden tray is what turned out the best, so that’s what I’ll share for this post. But I’ll talk a bit more about this in a bit.**

Easy DIY Cracked Paint

  1. The first step is using a foam brush to apply a thick coat of Elmer’s Glue over the piece you’re working on. It’s important to only work in small sections. DO NOT cover the whole piece at once. You want to go little by little, working in sections of maybe six inches at a time.

Easy DIY Cracked Paint

2. While it’s still wet and tacky, place a thick layer of paint directly over the glue. The thicker the paint, the bigger the cracks will be. A thin layer of paint will only make tiny, hairlines cracks that don’t look very good. Trust me, I learned the hard way!

Easy DIY Cracked Paint

3. Once the paint has been applied over the glue, immediately zap it with a blow dryer on high for about 10-15 seconds until you start to see the cracks show up. They start popping up right away and it’s actually really fun to watch them form! Keep going until the paint is fully dry. Then work your way around the piece, repeating the process as you go until it’s all covered in crackled paint.

Easy DIY Cracked Paint

And that’s it! All done. It literally takes just a few minutes to get this look and it’s so darn easy once you get the hang of it. After I was done painting the tray I went in with a piece of sandpaper to distress it a bit and give it even more of a vintage look. You know me, I have to distress ALL THE THINGS. This is also a good trick if any of your cracks didn’t turn out so great. Just sand them down and make that spot a bit more distressed.

Easy DIY Cracked Paint Effect. Beautiful farmhouse style decor idea. Easy DIY Cracked Paint Effect Easy DIY Cracked Paint Effect Easy DIY Cracked Paint Effect Easy DIY Cracked Paint Effect

And there ya have it! An easy, DIY vintage crackled paint effect done in minutes. This was actually a really fun project, but it did take a bit of trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. I tried this technique on two other pieces before I did this tray and neither one of them turned out well. First I tried it on my vintage corbels and that didn’t work at all because I was trying to go directly over old, chippy paint. Total fail. Then I tried this technique on a pair of black glossy candlesticks and that didn’t work either because of all the curves on the candlesticks (and the glossy paint didn’t seem to like the glue either). The cracks didn’t show up well with all the curves and it just looked like a hot mess! So here’s what I learned in my trial and error process:

  1. This works best on wood that is not already painted or stained with a glossy finish.
  2. Make sure to use a thick coat of glue and paint, otherwise you won’t get those large cracks that you want to see.
  3. This technique works best on flat pieces that don’t have a lot of cures, like the tray I used here. Or something like a bench, stool, or picture frame.
  4. Work in small sections and don’t try to do too much at once!

All right that’s it! I hope you give this fun painting technique a try and let me know if you have any questions. xo

Sarah here! Nice to meet you. I’m a mama to three, wife to my high school sweetheart and accidental blogger. We recently moved to our little homestead on ten acres and we're loving the small town life in Colorado. I hope this space can inspire you to create a home you love and enjoy the simple moments the most.


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  1. 1.24.18
    Kathy said:

    This is amazing! I am definitely going to try this. Than you so much Sarah for sharing. I always look forward to your newsletters.

    • 1.24.18
      Jude said:

      Thanks! I have done a similar crackle technique but yours is far easier and I love the results. Recently signed on to your blog and I am enjoying it!

  2. 1.24.18
    Nell scott said:

    Can’t wait to try this! I have the perfect piece to do. Wish me luck!!!

  3. 1.24.18
    Liz said:

    I love it! Can’t wait to try it out. The only problem is deciding what to work on. Thanks for this great idea.

  4. 1.24.18
    Lorrie S said:

    Nice job! I’m going to try this. Now to decide what piece to use…

  5. 1.24.18
    Jenny said:

    I’m literally going to try this now. On the hunt for something to paint!! Thank you so much for the detailed step by step. 😘

    • 1.24.18
      Sarah said:

      Haha it’s so fun! Good luck Jenny!!

  6. 1.24.18
    Tina said:

    Love this! Do you think the paint will chip off over time? Would it be best used on a piece (like a tray) that you don’t actually use?

    • 1.24.18
      Sarah said:

      I think it will hold up fine!! And you can seal it with wax if you want it to be more durable.

    • 1.25.18
      Sarah said:

      I really don’t think it will chip over time. But you could always cover it with a clear wax just to seal it.

  7. 1.24.18
    Angela Servello said:

    Love it! Looks so authentic. Michael’s sells unfinished wood pieces, I just might have to pick something up. Super idea. On another note, I’m nothing if not tenacious (lol), I searched and searched for your debut magazine article and lo and behold I found it on EBay. Hallelujah!!! It shipped today, I can’t wait to receive it. Have a blessed day my friend, Angela xxoo

    • 1.25.18
      Sarah said:

      Oh wow, you are amazing!! I can’t believe you tracked it down on Ebay. Shoot, I should have just mailed you one of the copies that I have. I didn’t even think about that!! You are way too nice to do that. Thank you for all the love and support Angela!! It means so very much. xoxo

  8. 1.24.18
    Mary said:

    I may give this a try!!! Awesome job!

    • 1.25.18
      Sarah said:

      Go for it! Let me know how it works for you!

  9. 1.24.18
    Jenifer Scherlin said:

    Wow, Sarah!!! This looks like something I might even be able to do!!
    I’ll let you know. 😉

    • 1.25.18
      Sarah said:

      Give it a shot Jennifer! And let me know how it turns out.

  10. 1.24.18
    Deanna said:

    This is AWESOME! Thank you! I will definitely be trying this. Just curious, did you do the rust on your olive bucket?

    I’ve been searching for a way to either go over the paint or some how rust the top and handles of the Target dollar spot olive buckets from Christmas that I bought. So far, no luck on finding anything or anyone that has done this.

    Also, I was just watching your insta story in regards to Holly, which I had also watched. It was interesting because just this week I started unfollowing many accounts. It was becoming overwhelming. I started wondering how some of these people have so much time to spend on their phones even when it is their job. Oddly, I felt with some that they kept talking about being kind but then scolding other people. It was just sort of weird and hypocritical. It’s nice when instagrammers want to share other accounts but it seems overdone now with people doing it every week. Just my opinion.
    Anyway, just wanted to let you know that you were one of the first I started following and must have been soon after you started. Love your blog, DIYs, and ideas. You are very creative and talented and appreciate your sharing!
    One of the best things that I have taken from you is the First 5 app when you shared it!!! At first, I was just reading the verse and devotional. Then I felt encouraged to open my Bible and read the entire reading for the day! So, thank you because you helped me to start each day with reading my Bible followed up by the First 5 app! And hey, I think that is HUGE when we can reach others for Him! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    • 1.25.18
      Sarah said:

      OH my goodness Deanna! You just made my entire week with your comment. I am SOOOO glad to hear you are still using the First5 App and loving it. That’s seriously so great. And I agree 1000% with everything you said about IG. I often wonder too how people have so much time to be on their phones. It’s tough to keep up for sure! But I’m so grateful you are following along, it truly means so much.

      Now about those olive buckets. I didn’t do the rust on those buckets, I bought them that way. But I did buy the exact same ones from Target that you are talking about. And I think I might be able to antique them up a bit. Let me see if I can come up with something!! I have a few ideas.

  11. 1.24.18
    Heather said:

    I recently tried this and it was a complete diy fail. I’m so glad you shared your trial and error because now I realized what I did wrong. I let the glue dry too much and I didn’t apply heat. Can’t wait to try this again using this technique. Thanks for sharing!

    • 1.25.18
      Sarah said:

      Oh good! I’m so glad to know I wasn’t the only one that had issues with this technique. It definitely takes some trial and error, but I think I finally got the hang of it now!

  12. 1.24.18
    Sherri said:

    That tray turned out awesome Sarah! I have a couple things I need to try this on…now I’m not so worried about messing! Thanks for sharing ❤

    • 1.25.18
      Sarah said:

      Go for it Sherri!!

  13. 1.24.18
    Ivory said:

    I am in love, because this is so handsome it just stole my heart. You nailed this project.

    • 1.25.18
      Sarah said:

      Thanks Ivory, it was a fun one!

  14. 1.25.18

    Great tutorial Sarah, your stories made me laugh when you talked about your epic fail…you had a look of disbelief and bewilderment! This tray though…a total win!x

    • 1.25.18
      Sarah said:

      haha I was so disappointed!! It definitely took some trial and error to get the hang of it.

  15. 1.25.18
    Vicki said:

    I discovered crackling years ago, I actually bought crackling medium, but it’s probably just over priced glue, lol! I did an ugly stained wood bookshelf and faux wood grain ceiling fan blades in a sage green for our bedroom. I believe I also wiped some wood stain lightly over the top to tone down the paint and give more of an antiques finish. Could also use antiquing glaze. Thanks for sharing! I may have to try cracklibg something else in my stash! Also, thanks for the blow dryer tip, Pinterest and blogging didn’t exist when I first tried crackling😊

  16. 1.25.18
    Sharon said:

    Cool project!! Thanks for sharing!

  17. 1.26.18

    Thank you for sharing your tips and tricks! I wanted to add this effect on a furniture piece I have here and I think it’s going to look great. =)

  18. 1.28.18
    Cathy said:

    I’m gonna try this one on a small frame. That way if I mess it up, I won’t feel so bad. It’s raw wood so it should work. Fingers crossed. Thanks for the tutorial. Have a blessed day

  19. 1.30.18

    Wow Sarah! I just discovered your beautiful blog. Love it. I can’t wait to explore it more. This is a beautiful post! I would love if you would come over and link up at Thursday Favorite Things on Thursday morning at 9:00!

    Years ago I tried a crackle finish, but it didn’t really turn out. I will be trying it again after seeing your post.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  20. 2.5.18
    Kathi said:

    This looks amazing! Will have to go shopping for a new unfinished piece to try this out. How do you think this would work on book covers?

  21. 3.16.18
    Beth said:

    I love this look!! Thank you for the very detailed tutorial. I’ve never done this before so I need it. Where did you purchase the Chalk Paint? I went to Lowes and they $30 for a small can. I couldn’t find the brand of paint you used. I love your newsletter. You have the best ideas. Thank you!!

  22. 8.29.18
    martin sylvester said:

    Hi, I am a restorer/renovator a client wants this effect on a commission. I have used various techniques over the years and came across yours which i am going to try. Can you advise, when you apply the glue and as you say do small sections at a time, when you apply the paint does the brush also pick up the glue…assume the paint brush will soon become mixed with glue and paint. Is this correct or am I missing something.


    • 8.29.18
      Sarah said:

      No, I didn’t notice that becoming an issue. But I used separate brushes for each!

  23. 1.6.19
    Linda said:

    Love all your tips and tricks. I’m amazed at all your projects !! I will definitely be following along to see more of your awesome dyi projects !!

  24. 2.10.19
    Eric said:

    Curious as i make furniture with aged wood and i am interested in the old layered paint with the cracked effect , distressed as well .have you ever tried doing another coat with the same process ? Not sure if it would work but i will be trying this , maybe with a few colors of paint which merge , give that layered effect