Urgent Help Needed - How to Antique??


Grumbler in Training
Jul 28, 2002
England, Norfolk
Hi everybody,

I have some frames to make. 18 large frames before the weekend (GMT). I don't know how to 'antique' (make it look like dust has fallen on to it). It's just one of those things I never learned and had never trained to do. Upon asking a few people, they started suggesting mixtures of various things like danish oil and alike. If you have a proven technique, please let me know. I will be starting the job in 24 hours!
Thanks everyone,
(Poorly prepared picture framer)
Hi James

They have just shown this method on UK Style on SKY “Changing Rooms” you will get it on UK Style + at 11.00pm this evening 10th Dec.

Basically it was base colour, shellac varnish and then a coat of blue paint is lightly rubbed in to give the dusty look…the results looked OK……sorry I cannot give more details…..we have builders in the house at present and I just caught a bit of the program from the corner of my eye while I was painting some stuff that is needed for the builders in the morning.


Thanks Dermot. Sounds good, I have a friend with sky taping it for me.

I have also come up with an idea. The base colour is an antique white kinda colour. I thought about maybe getting it in eggshell, painting it onto the obeche frame. Then using wire wool and lime wax to create the dust effect. Experience tells me that lime wax becomes a pleasant dirty colour when using wire wool! (Apparently something to do with mixing in with the fillaments.)

Thanks for you help, I will try them both tomorrow.
Cheers, James.
Primer Spray Paint in the color of the dust you desire.

The "rusty metal" one has a great rouge tone to it. But Grey primer also looks good. While white, tan and black also do fine.

Lay frame facing up.

Pointing the can horizontal (not down at the frame), spray over the frame.

Hold the can about 2 feet above, and let the mist, rain down on the frame.

Of course, move the can to cover the frame evenly with mist.

Let it dry for 20 seconds or a minuite.

The primer is removable with simple paint thinner.

Put some thinner (I think you call it mineral spirits) on a rag and gently go over the frame. It will take the primer off the high spots, and leave it in the low spots.

Instant dust.

Takes about 5 min total.

Needless to say, it is hazardous to spray the spray that way, and is not reccomended by the manufacturer. And the thinner aint so good either.
Trying to spray "dust" out of a spray can is a bad idea in my opinion. It gives you more of a "fly speck" appearance than a "dusty" look.

And wiping down the frame moulding with "mineral spirits" may work but I sure would test any solvent on a piece of waste first to make sure that it doesn't also remove the moulding's finish. What good is dust on a half stripped moulding?

I remember my brother-in-law using rottenstone and powdered pumice to antique his made from scratch closed corner frames years ago. he would brush a thinned down coat of clear shellac into the low areas where the "dust" usually builds up and then he would take one of these metal shakers like you see in some restaurant kitchens for salt and pepper, load it with rottenstone, and sprinkle it onto the low areas until he got the desired coverage. He would take a rag wet with something mild like turpentine and lightly rubbed off any of the shellacked "dust" that he didn't want to appear on the high spots.

You may want to check with a frame builder to get the full procedure but this is close to what he did.

definition: Frame builder, one who actually builds frames from scratch and applies whatever finish is required rather than buys pre-finished profiles and chops them into frame legs.

Good luck.

And here I've just been wiping things down with acrylic paint to antique them.

Mix desired dust color, thin with matte medium, apply liberally with a soft brush, and wipe off with paper towels. Finish up by wiping with a damp cotton cloth to get streaks off the "clean" areas. For specks, dip a toothbrush in the paint and run your thumbnail across it over the frame. Again, wipe off specks you don't want with a damp cloth.

Non toxic!

If you are paranoid about the antiquing flaking off (I've never had that problem, although people keep telling me it should be happening) you can spray or brush the finished frame with an acrylic sealer such as krylon.

Oh, and if you live in a dry place like here, have a mister handy to keep the paint from drying before you are ready.
In my first framing job we used to make swept frames from scratch. GTo give them the 'dusty' look, we would use rabbit skin glue or even spray mount and then empty the hoover bag! Honest...it works! You just need to wipe off the bits you don't want covered...the high points that are guilded, for example.