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How to Create the Perfect Crackle Paint Walls

How to Create the Perfect Crackle Paint Walls

If you’re looking to transform your room into a rustic haven, with minimal effort and a little fun along the way, read on to discover how to paint a crackle finish on your walls.

The dramatic effect is perfect for giving your walls a weathered look that’s reminiscent of yesteryear, and it looks particularly effective when accompanied by modern accessories such as dark wood furnishings and plants.

Whether you’re a pro with the paintbrush or a total DIY novice, this simple step-by-step guide will reveal exactly how to paint a crackle finish to give your walls a shabby chic makeover. 

What is the crackle paint effect?


The crackle paint effect is achieved with the help of two paint colours and glue. You start with a darker basecoat, then apply glue before painting the wall in a lighter topcoat. The glue will create the illusion of cracks, with the dark basecoat showing through, making the wall look old and rustic in the best way possible.


Step #1 What you need

Step #1 What you need

For this super-simple project, all you’ll need is:

  • Clean rag
  • Dusting brush
  • Dust sheets, newspapers or old bedsheets
  • Painters’ tape
  • Paintbrushes and paint rollers
  • Scrap wood
  • Dulux Matt paints (avoid any glossy-finish paints) in two colours
  • Glue (such as school PVA or wood glue)

While it may be tempting to cut corners and use crackle-effect sprays, this often creates a far less authentic finish and usually isn’t as long-lasting as the finish from this method. 

Step #2 Get cleaning


As you’re working with paint and glue, ensure that you’ve covered any areas you wouldn’t want to get ruined.


Preparation: Clear the room

Make sure the space you’re working in, or the entire room if you’re painting all walls in the space, is completely clear of furniture. While the technique is straightforward, stray splatters of glue could spoil a sofa or chest of drawers.


Preparation: Prep the walls

This method is great for hiding imperfections you may have on a wall such as bumps, but make sure you’re starting with a clean surface. To do this, give the wall(s) you’re working on a wipe down with a clean, damp cloth. Use a dusting brush to clear any crevices of dust, too.


Step #3 Apply painters’ tape

Use painters’ tape to protect any areas such as adjacent walls or skirting boards and prevent spoiling them with glue or unwanted brush strokes.  

Step #3 Apply painters’ tape

Protect surfaces

It’s essential that you lay down old bedsheets or protective covering on the floors, or any surfaces that you aren’t intending to cover in crackle paint.


Step #4 Pick your paint

In order to achieve a truly rustic, vintage-looking wall or furnishing that looks weathered it’s best to start with a darker base and follow with a lighter colour on top. The colours should complement one another, but there should be a noticeable difference between them to achieve the best effect. This is to ensure that the contrast of the cracks is as visible as possible.


Select your colours

Your colour selections completely depend on the size of the space and the feel you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you’re working with a smaller room and want to stick to neutral tones, you might choose to opt for a cream or off-white topcoat like Calm Clouds and contrast it with a dark grey base such as Stable Gates. Feel free to experiment with other base colours for white though, such as dark green or navy.

If you’re working with a room that has high ceilings and vast, expansive walls, why not try the vintage look with all-out dark tones? Choose a darker hue like Breton Blue for the topcoat, and choose a base of Stable Gates again, or use a warmer brown undertone, such as Intense Chestnut, to show through the cracks. 

Step #5 Experiment

As you’re going to be working with a glue, it’s best to give your colours a trial run first, in case you’re unhappy with the colour combination, as it would be time-consuming to undo or redo a large wall.


Start small

Before you charge ahead and start following the tutorial below on your walls, use the small scrap piece of wood you have to give the technique a go. This is perfect for getting comfortable with the brush technique and speed at which the topcoat needs to be painted on with.


Step #6 Paint your base layer

Now that your area is safely protected from any spillages, and you’ve chosen your Dulux paint colours, you’re ready to get going with your base layer of paint.


Work with a brush or roller

Paint your darker base layer with a brush or roller. We’d recommend the latter for vast spaces, though using a brush can allow for a textured finish that often looks fabulous through larger cracks.


Paint the walls and wait patiently

Once you’ve finished painting the walls with the base paint colour, wait for this layer to dry completely, which could take up to 24 hours. 

Step #7 Create the cracks


This is the fun part, but it also requires speed and efficiency. When your base is dry, mentally divide your wall into small sections. The topcoat needs to be painted on while the glue is still tacky, so it helps if you apply the glue and the topcoat section by section, rather than tackling the entire wall in one go.

Start applying glue to the first section, using different amounts of glue with each stroke to create a combination of larger and smaller cracks across the wall. The thicker the layer of glue, the larger the cracks will appear, and a combination of the two is best for a truly authentic finish.

Then paint over it with your lighter-coloured topcoat. It’s important to work the paint over the glue just once, as multiple coats and retouching can ruin the crackle effect.

Repeat the gluing and painting steps across the entire wall, then all that’s left for you to do is to patiently watch the magic happen as the crackle paint effect gradually begins to appear.

To complement the rustic, weathered look, furnish the room with a few distressed furnishings such as a cabinet for the living room, or a wardrobe and side tables in your bedroom. Find out more about how to distress pieces of furniture. Alternatively, you might prefer to add modern furnishings for contrast.

If you’re looking for a little more inspiration when it comes to choosing the colours for your crackle paint project, check out our guide to picking your paint palette.

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