DIY: How To Make A Distressed Wood Tabletop for Food Photography, a step-by-step how to guide to getting the perfect faux table look.
Have you ever wondered how bloggers seem to have the most beautiful tabletops you’ve ever seen, particularly in their food photography shots?
But, I’ve learned that you can get this same look with a few simple painting tricks. And trust me when I say, it’s fun and addictive once you get started painting your new faux tabletops!
I think I may have just found my new favorite hobby – my new BFF.
In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to achieve this same look using different methods. If you only try one method, you will not need all the materials listed below. For example, if you want to do the Paint Pad Method, then you will not need the Paint Roller and Roller Cover (items #3 and #4).
Of course, you don’t need all of these things (those are marked optional), but it’s much, much easier if you have them.
What You’ll Need:
- Paint Pan
- Disposable Paint Pan Liners (optional but highly recommended because it makes clean-up so much easier)
- Paint Roller (optional, dependent on your method)
- Roller Cover, 3/8” or 1/2” Nap (multiple if you’re painting different colors) (optional, dependent on your method)
- Paint Pad (optional, dependent on your method)
- Paint Brush (optional, dependent on your method)
- Trim Paint Tray (optional, but utterly and totally awesome when using a stain application)
- 8 Ounce Cans of Paint and/or Stain, in desired colors
- Paint Can Opener (a screw driver will also work)
- 5 boards (5/8” thick x 6” wide x 6’ long), cut in half to two 3’ lengths OR 5 boards (5/8” thick x 6” wide x 5 1/2’ long), cut in half to two 2 1/2’ lengths
- Saw Horses (optional, but highly recommend)
- Paper Towels
- Plastic Bags (to use as a garbage bin for your paper towels and such)
- Coarse Sand Paper (optional)
- Drill (While cordless powered drills are usually less powerful, you can get a great 20+ volt drill for less than $100 and they are well worth the money)
- Rubber Surgical Gloves (optional. Ok, these are totally optional, but a girl’s gotta protect her nails, right?… Trust me… if you like your nails and like to keep your hands paint and mess-free, a box of surgical gloves fit, well…like a glove, and they are a GIFT when you’re painting and don’t want to get paint everywhere!).
And trust me on this…kitchen sink gloves won’t work, because they’re big, floppy and quite frankly, unruly. They need to stay in the kitchen or be used when hand-washing your car, where they belong!
I was definitely in a festive mood when I got to Home Depot, because I ended up choosing colors I wouldn’t typically pick ~ like yellow, turquoise and cranberry zing!
I bought a total of 10 boards, 5 of each in both sizes mentioned above. I did this for two reasons:
- I absolutely LOVED the pattern (knots & damage in the wood!) in the boards that were 5 1/2’ long and I just couldn’t leave them at Home Depot;
- I didn’t know if I’d prefer the 3’ length or the 2 1/2’ length for every day use once they were cut in half!
If you buy 10 boards like I did, and have them cut in half, you will end up with 8 different tabletop options. When you are finished painting and staining them, you will use 5 total boards side-by-side for your tabletop for photography. Once cut, these 20 total boards give you a multiple of four 5-board wide (two-sides!) tabletop options – for a total of 8 different tabletop colors.
All the paints that I used were the 8 ounce can size. With the paints, I had plenty to paint the boards and have roughly 1/2” – 1” left in the can for touch-ups. For the stain, it used nearly the entire 8 ounce can size, with very little left over (some cans seemed to cover more than others, while some seemed to soak deep into the wood). The stain spreads quickly and will seep into the wood, so when you’re brushing on the stain ~ be sure to lightly cover all the boards before going over it a second time with a more generous hand to ensure you have plenty of stain left over to cover all five boards.
I tried three different methods when painting my boards.
- Paint Pad (Dry Brush Method)
This was my preferred method for the paint in achieving a really distressed look, because I had more control over the paint pad and could choose when to apply more pressure (thus getting more paint on the board), and when to have a light hand (leaving more natural board showing through).
Pour 1/2 – 3/4 of the paint into the disposable paint liner. Add between 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water to the paint. Drag the paint pad through the pan and using the disposable paint liner, brush the paint pad back and forth until the pad is thoroughly coated with paint and the paint/water is thoroughly mixed. Next, scrape the paint pad against the edge of the disposable liner until you’ve removed most of the excess water and paint. You want your paint pad fairly dry. With an even hand, drag your paint pad across the board, and press harder (using the side and tip of the pad) in those areas you want to apply more paint or streaks of paint.
- Paint Brush (Wet Brush Method)
This was my preferred method for applying the stain in achieving an uneven stained look, because I was able to control the amount of stain that soaked into the boards by either lightly brushing the stain over the boards, or drenching the boards in areas I wanted a deeper, smokier look.
Please note – if you use the 8 ounce can of stain like I did – you will use nearly ALL the stain in the can, and have very little to none left over for touch-ups. So, when using this method, be sure to cover all the boards first, before getting more generous with the stain on each board.
Pour the entire can of stain into a small hand-held paint or trim container. Dip your paint brush into the container, and brush lightly across each board. The boards will absorb the stain very quickly, so be sure to move fast and get complete coverage, before going over the boards again.
Coat the boards once. You may coat the boards with as many coats as you want, but the color will get darker. If you apply more stain to the rough areas of the boards (such as knots and divots in the wood), the stain will darken and make it appear more distressed in these areas.
Be sure to apply the stain in a very ventilated area! Trust me on this one. Whew!
See the stained wood boards – I used the Wet Brush Method using a Paint Brush to stain these boards.
- Roller Method
This was my least favorite method, because I felt that I had less control over the amount of paint that went on the boards, and in my opinion, it was more difficult to get a distressed look. However, it was the fastest method! Know that it is somewhat deceiving when using a paint roller, because the nap of the rollers will hold a significant amount of paint, so the application used here, will result in a much heavier application than the prior two methods.
Pour 1/2 – 3/4 of the paint into your disposable paint liner and add 1/2 cup of water to the paint. Roll the roller back and forth along the paint liner until the paint covers the entire roller. Because your paint is watered down, be sure to press the roller firmly against the disposable paint liner, so that you squeeze the excess water out of your roller before applying the roller to the boards.
Next, roll the roller lightly over each board one-time. If you want more complete paint coverage on your boards, you can roll the roller over the board again. But, by doing this, you will get less of a weathered look to your boards because the boards get covered in paint, instead of having some of the natural board show through.
See the white, gray, and yellow painted boards – I used the Roller Method using a Roller & Roller Cover to paint these boards. These were the first boards I painted, and I wished I would’ve tried Method #1 and #2 first before getting so overzealous painting four sets of boards with the roller method. Also (important!)… the yellow and gray boards had to be sanded to achieve this distressed look! I really did not like the roller method because it caused me more work. I got lucky with the white washed boards – for some reason, the roller method worked beautifully without sanding ~ and believe it or not ~ the white washed boards were the first boards I did out of the entire batch. Maybe I used more water ~ who knows? Live and learn!
Here are the colors I used (in order, left to right):
1. Turquoise, Behr, Color = Voyage UL220-2
2. Yellow, Behr, Color = Sunburst UL150-14 (not shown in an individual photo)
3. Red, Glidden, Color = Cranberry Zing GLR32
4. Gray, Behr, Color = Suede Gray UL260-3
5. Stain, MinWax, Color = Jacobean 2750
6. Stain, MinWax, Color = Provincial 211 (not shown in an individual photo)
7. Stain, MinWax, Color = Golden Pecan 245
One of my favorites is the white washed Pacer White boards. I just love how the application looks!
1. White, Sherwin Williams, Color = Pacer White SW6098
2. Chocolate, Valspar, Color = Barista AR328 (not shown at all)
I mentioned coarse sand paper in the things you will need. Sand paper is not necessary ~ but, it does help to enhance a more weathered look, because you can sand down the painted areas where you want your natural wood to show through. Be aware though – if you use sand paper to pull out the natural grains, you are also sanding down the uneven-ness of the wood. So, it’s a trade-off in deciding what look and application you prefer!
A couple of things to note.
- I did NOT attach my boards together – they are individual boards, and I just slide them together when I want to use them. This way, they are easier to stack, store and use.
- Also, the other great thing about them is, that you can use them with the board lines either vertical or horizontal depending on how you want to balance your photo. I’ve shown you both directions in this tutorial.
- I do not re-use the Paint Pads, the Paint Roller Covers nor the Paint Tray Liners ~ I throw them away. The Paint Pads and Paint Roller Covers never retain the same ‘nap’ after washing.
- Also, if you can’t finish your painting in the same day, don’t waist your supplies!, you can put your Paint Pad or Paint Roller in a Large Ziploc Bag and put it in the freezer. This will keep the paint wet and fresh! Just remove it from the freezer and let it un-thaw before you are ready to use it for the second application.
I hope you have as much fun creating faux tabletops as I did!
Send me your finished pictures – I would love to see them!
Inspired by a tutorial found at Bakers Royale.