I am painting a small piece and would like to try my hand at a technique
called "crackle" or "crackling". Could someone please explain the three coat
process and what types goes over the other to achieve the antique finish
First of all, never "try your hand" on your project. If you don't
experiment on scrap, you're experimenting on the real thing !
For crackle, and a few others, you can only apply it once. You can
overcoat crackle, but you'd need to either take all the crackle finish
off, or go over it with something really thick !
Never heard of it. It's either 2 or 4 coats round here.
The technique is simple, but it needs a lot of experimentation to get
right,. You have control over how much crackling there is and how
visible it is, and you need to get a feel for how your materials
handle. Much depends on things like dilution or coating thickness,
even temperature and drying times, which you only pick up by having a
The materials are simple - hide glue and acrylic glazing medium. You
put a layer of hide glue down, then while it's still wet, overcoat it
with a glaze. The glaze shrinks on drying, the hide glue doesn't - so
the glaze pulls the glue into crackled areas. The faster the glaze
dries, the smaller the crackles. Put it on glue that's too wet or too
dry and the hide glue either gives in without cracking, or can't move
and holds the glaze in place again without cracking.
Start off with a stable base coat, probably coloured, that isn't going
to move. Acrylic is good here, or you can use well-dried milk paint
if you're being traditional. Both need to be well dried..
Apply a coat of crackle. This is just diluted hide glue - the cold
stuff in a tube (Titebond) works fine. Keep records of how you diluted
it, the workshop temperature, and how long you let it dry (15-45
minutes) until it's tacky.
Now coat it with an acrylic glaze, either clear or slightly coloured.
Don't overdo the colouring, or it'll look like a cheaply faked
antique. You need to put this one with a good brush, in one light,
smooth even coat. Don't work it over again with the brush. Your
brushwork also controls the crackle pattern. You should see crackles
within a few minutes, depending on temperature.
When it's dry (really dry) varnish it. Acrylics are good again.
For more instructions, get a book - Annie Sloan or Jocasta Innes must
have done dozens of them.
Your materials are best bought from a real paintshop. Acrylic glaze
medium (essential stuff for all paint effects) is cheap by the gallon,
a rip-off in hobby shops. Hide glue is found from good woodworking
places. You can buy both in crackle glaze kits, which are fine (if
small and expensive). You can also buy combined one-coat crackle
glazes, which can be fussy about their drying conditions. I'd rather
use the two coats.
Although as not as detailed as Andy's description, see the following for
some shaker trays that I crackled.
If you need more details let me know.
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