Painting 101: White-Washed Dresser Tutorial

Now, that I have posted our Home Tour:  Coastal Farmhouse Master Bedroom, it is time to share my  white-washed dresser makeover with you – woohoo!!   It’s about time – right?   I know lots of you have been wanting to learn how to white-wash furniture, so this tutorial will give you everything you need to know.  Plus, this is a budget-friendly way to update an existing piece of furniture (even better).  So, let’s get to it!!  Painting 101:  White-Washed Dresser Tutorial.

If you want to see my white-washed bed click or glazed white nightstands click:


***NOTE***This post contains affiliate links which means that I will receive a small compensation if you purchase something from these links.  See my privacy and disclosure policies below for more info.  Thanks for your support.***


Painting 101:  White-Washed Dresser Tutorial 

What is the white-washed technique?

So, what is the white-washed technique anyway?

  • It’s basically a painting method that allows you to see part of the furniture peeking through (like you “wiped” something off with a rag, but the rag left some of the liquid behind). 

This leftover “residue” would be “streaked” because of the motion of the rag (washed), giving it a “dulled or milky” appearance. 

Does that make sense?


Then how do you get this look?

2 Ways To Get The White-washed Look

#1) White-Washed Method:

In this method, the paint is diluted with water to make it runnier;  therefore, making it easier to wipe off with a rag.  

  • The paint mixture is usually 3 parts paint to 1 part water ratio (3:1 ratio).   
  • This technique works best when you are trying to “barely” change the color of the wood. 

 It will basically “lighten” the existing wood tone.  The more coats you put on, the less wood that shows through. 

  • The cons of this method is that it is VERY messy, and also VERY time consuming if not done correctly. 

Thus….. alternate method #2 – dry-brushing.

#2) Dry-Brushed Method:

This is the method that I use most often to get the white-washed look. 

  • In this method, you will not dilute the paint with water but you will use a rag to get the excess paint off of your brush. 

Basically, you are working with a “DRY-BRUSH” (one with little paint on it) – get it? 

  • You dip your paint into the paint can, get a SMALL amount of paint onto the brush, then WIPE OFF the excess paint each time. 

This dry-brush (with little paint on it) allows the paint to come out in “streaks.” 

***I will explain more below when you can see the pictures, but I just wanted to give you a brief description.***


Painting 101:  White-Washed Dresser Tutorial 



8 Steps:  White-Washed Dresser Tutorial 

  1. Prep Dresser & Area
  2. Prime Dresser
  3. Paint Dresser – 2 coats
  4. Spray Paint Hardware
  5. Wax Dresser
  6. Distress Dresser (optional)
  7. Wax Dresser Again
  8. Put Hardware Back On


So, here it is – before picture.



Remove all of the hardware from your dresser, and wipe down dresser with a rag.  Make sure to wipe down all of the drawers and inside the dresser also.   

Set up your canvas or plastic drop cloth, and make sure you are in a well ventilated area (like outside or in your garage).

Prop your dresser up onto wooden blocks or paint cans to lift it off of the ground.  You do not want it sitting directly on your painting surface.

Obviously……I needed to put down something in my garage -picture above – but I’ve painted so many pieces that I got lazy.  DON’T BE ME – lol!!

NOTE:  I did not sand this piece down (prior to painting) because my primer bonds really well to the furniture surface.  You can sand it down first if you choose…but why do the extra step if you don’t need to -haha!! 

If you just feel like you need to sand it down, then I would recommend sanding down the top part only.


Put a small amount of primer onto your paint brush, wipe off excess onto rag and begin gently brushing your primer onto your dresser. 

You will need several rags for this process, as the paint will begin to soak through.

***TIP***The less paint you put onto the brush, the less messy it will be.  HINT-HINT!

See pictures below.  Here is what the priming stage looks like.








***TIP***  Use long, quick brush strokes and make sure to gently brush the primer on.  You will not want to fully cover your piece – should look streaked like these pictures.












Why am I showing so many pictures?  LOL!!  Once you get this priming stage done, the painting steps are much easier. 

Plus I just wanted to stress that you are “not fully” covering your piece with paint – just streaks of paint.



Now you will do the exact same method, but just using your white paint.  I used Behr Swiss Coffee from Home Depot for my white paint color.

Dip your brush into the paint, wipe off excess with rag, then gently brush on.  You will do TWO coats of this method.




















Here it is with the primed picture compared to the painted (2 coats) picture.  I just wanted you to be able to see the difference.




While you are waiting for the dresser to dry, go ahead and prep area to paint your hardware.  Put plastic down on the ground, and lie your hardware onto wooden blocks or cardboard. 

I always use wooden pieces from leftover projects (can you tell – lol) for mine, but just use something to lift them above the plastic.

Spray your hardware making sure to get the inside areas as well.  Wait at least 30 mins then flip them over and spray the back side.  Once again, make sure to get “all” areas of the hardware.

***TIP***  I spray all sides from the left, then spray from the top, then spray from the right, and then from the bottom.  This way, I make sure I don’t miss any of the spots.  Trust me, it is the worst feeling EVER!! to finally think you have finished your painted dresser, ONLY to realize that 2 or 3 of the hardware pulls did not fully get covered – ugh!!  Out comes the plastic, spray paint, clean up, and TIME – all again.  Make your life easier by just doing it right the first time!!









Here are some closeup pictures so you can see the brass color of the original hardware (left below) and then the oil-rubbed bronze color after it is spray painted.

***TIP***  If you have brass hardware and spray them with either bronze or black paint, you can gently sand down the edges of the pulls to get an antiqued look (the brass peaks through). 

This turns out REALLY pretty!!  I’ve done it many, many times – I just wasn’t going for that “antique-y” look on this particular piece.  Give it a try if that’s what you’re going for.








Flip them over one more time (top side up), and gently spray again.  This will ensure that ALL sides are covered.



Put the 1st coat of wax on with the sponge that’s included (or rag), let sit at least 15 minutes, and wipe off to buff.  This stage is always where the magic happens – am I right? 

It’s like the wax joins everything together, and makes it look a-ma-zing!!












Use the 150-grit sandpaper to lightly distress areas of the dresser where normal wear and tear would occur naturally over time. 

I distressed my dresser on random places at the feet, on edges of some of the drawers,  and on the top section and edge(rim).











Repeat the same process again with the wax for the entire dresser.  Let dry overnight.

Then put ONE more coat of wax on the TOP portion only. 

So the entire dresser will have 2 coats total, and the TOP portion will have 3 coats total.
















To see more of our master bedroom makeover and master bathroom makeover click:



Have any questions?  I’d love to help out any way I can.

  • Will you paint your bedroom furniture or try another piece to white-wash? 
  • Let me know – I can’t wait to see the pictures of how beautiful it turns out!!

Have a Great Weekend!!

Love & Hugs πŸ™‚ 

Recommended Posts: 

Painting Lamp Shades Black:  Do’s and Don’ts

Faux Bamboo Mirror Makeover (Gold Spray Paint)

Whitewash Furniture DIY:  Coffee Table Makeover

Home Tour:  Summer Dining Room

My Easter Tablescape:  Blue & Yellow

12 Best Modern Farmhouse Bar Stools

55 Incredible Barn Door Ideas:  Not Just For Farmhouse Style

How to Plan Your Kitchen Remodel:  Tips & Ideas

15 Top-Rated Round Mirrors:  Find Your Style








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  1. Thank you so much for your wonderful very easy to understand tutorial!!!! My furniture turned out PERFECT!!!!

    1. awesome laura!! so happy that it turned out like you wanted it to!! it’s like having a new piece of furniture – right? thnx so much for sharing πŸ™‚

  2. loved the tutorial.

    I’m needing to do a table and buffet. needing more brown or black. Any of you ideas would be great.

    1. Hi Renee! Thanks for the kind feedback.
      Yes, it is Behr Premium plus that is paint and primer in one.
      But I did use a primer first.
      Hope this helps-
      Jael 😊

  3. This looks great! Can I use polyurethane to seal it instead of wax or is there some reason you choose wax?

    1. Hi Kelsey! Yes, you can def. seal with polyurethane also. I chose wax because it’s easier to apply (no drips), dries faster, and leaves more of a satin-matte finish. It’s up to you though.
      Let me know how your piece turns out.
      hugs – jael πŸ™‚

  4. I am so glad I found this article, I don’t feel as nervous doing this project using this technique. What kind of primer did you use? Just the regular ol’ Behr Primer?

    1. Hi Paula – so happy you’re going to do this painting project! You will love it.
      I use Zinsser primer – check the supplies section of this post for the exact link.
      hugs & good luck – you got this!
      jael πŸ™‚

  5. Thank you for this tutorial! Just finished my dresser & nightstand make over and you made this process so easy to follow!

    1. Hi Megan! Thanks for the kind feedback. I am so happy the process was easy to follow, and hope you love your “new” look.
      hugs – jael πŸ™‚

  6. Can you apply the Trewax inside? It is 90 degrees outside and don’t know if it will work in that temperature.

    1. Hi Kim! Yes, you can apply the Trewax inside (or outside in that 90 degree heat – LOL)! I used to paint furniture in our garage when it was 95+ degrees in August. But yes, stay safe and use it indoors – the smell is barely even noticeable.
      Hugs –
      Jael πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Jeanne! Good question. I would not recommend sanding because most likely the sand paper will scratch your metal knobs/pulls. Then when you spray paint the knobs, you will be able to notice the scratch marks.
      I buy the spray paint with primer in it, and that takes cares of the “needing to sand” issue.
      Hope this helps!
      Hugs – Jael πŸ™‚

  7. Hi I love your dresser technique . I have wood dressers that I painted white and wanted to make them look white wash is there anything I can do or do I have to sand it all down and start over ?

    1. Hi Serena! And thank you for the love!
      Here is another technique you can try to do:
      (It will kind of have a chippy paint look over time – using this technique).
      *You could also use a true water-based wax (Annie Sloan), and then paint the white paint over using the same technique like my coffee table version.
      Let me know if you decide to use it and how it turns out!
      Hugs – Jael πŸ™‚

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