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Fix-It Corner
Painting 101
Toning Down a Color
by Sue Spataro
fixitlogo.jpg (3443 bytes) see the women's health center
allee.jpg (5759 bytes)From: Judith Waite Allee
qa.gif (1527 bytes)I have a "fix-it" question.
I painted my kitchen woodwork a bright blue-green color, which came out more garish than I wanted, even though it's the right color. I'm looking for a way to "antique" the surface to tone it down, but haven't found any products that seem to fit the bill. Any ideas? Thanks!

Create a textured look
& toning down the color
fixitsuehead.jpg (5058 bytes)Hi Judith,
Great to hear from you : ).
I have  few ideas for you concerning your cabinets : ).

First you can use a painting technique to tone down the color you have and also create a textured look, the textured look will go a long ways to distract from the brightness of the color plus you'll need to use some more paint for texturing and making it darker will again help with the present color.

You can do sponging, dragging, or bag graining.
All of these are very simple and when working with another person can be done in a few hours : ).


  • This involves using a semi gloss paint for woodwork ( which is your cabinets).
  • The effect is created by painting a thin glaze of color over a base coat ( which can be what you have on now), then using a dry brush to drag off this color, allowing the base color to shoe through: the result is finely graduating lines.
  • They can be dragged horizontally or vertically -  even one on top of the other, but with the woodwork the dragging looks better when it follows the grain of the wood.

Preparing the color

  • Dilute the color to be dragged at least 50:50.
  • Mix enough to drag ahalf of your cabinets ( in the case of walls make enough to drag a complete wall).
  • Mix any remainder into the next batch.
  • Don't try to join two batches in the middle of one wall ( in your case a cabinet).

How you do it

  • The work progresses in strips about 2 feet wide, one person brushing on the color and the other dragging it off while it's still wet (keep in mind that latex dries faster than enamels).
  • Brush the paint on thinly and evenly so that it completely covers the base color.
  • When a  complete strip has been painted, one person moves on to paint the second while the other drags the first strip.
  • Hold the dragging brush, which should be a long bristled wide brush, firmly and draw it steadily down through the wet paint.  You should have a firm but light touch when doing this.  Wipe the brush on rages after 2 to 3 strokes so that it doesn't become loaded with paint that it puts it on rather than taking it off.
  • Relax your grip at the end of a stroke- at the bottom of the wall or cabinet, round light switches and other obstacles as this is where paint tends to build up.  Any paint accumulation will take away from your delicate patterns.

Don't forget to check out our article about cleaning your house without chemicals : )

Comments & Ideas

Use Shoe Polish to "age" the paint
From: Faith Walker
Try rubbing brown or black shoe polish on it. That is what we have done to new picture frames to make them look older. You might need to seal it on cabinets.

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The Woman's Fix-It Book:
Incredibly Simple Weekend Projects and Everyday Home Repair
by Karen Dale Dustman
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Here is what today's women have been waiting for--a fix-it book written for women by a woman, who learned how to fix almost anything through years of hands-on experience as a landlord and real estate investor. This indispensable, illustrated stop-by-step guide assumes no prior skills and includes recommendations for what to put in a basic toolbox, as well as a detailed glossary.

The Art of Faux:
The Complete Sourcebook of Decorative Painted Finishes
by Pierre Finkelstein
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This collection of show-and-tell how-tos includes a marvelous range of surfaces, paints, tools, and procedures. The techniques shown simulate marble, wood, stone, leather, ceramic, and many other fascinating finishes. A basic instructional for beginners; a thorough reference for professionals. 350 color and 250 b&w illustrations.

1,200 Paint Effects for the Home Decorator
by Ray Bradshaw
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