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How To Give Painted Metal A Distressed Look

Learn how to give painted metal a distressed look. Distressed metal is popular for the farmhouse and shabby chic look and is so easy to DIY!

Welcome!  My last post featured my DIY farmhouse half windmill but today I am showing you how I created the shelf it is sitting on.  I am going to give you a super quick lesson on how to give painted metal a distressed look!

I love all things farmhouse, vintage, etc. and this is the perfect way to create a vintage or rustic metal look when you are making over furniture or a shelf.

It is also a good way to learn how to make metal look shabby chic.

This easy DIY technique is one that you will use all of the time from now on.

Keep reading to find out how to make metal look shabby chic and/or farmhouse.

If you love DIY metal projects you can click here to find more metal crafts inspiration!

Showing the painted shelf at an angle hanging in the kitchen

June Thrift Store Decor Upcycle Challenge

This metal shelf that I got at a garage sale is one of my new favorites and I created its new look for the June Thrift Store Decor Upcycle Challenge.  

I love this challenge every month.  Do you know why?  Because I have a million and one things in my garage to choose from.  It is fun to grab an old purchase and make it into a new something!

This challenge involves many of my blogger friends and we all have the best time.  So be sure to check out all of the projects but clicking on the links below.

The Rules:

  • Upcycle an item(s) from a thrift store, resale store, or garage sale into a new piece of decor.
  • There’s no monthly theme.
  • There’s no budget to stick to.

Meet the Hosts

Amanda | The Kolb Corner    Kim | Made in a Day
Maureen | Red Cottage Chronicles    Pili | Sweet Things
Debra | Shoppe No. 5    Jeanie | Create & Babble
Kimm | Reinvented    Kathleen | Our Hopeful Home 
Shirley | Intelligent Domestications    Angela | Simply Beautiful by Angela
 Michelle | Our Crafty Mom    
Michelle | Michelle James Designs     Kimberly | Farmhouse Made
Molly | Just a Little Creativity    Lora | Craftivity Designs
Colleen | Life on Kaydeross Creek     Toni | Small Home Soul 

Make sure you follow our board on Pinterest for more upcycled decor inspiration!

How To Give Painted Metal A Distressed Look

I have added some affiliate links for your convenience.  You can read my full disclosure here.

Materials List

How To Give Painted Metal A Distressed Look

Do you love the distressed look on your painted furniture? Let me show you how easy it is to give painted metal a distressed look you will love! - www.

A super easy technique to give painted metal a distressed, rustic or vintage look.

Active Time 1 hour
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 4 hours
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $10



  1. Use a white spray primer or a primer you can put through the paint sprayer and give the shelf a couple of coats.
  2. Use the HomeRight paint sprayer to add the Chalked Paint. Give it as many coats as it needs. I only needed one coat after the primer.
  3. Use the sanding block to sand the raised areas. If you don't have a raised design, sand the areas that would naturally distress with age like corners and random parts of the piece.
  4. Add a clear coat to seal the piece if you think it needs it.
  5. Enjoy!
For this project, giving spray painted metal a distressed look was easy as can be.  

That is because of the raised pattern on the shelf.  This is what the shelf looked like when i purchased it at a garage sale about a month ago.

The shelf before it is painted white.

Up close!

Close up view of the metal shelf before it is painted.

Step 1: Start with the primer

I am in love with the design and I could see immediately that it would look amazing painted white with a distressed metal look. So that is what I did.  It really needed a primer so I started by spraying a white primer on it.

I had some white primer in a can so I used my HomeRight paint sprayer to add it.  You could also use a white spray primer in a can if you have it.

I sprayed on two coats to give it a good base.

Step 2: Add the white chalk paint

Then I moved on to a white chalk paint.

This paint is by Rustoleum and it is their line of chalked paints.  The color is Linen White.

It needed just one coat of the paint and I used my sprayer for that too.  The HomeRight  paint sprayer is my favorite.

The paint does need to be thinned down when using the sprayer but there are instructions included.  Basically I thin it to the consistency of water.  Maybe a tad thicker but not by much.

This makes it a breeze to spray.

Look how nice it turns out with a sprayer.  My favorite part is no brush strokes.

Painting the metal shelf with the white chalk paint.

Step 3: Distressing the metal

All you need to distress chalk paint on metal is a sanding block. I bet you didn’t think it would be so easy to learn how to distress painted metal!

For my shelf with a raised design I just had to sand over the raised areas to remove the paint from those spots.  This creates that nice antique metal look.

The paint and primer sanded nicely on the raised areas and made quick work of the distressing.

If your project doesn’t have a raised pattern sand the parts that would chip naturally over time such as the corners and just random areas on the surface.  Focus on those spots until you get the antique look you are searching for.

Non sanding method

If you don’t want to sand  you can add a dark wax or to dry brush a darker paint over the top in the places you want it to look distressed.  This is harder for me than sanding.  I prefer the sanding method.

And another method is to add a little vaseline to the areas where you want the paint to resist before painting.

After painting, wipe off the areas where you added vaseline.  The paint comes right off and reveals what color came before it.

Close up photo of the finished metal shelf.

Finished painted and distressed metal shelf hanging on the wall in the kitchen.

Finished painted and distressed shelf hanging on the wall.

What do you think?  I love it so much.  Here is one more shot of the wall!

Finished metal shelf with a distressed look hanging on the wall.

If you like it…don’t forget to Pin It!

Finished distressed metal shelf hanging on the wall as home decor.

Thanks for stopping by!

You can see more of what I do and blog about by clicking on the following links:

Happy Crafting!


And now for more thrifty goodness!

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow upcyclers created below!



Tuesday 26th of May 2020

I love your clock! We just bought one but the metal is painted. We do not want the color it is to be the color that shows through after we distress it. What do you recommend we do or use to cover the paint that is already on it?


Saturday 30th of May 2020

It is hard to know without seeing your clock. If I want a different color to show through after I distress I use a black or something as my first coat. I hope that helps.

ann norris

Friday 10th of August 2018



Sunday 12th of August 2018

Hi Ann! I have used many different paints on metal then distressed so the answer is yes. Spray paint works well and I am pretty sure that latex would work too. It just needs to be able to adhere to the metal. Some spray paints are made to work on metal. If you are using a latex be sure to sand the metal first so the paint has something to grab on to. Good luck!

Toni | Small Home Soul

Friday 30th of June 2017

I'm a little late getting here to check out your project but WOW what a huge difference. And for the better, you really freshened up that shelf and the distressing makes the pattern pop. It's a perfect place for your cute half fan (that I still want btw :) )


Friday 30th of June 2017

Thanks Toni! I love the white and I agree that it brightened it up a lot! Glad you made it over!


Tuesday 27th of June 2017

I love the look of distressed metal. Your decor looks so beautiful there! That shelf is beautiful! I'd love to find one like that too!


Wednesday 28th of June 2017

Thank you Carolann. I got lucky at a garage sale and it was so cheap too! I grabbed it right away. I do love it in the kitchen on that wall.

Michelle James

Monday 26th of June 2017

This metal shelf looks gorgeous in white! Your windmill really looks great on the shelf too! beautiful makeover!


Monday 26th of June 2017

Thanks Michelle. I love the shelf and it looks great on my kitchen wall.

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