You Crackle Me Up

I love the aged, distressed look. Honestly, it’s because imperfections make it perfect, and I’m certainly not a perfectionist. Huh? Anyway, I especially like the look of aged cracked wood. So, today I’m sharing with you my very favorite technique, crackle. Img_1099_3

This little paper mache box (you can find at Michaels or Hobby Lobby) has crackle on the big tag and suitcase (yellow on red) and on the letter V (white on red). Your base can be almost any surface: stained, painted or raw wood, plaster, but it’s especially fun to put on chipboard and paper mache shapes.

A few general tips to start:

  1. Crackle medium definitely has a mind of its own. That’s part of the fun of it to me, so just be prepared to enjoy the process (carpe artum).
  2. If you’ve never used crackle medium, its a good idea to do a practice piece or two to get the feel.
  3. Keep you brushes nice and wet, but not so wet that the paint or medium drips. Dry brushing doesn’t work well. Also, don’t over-brush when applying a top paint, i.e., use lots of strokes. Single, long brush strokes work best.

Let’s get cracking (sorry, couldn’t resist). Here’s what you’ll need.


  • Foam and bristle brushes.
  • Acrylic paint. I used Making Memories buttercup and chocolate colors.
  • Crackle medium. I tried several kinds and luckily the cheapest worked the best. You can find Delta Creamcoat Crackle at Michaels and Hobby Lobby. And, if you lose these directions, the instructions are on the bottle. If you use a different brand, be sure to follow their directions.
  • A gloss, glaze or varnish medium. I happened to use Liquitex but even ModgePodge will work.

Cardkeeperkit_2And, of course, you need something to paint. I’m using just a small round piece of chip board for illustration, and we’re altering a card-keeping kit created by Caputo’s Kits. I’m very sorry to say she’s going out of business and the kits aren’t available. But, of course, you can easily apply this project to the Stampin’ Up! art journals and books.

Step 1: Apply your base coat with a foam or bristle brush and let it dry completely. Be sure to get the edges, too. Img_1065 

Step 2: Use a bristle brush to apply an even coat of crackle medium. A light coat will give you thin, subtle cracks and a heavier coat will give larger, bolder cracks. Let the crackle dry until there’s an overall sheen to the surface and it feels sticky/tacky to touch, about 15 to 40 minutes. The timing may vary depending on the room’s temperature and humidity. If your crackle is too thick and wet when you put on the top coat, the top coat will just mix with the crackle medium and not crack. If it’s too dry, you’ll just get an unaffected top coat.


Step 3: This is the really fun part! Apply the top contrasting color (yellow in our case) in even strokes and avoid over brushing. Be careful not to overlap or re-stroke the area. Work as fast and smoothly as possible. Cracking begins almost immediately. The cracks in your top coat will follow the brush strokes, so if you want random cracking you can cross brush, more uniform cracking will appear if you use even, one-direction stroking. Let this dry completely.


Step 4: For extra credit you can apply a gloss or varnish. It helps give your piece a more finished look and I think also keeps it from peeling later. And, if you’re just a distressing maniac (that would be me), you can ink the edges with art sponges in the original base color.


Here’s the back of today’s project.


And, here’s the front of today’s project in all its glory, embellished with Stampin’ Up! stamps, paper and hardware.


Well, if you got this far along reading this long post, God bless you. You are my kind of seize-the-art, carpe artum reader. Tomorrow I’ll show you how to use the same process to get an aged leather look and also how you can get a similar weathered look without the paint and crackle.


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