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Use Crackle Medium to create texture and interest

How to create a crackle finish with crackle medium. Easy step by step using crackle medium to get a fun rustic finish.

Creating a crackle finish can be tricky if you don’t know some tricks. Crackle medium is easier to use than white glue and can be found online and in art or craft stores.

hand painted sign with crackle finish and rooster, text overlay reads, master how to crackle, with video, get different effects, Pamela Groppe Art

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You can use a crackle finish on paintings for texture, DIY signs or furniture. It creates a fun effect that can be wonderfully rustic or vintage looking.

I use either a brush or a roller to apply the crackle medium on my surface and in the video I really show you the different effect you can get from each.

The first video in this post is a quick overview. Please see real time video at the end of this article for a step by step you can follow along with.

Portion of diy hand painted sign with crackle finish, rooster motif

Start with a surface with a base color on it. This is the color that will show in the crackling. You can create a dramatic effect by using a highly contrasting color to your top coat.

Or you can make it very subtle with a low contrasting base color. In my demo here I show a dark stained wood and I will be using a white top coat. The crackling will be very noticeable and yet not overpowering.

Base coat for crackle finish

In this photo below I am staining my wood surface with Plaid FolkArt Multi Surface Bark Brown. I share how to stain wood with acrylic paint in this post, go there to see how this is done.

The stain will dry swiftly but be sure to let it dry completely. You want your base coat completely dry whether it is a stain or paint color.

Apply Crackle Medium

To get a finer crackle that is more uniform I like to use a roller with a fine nap. I have used sponge rollers in the past too. In the video I show you how I also use a brush and the different effect between the two.

When using a roller like this I can pour the puddle of crackle medium directly on the surface. But when I use a brush I have to load it from a palette of some kind. For some reason the brush won’t spread the medium completely from the puddle and you will have this big round spot of tons of crackling instead of even crackles. You can also load the roller from a palette as I show in the video.

This photo shows wider crackles which comes from using a white glue. It works because of the lighter contrast between the base coat and the top paint color but I prefer more subtle crackling. For me, white glue is too unpredictable and I can’t control it for the effect I am aiming for.

Hand painted Blue rose cottage sign with crackle finish, blue roses in center

Be sure to roll in many directions when applying the medium. You want the crackle effect to be non directional.

Once you are done applying a relatively even coat of crackle medium let it dry thoroughly. This may take a while but you can speed it up using a blow dryer or setting your piece in front of a fan. I keep a small fan in my studio so I can set pieces in front of it and work on other things while it dries.

Apply top coat

Once your crackle layer is completely dry it is time to add your top coat of paint. Pour out a puddle on palette paper or other surface you use as a palette, fill your roller evenly with paint. I used a plaid folkart multi surface in this demo.

Roll your paint over the surface working swiftly and try not to roll over areas you previously coated with paint. Having your roller very full of paint will help to get good coverage. The crackle medium is immediately activated and will start to crackle before you are even finished applying your paint.

In the video I show what can happen if you do go over an area while wet and how it can lift the paint leaving a bald spot.

As the paint dries watch how to crackling appears all over your surface.

Do not worry about it being perfect, this is going to be a background and is not the focus. If done well it will just add texture and interest to anything you paint on top.

One thing I do enjoy is the crackle can be reactivated as I paint the design on and it will create crackles in the flowers or design I have painted.


You should be able to find these supplies at places like Hobby Lobby, Michaels and JoAnns. Be sure to use their coupons and watch for sales on the paints.

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hand painted sign close up of crackle texture with text overlay, How to use crackle medium create texture and interest, step by step with video, Pamela Groppe Art

More painting fun for you

Happy Painting!

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