I’m so happy to be able to share this fun frame update with you all! If you follow me on Instagram, you will remember seeing these vintage butterfly and moth specimens from the 1950s that were made by my grandpa and the makeover of their frames. I decided to go with a gray-wash, Restoration Hardware look, paint technique for the frames and I’m totally in love with the results! Not only does it update the original frames, which was my main goal, the new darker paint also helps the specimens stand out more, I think, maybe because it picks up some of their darker colorings.
Here’s what I started with:
These framed butterfly and moth specimens were made for my mom and I remember even as a kid that I thought the cream-with-gold-specks frames where sorta blah. Now the gold specks are simply dated and I knew they needed a makeover to bring them into this century.
DIY Gray-Washed Frames How-To
Note: Amazon links are provided for your reference, and they are affiliate links that help support the site at no cost to you if you do buy through them.
- acrylic craft paint: brown (I used burnt umber), warm gray (I mixed black into white and then added a drop of brown), tan (mine was called khaki tan)
- container to mix paint in
- medium sized paint brush or small foam brush
- hard bristle medium paint brush for dry brushing (I used a chalk painting brush)
- paper plate and paper towel or rag
- foam sanding block
1. Prepare the frames by taking apart or taping off. Since these are vintage, with my grandpa’s diy framing – complete with interesting tape and labels on the backs – I couldn’t take them apart, so I used painter’s tape to protect the glass from the new paint. If that is not a problem for frames you’re updating, remove the original picture and glass.
2. Paint first layer. Using a medium paint brush or small foam brush (depending on the size of your frame), brush on on coat of brown acrylic craft paint. It’s okay to see brush marks and areas of the frame showing still. Let dry completely.
3. Dry brush gray paint: dip end of brush into container with paint, then dab on a towel-lined paper plate to remove much of the paint and apply quickly over the brown paint using a brisk back-and-forth motion. Basically, you’re trying to minimize solid spots of paint – I find it easiest to hold the brush at an angle and use small strokes until the paint is gone. Dab more from the paper plate, repeating, until the paint is gone from the plate and then return to the container for a bit more paint. Do all the sides, backs and edges, not forgetting the corners. Hold it away occasionally, adding more paint as needed to get the look you like. Let dry.
4. Dry brush tan paint: repeat the same process as above, but using less of the tan. The tan is meant to warm up the gray, but the gray is the main color, so use the tan to highlight and even out. Let dry.
5. Finish with a light sanding using the foam sanding block on all the painted areas to distress, even out, and blend.
As you can probably tell, creating DIY gray-washed frames is a fluid process – just keep adding light, dry brushed layers to get the look you want. If you want more gray, add less tan, and so on. I decided I liked the white of the original frame showing through – you may not, or may not be starting with light frames. It’s a process you can have fun with – it’s only paint and you can always start again! And if you are painting multiple frames, like I was, they might not all turn out the same, but that’s okay:
The idea is to give them a look of weathered wood and that doesn’t always look the same, so – mission accomplished, right? Just another case of embracing the imperfect. 🙂
My grandfather had attached hand-written labels on the backs, identifying the specimens – which of course is lost to me, knowing nothing about butterflies. But maybe it does to some of you? The larger names are true, but the smaller ones may be wrong, as the writing was hard to read in some instances. Isn’t it interesting how beautiful the moths are in the grouping when we don’t normally think of them being as beautiful as butterflies?
And they perfectly fill this awkward space in our great-room – even going so far as to finally help cover an old wall phone jack I’ve been fighting with for years. Love.
What I don’t love so much? That huge orangey-pine armoire that holds our TV. Ugh. That color is so off in this room – so very off. And yet…it’s full of carving, moldings, and doors (not to mention all the electronics!) that make it overwhelming to think about painting by hand. Or even taking everything out, moving it, and using the handheld sprayer. So there it sits. One day, one day…
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links and by clicking on them you help support AOC at no extra cost to you – thanks so much! (Oh, and you can always read ourentire disclosure page here.)
This is linked to Weekend re-Treat Party.