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Thrift Tray Makeover with a Faux Rust and Aqua Finish

How to create a soft, rusty look with chalk paint | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

I’ve never been a good flea market thrifter.

DIY faux rust with a little light sanding and a few layers of chalk paint | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s concentration.  Sometimes, when I walk into those big buildings filled with wall-to-wall treasures, I just can’t seem to focus.  And the whole thing becomes one big mind boggle.

A faux rust finish adds texture and dimension to a thrifted tray | The Chelsea Project| www.thechelseaproject.com

But one thing I do know is this.  What I lack in flea market skills, I more than make up for in retail thrifting skills.  That’s right, dear friends.  Momma is a clearance shopper.

A thrifted tray is easily updated with faux rust | www.thechelseaproject.com

Take this tray, for example.

This is how the thrifted tray looked before a faux rust application was created using chalk paint | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

The poor thing was smothering under a boatload of candleholders, pictures, wall accessories, and general junk at one of my very fav retailers.  As I walked by, I could hear the cry for help.  And, although it took a while to dig it out, it was surely more than worth the effort.  Turns out, this little beauty was 90% off, only scratched a little here and there, and had super great bones.  For $6.00, I just knew this was the little tray that could.

First up in the glam up was a little light sanding.  The finish was really slick, plus I wanted to dull the red just a tad.

A little light sanding prepares the surface for a faux rust finish using chalk paint | The Chelsea Project| www.thechelseaproject.com

Next, a thin coat of rust colored chalk paint was applied.  More paint went towards the outer ring and in the joints because……well…that’s usually the way rust accumulates.  Right?

Every faux finish begins with the first layer. See how this DIY faux rust using chalk paint application transforms this tray | The Chelsea Project| www.thechelseaproject.com

After the rust chalk paint dried, additional layers were either heaped on in piles of paint or feathered on with a nearly dry brush.  The colors were aqua, charcoal gray, and black.  And…I let the paint completely dry between layers.

Layers of chalk paint transform a thrifted tray into a rusted treasure | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

This photo was made using a special lense.  Is it easier to see the layered paint applied at random?

How to create faux rust on a tray using chalk paint | The Chelsea Project | www.thecheleseaproject.com

And the texture created by the paint piles?  This was mainly done with the aqua color.

How to create layers and texture on faux rust | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

There was absolutely no sanding done to create the final finish.  It was all managed with paint and brush techniques.

The outer side and the handles were dry brushed.  If you aren’t familiar with dry brushing, just lightly dip the paint brush in the paint, then wipe about 95% of the paint off on a rag or paper towel.  Then, with a very light hand, stroke the brush across the surface.

How to create a soft, rusty look with chalk paint | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

And that’s all there is to it.  🙂

How to create a faux rust finish without using harsh chemicals | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

Then, just sit back and enjoy.

Coffee table makeover in white chalk paint as a serving table | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

Any of these photos can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

DIY Faux Rust with Chalk Paint | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com


If you appreciate this tray makeover, I’d surely love for you to share.

Thanks so much!





  • Reply Amy January 23, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Beautifully done! I love it! And what a bargain!

    • Reply theChelseaProject January 23, 2016 at 12:10 am

      Thanks, Amy! Oh, yes! Bargains…. Where I live. Lol.

  • Reply Helen Holley January 23, 2016 at 7:26 am

    Trays are one of my favorite thrifts and re-do’s… Thanks for the great idea!
    Helen Holley

  • Reply DIY Faux Rust with Chalk Paint | The Chelsea Project April 20, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    […] Thrift Tray Makeover with a Faux Rust and Aqua Finish […]

  • Reply suzannebagheri2014 April 28, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    So pretty and I love the color!!!!

    • Reply theChelseaProject April 28, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks, Suzanne!!

  • Reply Debrashoppeno5 April 29, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    This turned out absolutely beautiful. I love how you layered the paint and got rid of the glossiness. What is treasure the tray has become.

    • Reply theChelseaProject April 29, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      Thanks so much, Debra. Yes, that little tray is one of my favorite little treasures.

  • Reply Sue Pekarek May 19, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    You make me want to herd a better clearance shopper. I adore the faux rust look. Now it looks like something you got in an exotic land.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 19, 2016 at 11:33 pm

      Thanks, Sue. I surely do love clearance rack shopping. You have to just see the potential….LOL.

  • Reply Quick Chicken + Orange Walnut Cole Slaw - The Crafty Blog Stalker July 31, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    […] Thrifty Tray Makeover in Faux Rust and Aqua Finish […]

  • Reply Nancy O August 18, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Love it so much. I found a very similar tray and i am going to follow your tutorial.

  • Reply Favorite DIY and Home Decor Posts in 2016 - The Chelsea Project February 1, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    […] When it comes to faux finishes, there are a whole lot of ways to accomplish the same thing. But for this look, I used only four colors of left-over chalky-type paint. Click here to see the complete post.  […]

  • Reply Lina May 11, 2017 at 6:14 am

    It looks beautiful! Pinned!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 11, 2017 at 10:15 am

      Hi Lina and thanks! You’re the best!

    Thanks so much for your comment!

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