Are you ready to see how I made an “old vintage frame” look like an “old vintage frame?” ……Just in a different color. First, let me start with a little background. The painting is about 35+ years old (ok…technically not vintage…but close) and the oils show zero signs of cracking, fading or yellowing.
Disclosure: Products were supplied by Vintage Market & Design, but the project choice and opinions are 100% my own.
Around the painting is a matte made of linen. It truly has aged and the fabric looked like it might not withstand my removing the painting from the frame. This caused me considerable concern.
Add to this a frame that is made of 100% carved wood. To my knowledge, this frame has never had any kind of wood conditioner applied to help keep the wood supple. So when the condition of the frame is combined with the super-aged linen matte, I pondered whether to remove the frame from the painting fearing that the frame could warp —or worse. What if it snapped in two? And goodness knows what could happen to the matte if that happened.
All this said to let you know that there is much to consider when working with vintage oils and frames. And I urge you to consult an expert in vintage frame restoration for specific questions before embarking on your project.
VINTAGE FRAME MAKEOVER
So here’s where I finally started. With an old oil painting, a weakened linen matte, and a brittle wood frame in gaudy gold. To say that my nerves were on edge is an understatement. Truth be told, I was a total basket case.
Step 1. Protect the Oil Painting and Matte
I decided to work with the unit left in tact so I lifted the frame to a comfortable working level by propping it up on paint cans. This allowed me to sit on the floor and still have lots of room to move.
The frame was vacuumed and wiped with a damp cloth. No other special prep was involved.
Then a piece of thick brown construction paper (found on a roll in the paint section at the home improvement center) was cut to lay over the oil.
Frog Tape (the yellow one made for delicate surfaces) was used to secure the paper to the edge of the frame. To my dismay, the tape would not stick to the linen matte so I had to attach it to the inner most edge of the frame. But not to worry, the easy paint repair of that area comes later.
I’m also sorry that I didn’t snap a photo of this process before I started painting. It just proves how rattled I was in the beginning.
Step 2. Find the Right Products for the Project
For this project, I chose to use paints and products from a company called Vintage Market & Design. I had never used these products before, but they had all of the items that seemed perfect for the job —-based on my own research for refinishing vintage frames.
Step 3. Layer on Color
To get an authentic look, layering on color is key so grab a coffee and get comfortable. You’ll need to commit to the long haul. I used a combination of colors and carefully applied each one with an artist brush.
And let me say that it took four solid coats of paint before I finally had my Goldilocks moment.
The first coat was Burlap. Too dark.
The second coat was Sand. Too gray.
The third coat was Antique White. Too white.
The fourth coat was a mixture of Burlap and Antique White. Just right.
Hello — Goldielocks.
But also note that a true patina occurs over time —-and therefore — in layers. ALWAYS in layers. So just because these colors didn’t quite work as the final PAINT finish, it doesn’t mean they don’t add to the aging process. Each and every color shows somewhere on the frame and is important to the overall look.
One color does not a patina make.
So my answer is yes. Always layer on color. Lots and lots of color.
Step 4. Distress the Surface
Once the paint has thoroughly dried, use the softest of touches and lightly distress the frame. Since I couldn’t find any super-high grit sandpaper (like 2000+), I used old 240-grit sandpaper that barely had any grit left.
With the vacuum in one hand and the sandpaper in the other, I slowly made my way around the frame.
Step 5. Wax on the Grunge
Once the distressing and vacuuming of the dust is complete, a clear wax was applied to the entire frame.
This company’s wax is a super soft and supple wax — almost like a gel. I applied it to every square inch of the frame, including all of the nooks and crannies, using my fingertips. The wax was allowed to set for about 30 minutes and then given a slight buff with a clean tee-shirt.
Then a product called Grunge (below – charcoal powder) was applied. This product ages the nooks and crannies the way a frame would age as it hangs on the wall.
Some of the Grunge was mixed with wax and applied and some of the Grunge was applied to the waxed surface as a dry powder. I just worked with the product until I had my Karate Kid moment.
Wax on. Wax off.
Remember that line in the movie?
Well, it applies here, too. It’s all in working with the product and using your eye to judge.
And remember to work the Grunge based on how dust would settle when the frame is hanging on the wall. This is key to getting an authentic look.
Dust does not usually settle upside down. LOL..
And it usually settles lighter at the top and heavier at the bottom — So Grunge was applied lighter at the top and a bit heavier at the bottom.
Step 6. Add a Touch of Glow
The last product added is a very light gold cream called Crowning Touch Antique Gold. This product is extremely translucent but was still applied sparingly to the raised areas of the frame with my finger tips and then buffed with a tee-shirt covering my finger tips. The goal was to mellow out the frame color with the matte color, but not change the new color of the frame.
Step 7. One More Thing
As far as fixing the frame where the FrogTape adhered — Remember that? All I did was slide an index card between the matte and the frame and then DRY BRUSH the mixture of Burlap and Antique White onto the frame. It is the only part of the frame that didn’t get colors layered on, but it totally doesn’t show. The dry brush effect is perfect.
And that’s all there is to it.
All it takes is a few of the right products and a little bit of time.
If you have questions, please start a conversation in the comments section. We love questions and comments.
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And, of course, here’s a handy graphic for pinning this idea for later…. 🙂
Just FIY, here’s another time I used FrogTape for delicate surfaces (Click here).
Plus a makeover to update the colors of an oil painting (Click here).