Back Button

How to Color Wash Cabinets

Murray Anderson

Color washing a wall or a cabinet can produce a dramatic visual enhancement to a room. Even better, it's easy to do, inexpensive and a beginner can achieve results in a day. Color wash is a mixture of latex paint and glaze, applied over a base coat. The base color is still visible but it is "softened" by the application of the color wash.


  1. Put drop cloths on the floor and remove or cover any furniture in the room.

  2. Sand the cabinet surfaces with a light grit sandpaper (180 grit), then wash the cabinets with a mixture of tri sodium phosphate (TSP) and water to remove any dust from the sanding. Rinse with clean water and let dry.

  3. Using painter's tape, carefully cover any exposed handles or hinges. It's even better if you can actually remove the cabinet doors, hinges and handles--although sometimes that isn't practical.

Color Washing

  1. Prepare your color wash (glaze) mixture by mixing glaze and your selected paint in a 4 to 1 ratio; that is, 4 parts glaze to 1 part paint.

  2. Pour your glaze mixture into a clean paint tray for easy handling.

  3. Apply the color wash/glaze depending on the final appearance you want to achieve. Glaze is usually applied using 1 of 3 tools: a cloth, sponge or brush. A cloth gives a more subtle appearance than a sponge, which produces a somewhat textured look. A brush gives you noticeable textured lines.

  4. Apply the wash using a circular motion when using sponges or cloths, as if you were actually washing the walls.

  5. Apply the wash with random length strokes in a criss-cross manner when using a brush. You can soften the appearance of the brush strokes by lightly feathering over the glazed surface with a dry brush, which is a brush that hasn't been dipped in the glaze mixture.

  6. Repeat the same technique of washing the walls or random criss-cross brush strokes to the entire cabinet, then allow the wash to dry.

  7. Combine glazing tools to achieve different looks. Plus, after the first coat of color wash has dried you can apply another color or more of the same glaze to make it more noticeable.

  8. Protect the finished surface of your color washed walls by applying a clear latex varnish.