Color Washing the Barn Door


One of my favorite projects to date has been our Dutch barn door.   Anyone who sees it loves it (and I am not just saying that cuz I love it)!   A Dutch door is just so whimsical, then add the barn door styling and it is just awesome!  But one thing has bothered me.  After I originally stained it, I was pleased but not perfectly happy with the color.  (which is in case you are wondering-  Minwax Waterbased Wood Stain, tinted in  Charcoal Grey)

color washing paint technique, wood grain still shows, barn door (1)

I was going for a look of naturally weathered wood but ours was just too blue for my taste.  So when I decided to update the wall where the dutch door is located for the clock project.   It was the perfect time to face re-coloring the door.

In our Texas house,  I painted the doors black and I LOVED it – with a passion!  So I knew the moment I moved into this house that the doors would be painted at least some color.  I finally settled on something  like a charcoal grey- dark but not black. (hence when I picked out the charcoal grey color above)

I picked up a gallon of  #7069 Iron Ore from Sherwin William, Emerald line in Satin.  (last time my doors were semi gloss.  I didn’t’ love that much sheen)  Since I am painting all the doors this color, I wanted the barn door to be the same tones, but I also still wanted to be able to see the wood grain.

Okay, but a paint is not a stain, right?  Right.  HOWEVER, my sister taught me while doing a craft like 8 years ago (thanks Noelle!)that you can wash something with paint.  That way you still see the wood grain, but you get the color of the paint.   This may not be news to you, but it works really well if you’ve never tried it.  So if it is news to you I will show you how I did it on our door.

 Color Washing Paint Technique

color washing paint technique, wood grain still shows, barn door #paint #barn_door

1.  Mix or shake your paint.

2.  Take a wet washcloth (not dripping but not TOO wrung out) and dip it into a tiny bit of paint.  (I used the lid of my can of paint for this, but you can use a plate or paint tray, you need very little paint) the goal is to not have that much paint on the rag.

color washing paint technique, wood grain still shows, barn door (3) color washing paint technique, wood grain still shows, barn door (6)

3. With a dry paint brush, apply a small amount of paint to a board.  Be sure to work in very small sections or one continuous board that you can wipe down immediately, so it doesn’t dry out before you can work on each area.   See below  how the dry brush doesn’t coat the whole piece just leaves a quick layer of color on the board (sorry about the blurriness of the shot!)

color washing paint technique, wood grain still shows, barn door (11)

4. Now take your wet wash cloth and wipe the paint in the direction of the grain, to a more uniform finish.

color washing paint technique, wood grain still shows, barn door (9)

 5.  Continue working in small sections until you are done.  Remember you can always darken a piece but it is hard to take color off as easily, especially once it is dry.  So keep your layers of paint on the light side!

color washing paint technique, wood grain still shows, barn door (12)

In the picture above the color washed areas don’t look too striking, but in the picture below  you can see it made a HUGE difference in the overall color of the door.  No more blue!  Hip hip hooray!

Update: See more about how to use this color-washing technique in any color (like turquoise!) here

color washing paint technique, wood grain still shows, barn door (13)

To finish up the wall, I painted the other door two “solid” coats of the Iron Ore color.  They look great together!  A match made in heaven!

50 (12)

50 (14)

 Wanna see the final updated door?  I thought so!

color washing paint technique, wood grain still shows, barn door remodelaholic(15)

What do you think of this technique?  Have you tried it?  Tell me what you think!  If you like this post, please consider pinning it, I’d be super thankful!

Meet the Author: Cassity

Cassity started Remodelaholic with her husband, Justin, to share their love for knocking out walls together. She is an interior designer, wife, and mother of two. She and Justin have remodeled three Read More


    • says

      Elisabeth! THANK YOU for the compliment and THANKS for the comment! I truly do love to hear what you guys think! It makes my day! Have a great weekend!


  1. Chrissy says

    I love your door!!! The washed out deep brown color is exactly what I want to do to the wooden dresser in my room. I’m wondering I I could do this technique without staining at all and how long it would take to dry?

    • says

      Chrissy, if it were me I would try a inconspicuous spot on the back or bottom. I would give it atleast 2-4 hours for drying. It all depends on the where you live though. Just give it a try.

    • says

      Chrissy, if it were me I would try a inconspicuous spot on the back or bottom. I would give it at least 2-4 hours for drying. It all depends on the where you live though. Just give it a try.

  2. Mark says

    We really love what you’ve done and want to do it with our kitchen cabinets. What would you recommend putting on top as a finish to protect it? Thanks!

    • says

      I didn’t put anything, since it is paint it seems fine, and I don’t want it to yellow. You could see if a wax would work? I am not sure how it would react to the paint wash though, so you might want to test a spot or two.

  3. brianna says

    We are building our first house and I love the idea of a yellow front door. We bought a fiber glass door with wood grain. Could this technique work?

  4. Karen says

    Thinking of trying this on kitchen cabinets…they are stained and polyurethaned, and really date the kitchen.
    What process would you recommend?

  5. says

    This just saved me from a disaster. My stained bath vanity didn’t hold the stain where the wood filler was. I followed this technique with heavily diluted paint. Worked like a charm.

  6. Debra says

    I’d like to try this on my bathroom cabinets, now a 90s golden oak color. I’d like a nice graphite color. I want the wood finish since they are nice cabinets so thought I’d try this. One question: do I need to sand or can I just wipe with TSP first?

    • says

      Debra, I would suggest going with a stain, and finish combo in one like Minwax polyshades stains and poly in one. Because, if your wood has a polyurethane on it, I think this finish would scrap right off and it would be a sad thing to do that much work for it not to last.

  7. Brittany says

    This looks so good! Do you just wipe of the paint immediately after applying? Or do you let it set for a few seconds?

    • says

      Wipe on, them wipe right off. And remember, I had the paint on a wet/damp washcloth. You can always add more paint, but you can’t as easily get it off!

        • Cass says

          You mean would it still look like a barn door if you left the wood unstained and just sealed it? I would say yes, since the signature “barn door” thing is the X on the door — so I think it would look like a barn door stained any color or even painted, even if the classic barn door look is stained wood.

  8. Melissa says

    I just discovered your site… Great stuff! :)
    I just stained a wooden dresser top with wood stain tinted black. It still looks brown to me. I’m wondering if this technique might work using the grey paint I used on the dresser body? Grey over brown? What do you think might result? LOL I guess I could just try it and see.
    Thanks for the pointers!

    • Cass says

      Hi Melissa! This technique will work when you are going darker, but probably not lighter… but I guess you can try it and see! It sounds like you want to go darker anyway, so this could work!

  9. Mallory says

    Beautiful!! I’m a little confused though. Do you HAVE to stain something first and then do the wash technique? My husband just built us a brand new Media Console & storage unit for the playroom. I love the color of your door & want something similar for the console, but do I need to stain it first?

  10. Marilou says

    I really loved what you did to your door and have been looking for tips on how to do one. I have my old dresser that I like to paint black ( almost same color as yours) to match the colour of my dining table. I’m a newbie with this so my question is after sanding it do I need to apply a primer before starting with your steps. Thanks

    • Cass says

      Hi Marilou! Thanks for the comment. To answer your question, no — since you are just basically staining the wood with watered-down paint, a primer would cover up the wood grain that you want to show through. Thanks!

  11. says

    Hi! Awesome work! You are so creative….My husband and I want to do this to an old dresser we got at an antique place. I have no idea whats on it now, stain or paint…not sure, its strange! Can we just do this without sanding? Ive seen some where you don’t ahve to get it down to bare wood…its so much work, and we did that on lots of other pieces. What can we do??

    • Cass says

      Hi Heidi! I wouldn’t recommend trying to color wash over any other type of finish. If you want it to last, then it is worth the work of getting down to bare wood. Every time I have cut the sanding corner, I have regretted it. You will get a lot more scratches, and literally within weeks, it may look just as bad as before. Furniture gets a lot of wear and tear, and if kids are involved whatsoever, they will do things that you never considered. It is just not worth the work in my opinion to do the work, if you are going to have to strip it all down, sand it and do it again. Sorry I can’t give you the easy way out answer :) but we’d love to see what you do with the dresser!

  12. Susan Kenneally says

    Great you think this would work as well on overhead beams/ ceilings where the wood is drying out?

    • says

      Possibly but it depends on how rustic the wood is cut. This was rather smooth wood, so it was easy. I would test in an inconspicuous place before I got started with this project.

  13. jon says

    I found this website and i am in the exact situation you were in with your door not looking deep and grey enough and in fact having a clue tint. I have just finished building a farmhouse dining room table out of pine and stained just the top with a weathered grey stain from minwax. It looks exactly the same as your door (Pre-Paintwash). My question is, did you have a layer of poly on the door before your paint washed & did you sand the stain down at all before you started as well?…. My table top is stained only and about 3 days dry. Love the Door and your site!!

    • Cass says

      Hi Jon! This color washing method will only work on unsealed wood, since the paint/stain won’t soak in through a sealer like poly. So if you have a sealer, you’d need to sand, but I hadn’t sealed it so I didn’t have to. Thanks~

  14. Paula says

    I am trying to achieve a grey wash stain look on a dining room table I just stripped. I applied a water stain dark walnut..wiped off. Thinned out white
    paint with water to do a wash. Wiped off. Then added a water base weathered grey stain. The lines in the wood do not pop and the color is just blah. Any suggestions on how to get a more weathered grey look? Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *