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 Water Based 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 Williams, 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

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.  The top half has no more blue!  Hip hip hooray!

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


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

How to use paint to colorwash and stain wood any color -- the wood grain still shows through @Remodelaholic


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!

[pinit align=”center” url=”” image_url=”×800.png” description=”Color washing is the perfect finish for your barn door (or any wood surface)! Come learn how to use this unique painting technique with Remodelaholic #Remodelaholic #barndoor #kitchenideas #livingroomideas #entrywayideas #laundry”]

Coloring Washing Is A Unique Painting Technique That Allows The Wood Grain To Show Through Your Paint Color. You'll Love It! A Tutorial From Remodelaholic


Find more help and inspiration for your project:

Best Tips, Tricks, and Techniques for PaintingBest Painting Tips Tricks And Techniques I Wish I Had Known All Of These Before My Last Painting Project


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100+ Wall painting ideas @remodelaholic #painting #walls #design #inspiration

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Painting Furniture Tutorials By Sincerely Sara D For Remodelaholic


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Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.

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  1. I have a dark cherry cabinet and I want to ad a light grey wash over it would you give me some idea how to attac it? It’s a very large break front and I want to lighten it up.

    1. I personally would test the back of a door before I committed to doing the whole piece. If you like the way it looks then I would just make sure you go in small sections. Don’t move on until you like the way it looks ( whether that’s removing a little bit or adding more color make sure when you step away from that section or piece that you like the way it looks). A couple tips, keep that direction of the wash with the direction of the wood grain, go nice and slow because once the paint is on there and totally dry it’s done!

      Good luck! You can do this!

    1. You’d have to remove the varnish — this technique is basically just like a homemade stain, so it needs to be on unsealed wood.

  2. We want to do this to our kitchen cabinets. Looks like a lot of work but I love it. I guess we would have to use multiple brushes to ensure they are dry if we want to knock it out. Also did the final job look more grey than brown? We want ours to be mostly a grey time to match our kitchen theme.

    1. Hi Heidi,
      This color washing process is more like a homemade stain, so it will only work on kitchen cabinets if they haven’t already been sealed, or if you strip the finish completely off. Hope that helps!

  3. I love this technique!!!! I’m just getting into making pallet signs where I stain the wood first. Can I color wash over stained wood?

    1. Yes, that’s what we did here — the stain wasn’t the color we liked, so we added a colorwash to adjust it. As long as the wood hasn’t been sealed, you can colorwash it.

  4. Did you need to put a sealant on it?

    For instance what if i want to do this to our dinning bench, will I need to put a sealant since we do have kids and are messy?

  5. My husband made a barn door for a client . I torched it , put a coat of satin water base on it. I,m afraid it’s to dark. Could I lighten it by color washing it? They don’t want red tones. It’s reclaimed wood. They like dark but want to see the wood grain.

    1. Because this is work for a client I would maybe test it on a scrap piece (finished the same way) before you commit to the whole piece! I’m just not sure how the charred wood will react, if the water-based satin poly will make it be okay… but either way I’d love to see how it turns out !

  6. This post was incredibly helpful. I used your technique on our unfinished barn door using the iron ore paint color and we LOVE it!! It turned out amazing!! Thank you for posting this.

  7. Cassity thank you so much for sharing the barn door paint to look like stain project!
    I went to Sherwin Williams yesterday and bought the exact color (when I saw how dark it was I was unsure how it would turn out to look like your picture) and I applied it last night and it turned out exactly like I wanted!! I am so unskilled when it comes to any type of craft or paint project but I did it exactly like you instructed and now I have my perfect distressed looking barn door! 🙂

  8. I purchased a charcoal stain and started staining and I’m afraid it looks too dark for my liking I’m shooting for the look of your door am I able to color wash the charcoal stain and if so how do I go about doing so? Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Renee, this method works for darkening a stain — so we adjusted ours to be darker *and* a different shade by tweaking it. To get a stain lighter, you just have to sand it off and start again, I’m afraid 🙁

  9. Hi there! So I’m obsessed with the color of your Dutch door, but I’m a little confused about what colors you used to achieve the look? Did you stain it the minwax charcoal gray and then painted over it with the iron ore? Please clarify as I will be re-furbishing a dresser for my nursery soon!!

    Thanks so much!


  10. I just bought raw oak doors. Was planning on painting them flat black with crystal handles. The grain on the doors looks like artwork. I want to enhance the gorgeous grain. Just watered down the black and rub it?

    1. Yes! We used the color wash (watered down paint) to adjust a previous stain that hadn’t been finished/sealed but it works with raw wood as well. Especially with black, you may need to have an area where you can test how much water to add to the paint to get the color intensity you want.

    1. Hi DiAna – This technique works well on any unfinished wood, but we haven’t tried it on any exterior projects. You’d definitely want to seal it, though, because this “stain” doesn’t offer any wood protection.

  11. Thanks for the wonderful post! I am excited to try this. But first I have one quick question: If I used an oil based stain on my project, is it still okay to use a water based color wash technique over? Or does the color wash technique only work if the stain was water based? Thanks so much!

    1. If you are using oil based stain I would try paint thinner to thin out the stain. Try it in a small area on a different board first. Hope that helps.

  12. I paint signs and pictures, as a side gig to my Therapy dog visiting business. I enjoy this technique, as a stain and really enjoy it as a subtle background seasonally, color wash red on board, added Giant LOVE and Cupid heart, looked great!