Peeling Paint Technique

Peeling Paint Technique

Today I’m going to show you how easy it is to turn an unloved picture frame into a distressed and much loved one using the Peeling Paint Technique – an easy way to get a weathered paint finish. The possibilities and results are endless with this technique, depending on color combinations and how much (or how little) of your frame gets covered in petroleum jelly.  

Petroleum jelly?  Yep, that’s what I said!

Once you try this on a picture frame, you can then apply this to larger items including furniture! 

The colors I’m using today are mustard yellow and brown. How did I end up choosing this color combo?  It all started with this very cool vintage postcard I found on Etsy . . .  


PetScribbles - Victorian Pin Cushion Postcard from the early 1900s


This is a pin cushion leg Victorian postcard. The seller said it’s either Dutch or German from the early 1900s. This postcard has writing and a 1-cent stamp on the back, and is a bit beat up, but I absolutely love it!  Naturally I wanted a frame to match, so that’s how the mustard and brown combination came to be. 

Acrylic paints – two colors of your choice
Sand paper or a sanding block
Picture frame – used or from the dollar store
Petroleum jelly
Paper towels
Baby wipes


1. Sand the frame. In my case, the frame I was using had black paint with a sheen on it already, so I did lots of sanding. Wipe the frame with a cloth to get all the dust off. 

Peeling Paint Technique - Sanding

2. Paint your base color. You may need to do a few coats. I didn’t start with any primer or gesso as a base, so I ended up needing 3 coats of the Mustard color. Let paint dry in between each coat.

3. Distress the frame with some scrapes, nicks, and gouges. Once you’re satisfied with the base color, and the frame is completely dry (I waited overnight), take the edge of your sanding grip and add some scrapes, nicks, and gouges to the frame for a distressed finish. (This will relieve you of any minor stress – it feels good! Hah!)

You could stop here at this point if you wanted to, and you’ll have a frame that looks old and vintage. 

Peeling Paint Technique - Painting and Distressing Basecoat

4. Add petroleum jelly. With your finger, add petroleum jelly to your frame in different spots, keeping in mind where you want – and don’t want – the base color to show. 

Peeling Paint Technique -  Applying Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly acts as a resist, so any paint that is applied over  the petroleum jelly will not adhere to the frame, thus showing off the base color instead.  This is the essence of the Peeling Paint technique, so I’m going to repeat it:

Petroleum jelly acts as a resist, so any paint that is applied over the petroleum jelly will not adhere to the frame, thus showing off the base color instead.  

Don’t apply the petroleum jelly too thin, but also don’t use large chunks of it. The ideal amount is somewhere in between.  

And remember: there’s actually no wrong way to do this technique! 

Peeling Paint Technique - Petroleum Jelly Closeup

5. Paint the top coat over the entire frame. You will see right away that the jelly begins to resist this top coat. 

Peeling Paint Technique - Adding Top Color

6. Allow the top coat to dry. I let it dry overnight. 

Peeling Paint Technique - Top Color Closeup

7. Wipe off the paint and petroleum jelly with paper towels. The top coat of paint that sits on the spots of petroleum jelly will easily come off. This step is messy yet satisfying as you begin to see results immediately!

Peeling Paint Technique - Wipe Off Top Coat

Once you are satisfied with how your frame looks, you will need to remove the grease left over from the petroleum jelly. I used a baby wipe all over the frame which worked great.

To finish off the peeled paint frame, I added vintage lace seam binding. I wrapped the seam binding around (and through) the bottom of the frame and tied it into a bow.

Peeling Paint Technique on Picture FrameI love how this frame turned out, especially as the colors really flatter my vintage postcard. I have this frame hanging in my craft studio where I can enjoy it every day.

Peeled Paint Frame

I hope you’ll try the peeling paint technique: it’s a very satisfying way to achieve a distressed paint finish without a lot of effort!


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  1. Carla S. says

    Thank you for this tutorial. It is the best explained and in more detail than any I have seen . Will be trying this now that I have better details on doing it.

  2. Leigh says

    Would this work for an old trunk that I want to change the color of and distress it. I want to do a very dark purple but not sure what color to put under it ? I am going to use as my coffee table as well as storage for blankets since the inside is cedar. My mother had antiqued it in the 70’s with a green antique. I’m not sure if you remember that look but I do t like it at all. Thank you so much for all the thought you put into that tutorial. I love your pat card also. I am trying to find my creative side again, but I’m not sure what’s holding me back, fear maybe? I used to be so talented like you obviously are but I lost her on my life path. I hope to find my creative side again but until I do thank you for sharing yours.

    • says

      The old trunk you want to redo sounds wonderful Leigh, and it just might be the perfect project to find your creative side again! You haven’t lost her, she’s just patiently waiting until you need her again. :) I think this technique would look lovely on a trunk. Not sure what color to put under the purple, especially without seeing the exact shade – but one idea is to head to the home improvement store and play with some paint chips in their paint aisle. Take some of the colors and hold them up (and under) your chosen purple color and you’ll start to see what you like and what you don’t. :) Another idea is to take the purple color you want to use and try out this technique on a small piece of wood first. (Get a scrap piece of wood in the lumber section of the home improvement store.) Trying it first on a smaller piece (like I did with this frame) is a great way to familiarize yourself with the technique plus see if you like your color choices too! :)
      Laura / Pet Scribbles recently posted…Fall Decor: Pumpkin Cookie Cutter GarlandMy Profile

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