Three Steps To Easily Achieve A Driftwood Paint Finish

I am so excited to share this driftwood paint finish with you today! If you follow my blog, you know that I love to experiment with paint. Honestly, I was expecting to use multiple colors to get the finish I was looking for. But, I was surprised how simple this ended up being. That doesn’t happen very often!

Paint technique for coastal shutters.

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I’ve been searching for home decor ideas for my mantel lately. I knew it needed something large to anchor the space, but I kept coming up empty handed.

The other day I was driving and saw these old shutters sitting out for trash. They were perfect to experiment on. Nothing lost if I didn’t like them. Boy was I surprised by this transformation!

Before picture of old shutters.

Here they are today.

Easy DIY driftwood paint finish on shutters.


These roadside shutters were covered in old paper wasp nests and dirt. There was no wood rot or other damage, so I had my son power wash them in exchange for a trip to Chipotle. 🙂

I filled the old bolt holes with Wood Bondo using these plastic spreaders. Then I used a sanding sponge over the surface to rough it up and smooth out the Bondo. Finally, I wiped them down with odorless mineral spirits and a blue shop towel.

I’m starting to prefer wood bondo for furniture repair over wood filler. This is the second time I have used it. I repaired the veneer on this corner desk, the first time. It has a really fast dry time, so you can get moving with your project much quicker.

I can’t speak to longevity, since I’m new to using it. But, I can say, that if you follow the directions, it is pretty easy to use. Here is a helpful video from Bondo. If you’re short on time, you can start the video at about 1 minute 40 seconds.



I covered each shutter with two coats of Zinnser Bulls Eye Primer. There’s not much to this. I used a Purdy brush and went in the direction of the wood grain. To avoid drips, be careful to not overload your brush. I let it dry overnight.

Process for painting shutters for a driftwood finish.

It’s important to prep and prime your surface, because you will be distressing your top coat later.


Next, I painted one coat of Fusion Mineral Paint in Algonquin and let it dry to the touch. This paint is light weight and easy to apply. An added bonus is you don’t have to add a top coat.

Process for painting shutters for a driftwood finish.


The last step is to make long strokes with 80 grit sandpaper in the direction of the grain of the wood. I didn’t sand back and forth. Just long, straight, even strokes in one direction. I just kept sanding until it was distressed the way I wanted it.

Here is a side by side. The left shutter is sanded, the right shutter hasn’t been. The white primer is showing through on the left shutter.

DIY driftwood paint finish.

I finished up by vacuuming and wiping them down with a damp rag. Since this is just a home decor item, I didn’t bother to put a protective finish on them. If it were a tabletop, bench or other high use item, I would have.

A good top coat choice is General Finishes Topcoat. I used this on my sons desk, and it has held up well. I used the Satin finish, but they also offer it in flat. Let the paint cure for a week or so. Then apply the top coat and let that cure according to the package instructions.

Painted driftwood finish on shutters.

Now I need to decorate my mantel for fall. 🙂

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DIY driftwood paint finish.

I hope this driftwood paint finish tutorial helps you with your next project!



  1. I really liked the finished look of these shutters. I would love to try this on a lamenated piece of furniture I have. Can I do the same process on lamenated wood? Wood love to hear back from you.

    1. Hi Desiree. The shutters I painted were wood. I’ve not tried this distressing process on laminate furniture. I have refinished laminate before and it’s important to prep the surface well(scuff with sandpaper, clean well, prime before painting). My only concern is that the primer may not stick as well and may come off during the distressing process. You can try it on the underside of the piece first, to see if it works. It’s important to use a good primer. You might want to use a lower grit sandpaper to start and see how it goes.

    1. Fusion does not require a top coat like chalk paint would. They offer a product call Tough Coat for a clear protective finish. If you are using this driftwood finish on anything that would be considered “high use”, I would add a protective clear coat to it. Hope this helps!

        1. If you are using Fusion Mineral paint, the top coat is optional. The paint dries hard and doesn’t need to be sealed. If it were my project, I would clear coat the top, and if there is a shelf, I would coat that, too. You may notice a slight difference in the color, once you apply the top coat. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth covering the entire piece. I tried to scratch the shutters with my fingernail to remove the paint and it didn’t budge (once it was cured). I’ve also painted a bench without applying a protective finish, to test it out. It’s been a year and the bench is holding up well. The sharp edges on the corners of the bench arms have some natural wear, but I feel it has held up well.

  2. Hello, just found your blog recently, I too live in Ohio. I can’t remember which diy project brought me to your blog but am so glad I found you. My question is about the “driftwood” look. Have you done this method using a blue or grey color? I really like the “white-ish” or “grey-ish” driftwood. That color was more common in driftwood along the beachs in Georgia. I have been trying to duplicate it without much success. Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Vicki
    Marietta, OH

    1. Hi Vicki. Nice to meet another from Ohio. You would just need to change out your primer color and paint color. But getting just the right colors can be tricky. You can check out this dry sink for the color combination. It’s a different technique, but it sounds closer to the colors you are describing. If you like the distressed technique, just change up the colors. Always be sure to use a primer for your base and use good prep. You don’t want your primer (base color) to sand away while distressing. You could have a primer tinted to a light gray and then use a darker gray paint over it. Then distress it. Hope this helps!

  3. Hi, I am so excited to try this on some benches I am working on. I was wondering if you wanted to use two coats of paint, would you sand after the second coat or would the primer not show through?

    1. Hi Lesley. This is a good question. If you sand in between, I don’t think this will have the same effect and you’ll have less control over the distressing step. I would suggest painting on both coats and then sanding. However, I’m concerned it could be difficult to sand the paint back with two coats. I would try it on a scrap board or underside of the bench first.

  4. I was wondering if I can use the General Finishes Top Coat over a table I painted with chalk paint that you used and then I applied dark antiquing wax over the top along with some white wax. I don’t want to have someone throw their keys or drop something on the table and scratch it or chip it.

    1. Hi Kerry. Thanks for the question. General Finishes Top Coat would work over this finish, although it is a bit rough/distressed. I’m not sure about adding dark antiquing wax. I’ve never tried it over a top coat. Usually you would seal chalk paint with a clear wax and then use an antiquing wax to darken it. I’m sorry, but I can’t answer that part of the question.

  5. I love your driftwood paint treatment! I want to do a faux plank treatment on a plywood floor. I’m going to use a Dremel to make straight grooves like a plank floor, and would like to attempt a weathered finish. Could I use the same technique as your driftwood, and lastly apply a top coat? I was thinking I could drag the sanding block the length of the “plank”, then start again at the next one. Do you think that would work?

    1. This is a good question. Honestly, when I created this finish it was meant to be a decorative finish for an upcycle project. I cannot provide advice for finishing a floor, as I’ve never done that. This will be an extensive and time-consuming project and it would be wise to test a small area. If I were to tackle a project of this scale, I would price out all of the supplies first to understand the cost involved. It’s very possible that it would be cheaper and more durable to purchase a laminate or vinyl plank material. Next, I would consult a paint expert to find a durable finish for the top coat, receive application instructions, and obtain advice on the most cost-effective finish. They will be able to advise you of the best method for getting the finish you are looking for. I hope this helps and best wishes on your project.

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