Creating a wrinkled finish

Suggestions for achieving a combination wrinkled and crackled finish. October 24, 2001

I have a sample I need to match. The finish is a high gloss solid color (black) and has a "wrinkled" finish to it--many small cracks and crazing and lots of wrinkling. This is not a typical "crackle" finish by any means. The closest I have come to duplicating this is using gesso on a sized canvas, primer, topcoat, "breaking" the finish then gluing the piece down to the tabletop. Extremely time consuming and still not the exact look. There has to be a better way. Perhaps an incompatibility factor in coatings?

Forum Responses
I think it's a paint that comes in different colors. Sherwin Williams carries it, I believe (their chemical coatings division). It's normally used on metal. It's called Hammertone.

From contributor S:
I have created wrinkled finishes by applying oil based paint to a surface, allowing it to dry but not cure, and then spraying with clear lacquer, which wrinkles the uncured paint.

From the original questioner:
The paint (Hammertone) you mentioned in not what I am talking about. I am familiar with it and that is not the effect.

Contributor S, what you are saying sounds much closer to what I am trying to achieve. I need to get those fine hairline cracks/crazing, though, and the only way I can come up with them is to have my lacquer on a "breakable" substrate such as gesso or joint compound. Was your oil paint still somewhat tacky, or did it feel dry to the touch?

From contributor S:

I have lacquered over the oil base when tacky and when dry to the touch. You just can't let it dry to a hardness that is sandable. The thickness of the oil and the amount of dry time will affect the amount of crazing, so you have to experiment until you get the look you want.

They do make a crackle varnish that you can buy in art stores for antiquing oil paintings that gives a fine crackle. Also, if you use varnish and it says to let it dry 24 hours before re-coating, put on another coat in about 22 hours and you will get an authentic crackle. Experiment and do samples first, of course.

Are you referring to a "porcelain crackle" vs. a two color crackle? That is a base color with a crackle product applied and then the next color on top of that with different widths and sizes of crackle. A porcelain crackle is like you would see on old art work or porcelain vases and such.

From the original questioner:
Yes, I need the "porcelain crackle" look and have no problem achieving that. My problem is getting the surface to have a visible unevenness to it. From an angle, with light reflecting off of the surface, you can see the cracked finish in its segments. The surface is not completely flat, it is faceted from all of the breaks in the finish. My method of breaking the gesso (on the canvas) after it has been finished with lacquer, then gluing it down to the table, pasting wood filler in the cracks and one more black topcoat over it is as close as I can get but is still a little too harsh. Close but not exact. Just can't seem to get that time worn out finish look to it.

Some of the large furniture manufacturers are using something like gesso. It's actually a heavy-bodied acrylic emulsion. Using a sponge and dabbing on the piece (a little time consuming, but not real bad), you achieve a textured look, spray a color coat over top and sand through back into the texture.

You can then apply a crackle finish over this, washcoat and glaze. Finish out with topcoats.

Gesso may work instead of emulsion, but either way you do not have a high integrity film. Good enough for furniture, though.

I stumbled on to a wrinkled finish while making a carved platter. It was maple and I put 2 or 3 coats of dyed blue gesso on the bare wood. Some decorative lines were then lightly carved through the gesso into the wood. Then deft was sprayed on it. It wrinkled up beautifully.

I have made wrinkled finishes by spraying lacquer of a very thick coating of Shellac.

In ceramics there is a product called "crackel-it". Doc Holiday is the brand. It is brushed on with a consistency like white glue and when you apply your topcoat over it, it cracks, crazes, lifts, and all kinds of neat things! It makes the surface uneven but not to the point that it looks bad.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
After making a sample for which I unfortunetly didn't record the actual process, I have spent cosiderable time and effort in coming up with a wrinkle finish formula to match my own sample (they just had to see it and pick that one!). I'm finishing a piece of furniture which had a base coat of high gloss black with glazed on red tones and gold highlights. I found that the lacquer formulas make a difference, as a lot are made to be more user friendly and dry slower than used to, which can and will effect any wrinkling. In the process, the base coat must still be partially wet and uncured, as the whole wrinkle effect is based on the two drying rates. The lacquer, drying at a faster rate, will pull up the base coating into wrinkles and the thickness and distinction of the wrinkling is based on the thickness of both coatings and amount of dryness involved. An alkyd base does work best, but the same effect is achieved with acrylic base, only I find that it must be applied thicker. Process: basecoat, let dry, 2nd basecoat, let skin over, glazes applied, spray lacquer coatings. Heat may also be used if going for smaller, tighter wrinkles. Light heating in between coats. Shellac and other clear coatings can also be used.

Comment from contributor B:
If you are trying to finish a solid wood table, maybe you could try hand planing for an uneven surface and then crackling the surface.
Wrinkling sounds like product incompatabilities. Maybe something stretchy like a non-flat latex is needed, and curing problems.