DIY Crackled (?) “Tabletop”

For a lil’ something different… I tried to do something crafty! And better yet, I thought I’d share it with you.

A bit bored with my standard white and stained “tabletops”*, I went on a little shopping spree for supplies to make more.

*Those backgrounds in my photos, you know they’re not real tables, right? They’re wooden boards that I assembled and painted just like Shawnda shows us here.

DIY tabletops, food blogs, mock tabletop

I didn’t really have anything in mind but something called “crackle medium” caught my eye. A quick internet search on my phone showed me what it was supposed to accomplish. Awesome! I imagined using it to paint a cracked blue background with white peaking underneath.

wood stain for mock tabletop

So I started out by sanding and staining a plywood board. I don’t know if staining is really necessary, but I think it helps contribute to the overall weathered look I was going for. Sanding is necessary, for sure. You’re going to be handling these things and no one likes splinters.

Next, white paint. I thinned it out with water because I like a more washed look. This was about a 50/50 ratio of paint to water.

Then the crackle medium. There isn’t really anything to show there. It’s a clear, sticky coating that you paint on once your base coat is dry.

folk art crackle medium

Once your crackle medium as dried, it’s time for the top coat! In my case, blue acrylic paint thinned with a little bit of water (I thought it felt a little too goopey straight out of the bottle.)

Then… you wait! Eagerly. On the edge of your seat. Or maybe you force  yourself to go play some Words with Friends or knock a few items out of your Google Reader to pass the time. Because they (the googlegods) tell you that the cracking will begin as soon as your top coat starts drying.

Maybe you should go make a snack, if it doesn’t seem to be crackling.

crackl medium for DIY tabletop

Err, ok. Maybe you should dab your finger in it to make 100% sure it’s dry so you can stop wondering if it’s going to crackle.

It’s not. There might be a few areas where it looked like it tried to crackle, but overall, we didn’t get what we expected.

I actually still quite like this board, it has a nice texture to it and definitely looks a little weathered. Perfect for food photos.

But I ask you, dear crafty people, what did I do wrong? The only thing I can think of is that my layer of crackle medium wasn’t thick enough. I painted it on rather thin, but I found no instructions to do otherwise, so I assumed it didn’t matter.

I have a lot more boards, and a lot more paint, so I might just give this a shot again if anyone has any insight!

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20 Responses to “DIY Crackled (?) “Tabletop””

  1. 1

    Nicole, RD — January 11, 2012 @ 7:38 am Reply

    I used crackle paint on one of my surfaces and I had to GLOB it on to get it to crackle. Who knows! But the boards look great!! My issue is…where do I store them all!?

  2. 2

    Kate — January 11, 2012 @ 8:01 am Reply

    I’m oh so natural – I like the stained boards best of all!

  3. 3

    Culinary Collage — January 11, 2012 @ 9:06 am Reply

    Thanks for posting this information. I need to get much more creative with my photos and maybe this will inspire me to do so.

  4. 4

    Maria — January 11, 2012 @ 10:11 am Reply

    Love this post! Thanks for sharing! I need my husband to read it now..ha!

  5. 5

    Bridget — January 11, 2012 @ 10:24 am Reply

    Maybe you should not have thinned it w/ water.

  6. 6

    andrea — January 11, 2012 @ 10:25 am Reply

    Cool post. This is news to me, I didnt know your table tops were props!

  7. 7

    Susan Bethmann — January 11, 2012 @ 11:54 am Reply

    Hey Cara! I’ve done a lot of crackle. The thicker you put on the top coat of paint, the more obvious the crackles. The bottom layer doesn’t matter. You can thin that down as much as you want since that will only be what shows through – although by thinning that paint, you cut down on the contrast you get in the final product. Since you thinned your top coat of paint, you have very fine cracks. If you put it on thicker, you get more obvious crackling. I’ve also found that the staining isn’t necessary in the beginning. If you want a more aged appearance, then lightly stain and rub out the edges after you’re done and then spray with a light coat of polyurethane to seal. Good luck.

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    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table — January 11, 2012 @ 12:40 pm Reply

    I can’t help with where you went wrong… but I can empathize. I’m am a failed crafter. 🙂

    Gorgeous color blue though!

  9. 9

    Shannon — January 11, 2012 @ 1:18 pm Reply

    i need to play around with this… if only i had a dedicated space for photos!! and lights, and…

  10. 10

    Emily @ A Cambridge Story — January 11, 2012 @ 4:00 pm Reply

    I like it!! A few “props” of this sort really make the difference. I wish I had somewhere to stash fun photography goodies!

  11. 11

    Krystal @ {Mrs. Regueiro's Plate} — January 11, 2012 @ 4:27 pm Reply

    I love it! I always love when we take a sneakpeak in the background of what makes our food pictures unique. My advice, add a thick coat of top paint, let it dry, then texture it with the sanding paper and paint it again if need be. I have so many boards set-up to paint again…thanks for the crackle inspiration. 😉

  12. 12

    Joanne — January 11, 2012 @ 8:13 pm Reply

    I really need to get my butt in gear and make some tabletops. They’d really amp my photos up and be super fab like yours! I have NO idea about the crackle. I’ll be lucky if I can’t figure out where to buy wood. (Just kidding.)

    (Kind of.)

  13. 13

    Gretchen @gfedge — January 11, 2012 @ 10:58 pm Reply

    Thanks for posting – my backgrounds are always in the kitchen or on the dining table with the light all wrong. I bought some fabrics but boards would help stabilize the whole thing – then it could move over to a window or at least better light.

  14. 14

    Bridget — January 12, 2012 @ 10:06 pm Reply

    Thanks for posting this Cara – I’ve wondered how people went about creating their boards! No idea about crackle..but I think that blue would look amazing in food pics.

  15. 15

    marla — January 13, 2012 @ 12:36 am Reply

    Love the crackled table top + your blog updates, Looks great Cara!

  16. 16

    lizzy — January 15, 2012 @ 9:30 am Reply

    If I get my new camera, we should have a SundayFunday and make surfaces together! Looks like fun : )

  17. 17

    Elina (Healthy and Sane) — February 1, 2012 @ 8:49 pm Reply

    I bought crackle paint too and it didn’t work for me either!!! I was actually going to blog about it soon too. Bleh. I need to do one of those distressed table tops – love ’em.

  18. 18

    teeto — February 19, 2012 @ 1:00 pm Reply

    ive found that the crackle phenomenon happens best on a FLAT surface. wholes in wood are to be filled. and the cracks in your wood are messing up the crackle. sand the tabletop carefully (you dont want an uneven table) then use a vacume cleaner on the entire surface to get any debree (out of cracks and any holes) seal holes with something thats not moving. i use clear fingernail polish. and when that dries you should put a good base coat on. but not just any. this has to be strong, thick, and a good “concealer” to ensure you have a flat surface. if the texture of this base coat isnt the color you want then another color coat is required on top of the base when this dries. and is perfectly acceptable. when color coat is Completely dry, then apply your glue quite liberally, but still NOT have the glue so thick that paint could’nt possibly sit on the “partially dried” TACKY glue stage. this is all about timeing, paintbrush pressure, and you superhero abilities of Avoiding to mix top color coat WITH the glue. so when the glue is halfway dry and is tacky on top but not liquid and sticky, you need to be quick and gracefull when it comes to your strokes, use thin paint for top color coat to get that magazine look. (because you can go back and do another crackle on the sections you want bigger cracks, and fake it out a bit if you need help you can accentuate the crack color with touch ups later. this will give you as much tiny and big cracks as you want and where you want them. but moral is dont mix real wood cracks that reside in the wood already to messup your fake cracks. because this crackle technique works best on the flattest of surfaces. in fact it almost relies on it. because as the glue is drying up, it shrinks a bit, this is what causes the crackle to begin with. you have grooves in your wood and you can see that even though you applied the glue, the grooves in the wood act like bumpers and stop the glue from cracking the paint the way its supposed to. so you just gotta decide, which tabletops would you prefer to stain, or instead, use crackle paint technique on. and yes the descision can be tough sometimes, so many beautiful wood tabletops out there with nice age-rings, idk but id use wood that i didnt have a strong liking for already. because by staining it, that move suggested that you were admiring the beauty of the wood itself. almost as if you wanted to just stain and finish it 😀 either way i love the look. even if it wasnt what you were going for. oh and one teeny tiny tip that helped me out bunches… when applying your topcoat, it almost doesnt seem to dry fast enough, so this helps ALOT: after applying the 2nd color, use a hair blow dryer to introduce cracks!!! have fun and good luck.

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    teeto — February 19, 2012 @ 1:05 pm Reply

    also id always test on a tiny tester peice of wood of the like, to see the outcome before going about that giant peice. but i would do something of this magnitude and size in small peices. to about a paper size at a time. to that you can make sure you have enough time to get over all the glue with paint ina timely fashion before the glue dries. do not mix the paint with glue or glue over topcoat paint with glue. so you have to be really careful if you do it in peices, but if done right and very carefully, you will achieve better than your desired results.

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    teeto — February 19, 2012 @ 1:09 pm Reply

    ooo 😀 sry for the massive posting but also after all is perfect id go over it with a good thick coat of clear polyurethane as your final finish, as this is a table. and youll be sitting things on it. this ensures that your cracks dont become peelings in the future. unless your going for that look eventually, id put it on.

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