Monday, January 16, 2012

The Truth About Martha Stewart Crackle Paint

I did it again, I got excited about a project and jumped head first into it without doing any research. 

You know how every household product you purchase has some sort of disclaimer saying test this product on a small corner before application? Ya, I am always the person who NEVER does this. I just jump head first without checking to see how deep it is. Once again, I find myself almost drowning in a project that went from neat and easy to disastrous. 

So, after I spent a good hour applying the Martha Stewart Crackle paintto my coffee table,   following only the simple directions of: apply with putty knife, the thicker the paint the larger the cracks.... I discovered there has to be a trick to this damn paint. 

Searching online for a "fix" for the mess I just made, I came up with nothing useful. I know I am not the only person to be lured in with Martha Stewart's claim of an "easy" DIY project. Where were all my fellow crafters at 10 o' clock on a Saturday night as I was pulling my hair out from the project that had made a turn for the worse? 

So, I had no choice but to run a few "simple" test to figure out this "easy" trick to the Martha Stewart Crackle Paint. 

I started off with the Sealer/ Primer, which the instructions said must be used. Okay, so I can follow directions but what makes this Sealer/Primer so special? 

Well, it is actually important. As far as using it as a Sealer goes, not sure that I find this product useful, but if you do not apply the product as a primer first, the paint will not crackle. 

But how much does the primer effect the cracking? The answer: Not much

I applied the primer both thin and thick to see if the paint cracks more or less with different thickness of primer. 

The only thing I learned for certain was that the ticker the primer, and the ticker the crackle paint, the longer the paint takes to dry. 

Drying time is apparently key to all of this. (Many tests later showed that the only variable that made any difference was drying time.) 

This sample showed what my table showed. The paint is fully dried after 6 hours but.... the cracking only happened on the outside edges (which is thinner than the middle)

This is how my table turned out. uneven cracking with more smooth areas than I care for. So what happened? Well, for starters I live next to the beach. It's safe to say that I do not have to driest climate, and the sun wasn't out much this weekend so that I had to be a factor. 

Ron came up with the idea of using my blow drier to try and force the paint to crack. I was really hopeful that this would fix my less that amazing looking project. 

The blow drier didn't appear to help my table. But I was determined to figure this out, so we tried yet ANOTHER round of tests and discovered that, if the paint dries quickly with the blow drier, you get uniform cracking throughout. YAY! But, what about my table? 

Well, I then tried a sample to see what would happen if I put the crackle paint over the top of dried not very crackly paint. DO NOT TRY THIS! 

Results: Even though I used the blow drier to dry the second layer of crackly paint, I found that it still doesn't crackle. 

I even tried using more primer over the top of the less than perfect crackle finish and then apply more paint over the top. Nothing. I tried sanding and then reapplying.... even worse. 

Moral of the story: Test your product before trying it out on your Crate and Barrel coffee table. 

Steps for Best Results: 
Step 1: Use a generous amount of Primer/Sealer 
Allow to fully air dry 
Step 2: Apply crackle paint 
The thinner the application, the smaller the cracks 
Step 3: Use a blow drier to dry your paint 
Don't wait for the outside air to dry your project, you will only get disappointing results.  
Step 4: Apply Sealer 
The all in one Primer/Sealer does not add a gloss to your project. The paint is a flat, no gloss finish. 

And remember..... do it right the first time because reapplication is not an option! 

Now, I am not discouraging anyone from using the product, however.... do it right the first time. Now I am left with a project that I am less than happy with. I haven't decided what I am going to do to fix the mess I made..... but, I will share my finished results with you soon! 


  1. I also did the same as you! Jumped right in before testing the waters! I tried everything you mentioned except the blow dryer . Which I am going to try now!
    Keep you posted.

    1. Hey Sue, how did your blow dryer work? Did you get the results you were looking for? I;m thinking now that its nice and hot out, I may try this again!

  2. I too jumped right in but tried it on a dresser.... but since I saw it wasn't crackling...I started putting a second coat and manipulating the paint with the putty knife and got a distressed looked rather than a crackle. It wasn't really what I wanted..... but now I am wondering about the finish?

    1. Kandace, did you try using a blow dryer? I wasn't successful with a 2 layer process. I am considering sanding down the paint and trying again. Let me know how yours turned out! Would love to see a finished product!

    2. I did this last night! The first without the primer, went back and got the primer, and used it on a 2nd drawer. As of this morning I had nothing on the primed drawer, and my my poor hubs has 2 dresser drawers to sand down! I do have an off white undercoat of paint, so I may try to distress it rather than crackle it, but either way I am ridiculously frustrated, and may or may not have written Martha Stewart Living a not so nice email...

  3. I know this is a really old post but just tried this product today, both the primer/sealer and crackle. I had zero results following the directions on the jars. It was only due to your hair dryer suggestion that I was able to achieve even minimal results. Clearly they need to do more testing on this product.

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  5. Thank you so much for writing this post! I bought the oat colored crackle today and I was worried about how it was going on, so luckily it was still wet when I read your advice about the blowdryer. I used the blowdryer right after finishing applying the crackle paint and it worked great, the cracks are all across the surface and look really cool.

    On the Michael's website it suggests applying a contrast color mixed with a glaze, and wiping it off to create an effect that brings the crackling out more. I'm not sure I'll do that this time, but it sounds like it could be a neat effect!

    Anyway, thank you again and good luck with your projects!

  6. I used this today and had minimal results with minor crackling. I applied 2 coats sealer 1st then very heavy coat of the crackle paint. Very disappointing..looked online first and did exactly as the u tub videos instructed. I did not see the blow dryer trick before hand or may have had better results.
    Martha..there has to be an easier way producing better results.

    Good Luck all..

  7. I also bought the primer and crackle application. I was as many of you, excited to see the results. I applied the primer and left overnight to completely dry, then I applied the crackle both thick and thin, NO RESULTS WHAT SO EVER!..
    I am beyond disappointed that Hm Depot would carry this sham of a product. I am returning both the primer & crackle tomorrow for a full refund! I will show them the blogs ut there about this in affective DYI project. It wasn't cheap either at around $7.00 a small jar (both) it should work.
    Martha, are you paying attention to what sells in your name????-Branding is important. Won't buy another Martha Stewart product because: 1. poor instructions on the back of the jar 2. Quality and ease of use-which is NONE!

  8. Old post, I know. This stuff is the WORST! The instructions are quite vague. I might as well have just used regular spackling...I got the same results...I tried it on a piece of scrap wood and it just looks like I tried to fill a hole with some spackling putty and forgot to sand it down... I would say DONT BUY THIS PRODUCT.. but, chances are you already did and are having the same problems.

  9. I came across this post after buying MS crackle paint and before actually trying it out since the instructions were terribly vague. The Blow Dryer trick is CRUCIAL to success! To add another tip: Apply in very small sections! I tested a 6x 5 inch strip and it crackled. I decided to do a long strip about 2ftx 4inch which took 15 minutes to apply. By the time I got the blow dryer the paint was too dry and the crackle was minimal. Even the sections that crackled did not look great. I used a 100 grain sand paper and lightly sanded the wood, applied a glaze and quickly wiped it away to create a crackle distressed look. I will NEVER buy this product again. the whole project could have been ruined had I not found this website. Thanks!

  10. Thanks for this post!! im in the MIDDLE of doing this project....just put on primer..... going to try the glaze, hair dryer and small sections and hopefully this will work!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Thank you for posting- glad I googled it as I detest anything with MS's name on it- will figure out something else!