A Guide to Decorating Wooden Furniture

How to Flyspeck Furniture

To flyspeck a surface, carefully spatter thinned paint or shellac with a toothbrush, through a piece of wire screening.

Flyspecking is the random spattering of furniture with tiny drops of paint. The effect is of aged and worn wood. Some very expensive furniture is flyspecked, but this technique can be especially effective in finishing inexpensive pieces. Flyspecking isn't really deceptive, but it can be attractive if it is done with the right materials and technique.


Any thin flat black paint can be used for flyspecking. For colored specks, use thinned shellac tinted with aniline dye. Orange or brown is effective on medium-brown wood. Thin the paint or shellac so that it spatters in fine droplets; make sure it's compatible with the finish.


Application Techniques

A piece of furniture to be flyspecked must be clean. If you're finishing the piece, add flyspecking after sealing but before the finish is applied. Before working on a piece of furniture, practice the specking technique on a piece of cardboard or scrap wood.

The easiest way to apply the specks is by spattering the thinned paint or shellac through a piece of wire screening. Dip a toothbrush into the paint or shellac and flick the bristles with your thumb. Work just far enough from the surface to produce a fine, even spatter. Experiment to find the best brushing angle; practice until you can cover the test surface evenly, and then apply the specks to the piece of furniture.

Flyspecking can be used over an entire surface or to accentuate edges and corners. Apply the specks in any density desired, working evenly over the surface. Use only tiny spatters of paint or shellac; to speck an area more heavily, use repeated spatters. Let the flyspecked piece dry completely.

Protecting the Surface

Flyspecked surfaces should be sealed with a coat of varnish. Apply the varnish directly over the flyspecking.

If the worn-wood look isn't your preference, consider adding a gold tint for some pizazz. Learn about when and how to wax gild furniture in the next section.