By Jessica Ansley of Artbucket Creations

So lately I have been dabbling in furniture refinishing. It started with a little curio cabinet that I was not a fan of, and now I am on to bigger things. I picked up a little cabinet/table that looked like it was on it’s last leg. I have since turned it into a glowing and radiant masterpiece using what I call the “tortoise shell technique”.

Have you ever seen an original TORTOISE SHELL finish on a table top? Me neither, until my Mother-in-law mentioned it to me. I did some research and found a way to recreate the beautiful finish on my own table. Watch the video and read the step by step instructions below.


Supplies List:
Cellulose Kitchen Sponge or Sea Sponge
Folk Art Metallics Paints (Gunmetal Gray, Antique Copper, Royal Gold, Antique Gold)
Black Acrylic Paint
91% Isopropyl Alcohol
Large Paint Brush
Optional: Liquitex Slow-Dri Blending Medium

The “BEFORE” photo of my project piece.

Step 1: If you are refinishing furniture, You want to make sure that you have a good base coat of white. I used HEIRLOOM TRADITIONS ALL-IN-ONE Chalk Type Paint in the color “Cashmere” which is an amazing furniture refinishing paint. (It helps that I have a discount code that I use every time I shop with them that I get to share with you, which is HEIRLOOMRULES. Use that code at checkout to snag your discount. ) Their All-In-One Heritage Collections paint contains a primer, a paint, and a sealer so it is VERY easy to use. I only applied ONE coat of Cashmere All in One paint to start as my base.

After ONE coat of Heirloom Traditions All In One paint!
Step Two: While letting your base coat of white dry, prepare for your next step by getting all of your materials together, like pouring your paints onto a paper plate or palette, and fill your syringe with rubbing alcohol. I like to keep a plastic solo cup of alcohol at the ready since we will have to work fast later on, but you won’t need it until way later.

Step Three: Now that your white base coat is dry and your materials are set to go, it is time to begin to sponge paint your surface. I used four different colors to achieve my desired result, but you can use as many or as little as you want. I dipped my cellulose sponge into my paints and applied them randomly to my table surface just to get some paint on there. After my first coat dried, I did several other coats until I was satisfied with the coverage and coloration.  See the photo below to see what it looked like once this step was finished.

Finished with step 3!
Step Four: After allowing your paint to dry for at least 6 hours ( I allowed mine to dry overnight.) you can begin the next step! This is when the magic happens! Now we will begin working in very small sections of the black paint. You will want to water your black acrylic paint down by 30 percent. You can also choose to add an extender medium which keeps your paint wet for longer so that you have more time to work with it, since acrylic paint dries so quickly.  Once you have your black paint/water soupy mixture ready, it is time to begin painting.


Step Five: Begin working in very small sections with your black acrylic paint. Paint a small square and then grab your syringe full of alcohol and drop one drop at a time onto the black paint while it is STILL wet. The wetter the paint, the better, but don’t put the paint on too thick, or else it won’t allow the alcohol to separate the paint. The alcohol and the water in the paint do NOT mix, sort of like oil and water, and it will cause a reaction that is TRULY beautiful! Continue working in the small sections of black, and then apply the alcohol to the wet paint until the entire surface is covered.

This is what the process should look like during step 5.
Step Six: After allowing your table or surface to dry for SEVERAL HOURS, seal your finished surface with a water based sealer. I used Minwax Polycrylic Semi-Gloss finish sealer. I applied with a soft goat hair brush and applied several more coats afterward until I was satisfied with the overall finish and durability.

Technically the tutorial part of this technique is done, but I wanted to share a few extra things that I did to make my finished table as beautiful as it is. So, you remember how it looked when we started, right? Boring… old… wood looking? Well after finishing the top of my table, I spent another 4 hours painting all of the other surfaces of the table black. After that dried, I painted the beautiful relief sections (the decorative parts on the door) with a blend of two different metallic colors (copper and antique gold) which created a “rose gold” shade. Then I sealed everything with the polycrylic again.


I am super happy with how it turned out. Now I just need to find the perfect buyer that can appreciate something unique and different.



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