How to Whitewash Plywood

How to Whitewash Plywood

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If you are building anything out of plywood, then one of the things that you might want to do is to whitewash it. This is a fairly common technique used for both aesthetic and protective purposes, and while it’s usually done on solid lumber, it is possible to do it on plywood as well.

With that, let’s take a closer look at how to whitewash plywood. It’s actually all pretty easy and straightforward!

What Is Whitewashing?

Whitewashing wood is a process that involves mixing equal parts (usually latex) paint and water which is then applied to a wooden surface. This is a technique that is usually best used on very smooth surfaces and/or new lumber. Let’s keep in mind that this is the most common way of accomplishing this task, although there are other ways as well.

The purpose of whitewashing wood is to create a very controlled and even look. It’s all about creating a modern look, one that allows for a good deal of the wood grain to be visible underneath the paint.

Now, whitewashing does also have another benefit, which is that it does add a layer of protection to the mix so that the wood absorbs less water, but that said, in terms of overall protection, whitewashing is not as good as actually painting a wooden surface.

Can Plywood Be Whitewashed?

Whitewashing is a process that is performed on wood, and although plywood might not be solid lumber that was cut straight from a tree, it is a type of engineered wood, and yes, it is possible to whitewash it.

Do keep in mind that the lower grades of plywood can be very rough, so you may need to apply a few layers of the whitewash in order to achieve a somewhat smooth finish, but other than that, there are no real problems that you will be faced with when attempting to whitewash plywood.

How to Whitewash Plywood: 3 Methods

The cool part about whitewashing any kind of wood, whether plywood or otherwise, is that it is very easily done, and you don’t require many materials to do so. As you are about to find out, there are three different ways to whitewash plywood.

Best for Very Smooth Plywood: Using Paint and Water

As mentioned above, the most common way to whitewash plywood is to use nothing other than paint and water. For this purpose, you want to get yourself some white latex paint and make sure that it is matte, not glossy. You don’t want glossy paint for this task.

On a side note, whitewashing is really just a general term, but you can use colors other than white if you see fit. Other than the paint, all you need is some water, a container to mix the paint and water in, and a rag.

All you have to do for this task is to mix the paint and water using equal parts, although depending on the texture of the plywood, you might want it a bit thicker or thinner.

Now, take your old rag and dip it in the paint and water mixture, being sure to really soak the rag, and then drag it across the plywood. You can keep applying more coats in this manner until you have reached the desired texture and opacity.

Best for Wood with Rough Texture: The Dragging Method

Here we have a method of whitewashing plywood that is best used for lower grades of plywood that are fairly rough, particularly if you want the texture to really come through, and if you want a rustic look that looks like barn wood.

This is perhaps the easiest method of whitewashing plywood because all you have to do here is to choose your paint of choice, which in this case will probably be matte white latex paint, pour a small amount of it onto the wood, and then use a paint or putty scraper to drag it along the wood.

When utilizing this method, be sure to apply enough paint to cover the low spots, yet not so much that you completely cover the high spots too. The point here is to use just enough paint that you can drag it along the plywood without totally covering all of the grain.

Best for Masking High Points: Using Paint and Wax

If your plywood has some really big high points that you want to hide, and you want to create an old-school vintage look, then this method that uses paint and wax works best. You just need your paint, a candle, a paintbrush, a rag, and some water.

For this process, just take your candle and rub it along the wood, with the aim being to leave some wax behind on the wooden surface. Of course, the point here is to fill in some of the low spots (to hide high spots), although that said, you can actually use that wax to create any texture you see fit.

Now, take your white paint and paint the entire surface. Let the paint dry until it starts to get tacky. This should take around 15 minutes.

You will now take a rag and scrub the painted surface, making sure to apply plenty of pressure when moving over the areas with wax (this will remove some of the paint on the wax). To remove even more of the paint, moisten the rag.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

The number one tip that we can leave you with here today is that less is generally better.

Remember, the whole point of whitewashing is to add a layer of color without totally covering up the look of the wood grain underneath. So, you’re better off applying multiple thin coats as needed, instead of accidentally ruining the project by applying way too much paint on the first round.


As you can see, whitewashing a piece of plywood, or any other wood for that matter, is quite easily done. It results in a really neat look and helps to add a bit of protection too.

Before going through the above process, you might also want to learn about other ways to make plywood look good.