How To Antique A Mirror?

Antiquing a mirror is the process of making a regular mirror look old and vintage. There are a few easy techniques that can be used to give a mirror an aged, antique appearance. From simple paint treatments to techniques that simulate wear, distressing and aging a mirror is an approachable DIY project.

Have you ever wondered how to antique a mirror? Creating an antique patina on a mirror is easier than you may think. With just a few supplies and some simple techniques, you can give modern mirrors a charming vintage look and feel. Let me walk you through the easy steps to antiquing mirrors.  

Antiquing a mirror allows you to transform ordinary mirrors into elegant vintage-style décor. There are various methods that can be used like paint tinting, adding a patina finish, or physically distressing the edges and surfaces. Once you learn a few antiquing techniques, you can use them to give new life to thrift store finds, flea market deals, and mirrors you already own.

Supplies Needed to Antique a Mirror 

Antiquing a mirror requires just a few basic supplies. Before starting, gather chalk paint or acrylic paint in your desired distressed color, paint brushes, a paint scraper, and sandpaper. You will also need a drill and drill bits if removing the frame, as well as painter’s tape to cover any surfaces you don’t want to paint. Optional supplies that create an antiqued effect are glaze, wax, and darkening solutions. 

Have all your supplies ready before beginning. Remove furniture or other items from the area and lay down a drop cloth. Make sure you have adequate ventilation and light. When working with paint removers and chemicals, wear appropriate eye and skin protection. Read all warning labels on products and take necessary precautions. 

Step 1: Prep Your Work Area and Remove the Mirror Frame

Prep Your Work Area and Remove the Mirror Frame

Start by removing the mirror from the wall and detaching any hardware or hanging mount. Place the mirror face down on a soft, protected surface like a dropcloth or blanket. Use painters tape to cover off any mirror edges or surfaces you don’t want to paint. 

If there is a frame, use a drill to remove any screws or nails holding it in place. Slide the frame off and set it aside. Use sandpaper to gently scuff the edges and sides of the exposed mirror backing in preparation for painting. This helps the paint adhere properly. Thoroughly wipe and clean the mirror backing at this stage to remove any dust or oils.  

Step 2: Apply Paint Stripper to the Back of the Mirror 

Paint Stripper Dwell Times
Latex Paint – 30-60 minutes
Oil-Based Paint – Overnight
Multiple Layers – 24 hours

The next step is applying paint stripper to remove any existing mirror backing coatings or paints. Use a scraper and sandpaper to check for color-changing layers which indicate paints to strip. Apply the stripper generously to all coated areas using a brush or roller. 

Allow the stripper to work for the required dwell time indicated on the product instructions. Typically, 30 minutes for latex or 24 hours for multiple paint layers. The table displays common stripping times based on coating types. The coating should bubble and blister when ready to scrape off.

Step 3: Scrape the Coating Layer Off  

Once the paint stripper has fully softened and lifted the paint layers, use a plastic paint scraper to remove the coating. Hold the scraper at an angle and firmly scrape to lift off strips of the paint. Switch scraping directions to ensure you have removed all coating residue. Pay close attention to small corners and edges where paint can cling. 

Use coarse grit sandpaper after scraping such as 60-100 grade wrapped around a sanding block. Gently sand any remaining paint specks or residue but avoid scratching or digging into the original reflective surface underneath. Once stripped down to the bare reflective mirror backing, wipe clean using stripper-removing solutions or mineral spirits. 

Step 4: Spray on a Bleach/Water Mixture 

Most uncoated mirror backings have a darkened asphalt or tar paper layer covering the reflective glass. This gives a mottled blackish background texture when paint distressed. Bleaching evens out the tar backing tone to light black/gray for a pleasant antiqued effect.

Mix household bleach with water at a 1:4 ratio in a spray bottle. Liberally mist the entire back of the stripped mirror and let sit 5 minutes. Use rubber gloves and avoid bleach contacting skin or eyes. Once bleached, immediately rinse the mirror under running water and gently wipe clean using a microfiber cloth.  

Step 5: Add a Little More at a Time, Checking as You Go

When antiquing a mirror with paint, begin the process by applying a small amount of paint in layers to achieve an aged, dimensional finish on the draw mirror. Dip a brush in chalk paint, applying quick strokes for the base color, and use a rag to gently wipe off excess paint.

Check how the first application looks once dry. If satisfied with the tone and coverage, move on to purposefully distressing the paint by scraping some off. If more base color is needed, do another conservative paint layer following the same method of applying then removing excess. Allow all applications to fully dry before evaluating if your paint antiquing is complete. 

Step 6: Paint the Back

With the front frame removed, you can paint the mirror backing to look attractively aged once framed again. After proper prep work, use brush strokes following the wood grain on wooden frames or random texturing patterns on composite frames. Distress the paint once dry by sanding lightly to expose dark base layers underneath seeming worn and old.

Refer to the table for antiquing paint ideas that readily chip, scrape, and distress. Milk paint loaded on thick purposely cracks as it dries. Art acrylic enamel paints take longer to fully cure but resist yellowing over time versus other oil-based paints. With any media, thin multiple sheer passes of color produce a buildable, weathered antiqued mirror backing. 

Step 7: Place Your Mirror Back in the Frame 

Step 7: Place Your Mirror Back in the Frame 

Refinish attaching the original frame or substitute with another complementary frame. Centre the mirror glass inside the frame, resting on edge supports if present. Then secure in place by reinserting any nails or screws removed previously. You can also glue or liquid nail frame joints for stability and to guard against future separation.  

Some antique framed mirrors have back braces or triangle plate supports screwed into the frame backing. Attach these using provided hardware or improvise attachment pieces. Lay the finished mirror paint-side down so admirers see the artistry you added whenever the mirror inevitably gets moved or tipped. 


Can I antique a mirror on the wall or does it need to be removed?

To properly antique a mirror, fully remove it from wall hanging mounts so all sides can be accessed and prepped for paint.

What types of paint distress well for an antiquing effect?

Chalk paint and art acrylic enamels chip easily when antiquing to create a timeworn, dimensional finish full of character.

Does the glass need cleaning or taping off before antiquing the frame and backing?

Yes, gently clean the mirror surface with glass cleaner and cover edges with painters tape to keep antiquing paint off the visible glass area.


Antiquing a mirror is an easy way to turn boring mirrors into beautiful vintage-style décor. With some simple paints, scrapes, scuffs and wipes, you can distress mirror frames and backings to look interestingly aged. The preparation work cleans and bleaches the surfaces so added paints look attractively timeworn. 

The entire antiquing process takes more time waiting for paints to dry than actual hands-on work. But the end results are worth it. An antique mirrored focal point instantly provides a room cozy historical character. And the fun techniques allow you to customize the finish based on your personal vision.

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