Sanding a piece of furniture unevenly before applying two layers of paint can help achieve a distressed look. The sanding creates an uneven surface that absorbs a varying amount of paint, and two thin layers of paint complete the distressed, antique look. Vaseline can also help create a similar appearance.
Once the surface is sanded, apply a thin base coat of paint. The paint should be thin enough that cracks show through.
When the first layer is dry, mix a lighter shade of paint with a little water to create a wash. Once the wash has dried, further light sanding can help add to the distressed appearance.
Applying Vaseline to the wood before painting and wiping it away just before the paint dries creates gaps in the paint that gives furniture a similar distressed look.