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Chalk Paint Furniture for Beginners

I enjoy doing DIY projects and I love telling people how they can use chalk paint.

My small DIY chalk paint cabinet.

My small DIY chalk paint cabinet.

Chalk Paint

If you’re into arts and crafts, do-it-yourself projects, or home décor, you probably know about chalk paint. It’s sweeping the country like a wildfire.

In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s a special type of paint created by Annie Sloan. It has a very matte finish and will stick to almost any surface without sanding or other prep work. I can tell you from my personal experience that this paint is amazing!

I’ve used it on wood, burlap, canvas, and metal. And although it isn’t cheap, a little goes a long way, and it’s very forgiving. I think it would be almost impossible to make mistakes. And even if you do make a mistake, it’s easy to fix.

You’ll love the Annie Sloan chalk paint colors, too. For this project, I chose Florence—a rich shade of turquoise.

Chalk paint sticks to practically any surface, including this metal milk pail.

Chalk paint sticks to practically any surface, including this metal milk pail.

Make Your Own Chalk Paint

Now, while I'm a huge fan of Annie Sloan, I don't always like paying her price for paint, so sometimes I make my own by adding a chalk paint powder to my own paint. Webster's chalk paint powder is just about the best there is. It's easy to use:

  • All you have to do is stir the powder into any shade of latex paint.
  • You can make the paint thinner by adding water or make it thicker by adding more powder.

Is it as good as the original chalk paint marketed by Ms. Sloan? In my opinion, it depends on the project you're painting—especially on the color you're using. Some of the Sloan colors are hard to match. Even if you get the same shade, it's difficult to get the same richness of hue. In most cases, I reserve the DIY chalk paint for neutral shades and for shades of white.

Cleaning Furniture

Before applying the paint, your piece of furniture should be clean and free of dust, dirt, and any oily or waxy residues. For this purpose, I use Clorox wipes. Some furniture-finishing folks use Lysol wipes, but I’ve found that the Clorox wipes work better for me. They seem to be better at breaking down and removing oils and any waxy buildup that might be on the wood.

The Clorox wipes are ready to use right out of the canister. Just run a couple of sheets over the piece of furniture, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies. Once the furniture is clean, allow it to dry completely before applying the chalk paint.

Painting Furniture

Once the furniture piece is clean and completely dry, you can begin painting. Annie Sloane has special brushes for sale, but I use my own.

Depending on the project I’m working on, I might use foam paintbrushes, regular paint brushes, or some of my artist brushes. In most cases, I often use more than one type of paintbrush.

Place the piece to be painted on a tarp, newspapers, or a large plastic trash bag. Apply one coat of Annie Sloane chalk paint.

  1. For the first coat, I paint in fairly straight lines, either up and down or side to side. Allow this coat of paint to dry thoroughly before moving on to the next coat.
  2. When the first coat of paint is completely dry, apply the second coat. For this coat, I don’t paint in any certain direction. Just make sure you get sufficient coverage. Allow the paint to dry completely.

You probably won’t need a third coat, but if you do, apply it once the second coat is dry.

Furniture's fun!

Furniture's fun!

Distressing Furniture

My favorite part comes next—the distressing!

Distressing makes a piece of furniture look old and vintage. In my opinion, it adds a lot of character and interest to a piece.

Before beginning, you need to think about just how distressed you want the furniture to look. You might want it to show just a bit of wear where it would naturally be worn, like around the corners and/or the feet or legs. Some people prefer a major distressed look, like the piece has been knocked around and been attacked by the elements for years.

For distressing furniture, I use sandpaper. I suggest experimenting with different grits until you find the effect you’re looking for. For a major distressed look, you can use a paint scraper.

A note about distressing: You’ll get a better effect if the undercoat of the furniture is dark. The piece displayed in my photographs had a dark cherry finish to begin with. When I painted it with chalk paint and distressed it, some of the paint was removed, revealing the dark finish underneath.

When the paint is completely dry, apply the wax finish.

When the paint is completely dry, apply the wax finish.

Wax Finish

A paste wax will help seal and protect the surface, and it also gives the piece a nice luster.

  1. Once my last coat of paint was completely dry and chalky feeling, I made sure to remove any sanding debris from the furniture.
  2. Next, I rubbed on a clear paste furniture wax. I used a Minwax brand and applied it in a circular motion. I used a soft white sock for applying the wax.
  3. After about 10 minutes, I sort of buffed the wax coat with a clean sock.

Most chalk paint furniture artists use a dark wax from Annie Sloan to give a piece an aged look, after the clear wax has been applied. I hear Ms. Sloan’s product is awesome, but it’s also very expensive, so I tried a cheaper version. I mixed together some of the clear paste wax with some brown paste shoe polish, and I was happy with the results.

I decoupaged an old map to the doors.

I decoupaged an old map to the doors.

Ideas for Chalk Paint

There are lots of ideas for chalk paint furniture you can use to add some interest to your piece. A few include adding hand-painted designs, decoupage, stenciling, or fabric. The table I’m displaying in this article had two clear glass inserts in the doors at the front. I didn’t particularly like them, so I decided to cover them with decoupage. I used large sheets of scrapbook paper I found in the craft section at Walmart.

I’m using this table as an end table in our den, and I use a nautical theme there. The couch is brown leather, so I wanted some brown hues in the decoupage. I found scrapbook sheets of an old map and thought it would be perfect for my project. I applied Modpodge to the paper and glued it to the glass panels. I then added a top coat to the map inserts.

Questions & Answers

Question: What if the piece of furniture is already painted? My piece is red, but I would like to paint it a lighter blue/green.

Answer: I suggest giving it a light sanding before applying the new paint.

Question: Can u use latex enamel paint for chalk paint?

Answer: No, I don't think you'd get the same effect.

Question: Can I apply chalk paint to flat stone (gray) that I want to look whitewashed?

Answer: I'm not sure how the paint would hold up. Try it on a small piece, seal it, and see how the paint finish endures.

Question: Can you use chalk spray paint on furniture?

Answer: I've never tried spray chalk paint, but I know people who have. They were mostly pleased with the outcome.


Samantha Adams from Auburn, GA on March 11, 2014:

Very cute!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 08, 2014:

Thanks for the detailed overview! I would love to experiment with chalkboard paint. There are so many possibilities for it.

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on March 07, 2014:

Very artistic piece of furniture! Also a useful article on the technique used for paint chalk, which I had never heard of, by the way, and distressing. Good job and thanks for sharing!

Foodeee from Pennsylvania on March 06, 2014:

Beautiful piece of art. Thanks for sharing your technique.

TurtleDog on March 05, 2014:

Habee, you always, always write great stuff but you really touched my interest here. I have an old dresser drawer that is beat up and dark in color. It'll liven up nicely with this ... I'm definitely going to try this... voted way, way up and awesome... PS.. i love that last piece you decoupage'd ... want to sell it ;-) I have just the spot for it.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 05, 2014:

Thank you for the introduction to chalk paint. It seems interesting to work with; and you used it so creatively. Something new to explore!