These 7 no fail chalk painting tips for beginners prove that anyone can learn to paint and are guaranteed to get you hooked on the latest craze and fun way to paint furniture and home decor accessories!
True confession here. If you aren’t familiar with my blog you may not know one simple truth: I’m not a painter.
My husband is the painter extraordinaire at Marty’s Musings. He’s a painting contractor by trade, but there’s one kind of painting that I AM an expert at.
Chalk painting. You know why? You really can’t go wrong.
Yep. My kind of painting!
This past weekend Amy at Atta Girl Says and I helped several ladies at the Becoming Conference (hosted by Jen at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) experiment and learn how easy it is to chalk paint furniture and accessories.
(I love being able to teach and help others realize they CAN decorate their home for practically nothing!)
Since the workshop was so successful I thought I’d share Tim’s and my favorite chalk painting tips for beginners, because that’s what I am. I always tell him to write like he’s talking to me!
From Tim: If you’ve even had a brush with Pinterest, you have probably come across a few (million) pictures of people painting furniture with chalk paint. While it may take a few minutes to release old thoughts of that incredibly labor-intensive process locked in your brain, chalk painting is a truly liberating and transformational experience.
I have been a professional residential and commercial Painting Contractor for almost 25 years and have seen a lot of products, techniques, and fads come and go…some of them with good reason!
I want to ease your mind and share some chalk painting tips for beginners and answer a few questions, as well as discuss the pros and cons of the process. So, here we go!
7 Chalk Painting Tips for Beginners
These are our favorite products and ones that are affordable. There are many more available on the market today but these will get you started!
(I’ve included some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.)
Chalk Paint: there are many different types available now. Annie Sloan chalk paint was the first one we ever tried, is a great product but it’s also more expensive.
DecoArt Americana Chalky Finish Paint (is one we love and is less expensive)
Creme Wax, Clear (seals with a transparent finish)
Creme Wax, Golden Brown (seals with color and dimension)
Creme Wax, Dark Brown (darkest of the wax finishes)
Light Satin Varnish (like polyurethane, perfect for sealing a project)
Ultra Matte Varnish (also like polyurethane but with a flat finish) I’ve never used this product but I would definitely try it.
Paint Brushes (a basic inexpensive set)
Two in One Chalk Paint and Wax Brush (specifically for chalk painting)
Sandpaper Sheets (for distressing)
Medium/Coarse Sanding Sponge (for distressing)
Palm Sander (one of our favorite tools for heavy sanding)
***If you want to learn more about each of these steps below, the individual projects contain step by step instructions.
Tip #1 No Prep or Priming
Perhaps THE single most beneficial aspect of chalk painting furniture is that it requires almost no prep work and no priming.
YES! Whether you have a dilapidated old dresser from high school (which I did!), that glossy walnut end table, or your Mom’s glass-doored hutch from the ‘70’s, chalk paint can bring it back to life – or hide a multitude of sins! You simply remove any hardware you don’t want painted and go for it.
Tip #2 No Perfection
My wife says one of her favorite chalk painting tips is that you don’t have to be a perfect painter to do this. In fact, you are SUPPOSED to do criss-cross brush strokes and not straight lines.
I really took issue with this at first. If you are finishing the piece by distressing it with sandpaper, the irregular and imperfect surface actually helps that look. The only thing to really avoid is drips and runs.
Tip #3 Price
While chalk paint can be unbelievably expensive there are less costly brands to choose from more recently. Plus virtually anything can be covered with just two coats. Since you don’t have to prime, it isn’t as big a pill to swallow.
Be sure to plan accordingly and buy enough for the entire project. You may hit the bottom of that quart late Saturday night with no rescue available!
You may also be more limited in color choices with chalk paint, but a good range is available in most areas.
You can also research making your own “chalky paint”, but most folks have better results with an established manufacturer. (This is one of the least expensive brands and one I’ve used often.) And, honestly, I still don’t know where or how this stuff got its name!
Tip #4 Waxing
The most difficult part of this process is, by far, waxing. There is no “easy” way to do it and it is a step you don’t want to skip.
Dark will have a more significant impact on both color and appearance. The dark wax really accents the dimensionality of the piece, as it will collect in crevices, corners, and any decorative accents.
The easiest way to apply is, forgive me, wax on – wax off! Apply with a soft cloth and remove with another soft cloth. If you are distressing your piece, do so before you wax.
Tip #5 Types of Brushes
You can buy a brush specifically made for chalk painting or easily buy a less expensive one. Remember, we’re not necessarily going for pretty here, just good coverage. Additionally, don’t use a natural bristle brush intended for oil-based paints and stains.
Chalk paint is a water-based medium and will require a soap and water clean up. Exposing this brush to water will ruin it and you will have wasted your money on a very expensive brush. A decent 2” or 2-1/2” latex brush will do the trick.
Tip #6 Distressing
Let’s talk about distressing. While this step is certainly not necessary and may not work with your décor, it is a very popular partner to chalk paint.
The key is to distress naturally; that is, think about the areas where a piece would naturally wear over many years and remove paint there. Typically, this is around handles or knobs, corners and along edges, and random spots here and there.
Don’t distress as if the piece fell off the back of a truck going down the highway. Distress as though your piece enjoyed many happy generations sitting in the corner!
A popular tip is to apply Vaseline on any spot where you know distressing will take place. The chalk paint will not bond here and it will be much easier to sand it off.
The problem? You have to plan in advance where those spots will be! We have been a bit more spontaneous with distressing.
Tip #7 Other Uses for Chalk Paint
Probably one of our most unusual projects yet is the DIY plank wall in our coastal bedroom. Yes, we chalk painted it but you’ll just have to read the tutorial for all the details!
Yes, you can even paint a chandelier with chalk paint! Although our kitchen has evolved tremendously since this picture, I still love this project!
In closing, let me note that there is considerable debate on the many other areas chalk paint can or should be used. I would hesitate to ever use it on a piece of furniture that lives outside. It simply is not formulated to withstand all that abuse and exposure.
Some have had success with chalk painting kitchen cabinets. I have not experimented with that use, but my experience makes me think something far more durable would be preferred.
I would also hesitate to use it on a dining room or kitchen table. These are such high traffic areas and, like the cabinets, need a more durable coating. Chalk paint is also not recommended for metal or plastic surfaces.
Gone are the days of that gross multiple step process from the 1970’s to paint Granny’s sewing machine cabinet!
Forget that smelly step using an oil-based primer. Grab a quart or two of chalk paint, some wax, and transform your world. It is amazing what painted furniture can do for a space, great or small!
Marty here: Now I’m a little different than my professional painter husband. I’ll try chalk paint on anything, especially if it’s small and didn’t cost much! Most of the items I paint are home decor accessories that I’ll probably swap out or mix and match somewhere else in the house.
I did paint the table in the picture below, which was found on the side of the road. Love! I may just end up chalk painting the whole house!
I have learned recently that there is a clear varnish that you can apply over chalk paint that will seal it so that the furniture can be used outside. I’m eager to try this out for myself!
What do you think of these chalk painting tips and do you have any to add?
***There are TONS of helpful tips from readers in the comments below and answers to questions. Check them out!