Chalk painting can be a beautiful and easy technique for decorating your home yourself. Best no fail tips included!
True confession here. If you aren’t familiar with my blog you may not know one simple truth: I’m not a painter. But there’s one type of painting I AM an expert at. Chalk painting. You know why? You really can’t go wrong.
If you’ve ever star gazed through Pinterest you’ve probably come across a few (million) pictures of a furniture makeover with chalk paint.
Although it’s no longer a “new” way of painting, chalk painting stands the test of time as a truly easy way for a non DIYer to try something and experience success! Slap on a coat of paint and be amazed! It’s totally my personal preference for easy transformations.
Let’s go through my beginners guide for some chalk painting tips and answer a few questions, as well as discuss the pros and cons of the process. (I’ve also written a great guide to the best chalk painting products! This resource is invaluable!)
These are my favorite products and ones that are affordable. There are many more available on the market today but these will get you started! (Some can only be found through distributors so I tried to link some that are easy to obtain through Amazon.)
(I’ve included some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.)
Simple Green Degreaser and Cleaner (for cleaning furniture)
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (the original, more expensive one we all used in the beginning)
Dixie Belle (paints like butter!)
DecoArt Americana Chalky Finish Paint (one we love and is less expensive)
Rustoleum Chalked (new to me but I love it!)
Waxes and Finishes
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 (like polyurethane but with a flat finish) I’ve never used this product but would definitely try it
Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish (not formulated for chalk paint but a durable alternative for sealing.
Paint Brushes (a basic inexpensive set)
Two in One Chalk Paint and Wax Brush (specifically for chalk painting)
Foam Paint Roller Kit
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 Should I prep or prime first?
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of chalk painting furniture is that it requires almost no prep work and or primers. You really don’t need to prep or sand unless the surface is uneven or is damaged and needs patching. I’ve had readers chalk paint over laminate that wasn’t in good condition, and in that situation you might need to sand first as well.
Whether you have a dilapidated old dresser, 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 Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect
The best thing about chalk painting is you don’t have to be a perfect painter to do this. Woohoo!
If you’re finishing the piece by distressing it with sandpaper, the irregular and imperfect surface actually helps that look. But just like any paint application, the only thing to really avoid is drips and runs (although you can always sand them down if it happens.)
Tip #3 Should I clean the piece first?
Making sure your surface is as clean and repair any imperfections before painting. You can use a cleaner and degreaser and a rag or something you have on hand. The point is to wipe off any dirt and grime off the piece before you begin, especially if you’re like me and find furniture on the side of the road to redo!
Tip #4 How to get a smooth finish with chalk paint
It’s better to paint with several thin coats than to dab on a thick messy coat the first time. You can also try applying chalk paint with a paintbrush for the first coat and then rolling the second layer.
Also make sure to apply long brush strokes to the piece and if necessary, thin out the chalk paint if it’s too thick. You can do this by pouring some chalk paint into a plastic cup and then adding a bit of water. Make sure you make enough for each coat or take note of how much you dilute.
Most pieces will probably require a second topcoat. Just add a second coat of paint and be the judge of how it looks!
Tip #5 Should you sand after applying chalk paint?
I have to be honest and say I’ve never done this but in my research this seems to be a process that helps achieve a smoother finish. Hand sand until you like the way it looks and make sure and remove all the excess dust before the finish step.
Tip #6 Price of Chalk Paint
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 #7 Can I paint over the chalk paint and/or wax or do I have to remove it first?
You can absolutely paint over wax. If a piece has been previously painted you just need to clean before applying a new chalk paint.
Tip #8 How to apply chalk paint
Additionally, don’t use a natural bristle brush intended for oil-based paints and stains.
Also know there will be a learning curve as with other diy projects.
Chalk paint is a water-based medium and will only require a soapy 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 #9 Distressing a Piece the Easy Way
Let’s talk about distressing. While this step is certainly not necessary and may not work with your décor, it’s a very popular partner to chalk paint.
The key is to distress naturally: 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! Also choose an appropriate grit sandpaper for the work needed.
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! I’m definitely a whole lot more spontaneous with distressing.
I’ve also written a post on how to use chalk paint wax finish including clear wax and tinted ones. Also make sure to use a lint-free cloth when applying.
Tip #10 Should you make your own homemade chalk paint?
It’s possible to make your own chalk paint but there are many affordable brands to choose from these days.
Tip #11 Can chalk paint be sprayed through an airbrush/gun?
Chalk paint is a clay-based medium that has fairly large particulates, making it more difficult to spray. While I’ve never sprayed it, I would assume that you would need a spray tip with a large opening, high pressure and even possibly thinning the paint with water.
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 probably not 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.
I painted 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 sealer 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?
FAQs about Chalk Painting
***There are TONS of helpful tips from readers in the comments below and answers to questions. Check them out!
No Fail Chalk Painting Tips for Beginners
- 1 Chalk Paint
- 1 Waxes and Finishes
- 1 Paint Supplies (see list above)
- Gather materials (recommended list above).
- Should I prep or prime first?
- Doesn't have to be perfect.
- Should I clean my piece first?
- How to get a smooth finish with chalk paint.
- Should you sand after applying paint?
- Note the price of chalk paint.
- Should you wax or not?
- How to apply chalk paint.
- Distressing a piece the easy way.
- Should you make your own chalk paint?
- Other uses for chalk paint.