No Fail Chalk Painting Tips for Beginners

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Chalk painting can be a beautiful and easy technique for decorating your home yourself. Best no fail tips included!

chalk painting side table with white paint

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!)

Materials

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.)

Chalk Paint

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 Supplies:

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?

china hutch makeover with chalk paint

(china hutch makeover)

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

old window photo frame family  painted with blue chalk paint

(old window photo frame)

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!

Beat up blue night stand with missing drawer

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!

chalk painted and distressed chest

(chalk painted dresser)

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

distressed chest in coastal bedroom

(how to paint furniture with 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.

(how to use chalk paint wax finish)

Tip #8 How to apply chalk paint

small kitchen buffet chalk painted blue and white

(small chalk painted kitchen buffet)

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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.

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

distressing a chalk painted book

(how to distress furniture with chalk paint)

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!

A bedroom with plank wall chalk painted different shades of blue

(how to DIY plank walls with chalk paint

Yes, you can even paint a chandelier with chalk paint! Although our kitchen has evolved tremendously since this picture, I still love this project!

Chandelier painted with blue chalk paint hanging in kitchen

(DIY mason jar chandelier)

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

chalk-painted console table

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

Chalk paint is water soluble which means it’s an easy cleanup. Depending on the piece there may not be any necessary prep work before beginning. Also no specific expertise is required! Learn as you go!

The biggest downside of chalk paint is that it’s more costly than other brands. It’s normally around 30-40% pricier than traditional paints like acrylic or latex. Depending on the brand it might be harder to obtain than one sold in a typical big box store.

It does not! The paint consists of a fine powder such as plaster of Paris or calcium carbonate, mixed with water. 

***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

Chalk painting can be a beautiful and easy technique for decorating your home yourself. Best no fail tips included!

Ingredients

  • 1 Chalk Paint
  • 1 Waxes and Finishes
  • 1 Paint Supplies (see list above)

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

everything you need to know about chalk painting with a white hutch and red and aqua dishes

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199 Comments

  1. I have 29 year old trailer house. Slick shiny cupboards that need paint. Walls are wallboard won’t paint easily. Chalk paint? And what would be the prep?? Trying 😬😳

    1. Hi, Brenda. If the surface is oily or has a lot of residue, try wiping it down with Odorless Mineral Spirits. For slick/shiny surfaces, you might need to rough it up with a little sandpaper then wipe clean and give it a couple coats of primer. Or if it’s a real problem piece, you might have to sand it down to the raw wood. Chalk paint adheres well so make sure to use it full strength and don’t dillute it. I would recommend trying it on a spot that doesn’t show if possible and you will be able to tell if it’s gonna work for you. Hope this helps!

  2. Good Day I chalk painted a frame on a cupboard door panel. Sticky back drawliners wouldn’t stick on the chalk paint. Could you recommend a plan please. Thank you
    NB: I’m a novice in chalk painting

    1. Hi, Adriana. Are you talking about using contact paper? I would try something that is removable and see if that works better. I usually recommend when you’re chalk painting something that will be used a lot to add a coat of polyurethane for durability to the top. Maybe this will help! Good luck!

    1. Hi, Angela. I have never done that personally but if it’s a door that is used often I would make sure it’s good chalk paint and use a wax on top. Good luck!

  3. Have you tried using Fusion Mineral Paint? It seems to be the new thing, and I want to try it because you don’t have to wax or use a top coat. I know that they sell it at Sweet Tea Studio in Greensboro, so one of these days I hope to figure out the color I want to use and paint my kitchen cabinets!

    1. Hi, Jeanine. I’ve recently started using Fusion Paint and absolutely adore it! It’s by far the smoothest paint I’ve tried. Goes on like butter! I’ve bought from Sweet Tea Studio as well.

  4. Marty, I’m new here and truly enjoying your chalk painting work!
    However more that the painting itself, is your painting theme around your home. The soft color at the same time bright, it’s what I love , in looks so cohesive as well.
    My website I’m not put it dow because it still is in its baby stages.

  5. Great article, eeay to follow! I’m wanting to chalk paint our old Jenny Lind nursery dresser. It has a shiny finish. So, if I understand correctly, no need to sand first right? What is your favorite brand of chalk paint for furniture? Thank you!

  6. I tried chalk painting and for got to sand the brush strokes out before i put on my wax. Will i have to resa d the whole piece and then put wax back on. If so what kind of sand paper should i use

  7. I would like to chalk paint my 8 seater ,Mahogany dining room table to black. It’s got a lot of stains and is needing some love. What would be the first step I should take before starting, do I sand or do I just clean it with a primer? I’m from South Africa so my products might be different from yours. Oh,and lastly, which wax do you recommend if I want to protect the table from future, unnecessary stains (and I want my table to shine:-) thank you

  8. I just wanted to say THANK YOU! The article is great, but what I found amazing was your attention to the comments and questions. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and taking the time to follow up with the related questions! I found an informed answer to the question I had been searching the internet for. You have a new follower! 🙂

  9. If I use chalk paint on a kitchen table surface then seal with polycrilic will this stand up to daily use?

  10. Can I put chalk paint over latex paint and then distress to see the latex paint beneath?

    1. As long as you don’t have any latex peeling the chalk paint should attach to the latex well. When you distress you do see whatever is underneath the chalk paint. Hope this helps!

  11. I’m wanting to paint my doors (front and back) and then put the darker varnish on them as highlights. Can I use chalk paint on them?

    1. Hi, Rena. You COULD use chalk paint on your doors but I would definitely top coat with a Polycrylic sealant. I’m assuming they get a lot of use or weather. The good thing about chalk paint is you can just paint over it if it doesn’t turn out like you want. Hope this helps!

  12. Good information. Thank you!

    I want to use a white chalk paint and then as depth with wax. Can I then apply polycyclic to protect the finish?

    Is there a difference between finishing with wax or an oil product? I have read that if you do not seal it with a poly finish you need to reapply the finish every few months.

    Just trying to get it clear in my head how these products work together.

    1. A lot of it depends on where the piece is being used. If it’s a table or high traffic area you DO want to seal it with polycyclic. If it’s just a piece of furniture that doesn’t get used you CAN seal it with a chalk paint varnish (sealer) coat. I did this on a bathroom vanity and it wasn’t adequate for that space and ended up peeling. It needed to be sealed with Polycrylic to protect the surface. Hope this helps!

      1. Thank you for your reply. What I really need to know now is can I put polycrylic over wax?

        So first chalk paint, then wax then polycrylic?

        1. Hi. If you’re only going to use a clear wax you can skip that step because the Polycrylic is the sealant. If you’re using a darker wax, then apply it, buff it with a cloth and let dry. Then you can use the Polycrylic. Hope this helps!

  13. Hi Marty and thank you for the informative post. I am attempting my first chalk piece. I tried the link for the type of paint and it doesnt go to a specific brand. How much paint is needed for 2 end tables that are about 2ftx2ft? Also, have you ever tried making your own chalk paint with calcium carbonate? Any thoughts or help will be helpful.

    1. Hi, Debbie. Here’s a link to a recent brand I tried and loved. https://amzn.to/3428JcI I have NOT tried making my own but I know some folks have had luck trying it. It’s really hard to say how much you’ll need but chalk paint does stretch. Usually it takes at least 2 coats for good coverage. Good luck!

  14. Hey, I love your post!
    Can you paint with chalk paint outside (under cover) while it’s cold and wet?
    I know some paints don’t dry well with moisture in the air. Would that be an issue for chalk paint?
    Thanks,
    Abby

    1. Hi, Abby. I haven’t ever tried it but you can paint indoors if you need to. Chalk paint does not have a strong odor. I’ve chalk painted some outdoor furniture but didn’t use polyurethane to seal it and that was a mistake! Hope this helps!

  15. Hi, this is a silly question but do you really not need to sand at all when using chalk paint? I want to paint a small entry way table that I got from a thrift store but don’t want to sand if I don’t have to! Thanks!

    Kelsey

    1. Hi, Kelsey. I don’t sand unless there is a rough or imperfect spot on the furniture you want to smooth out. If you look through the comments on this post you may gain additional insight! Good luck!

  16. Will I be able to paint over the piece once it’s waxed in case I don’t like the first attempt and want to put a different color on. All very informative for someone just attempting for the first time. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Deb. Yes, you can paint over chalk wax and relax as necessary. You might also try applying paint to the underside or back of your project for practice. Hope this helps!

      1. Hi, again. Yes, you can use the very small rollers although I haven’t tried it. It might give it a little different texture than a brush but you can decide if you like the look!

    1. Hi, Olga. Yes you can paint over a glossy surface. Just know that if you distress, you’ll see that glossy finish through the chalk paint. But if you don’t you should be fine. Hope this helps!

  17. I have chalked paint a chifferobe in gray and then I used a clear sealant wax finish over it the problem is I see some places where I missed the paint can I go back over those places with the paint and seal again

    1. Hi,
      I have one of those Classic Oak colored China Cabinets from the 70’s. It was inherited, not my style. My style is Mahoney, Cherry etc… I like the distressed look but not sure how to get it. Do I need to paint or prime with black, then use white. Help

      1. Hi, Jeffrey. When you distress whatever is on the bottom (the wood or paint) will come through. It’s possible to paint and then lightly sand if you’re wanting a specific color underneath. Hope this helps!

  18. Hi! Thanks for your informative post. I want to chalk or spray paint my end tables and coffee table from a dark, glossy wood to a matte white or off-white. I was planning on lightly sanding, using the Bulls Eye 123, then the paint. I am confused about the next part. Do I use the Minwax Polycrylic or the Deco Art Americana Decor Creme Wax, 8-Ounce, Clear? Thank you.

    1. Hi, Mary. It really depends on how much use your end tables will receive. We have used the Polycrylic as a sealant on a kitchen table and bathroom vanity. It may not be necessary for you. If you’re just looking to seal the piece use the clear Creme Wax. Hope this helps!

  19. Any tips on chalk painting an iron bed? I would like to go all white but not to bright of a white.

  20. I have a book shelf rustic red stain. I want to lighten it up. Can I use chalk paint over this

  21. Fantastic post. You have answered and explained chalk paint where my husband might understand. He can not wrap his head around not sanding and prepping everything. He gringes when I just clean and start painting! I’m just a little confused with this paragraph.

    “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.”

    Are you saying do not clean a Chalk Paint specific brush with water as it will ruin the brush? And to use a latex brush instead of a chalk paint brush?

    Sorry, I’m just thinking of buying a chalk paint brush due to struggling with the brushes I have now but don’t want to waste the money if they stuck just as bad.

    1. Hi, Nicole. I think my husband feels it’s a waste of money to get a more expensive brush. You DO clean the brush with soap and water so a less expensive latex brush will work fine. Honestly, I’ve never used one of the more expensive brushes just for chalk paint. You just want to make sure that the brush you use doesn’t have bristles that flake off because they’ll get stuck in the paint. Hope this helps!

  22. I am nervous. I want to chalk paint our huge pine coloured kitchen table and 8 chairs.
    I was thinking maybe leave the top a natural timber colour as in sand it and re estapol/laquer and just do all the chairs, legs of table and the edges. Have you done a project like this and any tips?
    This is my FIRST chalk paint experience and I don’t want to fail.
    I did choose a very dark navy for the base with grey over, but I have not seen any images using this colour scheme so now I am doubly nervous. I also bought black wax.
    Any advice please 🙂

    1. Hi, Therese. My first thought is that’s a huge project for your first one! Could you do an accessory piece or scrap of wood to kind of help you get the feel? My other thought is that your job will require quite a bit of chalk paint. I don’t know if money is a thought or not. Also, you’ll need to make sure and top coat it with a sealer if you use those chairs often.

      I’ve never used a black wax. Usually I use a clear coat wax if I don’t want to change from the original chalk paint color. I think it’s totally up to you what color you choose, though!

      Hope this helps!

  23. Have read multiple answers that you can use chalk paint to paint over a painted piece of furniture, but what about a table whose paint is peeling? I painted a table red a few years back but was in a real hurry & made the mistake of not using primer or sanding. The paint is peeling off in many places. Could I paint chalk paint on it as is or do I need to sand off the red paint first? I’d just dearly love not to have to do any prep of any kind!

    1. Hi, Nancy. If you don’t sand the peeling paint you will have a lumpy surface. You can just sand until you have an even surface and I would use a hand sander if you have one. Saves time! Then you would clean the surface and apply the chalk paint. The only problem I would see is the red might require extra coats. Since chalk paint is a bit more expensive you could always use a coat of regular primer (or Kilz) and then apply the chalk paint. Hope this helps!