How to Chalk Paint Furniture 101: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Chalk Painting with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
If you’ve been debating painting furniture and you’ve spent any time browsing DIY blogs or Pinterest, then you’ve likely heard of Chalk Paint®, one of the most popular paints worldwide for creating beautiful finishes on furniture, decor – even walls and floors.
In this guide I’ll teach you everything you need to know to get started – How to Chalk Paint Furniture – or as some people call it chalk painting. Learn all about what Chalk Paint is, how to paint furniture (and other items) with Chalk Paint, and see several examples of chalk painted furniture.
In full disclosure: I am not an Annie Sloan Chalk Paint retailer, nor have I been professionally trained. Everything I’ve learned has been mostly through practicing on hundreds of pieces of furniture and decor (I’ve also linked to other helpful articles below). For specific questions related to your unique situation, I recommend contacting your local Chalk Paint stockist where they can give you one-on-one advice and you can take hands-on classes.
And in case you were wondering, I do not use ASCP exclusively. I have been using it since 2013 (see the first project I used it on Here if you want to giggle at my photos) on most of my furniture makeovers (and in 24 of the 25 projects in my published book Amazing Furniture Makeovers), but there are a few other brands that I’ve tried and do like to use occasionally. It depends on the type of look I’m going for, because different paints create different results.
Finally, this post contains some affiliate links so you can easily find the products I use and recommend. Learn about all my favorite DIY products and tools for doing furniture makeovers Here.
Chalk Painting Basics: What You Need to Know First
What is Chalk Paint? Many people who are new to painting furniture aren’t very familiar with Chalk Paint, or they’re not aware that Chalk Paint isn’t just a generic term for a type of paint, like “latex” is. Annie Sloan developed the recipe in 1990 and named it Chalk Paint because of it’s soft, matte (chalky) finish. It’s a trademarked name, so any other paint company that offers a similar-style matte paint cannot name it “Chalk Paint.” Annie Sloan legally owns the name.
Which chalk-style paint is best for furniture? In recent years, many other companies have created their own “chalk-finish” paint lines. For many reasons which are listed below, my preference is Chalk Paint decorative paint by Annie Sloan.
Why should I use Chalk Paint on furniture? Chalk Paint is low prep, nontoxic, easy to cleanup, and works very well with the lightly distressed vintage/farmhouse style decor that is so popular. Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint colors and techniques are inspired by Europe and places she’s visited in her worldwide travels, so it also works well for creating timeless, worldly finishes on furniture.
If you’re planning to flip furniture for profit, you want to use the most highly-rated products so that your work lasts for years. Chalk Paint might be a little more expensive than other paint brands, but the paint is quite thick and one can of paint could last for several pieces. There are also more reasons why to use Chalk Paint in the sections below.
How do I prep furniture for Chalk Paint? Sometimes people ask “Is Chalk Paint really no prep?” And the answer isn’t always simple. Chalk Paint is generally low-prep, but there are some times when furniture can definitely benefit from thorough prep work before painting. (Read this post to learn all about how to prep furniture for painting like a pro.)
- Always clean and make repairs first.
- Lightly sand surfaces by hand to smooth bumps and so the paint sticks better.
- Apply shellac primer:
- To avoid bleed through on very dark, red, or orange surfaces (mahogany, cherry, maple, dark stain) – probably not necessary if using a dark paint color
- On very shiny pieces, after lightly sanding
- To cover wood knots or damaged areas such as water rings
- Over ink stains or markers
- To contain odors
- Almost any time you’re going to paint wood white
Where can I buy Annie Sloan Chalk Paint? You can search and find worldwide retailers for Annie Sloan products Here – buy in person or order online.
Is Chalk Paint the same as chalkboard paint? No, not exactly. Chalk Paint has a chalk-type matte finish and is used for painting furniture, decor, etc. (however according to Annie Sloan, you can write on it with chalk) – and chalkboard paint is used for creating writable surfaces but not meant for painting entire pieces of furniture.
Is Chalk Paint durable/washable? To clean chalk painted furniture, lightly buff with a damp microfiber cloth. Often you can rub with a bit of clear wax on waxed pieces to remove small marks. Cleaning chemicals are not recommended because they can wear down the finish. Use heat pads and coasters to protect from hot temperatures and water. If you use Annie Sloan’s wax as a topcoat, it may need to be reapplied every so often for high-usage surfaces.
If a small area needs to be retouched, it’s best to repaint the entire area rather than one small section. The reason is because the original coat of paint was absorbed differently into the wood than later coats, and the touch up may be obvious.
Chalk Paint adheres really well to masonry like brick, concrete, stone, etc. If you spill some on your driveway, don’t expect it to wash off easily. However I’ve spilled some drops on my kitchen floor, in my hair, on my hands, arms, etc. and it cleans up easily with water. Paint brushes also clean up quickly with just soap and water.
What are the Chalk Paint colors? There are currently 44 available colors of Chalk Paint, with new ones added often – the most recent are Oxford Navy and Athenian Black which are not shown on the color card below. The paint is also designed to mix together well to create endless possibilities from pale/neutral to bold/bright. You can also use the four different waxes (clear, white, dark/brown, black) to create stunning finishes. Learn more about mixing paint colors in Annie Sloan’s book Colour Recipes for Painted Furniture and More.
Does Chalk Paint have any harmful chemicals or odors? No. Chalk Paint is water-based, nontoxic, and has virtually no odors. It has a very minuscule amount of VOCs.
Do I need a special brush for Chalk Paint? You can use Annie Sloan’s brushes, but I have an assortment of different size Purdy paint brushes that are my favorites. I’ve heard that some people like to use really cheap chip brushes, but in my experience those lose a ton of bristles and just make me really frustrated. (I do use one of Annie’s wax brushes when waxing large pieces – read more notes further down about waxing.)
How to Chalk Paint Furniture
Once you’ve found your piece and any necessary prep work is finished, choose your Chalk Paint color(s) and grab a brush! You may want to put down cardboard or a drop cloth under the furniture in case you’re a messy painter (like me). Also, paint when the temperatures are mild – not too cold or too hot if you’re outside.
Before starting, set the can upside down for 5-10 minutes and then move it in quick, wide circles for 1-2 minutes to mix it (with minimal bubbles). Then when you remove the lid, stir with a paint stirrer.
Brush the paint on with long brushstrokes in the direction of the woodgrain. Chalk Paint dries quickly, in about 20 minutes. You can start another coat of paint once it’s dry and possibly finish painting an entire piece of furniture if you have a few hours of uninterrupted time.
Shades of white and light colors may require 3+ coats for good coverage (maybe less if you used a white shellac primer first). Dark colors may only need 2 coats for even coverage.
You can use sandpaper to smooth the finish and distress it once the paint is dry. Annie recommends distressing after waxing so that the mess is minimal, but I prefer to sand before waxing. Just be prepared to clean up all the paint dust afterward.
You can even paint the hardware with Chalk Paint if you don’t want to buy new pulls.
How to Get a Smooth Finish with Chalk Paint: Chalk Paint is quite thick, which is why you can paint fewer coats than most other paints. Thick paint equals more texture when your paint dries. To get a smooth finish with Chalk Paint, thin the paint with a little water so it’s not so thick, and then sand with 320-grit sandpaper after each coat dries. This will help minimize the texture and make your furniture more smooth and soft to the touch. You could also try applying the paint with a roller brush instead of a regular paintbrush.
Also, after you’ve waxed your piece and let it dry (read more about that below), buffing it with a lint-free cloth is another way to make it feel softer.
Protect Your Chalk Painted Furniture with Wax
Why do I need to use wax on Chalk Paint? You don’t *have* to use wax on Chalk Paint. Some other water-based topcoats may work well also. (I have tried quite a few and I still prefer wax!) Wax helps protect your refinished furniture and add durability. It also helps deepen the hue of the paint color. Finally, wax will never yellow over white paint like many other topcoats do (even ones that claim they won’t yellow). Some other topcoats bring out the natural tannins in wood and you may end up with yellow, orange, or pink eventually peeking through your painted furniture.
Which wax should I use over Chalk Paint? I recommend using one of Annie Sloan’s soft waxes. There are four different “colors” of waxes: clear, white, dark (brown), and black. Clear is most commonly used because it gives a crisp look close to your freshly painted piece (but with a more saturated hue). The other waxes could change the entire look of your furniture. White gives a softer or limed look. Brown is great for antiquing. Black gives bold depth and dimension.
Do I need to use a special brush when waxing furniture? When waxing large pieces, I use one of Annie’s wax brushes because it makes the job so much easier. (I don’t use regular paint brushes because the wax is sometimes hard to wash away, and I don’t want my painting brushes getting wax stuck in them.) Plus the oval brush helps the wax get into small details better. I also have clean lint-free cloths nearby to wipe away excess wax. On smaller pieces, I only use a lint-free cloth.
How do I apply wax over Chalk Paint? Choose your wax color(s) and grab your lint-free cloths and also wax brush if desired. Don’t apply the wax thickly. Brush it in the same direction that you painted, pressing it into the furniture for best results. Work in small sections, brushing it on and then wiping away the excess with a lint-free cloth.
If you’re planning to use another color of wax, always use clear wax first. Then if you put too much colored wax on, you can rub more clear over it to remove some of the colored. If you don’t use the clear first, you won’t have that flexibility to control the final look of the colored wax.
I usually wait 24 hours for the wax to dry before doing a second coat. After each coat dries you can buff the surface with a lint-free cloth to get a slight shine and smoothness. Wax takes up to 30 days to fully cure, so be careful with the piece for the first month or so.
High-traffic pieces like dining tables will need to have wax reapplied every so often whenever the finish begins to wear down. (Dining tables and kitchen cabinets are two places where you might want to consider using a different topcoat meant for high-traffic areas.) Lastly, don’t apply wax to outdoor pieces or anything that will be near extreme temperatures or weather.
Waxing can definitely take some practice to feel comfortable with. It might help to watch a video on How to Apply Wax Over Chalk Paint or visit your local Annie Sloan Chalk Paint retailer to get some one-on-one instruction.
What Surfaces Can Be Chalk Painted?
Can Chalk Paint be used outside? Yes, Chalk Paint can be used outside. It sticks very well to masonry like concrete, brick, stone, etc. (I have some paint marks on my driveway to prove it!) It’s water-based and will eventually fade over time. You can chose to seal it with a water-based exterior topcoat. Don’t apply wax to any outdoor pieces.
Can Chalk Paint be used on metal, glass, or plastic? Yes, yes, and yes.
Can Chalk Paint be used on fabric or leather? Yes. If you’re painting over the entire surface, water down the paint a bit and paint in several thin layers. It’s easier to paint a darker color over light fabric. You don’t need to wax chalk painted fabric, but you should wax over painted leather.
Can Chalk Paint be used on floors? Yes. Apply 2-3 coats of paint (solid or stenciled) and seal with Chalk Paint Lacquer. Lacquer has approx. 14 day cure time, so be careful not to scratch the finish.
Can Chalk Paint be used on kitchen cabinets? Yes. I recommend prepping the cabinets with shellac and then painting 2-3 coats of Chalk Paint. You can use wax as a topcoat, but since kitchens are very high traffic you might want to use a different heavy duty sealer that you won’t need to reapply every few years.
Chalk Paint Troubleshooting
What if my Chalk Paint is too thick/lumpy? Add a tiny bit of water and stir. Repeat if necessary. I’ve found that if the can is mostly empty and I don’t put the lid back on properly, I may not be able to save that last bottom inch of paint no matter how much water I add.
What if my Chalk Paint is too thin/watery? Let the can sit with the lid off for a little while and the paint will start to thicken.
Can I use Chalk Paint in a sprayer? Yes, if you add water to thin the paint and if your paint sprayer is heavy duty (not a very basic model). Chalk Paint is not easy to use in a paint sprayer. I’ve tried it before and won’t try it again – I prefer painting with a brush anyway.
How to Store Chalk Paint: Make sure the lid is on tight. If I can’t get it back on, I wrap saran wrap tightly around the top and then tape around the sides to keep it airtight. Always store the paint at room temperature. I keep all my paint in a cabinet in our finished basement where it doesn’t get very cold. (Paint can still freeze in the garage in winter… you don’t want to spend ~$38 on Chalk Paint just to let it get ruined in your garage.)
I painted and waxed already and now I don’t like it – can I repaint over wax? Yes you can use Chalk Paint directly over wax without removing it. Just be sure to use wax again on top of your new paint color – other topcoats won’t stick to a piece that’s already been waxed. (In that case, you would need to remove the wax first with mineral spirits.)
Chalk Paint vs. Other Brands
Chalk Paint vs. Latex Paint: Latex paint doesn’t distress well (the paint tends to roll up when sanding) because it just kind of sits on top of furniture as a separate layer. Chalk Paint is more porous and adheres better to most surfaces than latex, and it’s easier to clean up than latex. (I haven’t used latex paint on furniture since I started using Chalk Paint, and I don’t plan on using it again.)
Chalk Paint vs. Milk Paint: Milk paint tends to be more naturally chippy and distressed looking than Chalk Paint, although there are things you can do to make it less chippy. Milk paint often comes in powder form and you need to add water and mix it yourself. I haven’t tried milk paint yet, although I plan to someday.
Chalk Paint vs. Fusion Mineral Paint: Fusion is 100% acrylic, water-based, and self-leveling – so it creates a very smooth, sleek finish. In my experience, it’s not easy to get the soft distressed look that Chalk Paint does so well. FMP also doesn’t require a topcoat unless it’s a high-traffic piece. Learn more in this post: French Provincial Dresser Makeover with Fusion Mineral Paint
Chalk Paint vs. Country Chic Paint: Country Chic Paint is clay-based and doesn’t require a topcoat unless it’s a high-traffic piece. It has a matte finish and also distresses quite well. It is not thick like Chalk Paint. See how I distressed a CCP table in this post: How to Repair a Table with Cracked Veneer
Popular Chalk Painting Techniques
Can I use Chalk Paint to get a faux stain finish? Yes – use Honfleur, Graphite, and maybe a little Coco. Faux stain finishes are perfect for pieces that aren’t real wood (like laminate) but you still want that authentic wood look. I included an in-depth tutorial in my book Amazing Furniture Makeovers about how to get a faux stain look with Chalk Paint.
Can I use Chalk Paint to get a farmhouse/weathered wood finish? Absolutely – I’ve done it many times. You can choose to use one color or layer several colors. For the farmhouse-style bench makeover below I used Old Ochre and heavy distressing for a weathered wood finish.
Can I use Chalk Paint to achieve a faux industrial metal finish? Definitely! On the piece below I used French Linen, Paris Grey, and Coco to transform this laminate dresser into a chic industrial statement piece. Read through the steps and see more closeup photos by visiting the linked tutorial below.
Chalk Painting Before and After Tutorials
You can click here to see all of my chalk painted furniture makeovers. I’ve also included some popular before-and-afters below. Click the links or photos to see the full step-by-step tutorials.
Chalk Painted Dressers
Chalk Painted Decor
*You can also learn tons of tips and techniques for how to prep, repair, customize, and paint furniture in my book Amazing Furniture Makeovers: Easy DIY Projects to Transform Thrifted Finds into Beautiful Custom Pieces. Learn more here.