Chalk painting furniture is not as daunting as it looks. It’s a fairly inexpensive and easy way to transform outdated furniture and thrift store finds. I have painted over 20 pieces of furniture over the last few years, and have developed my own method. Just follow this how to chalk paint furniture in 6 easy steps, and you too can be a pro!
Be sure and use pieces that are real wood, though!. You can chalk paint veneer, but in my experience it takes a lot of extra work and I just prefer real wood furniture.
1) Gather your supplies
This post contains affiliate links.
Paint-Next to a quality brush, a quality chalk paint is essential. I prefer Annie Sloane, but many have used Rustoleum and have had success. In my experience, skimping on the quality has only led to frustration and a sloppy looking piece of furniture.
Sandpaper- While you don’t usually need to sand a piece of furniture before chalk painting, unless there are rough or splintery patches that you don’t want rough and splintery, you will probably want to have 220 grit sand paper on hand for any brush strokes or drips that may show. An angled sanding block is perfect for getting into any crevices or small areas of the furniture.
Primer-While the beauty of chalk paint is that no primer is needed, I have found that in some very old, dark stained pieces, stain can seep through the paint. Sometimes this can happen days later, staining your freshly painted piece. If you piece is very old and dark, save yourself some hassle later and prime it first. Zinzer is highly recommended for priming furniture, but Kilz works just fine as well.
2) Give the piece a good scrub
Give the piece a good scrub before you begin. I’ve used Clorox wipes, or just a slightly soapy rag. You just want to get off any dust or grime before you paint. It’s important to let the piece dry all of the way before painting!
3) Prime, if needed
As stated previously, prime if it is a very old, dark piece. Do not use the same brush for priming that you will use for chalk painting. Always use an old or cheap brush for priming. Primer tends to leave a sandy texture on the paint brush. Do 2-3 thin coats of primer, letting dry the specified drying time in between coats. If there are any brush strokes, texture, or drips, lightly sand with a 220 grit sand paper until you have a smooth finish.
4) Start painting
Chalk paint can thicken when exposed to air, so it’s best to pour some into a separate container to use and seal up your can. Pour about a cup or so of paint into a disposable cup or small container and paint out of that. With Annie Sloan, it works better for me to add about 2 tablespoons of warm water to the cup and mix well before I start. I find that it shows fewer brush strokes.
Do 2-3 thin coats of paint, letting dry the specified drying time in between coats. This is the point that people start to panic. I call the first coat the scratch coat, and don’t worry-it will look terrible. Just completely cover the piece with a thin coat and let dry. Keep going, and it will look great in no time!
5) Sand, if needed
I used to sand between coats, and it did result in a beautiful glassy finish, but it’s SO much work, and I think it looks just as good waiting until the final coat to sand. Remember, always let it dry completely before adding the next coat of paint or sanding. I’m about the most impatient person in the world, but I have learned it only makes a mess to sand too soon.
As I said above, 220 grit is preferable because it is very fine and won’t sand off all of your hard work. I like to use a sanding block because it is easier for me to hold, and I dampen it sometimes for an even smoother finish. Just lightly sand because you don’t want to remove the paint itself. I generally sand the whole piece, because, again, I’m not the most talented painter and my brushstrokes usually show, and I normally have a drip or two. At this point, you can decide if you want to distress any areas. Distressing looks best when it is on the points of furniture that would naturally show wear, but it’s all up to you! Sand a little harder, or go down a few levels in sand paper to scuff up the paint where you want a distressed area.
The last step is to decide if you want to seal and protect your piece. Personally, if it is just a decorative piece like a candle holder, wood box, etc., I don’t spend the time and money to protect it. However, if it’s a piece of furniture that is going to be used, it really needs to be protected! There are two basic ways to seal chalkpaint-wax and poly. Here is a great article by DIY Beautify that outlines the differences. You should let your piece cure for 24 hours before sealing.
Since I have only done occasional pieces of furniture, not something that would get heavy use like a kitchen table, I have only used wax. My preference is Annie Sloane clear wax. With wax, the recommendation is not to put a piece of waxed furniture where it will get direct sunlight, and to re-coat every year or more often as needed. I have had pieces, such as my tea cart, by a window in direct sunlight, and have never had any issues. I have also never re-applied yearly. Maybe I just had good luck! But these are things to be aware of, and a deciding factor in choosing a wax or poly top coat.
That’s it! It’s not very hard, but because of drying times, give yourself at least two days to complete, and then possible a third day if sealing. I hope you feel empowered that you can chalk paint furniture in these 6 easy steps!