The most simple step-by-step guide to chalk painting furniture with no experience necessary.
Not to be dramatic or anything, but the first time I ever chalk painted a tiny antique table of my late grandmother’s, it changed my life! I suddenly felt so empowered to paint anything I could get my hands on. Why? Because, I was a total beginner and it was so stinkin’ easy!
The chalk paint craze hit the market around 2010 when DIYérs started realizing its potential. But actually chalk paint has been around a lot longer. The O.G. of chalk painting, artist Annie Sloan from Great Britian, developed her first chalk paint formula back in the 1990s!
And she hasn’t stopped since. Creating new shades and finishes, even today with her own line of custom chalk paint brushes – she’s created quite the global empire for herself. And if you’ve ever used her products (or any other chalk painting brands for that matter!) before, you’ll know why.
My First Chalk Painting Experience
I learned about chalk painting the same way most people these days learn about stuff – GOOGLE! I was searching for furniture restoration tutorials and everything I saw included two labor intensive steps I was definitely NOT interested in.
Sanding and priming.
When it comes to DIY projects, I’m a bit…lazy? I’d rather take shortcuts as long the end result looks the same. Bad, I know – but it’s always worked for me. So as you can imagine, sanding and priming was something I would go to great lengths to avoid.
That’s when I stumbled upon an Annie Sloan chalk painting tutorial on Blue Egg Brown Nest blog. And I knew my prayers had been answered!
I ran to the first store in my location that was a supplier of AS paints (which you can find by entering your zip code on her website), chose my color, Paris Grey, and cleared out room in our two-car garage. One crack of the can’s lid and I was off. In a matter of two hours, the antique accent table had transformed from something dated and worn to a new favorite staple in my bedroom.
And it was that easy! So how do you get started working with chalk paints as a beginner? You’re about to find out in this easy tutorial for people that might be less than handy when it comes to DIY.
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Easy Chalk Painting Tutorial for Beginners
Step 1: Select your furniture & clean it
Chalk paint is marketed as being very porous, meaning it can be applied to almost any surface and absorbed. Amazing, right? Wood of any kind, finished or unfinished, will of course produce the very best finished product. But I’ve seen everything from metal patio furniture to plastic folding chairs painted – so the possibilities are truly limitless.
Let’s assume you’ve selected a wood piece in relatively good condition. As I mentioned earlier, there is NO sanding and priming necessary when working with chalk paint (yay!).
But properly cleaning off the entire surface will make a huge difference in how the paint looks when it dries. Oil stains, sticky stuff, spilled candle wax – it should all be thoroughly cleaned with a damp lint-free cloth and vinegar.
Try not to use any harsh cleaners or furniture polish during this step. Allow the piece to dry completely by wiping down.
Step 2: Purchase the RIGHT supplies
PAINT – As you can tell, I am partial to Annie Sloan paint. Yes, it is more expensive at $30/quart, but a little goes a LONG way and I find the finish to be superior to its competition. There are certainly other brands such as Rustoleum sold at Home Depot that are also plenty good! You decide based on your needs and budget.
PROTECTOR – What finished look are you going for? Annie Sloan, as well as other brands, sell clear protector wax which achieves a more flat matte look. For a more polished or glossy look, you’ll want to buy a polycrylic (NOT polyurethane – that’s only for oil based paints, like latex!). Poly is sold in flat, semi-gloss or high-gloss.
BRUSHES – Allow me to go against the grain here for a moment. The chalk painting industry will tell you that buying a chalk painting brush is a must. But in my experience, it’s not worth the high price tag! My go-to paint brush is a short handle angle brush made by Wooster. It allows you to get deep into the corners, cut edges beautifully and have full control of your paint strokes.
SPONGE PADS – These can also be sold at Home Depot or any hardware store and are only used to apply a poly finish. Do not use these for a wax finish!
SAND PAPER/BLOCKS – Will you want to distress your furniture for an aged look? The easy way to do this is to buy fine grit sand paper/blocks. More on how to do this below.
PAINT PAN – You don’t have to be super picky here, any paint pan will do. Personally, I like one with a small handle so I can paint with one hand and have my paint can nearby in the other.
Step 3: Find an area to work in
This will of course depend on where you live. Ideally, somewhere with ventilation like a garage is a great spot. Or on a beautiful sunny day, I always love working right outside on my driveway.
The good news here is that if it’s freezing outside and you don’t have a basement or garage, chalk paint doesn’t have that strong of an odor. Nothing like latex paint!
Several years ago I painted an entire nursery room set (crib, dresser, changing table) in Paris Grey and since it was all too much to carry outside, I painted right inside the room. After a few hours of the windows being open, the odor was gone.
Step 4: Remove hardware & apply tape
This can be a tedious step but one that is super important. Removing hardware, assuming you want to (some like to paint right over it!), will help preserve the metal and ensure no paint accidentally touches it.
Unless you plan to replace the hardware entirely for something trendy/modern.
I hate TAPING! It’s literally my least favorite part of furniture painting. However, I have learned the hard way when not taking the extra time to tape. In the end, this step will save you lots of frustration scraping paint that has bled onto glass or onto your floor!
Step 5: Get painting!
After all the prep and shopping is done, now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and crack open that paint can. Be sure to shake it vigorously first, since the contents will settle over time on store shelves.
Pour about one third of paint into your paint can and immediately seal the can back up to prevent air bubbles from entering.
FIRST COAT – When you begin painting, the first coat won’t look very pretty. Don’t worry, it’s not supposed to. It is purely to cover the furniture in one entire coat. Some say painting in an “X” crossover sort of fashion will give a textured look finish. Wait for the first coat to dry completely, which will not take very long, as this coat directly absorbs into the wood.
SECOND COAT – This application will make the piece look much more covered and the transformation more visible. A personal tip is that I like to add a splash of water to the second coat paint. It helps to thin the paint a bit which results in a smoother application and finish.
THIRD COAT (if needed) – This final step of painting will be an opportunity to touch up any areas that you’ve missed or in need of more coverage.
Step 6: Allow proper drying time
Depending on the color wood of your original finish will determine how many coats of paint. Luckily if you are using Annie Sloan, the paint is quite thick. Two coats for a maple or oak cabinet is plenty. Three coats may be needed for a dark cherry or black piece.
However many, be sure to allow sufficient drying time (30 minutes to four hours) in between each coat. And keep in mind, just because the paint feels dry to the touch, it is still fragile and delicate underneath. Kind of like our nails when we go to get a manicure!
The full cure time, which is the time after drying but before applying wax finish can be 10-20 days. Read the manufacturer’s label to know for sure.
Step 7: Time to distress (optional)
Start thinking like Joanna Gaines would if her farmhouse style is the look you’re going for. The good news is that it can be achieved fairly easily!
There are NO rules when it comes to distressing, other than to be intentional about it. Don’t just take your sanding black and start scratching away at the paint. It will make your furniture look tired and sloppy.
The trick here is to be precise but creative! I typically love sanding around drawers and cabinets, legs, decorative corners and details (anywhere your furniture has angles). I try not to distress much on clean panels such as surfaces or sides – why? Because the whole aged look is meant to look as if a piece is naturally worn.
Have fun here, this is my favorite step!
Step 7: Apply your finish wax or poly
If you love a good arm workout, you’ll love this step! After a full summer of painting furniture and kitchen cabinets for clients one year, my arms were toned amazingly! Why? Because the trick with achieving a smooth waxy finish to your furniture is to press the wax into the surface in circular motions.
Many stores sell wax brushes but I’ve never had much success with them (even the pricey Annie Sloan ones!) I find an old white t-shirt ripped into squares works perfectly. Simply wrap the t-shirt scrap around your hand, scoop a chunk of clear wax onto your fingers and apply to the dried painted furniture.
Tiny circles for blending the wax into the surface followed by smooth strokes for buffing will give you a beautifully finished piece.
Applying a polycrylic for your finish won’t be quite as demanding on your arms and can be easily applied with a staining sponge. Simply wipe the product directly onto the painted surface and you’re done.
Step 8: Add detailing products (optional)
Depending on the look you are trying to achieve, you may want to take one extra step and apply a detailing product. What am I referring to exactly?
Annie Sloan Dark Wax will help achieve an aged look in pieces with lots of detail. Or perhaps you want a weathered white washed look by lightly dry-brushing white paint over your surface.
Any time you apply a second product to achieve a specialty look for your piece, always make sure to lightly cover the treated area with one additional layer of protector (wax or poly, whichever you’ve chosen).
This is a very creative transformative project you are about to take on. So have FUN with it and try not to stress too much about perfection. Furniture is like art – it is most interesting when it shows originality.
Good luck, guys and of course if you have any questions throughout the process, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org