Chalk painting furniture is easy and fun, but I must warn you that it is very addictive! In this post, I will walk you through some basic information about chalk paint and how you can use it for your furniture makeover projects.
What Is Chalk Paint? Why You Should Try It for Your Furniture Makeovers?
Chalk paint, also called mineral paint, is a type of non-latex paint popular for DIY home decor paint projects. The term chalk paint was developed by Annie Sloan, who created her brand of chalk paint just for DIY furniture painting projects. Other brands are similar but cannot use the name “chalk paint” in their brand name. Milk paint is a bit different, but is another type of DIY decor paint. Some other popular brands besides Annie Sloan are Dixie Belle (my favorite), Wise Oil, and Fusion. You can also find chalk paint lines made by Rust-oleum and Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines, as well Americana Decor found at the big box craft stores.
The Benefits of Using Chalk Paint
- Chalk/mineral paints have very low to no odor. They can therefore safely be used indoors. They are water based so it is easy and safe to mix with other water-based products and to mix colors!
- These paints have a nice consistency, although this will vary from brand to brand. Some brands are a bit thicker than others. But overall my experience is that they don’t drip or run easily so they are less messy.
- They provide a matte, chalky finish. This will also vary with the brand, but overall they give a rustic feel and are perfect for creating the popular farmhouse look! Although you can also get a very sleek modern finish with chalk mineral paint, depending on the brand you use, how you apply it, and the sealer you choose. More on that later!
- Chalk paint can be applied with a variety of paintbrush types. Most chalk painters have their favorites and I’ll list a few of my go-to’s.
- The amount of prep you do on your furniture piece is up to you. Sanding is not always necessary as these paints have a great ability to adhere to all kinds of surfaces, even without much prep.
- Putting on a sealer, like a wax or topcoat, is usually recommended but, it is optional. The paint will adhere and stay pretty well even without the topcoat. And certainly if you are going for a more rustic chipped finish then a topcoat may not be desired.
Easy Steps To Painting Your Furniture
Finding furniture to update with chalk style paint is usually not hard! I can look around my house and see several things that I plan to paint. Goodwill and consignment stores are full of cheap furniture yearning to be upcycled with paint. With all the farmhouse style craze these days it sure seems that brown furniture is less popular and neutral as well as more colorful pieces are everywhere!
Gallery of a few simple furniture makeovers using chalk paint: A large brown dresser and an antique hall table
Step 1: Check For Loose Veneer, Dents and Defects
Check your furniture over for any issues such as dings, dents, deep scratches, or chipped veneer. Remove all hardware that you don’t want to paint. If there are chips, dents, or scratches or if you want to fill any screw holes, I recommend a wood filler. A few I have used include Elmer’s Stainable Wood Filler, Bondo, and my most recent favorite is Dixie Belle Mud.
Below photos of Dixie Belle Mud applied to repair a cracked area on this table base:
Step 2: To Sand or Not To Sand? That Is The Question
Is sanding absolutely necessary? No, it isn’t. However, sanding does help prepare the surface for painting. It provides a smoother surface, smoothing out any bumps, and gives the paint something to stick to. The paint application is usually better, at least a bit smoother, when the piece is prepped with sanding. Although if you are going for a rustic, chippy look, it is not necessary at all to sand.
A Few Sanding Tips
I will usually give my furniture a quick sanding by hand with a fine grit sanding block . If there are spots that need a more intense sanding I use a coarser grit. Usually 120 or 220 is fine for just a quick sanding by hand. This smooths out the surface a bit and helps your paint glide on. I may be one of those weird folks who likes to sand. It’s a good way to get in a little work out! And, I need all the help I can get in that department!
If I’m planning to use a stain on the furniture, such as on a table top, I’ll sand really well, to remove the finish. For this I would pull out my $15 orbital sander and use a coarse grit, like 80 grit to start. Then finish with a fine grit, either by hand or with the orbital sander.
Step 3: Clean Your Furniture Before Painting
The next step is to clean your furniture. Good options include a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water or a mixture of Dawn Dish Soap and warm water. Another option is White Lightening by Dixie Belle Paint Company. This comes in granular form and you mix it with water. This is what I use most, although I still use the denatured alcohol and water mixture on some things. After you clean your item, rinse it well with plain water. Check out Dixie Belle White Lightening: https://dixiebellepaint.com/white-lightning-cleaner-8oz/
Step 4: Check Your Furniture For Stains or Odors
If you have very dark old wood, such as Mahogany, and you plan to paint it white, you will need to apply a primer. The primer’s purpose is to prevent bleed through of the tannins in the wood. Here is a blog post from one of my favorite furniture painters on how to check for the likelihood of bleed through. https://rootsandwingsfurniture.com/blog/when-to-use-primer/. My advice is, if in doubt, apply the primer. Most primers are also good at blocking odor.
A Little More About Primers
There are two primers that I have used successfully. Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer For All Surfaces and Dixie Belle BOSS, which comes in white or clear. BOSS is my favorite because it is excellent at blocking both stains and yucky odors. For odors you may also want to consider applying a furniture salve which has a nice scent to the inside areas of the furniture, like the inside of the drawers. Dixie Belle’s Big Mama’s Butta is a great salve with such wonderful scents. Another option is Wise Owl Furniture Salve.
Prep for Slick Surfaces or Laminate Furniture
If your furniture is slick or if you are painting glass, metal, laminate, or any other slick surface, Dixie Belle Slick Stick is the perfect primer. It adheres to the slick surface and provides a backdrop for the paint. It is a type of primer, just one that is specifically created for slick surfaces.
Now For the Fun Part – How to Apply Chalk Paint
Okay, so your furniture is clean and ready for paint. This is where is gets fun! After you have chosen your paint color, you want to give it a good stir. You can paint directly from the jar/can or you can pour some paint into a separate container. I often use plastic or paper bowls, a even a glass jar.
Every painter has their favorite brushes. You can get brushes specifically for chalk paint or use brushes that you find at big box hardware stores. A few of my favorites are Dixie Belle paintbrushes, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint brushes, Cling On brushes, and the Purdy XL Cub brush.
Number of Coats and Dry Time
Typically your project will require more than one coat of paint, although coverage varies with the brand you are using, the color, and the original color of the furniture. Most importantly, apply the first coat in a thin layer and use even brush strokes going with the grain. Just get a nice thin first coat on the project. Honestly, the first coat often doesn’t look impressive and you might even question your choice of using chalk paint. I promise that if you let that coat dry and keep going, you will by happier with it as you move forward.
Chalk style paint dries fast. It is good to have a mister bottle of water handy to spray your brush a bit from time to time to keep the paintbrush from dragging and creating marks. These mister bottles are super cheap, and you can purchase one at craft stores and on Amazon. You don’t want so much water that your paint drips but a gentle misting goes a long way to prevent brushstroke marks.
After that first coat dries, apply your second coat. Most of my projects have needed two coats. The paint goes on fast and dries quick so projects can be completed even in a day.
Lastly, Do You Need A Top Coat or Sealer?
Wax versus Poly Topcoats
Most chalk mineral paint brands say that a topcoat is optional. The choice is usually a wax or polyurethane sealer for your project. A sealer will protect your hard work and decrease the risk of your furniture’s surface getting damaged, chipped, or scratched.
Annie Sloan makes a wax that is oil-based and Dixie Belle waxes are water-based. Waxes are typically not as durable as the polyurethane topcoats, but they do provide a nice buttery soft finish and will typically enrich your paint color just very slightly. Waxes do need to buffed on with a no-lint cloth or a wax brush. Check out a video on how to wax with Annie Sloan Clear Wax here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQhMmbM5LGg
Polycrylics and Polyurethanes
Water-based topcoats are typically polyurethane or polycrylic. I have used General Finishes High-Performance Topcoat which comes in flat, satin or gloss. These topcoats get good reviews and are very durable. The other topcoats, with which I have the most experience, and are my go-to products are Dixie Belle Clear Coat, which comes in flat, satin, or gloss and Dixie Belle Gator Hide. I usually use the flat or satin version of the Clear Coat. These are easy to apply with a paintbrush or sponge. They dry quick also. Gator Hide is waterproof and more durable than the Clear Coats. You can find Dixie Belle ClearCoat and Gatorhide here: https://dixiebellepaint.com/how-to-use-dixie-belle-paint-products-1/#gator
How To Decide Between Wax and Brush-On Poly Topcoat
The best way to determine if using wax or a poly topcoat is best is to consider what the furniture’s purpose is. If it is mostly decorative, and will get little use, wax will do fine. If it will get heavy use, such as an end table or kitchen table top, I would recommend the Dixie Belle Clear Coat or even better, the Gator Hide, especially if you are concerned about possible water damage.
And Finally, Admire Your Work!
I hope this article encourages you to try chalk mineral paint for your next furniture project. We discussed how to use chalk paint for your projects, starting with prepping your piece and going through the steps of applying the paint, and lastly a topcoat if needed. Chalk painting your furniture is easy, fun, and quite addictive!
I’d love to answer any questions you have about chalk painting and if you would share your projects in the comments below, that would be so fun!
Check out my previous post where I discuss tips for success with your first chalk paint project: https://simplyrefinished.com/five-tips-for-a-success-with-your-first-furniture-chalk-paint-project/
A few makeovers using chalk mineral paint: