how to chalk paint: a tutorial for beginners
Are you ready for a great step-by-step chalk painting tutorial? We guide you through the process of painting, distressing and waxing to create a brand new look for your outdated furniture pieces. Let’s jump right in!
Chalk Painting Tutorial
We are here to help you get your chalk painting groove on. Sound fun? It is. Do you have pieces of furniture or home décor items you’d like to transform? Are you slightly intimidated by chalk painting or wondering if it’s worth the hype? Maybe you just have some questions before taking the plunge. Well, we are here to help. Consider us your new best friends when it comes to helping you become a resident expert on the chalk painting. We are going to walk you through the entire chalk painting tutorial, and we promise to be there to hold your hand from painting, to distressing, to the final waxing.
Let’s begin by setting your mind at ease. There are no real rules with chalk painting because there is no one look to achieve. You can’t ruin a piece because you can always add another coat. (We bet you feel better already, right?)
So, don’t be afraid to jump right in. The more you research sometimes the more daunting it can become. There are as many different techniques as there are people chalk painting. You will quickly determine your favorite methods and techniques. This article should give you plenty of confidence to begin.
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- Chalk paint
Here is one of our favorites:
- Finishing wax, clear, light, or dark
- Paint brushes, a couple for painting and at least one designated for applying wax only.
Here is a great brand we just started using for our projects and isn’t too expensive.
FolkArt brand Home Decor Chalk and Wax Brushes
- Drop cloth
- Moist cloth for dusting/accidental drips
- Screwdriver or paint can opener
- Sand paper for dry distressing (if desired)
- Cheese cloth
- Music (to keep you singing J)
Let’s Get Started
What is chalk paint? It’s a type of paint started by Annie Sloan, but now many other companies have jumped on board. It has a chalky finish and is often used to achieve a shabby chic or aged look because it is easily distressed. It has very little odor so you can paint inside without harsh fumes. People love its ease of use. Little to no prep work is required. Also, it dries fast making projects less time consuming.
Chalk Painting Tutorial: Before You Begin
Gather your tools. See the list above. Clear your space, whether you choose the garage or decide to paint right in the room where your furniture sits. For larger pieces, the convenience of not moving the furniture has won me over more often than not. Lay a generous drop cloth to protect your flooring, and create space so you have room to work. Wear clothes you don’t care about. No matter how careful you are expect a small amount of splatter.
Prep Your Piece
As promised, very little prep is needed. Use a moist cloth and remove all dust and dirt. Make sure there is no oil from treatment products like furniture oil. If your piece has loose old paint you should do a little sanding. Otherwise, there is no need to remove old paint. In fact, if you will be distressing later these other layers of paint will add fun character to your piece.
Ready, Set, Paint!
Shake your chalk paint well. Because of the thicker consistency you will need to stir every 15 minutes or so. Some folks like to paint from a small dish or paper plate while the bulk of their paint remains sealed. I like to put my paint in a larger Tupperware container to allow for easier stirring and resealing.
Use back and forth strokes with the grain of wood. Work in a small space and move quickly. Don’t go over an area you just painted. As Jodie says, you’ve got one chance per coat due to the quick-dry factor. Don’t worry if you see paint strokes or if you “see through” on your first coat. The second coat will take care of this, promise. Be extra careful of drips. If they sneak by you, they dry so fast that you’ll have to sand them away.
Let your first coat dry minimally two hours. Take a nice lunch break, rest your arm, and go back for coat #2.
Follow the same for your second coat. Watch for drips and make sure your coverage is good. For all my chalk painting projects, two coats have been enough. We usually use CeCe Caldwell, Amy Howard, Annie Sloan, or The American Paint Company. They run about $36.00 per quart. Pricey we know, but it goes a long way, and when you consider you are repurposing old pieces instead of buying new furniture it’s a steal.
There are two main types of distressing, wet and dry. Wet is done with a moistened lint-free cloth and dry is with sandpaper.
Which should you choose? Depending on the paint you use and the surface you paint you may or may not have a choice. We usually try wet distressing first. If your project isn’t suited for wet distressing you’ll realize it almost immediately. Here are the differences. Wet takes less elbow grease, so if you suffer from carpel tunnel like I do you might want to try wet distressing. Also, wet distressing is less mess. Finally, it’s easier to control.
Sanding can take you down to the raw wood easily, and sometimes I really don’t want that. You can’t get the beautiful old wood finish back if that happens. Wet also gives you a smoother finish. You can easily create any level of distressing simply by controlling the amount of pressure. To do the wet distressing technique get your lint-free cloth, put it around your finger in a tight hold, dip into water and rub.
After you are done painting and distressing, take a small piece of 400-grit sandpaper and pass over your piece lightly, as if you were dusting. (No back and forth) This is for smoothing only and makes a big difference in the look of your final product.
Chalk Painting Tutorial: Final Step
Waxing is not essential, but it is desirable. If you want an unfinished, unprotected, chalky look and feel skip this step. If you want your piece protected from wear and to achieve a more finished in look and feel then you will want to add a coat of wax. You can choose clear, light, or dark. There are also all kinds of special waxes you can find in the market place: pearl, luster, white. These obviously add a variety of different finishes and are fun to play around with. You might choose dark if you want to add some aging to your piece. Tried and true is simply clear, but don’t rule out playing around with the others on small décor items to discover the different possibilities.
Wax can be applied with a regular brush. If your piece has a lot of detail a round brush can be very useful. Otherwise, there’s really no need to invest in expensive brushes. Brush it on and wipe it off with a lint-free cloth. Let it dry (cure) overnight before you put anything on it.
You will want a dedicated brush to always use for wax. To save cleaning time, put your waxing brush in a Ziploc bag and store in the freezer.
That’s it. Our final advice is to choose a small “throw away” project to try out the above techniques. But trust us, you’ll be an expert in no time. Have fun and be forewarned: once you see how economical and easy it is to transform pieces, chalk painting can be addictive.
Our Last Words: Chalk Painting Tutorial
Last words on our chalk painting tutorial. Why use Chalk Paint? When you have a vision for a unique distressed, weathered, or mulit-layered look. Or, like we did above, when you just want and easy option with little to no prep time. Below, see an example of a dresser that Jodie painted using American Paint Company’s “Home Plate” (gray-toned white).