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What Is So Great About Chalk Paint?

What’s so great about chalk paint? If you have questions about chalk style paints and how to use them on furniture flips (and more!) this is the post for you. Learn the best projects to use chalk paint for, the supplies you need to get started, plus when you shouldn’t use chalk paint!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission when a purchase is made at no additional cost to you. Read more here.

Woman holding a small container of Country Chic Paint.

By now, many of us are aware of the hype surrounding “chalk paint” and the way it has transformed furniture flipping. However, you might be wondering “what is so great about chalk paint?” After all, there’s many paint options out there. What makes chalk paint special?

My personal conviction is that like anything else, chalk paint has its strengths and weaknesses. So, when used in the right context it shines at bringing new life to furniture. It’s versatile, fun to use, and capable of transforming grungy old pieces.

Still curious? Let’s start with a review of what chalk paint is and isn’t.

What Is Chalk Paint?

Chalk Paint is the original creation of Annie Sloan. It’s a furniture paint designed to adhere to surfaces (often old wooden furniture) without sanding first. Annie’s Chalk Paint (and many imitator chalk style paints) adheres well without sanding or prep, dries to a matte finish, requires a top coat to seal, and distresses easily for a rustic or farmhouse-style look. 

Annie Sloan’s years of expertise in the art world led her to create a paint that transformed furniture painting (and more). It was sold for many years in the UK and caught on to major popularity in the USA in the last decade or so.

What Are “Chalk Style Paints”?

Since Annie created her Chalk Paint, a number of similar products have hit the market, but Chalk Paint itself remains a registered trademark of Annie Sloan. Because of the popularity of the original Chalk Paint, there are many imitation products available now as well, usually labeled “chalk style paint”. A lot of them work great!

These paints are generally sold in quarts, and cost anywhere from about $17-$20 per can (Rust-Oleum Chalked for example) to $36+ per can (Annie Sloan).

A vintage white dresser with stenciled blue florals and white hardware.
This dresser was painted with a chalk style paint, Country Chic Paint, and stenciled. See the before and after.

What Is Chalk Paint Used For?

Chalk Paint revolutionized the furniture flipping world. In fact, interest in flipping furniture has skyrocketed with the popularity of the paint. Because you can (often) skip sanding and priming, it is easy to use chalk paints to transform furniture (and thus, your home) even if you are limited in time and space.

With chalk paint, there is no need for the gear, space, and hassle of traditional refinishing, which requires paint stripping, sanding, and hours of prep work.

Chalk style paint also lends itself extremely well to a handcrafted or vintage/distressed feel. This style was (and still is) quite popular as farmhouse style décor continues to be a top home decorating choice.

Though the paint is often used for refinishing old (and new) furniture, it can also be used for DIY projects like painting curtains, handcrafted Christmas ornaments, and more. It’s a great choice for small craft projects too. I use my leftovers for small projects (check my list of Small (Non-Furniture) Ideas to Paint).

A can of chalk paint and a glass jar painted pink with white polka dots.
Painted mason jars are always a fun project–chalk paint works perfectly!

What Is So Great About Chalk Paint?

Alright, so we know chalk paint is popular and furniture flippers love it, but let’s sum up what makes it so great!

  • It  adheres to most surfaces, no sanding required
  • It’s a “no-prep” paint (I personally think prep is still important, more on that below)
  • It “flips” furniture quickly without lots of extra gear or time
  • Annie Sloan’s original formula is very low VOC (note: not necessarily the case for copy-cat brands)
  • It gives a rustic “farmhouse” appearance
  • It distresses well for a time-worn finish
  • It’s just plain fun to use!

Chalk paint is most often used for furniture flipping and it’s wonderfully fun to hunt down old furniture pieces (here’s a few furniture selection tips) and give them new life with a coat of paint. I love chalk style paint for the ease of use, the finish, the ability to transform just about anything, and how it brings a lovely time-worn feel into my home.

This dresser I recently finished using Behr Decorative Chalk Paint was a fun flip with added stenciling and fresh hardware. Check out the before and after.

A drawer of a painted dresser pulled out to reveal white stenciling on the wood interior.

I’ve used it to flip lots of pieces in my home including the following pieces: a dresser (a mix of colors, mostly of Rust-Oleum in Linen White + Annie Sloan in Old White), a large hutch, and even Christmas ornaments:

Are There Downsides To Using Chalk Style Paints?

Occasionally, chalk paints receive criticism because of the less-durable finish (compared to traditional refinishing/painting), potential for bleed-through of old stains (use stain-blocking primers!), and the “rustic” look (brushstrokes and distressing) which doesn’t fit every aesthetic. I’ll chat more at the end of this post about projects where I suggest avoiding chalk paint altogether.

Are All Chalk Paints the Same?

So we’ve got Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, and then we’ve got plenty of brands that followed suit with paints like Behr’s Chalk Decorative Paint, Rust-Oleum’s Chalked, Magnolia Chalk Style Paint, and Country Chic Paint.

Woman holding three cans of Chalk Paint and chalk style paint from different brands.

I’ve found that chalk style paints, while many are made from similar ingredients, are all a tiny bit different. While a lot of the “copycat” paints are quite similar, I find that Annie Sloan’s paint still stands out from the crowd (though truly you can get a similar look with one of the other paints too).

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is Ultra Low VOC

For instance, Annie Sloan paints are environmentally conscious and very low VOC. Annie talks about how her paint is non-toxic with minimal odor. This is a distinction from chalk style paints (only some are labeled “low VOC”) which do not make these claims (Country Chic Paint is another great ultra-low VOC option).

Unsurprisingly, there are also some differences in the ingredients of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint versus the chalk style paint brands. The end of this post includes a quick summary of ingredients in the various paints.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is Marketed as “No-Prep”

Another distinction is that Annie Sloan is a big proponent of “no prep” painting. No sanding, priming, nothing. Just paint and go. I find that the state of the piece being painted needs to be taken into consideration before diving into a project in this manner.

“Chalk Style” Paints Often Include a Suggestion to Sand First

Now, contrast the “no-prep” idea with chalk style brands like Rust-Oleum Chalked or KILZ Chalk Style Paint . A quick read of the back of the paint can will usually uncover a suggestion like this one from Rust-Oleum: “To enhance adhesion, lightly sand glossy or porous surfaces”.

The Characteristics That All Chalk Style Paints Have In Common

What about characteristics that all chalk paint/chalk style paints have in common? Generally, whether you purchase a can of Annie Sloan, Magnolia Paint, Country Chic Paint, Rust-Oleum Chalked or another furniture paint, you’ll probably notice some of the same characteristics as follows:

  • thick consistency
  • matte finish
  • requires a top coat
  • brushstrokes
  • easy to distress
  • applies to many (but not all) surfaces without sanding
  • prone to reveal bleed-through (from particular woods or stains) if a stain-blocking primer is not first used
  • sold in quarts (or smaller containers)
  • the cost of chalk style paint is $18-20 for a quart (or close to $40 for Annie Sloan Chalk Paint)

Chalk Style Paint Reviews

Want to learn more about a particular brand of chalk paint? Check out these detailed reviews:

How to Chalk Paint Furniture

If you are going to use chalk paint of any kind on a piece of furniture, you’re going to walk through four general steps: prep, prime, paint, seal. This process may vary depending on your piece, but this is a general guide for how to paint furniture with chalk paint.

After selecting a piece of good furniture to paint (I avoid severely damaged pieces or pieces made of woods prone to bleed-through), you need to prep the piece.

Prep Furniture for Chalk Painting

“Don’t prep” they said. “You won’t even need to sand”, they said. Those are the first things you might hear when you buy a can of chalk paint. I’ve even seen recommendations not to bother dusting off your piece first! Here’s the thing. Prep matters.

Here’s how I prep my pieces:

Clean the Piece

Before chalk painting anything (unless it is brand new), I always clean it. A little soap and water is fine and if you have a smelly piece, these tips for cleaning stinky furniture from Miss Mustard Seed are excellent.

A vintage oak dresser with cleaning supplies on top of it.

Make Repairs

If you are working with a used piece of furniture you might need to make some repairs. For instance, if you’ll be replacing hardware, you might need to fill and sand the old holes to prepare for the new hardware. Occasionally I have to fill other gaps in the piece too. Complete these steps before painting.

Sand the Piece

Now sanding, this is the hot-button topic! Sanding down furniture (or cabinets, ugh!) to the bare wood is time consuming and exhausting. Sure, it yields great results, but it’s not always practical.

Chalk paint allows you to simply grab a piece of furniture you like and start painting it! Now, here’s the deal. While you might be able to do this with Annie Sloan, you’ll find that most “chalk style” paints on the market (as I noted earlier) leave a neat little note on the back of the can recommending that for the best finish, some sanding is advised.

That doesn’t mean you need to sand down to the bare wood. The point is to just lightly break up that surface a bit with a fine sanding block or sandpaper in about a 120-150 grit (work in the direction of the wood grain). You can also use a medium sanding block first and then follow it up with the finer block.

Note: Know what you are sanding! Accidentally sanding lead paint is dangerous and should be avoided.

So, do you have to sand before chalk painting? Not necessarily. But, if you don’t sand (and you are painting a glossy piece), you might find that the finished piece chips easily. You might also have problems as you paint subsequent coats of paint where the paint might pull away from the piece (example in this review post).

I lightly sand maybe 50% of the time. For me it depends on the age and condition of my piece. I will generally pass over a super shiny finish with a sanding block to give it a little grit. A light sanding can also help remove minor flaws in a wooden pieces. Also check to see what your can of chalk style paint suggests and go with that.

I do want to say that if you don’t have the space or ability to sand (it’s hard work and a lot of dust!), don’t worry about it. Feel free to jump right in with painting. Likely, your piece will turn out just fine.

Remember, chalk painting is not about following a strict set of rules. It’s about enjoying the process, experimenting, and discovering your personal style and favorite techniques. And most of all? It’s about bringing new life to furniture so you can enjoy using the finished pieces in your home.

Primer–Is It Optional Or Not?

Priming furniture before painting it has the benefit of sealing in any stains and potential bleed-through. Primer is also necessary if you are starting with raw/unfinished wood (chalk paint will just soak in otherwise and it won’t look good).

Generally you don’t have to prime before chalk painting, but I got into the habit of using it after I worked on this hutch (do not paint knotty pine–just don’t). The bleed-through of all the pine knots in the piece was frustrating to say the least.

It took a few cans of Zinsser B-I-N Shellac primer to assuage the damage. But sadly, the pine knots started showing through again soon after completing the piece. Argh.

If you notice bleed through, finish your coat of chalk paint (so you don’t have weird streaks later), and then prime it. I have also heard great things about Zinsser Shellac.

I start many of my furniture flips with a simple coat of an all-purpose primer (I’m currently using a can from Sherwin Williams) is great insurance against bleed-through issues. Primer dries quickly and if you have it on hand it’s no trouble to add a coat. You will also detect quickly if the piece is going to have severe issues (that will warrant a stronger product) without wasting expensive chalk paint.

Cans of various brands of chalk paint on a table.

Applying Chalk Paint to Furniture

Once it’s time to apply the paint to your furniture, that’s when the real fun begins. Here are a few tips for success:

  • use a good brush (I use an inexpensive brush that is my favorite brush for painting furniture)
  • allow the paint to dry completely (check your can) between coats (prevents peeling and other frustrating problems)
  • thin down the paint as needed if it’s too hard to spread easily
  • watch out for drips and catch them before they dry
  • allow to dry completely (per the can recommendation) before adding a top coat

How to Seal Chalk Paint

Generally, wax is used to seal chalk paint. However, you do not have to wax your finished furniture pieces. In fact, I suggest avoiding it. Now hold on to your hat, because I have more to add. Yes, that freshly chalk painted furniture flip still needs a top coat!

I have written a very detailed post on how to seal chalk paint with more recommendations on what top coats to use and how the different varieties behave on a finished piece. Wax yields a soft matte finish that is pretty, but not very durable. Waxed furniture needs to be re-coated periodically. I’ve found my own waxed pieces to be very prone to scuffs, chips, and other damage. Wax can also have a steep learning curve to get the right finish.

Instead, go with a brush-on polycrylic. Polycrylics are a water-based top coat and your paint store sells variations from matte to glossy. I often use Rust-Oleum’s Matte Clear and Minwax Matte Polycrylic. I recommend experimenting to find what you like, whether that is a wax or poly. In fact, you can even use clear aerosol spray top coats.

Always test top coats in an inconspicuous place before applying to your entire piece–sometimes they misbehave and the last thing you want is a patchy or yellowed piece. And certainly avoid oil-based polyurethane top coats which will turn white paint yellow.

When To Use Chalk Paint

Wondering where to start with chalk paint? I suggest grabbing a piece of furniture that could use a makeover and starting with that! Just dive right in. Find something in your own home or head out to the thrift store. Don’t start with a favorite piece–you’ll want more experience first. Start with a piece you like but are willing to experiment on.

Debating between using chalk style paint or another type of paint? Here’s some things to think about!

Some Great Reasons to Use Chalk Paint

  • skip sanding and priming
  • toxicity is a concern and you are looking for a very low VOC paint (try Annie Sloan!)
  • you want to save money (chalk paint can go farther than a can of regular latex paint; check out these tips on how to save money on chalk paint)
  • you’re looking for a creative outlet (there’s lots of colors, brands, and techniques to experiment with)
  • you love matte-finish furniture
  • brushstrokes and distressing is your jam
  • your home is filled with farmhouse style pieces

And here’s a list of ideas of what you can paint!

Use Chalk Paint On:

  • old, tired furniture
  • new, tired furniture
  • garage sale finds
  • old picture frames, lamps, or outdated home décor
  • inexpensive metal or wood décor from the craft store
  • mason jars
  • milk bottles
  • fabric
  • any item you want to have a rustic/distressed appearance
  • Christmas ornaments

When To Avoid Chalk Paint

Reasons Not to Use Chalk Paint

  • you are painting bathroom or kitchen cupboards (with the correct top coat, this *can* work, but I do suggest you search the internet for cautionary tales before you start chalk painting in a bathroom or kitchen!)
  • visible brushstrokes aren’t your style
  • color selection is too limited (check out Behr’s line–lots of colors and custom tinting available at Home Depot)
  • you want to make a chalkboard–use chalkboard paint instead!

Avoid Using Chalk Paint For the Following Projects:

  • kitchen cabinets (see more below)
  • bathroom cabinets (see more below)
  • unfinished furniture (however if you prime it first you are good to go!)
  • furniture that is breaking down or ultra-low quality (head to the thrift store and find something better!)
  • furniture made from wood prone to the dreaded “bleed-through” (like knotty pine or mahogany–you can make it work with a stain blocking primer, but even these heavy-duty products don’t always completely solve the problem sadly)
  • any pieces prone to heavy use and staining (kitchen tables for instance don’t tend to hold up well)
  • furniture you want to have a satin smooth look–there are other ways to paint furniture that will work better for this style

Chalk Paint Simply Isn’t Right For Every Project

For instance, I still see recommendations online suggesting that chalk paint is great for bathrooms and kitchens (cabinets specifically). However, it doesn’t always end well. High-traffic and high moisture areas are usually better served with a combination of sanding, priming, and high-quality cabinet paint (like Benjamin Moore Advance).

Any time you’re dealing with a painted surface, there is a potential for chipping, staining, and wear and tear. A chalk paint finish will exacerbate this natural wear and tear and you’ll be constantly fighting it. Instead, use chalk paint where it will shine.

It’s lovely for refreshing old furniture and lending a rustic cottage feel to any space. Use it for pieces that you plan to distress or when you desire a time-worn finish. Avoid furniture/cabinets that may receive more wear and tear than chalk paint can handle!

If you still want to use it in a kitchen or bathroom (and I do understand the appeal behind the low-prep paints), I would absolutely avoid wax (this post on chalk painted kitchen cabinets explains why) and opt for a good poly sealer (test it first of course).

Here’s another example of how chalk painted cabinets have held up over a few years (these did well with a poly sealer).

And finally, here’s a before/after of chalk painted bathroom vanities with wax and then later re-done with a polycrylic. Another thing to consider is if there would potentially be bleed-through (which would mean you’d need a good stain-blocking primer as well).

A can of chalk paint on a chair with a vintage watering can behind it.

Where to Buy Chalk Paint

There are so many places to buy chalk paint that I wrote a whole article about it (plus tips on my favorite paints and how to save money). I usually snag my paint from the Home Depot, Amazon, or local shops.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chalk Paint

It’s only natural that such a popular product would be surrounded by plenty of questions! Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about chalk paint.

Is Chalk Paint Waterproof?

Chalk Paint is not waterproof. In fact, to protect against water stains (and other damage) you need to choose a good top coat to protect your finished furniture piece. This is why I usually steer clear of wax. Wax offers only minimal protection and can be tricky to apply.

Select a top coat that is safe for chalk paints (avoid oil-based “polyurethane” since it will yellow the paint) and offers maximum protection (check your top coat can for recommendations for use). Always test top coats in an inconspicuous spot before applying to your entire piece.

I use Minwax Matte Polycrylic and Rust-Oleum Matte Clear most often for top coats, but while these products will resist water, I would not consider the final piece waterproof. Use coasters, my friends!

Is Chalk Paint Durable?

Chalk style paints are best for lower traffic furniture pieces. Kitchen tables and kitchen cabinets (for instance) require a stronger finish. These high-traffic areas tend to encounter lots of scuffing/chipping of paint.

In my own experience I’ve found that my chalk painted hutches, dressers, and even my IKEA Play Kitchen have all held up well with regular use. To improve the durability of chalk paint skip the wax and apply a stronger top coat. I usually reach for a water-based poly, such a Minwax Matte Polycrylic.

What Chalk Paint Is Best for Furniture?

There are LOTS of chalk style paints available! I go over which one to choose for your next furniture project in detail over at my post about the Best Chalk Paint Brands for Every Project .

How Do I Chalk Paint a Dresser?

Each piece of furniture might require different approaches for the best look. Dressers are one of my favorite things to paint. They go quickly and they are a wonderful blank canvas for stenciling, decoupage, and more. Check out my tutorial on How to Paint a Dresser.

What Chalk Paint is Comparable to Annie Sloan?

Annie Sloan Chalk Paints can be hard to locate (though some retailers do carry them online!) and they are priced higher than “copycat” paints. So it’s no surprise that some furniture painters are looking for a more budget-friendly option. While there is no exact replica of Annie Sloan, there are some suitable substitutes.

The main difference I’ve found is that the “copycat” paints are often not low-VOC or ultra-low VOC like Annie Sloan is (an exception being Country Chic Paint which is an ultra-low VOC/more environmentally friendly paint). The other difference is that chalk style paints (like Rust-Oleum, Magnolia, and Behr) are all a bit lighter in coverage and overall thickness. You may need an extra coat of paint on some pieces.

What Are the Ingredients in Chalk Paint?

I’m just a gal who loves painting furniture. So, while technical knowledge about paint isn’t my specialty, I thought it was important to provide some basic info in this article.

I did a little digging into the technical/safety documents of some of my favorite chalk paints (note: if you are an expert in this area, please weigh in via the comments section).

Six quarts of paint on a wooden table.

Technical Data Sheets

I looked into the technical data sheets for both KILZ and Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint. KILZ noted the Resin Type in their Chalk Style Paint is “Modified Acrylic“. Rust-Oleum’s data sheet noted a resin type of “Acrylic“.

Ingredients

Annie Sloan ingredients include, Calcium carbonate, Titanium Dioxide, Diiron trioxide, via this Safety Data Sheet. (Note: I reached out to Annie Sloan to confirm that this is an accurate copy of their safety data sheet and the copy they sent me does look to be the same.)

KILZ Chalk Style Paint ingredients include, Calcium carbonate (limestone), Titanium dioxide, Talc, Magnesium silicate hydrate. Via this Safety Data Sheet.

Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint ingredients include: Hydrous Magnesium Silicate, Titanium Dioxide, Hydrotreated Heavy Paraffinic Petroleum Distillates, 2,2,4-Trimethyl-1,3-Pentanediol Isobutyrate, Sodium Nitrite, Crystalline Silica / Quartz. Via this safety data sheet.

If you have any additional questions in relation to particular ingredients, check out the linked safety data sheets. Or, contact the manufacturer to ask more technical questions.

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A woman in a dress holding a can of Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint and a paint brush with the words, "What's So Great About Chalk Paint???"

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30 Comments

  1. Thank you for such a well written article. You told me everything I needed to know about chalk paint. I even approve of the links to products, it makes it easier. I often go to the store and have no idea what to get.

    1. Aw, thanks Vicki! I’m so glad it was helpful. Good luck with your chalk painting!

  2. You have explained so well .
    Thanks for the detailed Article. You have definetely helped and motivated me to start a chalk paint project 😬
    Love
    Shweta

  3. Would you recommend chalk paint on a window mirror project I am working on? The sash is 75 years old and quite distress. (4’x4′ old church sash with hardware.) Painted wood and bare weathered wood in no specific pattern. I wrestle with attempting to take it down to bare wood vs leave “as is” vs trying chalk paint. My gut says clean it up some and install the mirrors. I have 2 sashes so I could reluctantly experiment on one. Any and all advice is welcome. Ty.

    1. Hi Rich! Thanks for stopping by. My first thought would be to use caution in working with these windows as the paint likely contains lead. You can grab test kits from the hardware store and test it at home. If it turns out there is lead in the paint, the best option might be to pick up a product designed to seal in the paint (and the toxins). I believe there are some good products out there, but I have not tried any myself, so you could definitely ask an expert at your local paint/hardware store. The overall look in these case would remain basically the same, the paint would just be sealed.
      If the paint does not contain lead you could definitely sand it gently to get rid of chipping bits and then apply chalk paint directly over that. I personally love the look of an old original distressed piece, so I would probably go with option 1 and seal that original paint. I think it sounds like a really fun project, would enjoy hearing what you decide! Thanks for your comment!

  4. Hello, I picked up an old piano bench that looks like someone applied black chalk paint to. As I want to change that to white distress, (I think the black peeking through would be lovely); however, will the black bleed through the white paint? If so, should I use a sealer of some kind on it? Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I really enjoyed your article about chalk paint. It makes total sense to me. This will be my first time using it.”Thank you.

    1. Hi Irene! Thanks so much for your kind words. I think you are right that white paint + some distressing would add a lot to a piece like that! I actually haven’t ever painted over black chalk paint, so there may be things I am unaware of, but judging by chalk paint results in general, you really shouldn’t experience bleed through. Chalk paint usually applies really well on top of itself, if that makes sense. You might consider starting with a coat of primer (I like Zinsser Smart Prime or something along those lines), but oftentimes two coats of chalk paint will cover things readily. I would give it a test in an inconspicuous area (like underneath the bench seat) and see how the chalk paint looks. The other consideration I thought of is that perhaps the original painter chose black because the original finish of the bench itself was bleeding through? You should still be able to see this through the paint (though more subtle than if the paint was a light color) though if that was the case. Sometimes you just don’t know until you try! If I were you, I’d give it a test with two coats of white chalk paint, lightly distress, and then finish everything off with a polycrylic like Rustoleum Matte Clear. No guarantees of course, but I think that should work well. Would love to hear how it turns out!

  5. I have been planning on chalk painting or steel front door. It is under a porch and has the factory primer on it. Do you think Rust-Oleum chalked spray paint would be a good application or is Chalk paint not a good idea?

    1. Hi Kaye! If I’m understanding correctly, the porch door is outdoors? I live in MN, so I’m generally opposed to using chalk paint for any outdoor applications as our seasons can be pretty harsh. Rust-Oleum actually makes a spray paint called “Stops Rust” that is designed for outdoor use on metal surfaces. I haven’t used it myself, but I have been really happy with every Rust-Oleum product I have tried. It might be worth a look! 🙂

  6. I’d like to change my brown rattan chair to a lighter, more natural color. Will chalk paint work for this project?

    1. Hi Marilyn! Great question. I personally haven’t used chalk paint on rattan, but I’m sure it’s possible. I would suggest doing a google or Pinterest search to see if you find a project someone has already accomplished with a similar piece.
      This article from Honey and Roses might give you a starting point:
      https://honeyandroses.com/2015/07/01/how-to-paint-a-wicker-chair-with-chalk-paint/

      I’d love to see what you decide to do!
      Thanks for stopping by!
      Ellen

  7. I loved your article! I’m seeing people using chalk paint on crafts they are doing. The small bottles that are found in art sections of Walmart or Hobby Lobby and Micheal’s are these the same type of paints? I have no idea about this type of paint I’m trying to learn as I’m new to crafting, not furniture recycling. But I see something called wax and another called varnish in these paints and I have no idea if I need any of them? To complete a craft? Please help!

    1. Thanks so much Marquita! That is a great question. Without seeing the exact paints you are considering, I would suggest first to check the bottle to determine the following:
      1. What the paint is marketed to be used on (raw wood, painted wood, metal, etc.). Make sure the surface you want to paint is listed.
      2. What the paint suggests as far as needing a primer, multiple coats, or a sealer. A chalk paint like Annie Sloan needs to be finished with a wax or polycrylic otherwise it has sort of a “chalky” feel the touch and won’t hold up well without a protective clear coat.
      3. Do you want to distress the paint? Choose a paint that is marketed as good for distressing/sanding.

      In general, I would say to choose a high-quality paint (if you are looking for a chalk paint: Rust-Oleum, or Annie Sloan) to paint furniture. If you just doing some small crafts that won’t see much wear-and-tear, feel free to experiment the craft store paints! I believe that Annie Sloan also might carry smaller sample pots you can order if you just need small quantities for any projects.

      Happy crafting!
      ~Ellen

  8. Thank you for this article. I have been wondering about chalk paint and why people don’t simply use a matte or satin latex instead. I have also seen vloggers using polycrylic as a chalk paint sealer. I would do this because that chalky finish to me is almost like a “fingernails scraping slate” feeling. Ew!! Anyway, good advice in this article and thank you.

    1. Hi Virginia! Yes, a matte or satin latex can definitely be a great choice too. I think people are often enticed by the “no prep” aspect, but since I believe prepping (cleaning, lightly sanding, even priming) is helpful regardless, that’s not usually a factor I consider much when I choose what paint to use for a piece. Chalk paint can also be a bit pricey, so latex can be more cost-effective too. I totally agree with the “nails on a chalkboard” feeling! Ugh–I definitely always seal my paint. 😉 I love how much faster using a polycrylic is compared to wax!
      Thanks for stopping by!
      ~Ellen

  9. Any suggestions for prepping fairly open grained medium brown stained solid oak bookshelves? Also if I use the poly sealer, can I chalk paint over it if I want to change the color in the future? I appreciate your tips, as this is my first chalk painting project in several years.

    1. Hi Connie, thanks for stopping by!
      For prep, my favorite method is to lightly sand (I love just using a medium sanding block followed by a fine block, super easy), wipe off dust and then prime. For a stained piece, it’s always hard to know if there will be bleed-through. Using a primer like Zinsser Bull’s Eye 1-2-3 should help with any of that. I do a coat of that (I actually usually do two for extra security, but up to you!) followed by two coats chalk paint and one coat polycrylic. As you paint, you’ll want to really get into that wood grain with your brush so you get an even finish. You will still see the texture of grain through the paint.

      Alternatively, if you just want to dive in, simply clean your piece well and start chalk painting. The downside to this method is if there is any bleed-through you will just have to start back at the beginning with the first method I outlined. It’s always a bit of a risk re-painting furniture, but the rewards of course are great!

      If you use a water-based polycrylic (which I love!) to seal, you should be able to paint over your piece with a fresh color whenever you want so long as you continue to stick to water-based paints. The problems usually happen when mixing oil-based on top of water-based or vice versa.

      Hope that helps!
      ~Ellen

  10. Hello! I’m new to your website and am thoroughly enjoying it! Chalk-type paint is intriguing and I’m wondering if I can use it to re-do a vintage “Japanese” painted cabinet – black (glossy but not enamel), with flowers/birds hand painted “in relief” in various faded pastel colors. ….. I want the cabinet to be a low-key white. I don’t mind if some of the pastel colors show through but I definitely want the “in relief” aspect of the flowers/birds to show through. ….. (1) Based on your experience, do you think “chalk-type paint” would work? .. (2) Can you remove/wash off “chalk-type paint” without destroying the underlying paint? .. Thank you for any input/suggestions!

    1. Hi Catey Ann, so sorry for the delay in response!
      I’ll answer your second question first. Once you paint with chalk paint, you would still need to sand to remove it…ruining the original finish. So, like any paint, you’ll want to be sure before starting!
      As for how it would look, I’ve never painted a piece like this, so I’m really not sure! I wonder if you could find a small piece of something similar (like a tray or artwork or something) for cheap or free (maybe on Facebook Marketplace?) and give it a try on a tester piece first?
      My main concern would be, are you ok with the “rustic brushstrokes” look on a piece like this? As for the relief to show through, I’m just not sure. But, I can tell you that chalk paint is very opaque and while the actual texture of a piece may still be present (though perhaps not as obvious), it generally will cover original colors quite well.
      I’d love to hear what you end up deciding to do!
      Thanks for stopping by!
      Ellen

  11. What do you suggest for primer? I bought Behr chalk paint and Wax. I did the drawer front, let it dry and applied wax.. Not especially impressed. Guess I’ll sand it down and start over. I don’t plan on distressing the cabinet just want nice finish. Thanks for your input.
    A.

    1. Hi there Alice, thanks for stopping by!
      For primer, I have had good success with Zinsser Bull’s Eye 1-2-3 or even just asking at Sherwin Williams (they are so helpful and will be able to point you in the right direction if you are having any specific issues with bleed through etc.). I have also used Zinsser B-I-N when I have had issues with bleed-through. That stuff is strong!
      Also, how many coats did you paint? I find with chalk paint that I need at least two coats to get things looking good.
      Would love to hear how things go!
      Thanks again,
      Ellen 🙂

      1. Thank you for this information. In answer to your question, I sanded the piece down to bare wood and applied one coat. So, I’ll be doing a second coat on the drawer but a primer on the cabinet. I’ll let you know but its going to be awhile as we are having quite a bit of rain and its no fun doing this in a humid garage.!
        Alice

        1. Ok! Yes, priming sounds great then. If you are starting with bare wood you’ll want to prime since the chalk paint just soaks into the wood otherwise (I need to clarify the steps I usually use in the post above). I usually just sand lightly to give the surface a bit of grip and take care of anything that could use a little smoothing out (sometimes I have to fill holes etc. and then it’s just a quick pass with a sanding block afterwards). If you use the chalk paint on top of an already finished piece then it sits on top of the original coat and you don’t have the problem of soaking in. But then of course there can be bleed-through depending on the original finish–that’s why I always just start with primer. Haha, refinishing furniture can be a finicky business!

          Best of luck!
          Ellen

  12. I just used Annie Sloan chalk paint and used the Rustoleum Matte Clear as the topcoat for an armoire but the top coat has completely ruined the color of the chalk paint! It looks all streaky and even took off some of the underlying paint. (I did three coats of the Annie Sloan paint). Have you ever run into this issue? I’m wondering if I need to start over with a new coat of Annie Sloan and use a wax for the top coat instead or just switch to the Rustoleum chalked paint and try the matte clear topcoat again. Any suggestions would be helpful!

    1. Hi Nicole! I’m so sorry! That is really disappointing. I love using Matte Clear and while I usually use it over Rust-Oleum Chalked paint, I have also used it over Annie Sloan with success. I am thinking about it, and I have used over primarily very light colors (white, cream, duck egg blue). Does your piece happen to be a dark color? I wonder if that would make a difference?
      A couple more thoughts:
      1. Paint should be very dry before applying a top coat. I noticed on the Rust-Oleum Matte Clear label it does suggest 8 hrs of dry time before coating paint with Matte Clear. The fact that the Matte Clear actually removed some paint makes me wonder if the paint was completely dry/cured?
      2. I did some research before I responded and I found a few cases of others encountering some streakiness with the brush-on poly and it was suggested to use a spray top coat instead. Having just finished a project with a spray poly I can say it was a very clean finish, though I haven’t experimented enough to recommend the product I used specifically in this case.
      3. I also found another manufacturer of a different poly topcoat that suggested the Annie Sloan paint is so porous that the top coat may just “sink in” and they suggested doing a couple more coats to even it out. I have not tried that myself, but it seemed logical. If you go this route, I would try it in an inconspicuous spot if you can!
      4. Sometimes the original finish of the piece can affect the final look too. Chalk painting can be a bit of a guessing game, that is for sure!

      If you have used wax previously and like the finish, I think that your thought of applying more chalk paint and then finishing with wax could work. It’s worth noting though that “wax is last” and once that goes on, you won’t be able to try anything else on top (it won’t stick).
      However, my inclination (taking into account that the top coat actually peeled up some of the paint) is to wonder if the coats were completely dry…It might be best to even let the piece dry out a full day or two and then see how it looks and go from there. Maybe try doing the test of a 2nd coat of Matte Clear inside of one of the doors or a similar area that won’t be seen.
      Feel free to send me an email (ellenATbellewoodcottageDOTcom) too if you want to send any pics over and any additional questions. Hopefully we can get this piece looking the way you want!
      ~Ellen 🙂

  13. Hello!

    My daughter likes the nice farm style in her house. She has dark wood cabinets in her kitchen. We are considering the chalk paint, however, you do not recommend it for kitchens. Would it not work with a good sealer? Please advice!
    Thanks.

    Lina

    1. Hi there Lina!

      Yes, I tend to be on the side of avoiding chalk paint in kitchens/bathrooms. However, a lot of people still use it and some have been really pleased with the results! I do think using the correct sealer makes a very big difference. Seeing the difference in how wax holds up (not good) versus a poly sealer (good) is actually encouraging I think on the side of potentially using chalk paint.
      I would suggest gathering as much research as possible and then deciding based off of that. Since I haven’t tried chalk paint in my own kitchen, I’ll point you to some resources to start with (and I’ll update the post too for anyone else who has this question).

      Here’s a great explanation of chalk painted cabinets with wax (and then later completely redone with a better sealer) – https://sincerelysarad.com/repainted-chalk-painted-cabinets/
      Here’s a post on bathroom vanities which shows the severe damage that can occur when wax is the top coat (I’ve followed Sarah on Instagram for ages and this post details how she re-did the vanities and sealed them with a polycrylic and they held up better…but she did eventually replace with completely new vanities) –
      https://sarahjoyblog.com/new-improved-farmhouse-bathroom-vanities/
      Here’s a post (chalk paint with a poly sealer) that shows chalk painted cabinets a few years after finishing: https://www.artsychicksrule.com/my-chalk-painted-cabinets-4-years-later/

      I hope these are helpful! You can find more by doing a Google search for “chalk paint kitchen cabinets” to see more examples.
      Thanks for stopping by!
      ~Ellen

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