A Guide to Applying Chalk Paint to Furniture

Applying chalk paint to furniture is an affordable way to give those worn out pieces a facelift. The process has become more popular recently because it’s also a time-saving approach to DIY makeovers for furniture pieces. How should you go about it?

To apply chalk paint to furniture, you need first to decide the look you’re going for. Apart from the basics like color choices, you’ll also have to decide if you want a modern or distressed look. After making your decisions, choose the chalk paint product that matches your goals and paint.

Whether you are looking to give a new lease of life to old furniture or transform your interior décor drastically, you can use chalk paint to good effect. The rest of this guide will cover everything you need to know about using chalk paints on furniture.

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What Is Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint is a decorative type of furniture paint first developed by Annie Sloan in 1990. It has a matte, velvety finish, which leaves any furniture painted with it looking polished. This is why it is used in a wide range of interior décor makeover projects, including painting cabinets, floors, walls, ceilings, and more.

Apart from wood, the product also looks good on plastic, metal, cement, and even bricks. However, in this guide, we are focusing on using it on furniture.

Choose the Furniture Piece

You most likely already have a piece (or pieces) of furniture in mind to revamp with chalk paint. However, it’s a good idea to start with a small piece if this will be your first project. A mistake on a small side table can be hidden better than one on a large dresser.

A Guide to Applying Chalk Paint to Furniture

This way, you can practice, learn, and increase your chances of success when you start painting more serious pieces. Your chosen sample piece should ideally be one that doesn’t need any fixes or repairs, so you can just get down to painting.

Choose Your Chalk Paint Color

Most DIY tutorials on Pinterest and elsewhere use white or grey as their chalk paint color of choice. However, there are lots of other vibrant colors you can choose from. Look at product websites to see the colors they have and then compare them with the results you’re looking to achieve. Don’t forget to take the aesthetics of your wider interior décor into consideration.

Get the Right Paintbrush

Using the right paintbrush is as important as your choice of paint. If you choose to work with paintbrushes that have cheap bristles, they’ll leave streaks all over your painting and disintegrate while you’re still working. You may also end up with some of the disintegrated bristles mixing into the paint and drying on the piece of furniture, making your painting look untidy.

Purdy 144080315 XL Dale Paint Brush, 1-1/2 in., Light Brown
  • PURDY XL PAINT BRUSHES - Purdy XL Series brushes are great for all types of environments, both interior and exterior. These paint applicators will help you get the job done right the first time.
  • VERSATILE - Our most popular brush line, these medium-stiff painting brushes are designed for latex and oil-based paints, primers and stains.
  • MEDIUM STIFF BRISTLE BRUSH - Designed to be easily cleaned, the DuPont Tynex nylon and Orel polyester-blend bristles offer superior durability and abrasion resistance.

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This is why you should ensure you get quality paint brushes from top brands like Purdy. Their Purdy 144080315 XLPurdy 144152120 Clearcut, and Purdy 144152325 XL series are some of the best options you can use for a project such as this one.

Purdy 144152120 Clearcut Series Glide Angular Trim Paint Brush, 2 inch
  • PURDY CLEARCUT PAINT BRUSHES - Purdy Clearcut paint brushes are designed for well-defined lines and precise cut-in ability. These paint applicators will help you get the job done right the first time.
  • DESIGNED FOR ALL PAINTS - The stiff Tynex nylon and Orel polyester-blend filaments in the stiff bristles on this painters brush are great for all latex paints and primers.
  • STIFF BRISTLE BRUSH - These high-quality painting brushes are lightweight with stainless steel ferrules and moisture-wicking alderwood handles making them easy to control. Perfect for the DIY-er or the professional painter.

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2-1/2" Purdy 144152325 XL Glide Angled Sash Paint Brush, Tynex Orel
  • PURDY XL PAINT BRUSHES - Purdy XL Series brushes are great for all types of environments, both interior and exterior. These paint applicators will help you get the job done right the first time.
  • VERSATILE - Our most popular brush line, these medium-stiff painting brushes are designed for latex and oil-based paints, primers and stains.
  • MEDIUM STIFF BRISTLE BRUSH - Designed to be easily cleaned, the DuPont Tynex nylon and Orel polyester-blend bristles offer superior durability and abrasion resistance.

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Get All Supplies You Need

Your paintbrush and the paint itself are just two of the things you need for this project. There are a few more items you need to put together to complete the job successfully. They include the following:

  • A painting drop cloth
  • Clean rags (lint-free ideally)
  • An opener for the paint can
  • Paper towels
  • Screwdriver (useful for removing hardware)
  • A container with water
  • Painter’s tape
  • Ziploc bags
  • Paint stirrer (wooden)
  • Empty container to hold the portion of paint you’re working with
  • Safety gear (chalk paints are water-based, but you still need to protect your fingers, clothes, etc.)
  • Wax

Choose and Set the Space

Choosing the best workspace to paint your furniture isn’t always straightforward, especially if you live in an environment where the weather isn’t always friendly. As with other paints, you can’t work with chalk paint on your furniture if the weather outside is too hot or too cold.

A Guide to Applying Chalk Paint to Furniture

It’s always a good idea to create space indoors for your painting, under reasonable temperatures. Don’t forget to protect the floor with the drop cloth to keep it protected against drops of paint or an accidental splash.

Clean the Piece of Furniture

You need to clean the furniture piece before you start painting it. If you want to capture how the piece looked before painting, take a picture before cleaning the piece. Start the cleaning by wiping down the furniture to get rid of any dirt and debris. A slightly damp rag can do the job. Once you’ve finished cleaning, get a cleaning wipe such as Clorox or Lysol and go over it again to ensure there’s no dust or grit stuck under the coats of paint.

Get rid of labels, stickers, or any residue on the surface of the furniture. If they are stubborn, use Goo Gone Adhesive Remover to remedy the situation. Alternatively, you can just use warm water and soap, but that will require waiting for some time for the furniture to dry out properly. Proper cleaning is important because the chalk paint won’t adhere neatly on dirty surfaces.

Goo Gone Adhesive Remover - 8 Ounce - Surface Safe Adhesive Remover Safely Removes Stickers Labels Decals Residue Tape Chewing Gum Grease Tar
  • Safely Restore Your Surfaces - The surface-safe formula removes the goo without harming your surface. Formulated with citrus cleaning agents and a pleasant citrus scent
  • Trusted #1 Brand For Removing Gooey Messes – Try it on stickers, wax, markers, crayons, glue, tar, window decals, glitter, gum, labels and so much more
  • Multiple Uses Around The House – Everything from wine glass label remover, scuff eraser, window sill cleaner, adhesive remover, tar cleaner, crayon drawing eraser, to glue remover

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Remove All Hardware You Do Not Want to Paint

You need to remove knobs, handles, drawers, shelves, and other decorative elements on the furniture piece. While removing them, you need to pay attention to see how they were installed and each one’s position. This is to ensure you can put it all back together when you’re done. It would be best to store them in a Ziploc bag for the smaller pieces to avoid losing any of them.

Sand the Furniture Piece Lightly

This is an optional step that most people don’t need when using chalk paint on furniture. However, if your furniture piece feels rough to the touch, you should sand it lightly using 220-grit sandpaper. You can consider using a sanding block to ensure you apply consistent pressure and deliver even sanding. 

A Guide to Applying Chalk Paint to Furniture

When sanding, work from the top, moving downwards. Avoid sanding against the wood grain as it can lead to damage to the wood.

Cover Scratches and Gouges

If you found deep gouges and scratches in the furniture piece, use wood filler like Elmer’s E842L Carpenter’s Wood Filler to close them up. A putty knife will make the application easier. However, if you are going for a dated look with your painting, it may be a good idea to leave these scratches without filling them.

Elmer's E842L Carpenter's Interior Wood Filler; 32 Ounce; 1 Quart
  • Ideal for Repairing Holes, Dents, Scratches, Gouges and Defects On Any Wood, Wallboard, Molding or Painted Surface
  • 12-24 Hours Dry Time; Dries Fast, Dries Hard
  • Paintable + Sandable; Resists Shrinking + Cracking

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Protect Areas You Do Not Want to Paint With Tape

Painter’s tape will help you cover parts of the furniture piece you’d rather not paint, ranging from drawer edges to hinges and everything else. You can also use the tape to cover fittings and fixtures that you’ve not been able to remove or those that were not designed to be removed.

Paint the First Coat

Once you’ve covered all the basics we’ve discussed thus far, it’s time to paint your furniture. 

  1. The first thing you should do is to mix the can of paint and stir it very well. Be sure to extend the stirrer to the bottom of the can.
  1. Get your paintbrush and dip it in water, then pat dry it with a clean rag. 
  1. Pour half cup of the chalk paint into your leak-proof painting container, then add a teaspoon of water and stir it properly. 
  1. Be sure to cover the main can of paint as you take more paint to work with. This way, it won’t dry out and cake.
  1. When you start painting, start as lightly as possible. 
  1. Start from the side of the furniture or similar if you’re not confident. As you get more comfortable, you can move to more visible corners. 
  1. Paint in line with the grain of the wood, and you won’t have to worry about the type of strokes you deploy.
  1. You should also complete painting one side fully before moving to another side. Don’t sweat about the streaky first coat as well. It is perfectly normal. 
  1. Once you’re done giving the furniture its first coat, wrap your paintbrush in a Ziploc and refrigerate so it won’t dry out as you’re waiting for the coat to dry.

Paint the Second Coat

The wait time between the first and second coat for a standard chalk-paint should be around one hour. Once the first coat is dry, you can proceed to the second coat. Just repeat the painting process from the initial painting, but make the paint coat a bit thicker. You should let the second coat dry for at least a day before moving on to other steps.

Clean Your Paintbrush

The best time to clean your paintbrush is immediately after you’re done painting. Use some dishwashing liquid and water to wash off the chalk paint, and you’ll have the brush ready for use in the future. However, if you allow it to cake, you will lose bristles when you try to wash it. Once the brush is clean, use a clean rag to pat it clean, and then leave it to air dry before storing it away.

A Guide to Applying Chalk Paint to Furniture

Distressing Your Furniture After Chalk Painting

After it’s been chalk painted, distressing your furniture is a great way to give it a worn or authentic vintage appearance. However, it’s not compulsory. To achieve this, you should use the 220-grit sandpaper to rub over edges, corners, knobs, and other parts of the furniture that will get worn out naturally over time. 

Once that’s done, use a clean lint-free cloth to get rid of the resulting dust, and you’ll have your distressed painted furniture.

Waxing the Furniture

Adding a second coat (and maybe distressing) isn’t the end of the painting process. Chalk paint doesn’t come with a sealer like most paints. Therefore, you need wax to seal the color and also protect the finish from water and debris.

Before applying the wax, you need to ensure the paint has dried completely. You should also use a different brush for the process. Some paintbrushes are specifically designed for this purpose. They come with a rounded tip and a typically heavy handle.

You can also buy paint and wax brush sets like the Smartvision Chalk & Wax Paint Brush pack. Once a brush has been dipped in wax, you can’t use it for painting, and vice versa. You should buy the wax at the same time you’re getting the paint.

Chalk and Wax Paint Brush Furniture Set- Painting or Waxing - Milk Paint - Dark or Clear Soft Wax - Home Decor Cabinets Stencils Woods - Natural Bristles 1 Small Round and 1 Large Oval Brushes
  • Our large Chalk Paint brush & small round paint brush are Natural Bristles paint brush, With Nickel Plated Ferrule head & Birch Wood Handle is a perfect furniture paint brush
  • Premium Quality chalk paint wax brush with Natural Bristles and Easily gripped Wooden Handle, Delivers Quality Result on all Surfaces of furniture.
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You should brush the wax onto your painted furniture. It’s important to massage and buff the clear wax, working on a small area per time, just as when you were painting. As you work, you’ll see how the color of the furniture is enhanced.

Keep another clean cloth on hand to wipe off excess wax, but only in the wood grain direction. You should continue this process until you’ve completed the wax application across the entire furniture piece. 

Clear wax is the preferred option for many people. Still, you can also use dark wax if you want to enhance your chalk-painted furniture’s vintage appearance. It’s unnecessary, but it’s another element you should consider, especially if you chose the distressed look.

After applying wax to the furniture, give it another day to dry before you start putting back handles, drawers, and other fittings you removed originally. Once that’s all done, your furniture is ready to use!

However, you should note that applying wax will remove the matte finish that chalk paint is typically known for. At the end of the process, you’ll get a silky texture.

Some Tips to Keep in Mind When Painting Furniture With Chalk Paint

Don’t Use Too Much Paint on One Spot

You need to pay attention when painting to avoid using too much paint on one section. The paint is thick, so it’s easy to make this mistake regularly. 

A Guide to Applying Chalk Paint to Furniture

However, if you take too much paint, don’t sweat it. Chalk paint is a lot more forgiving than latex, where you only have about ten seconds until the paint starts to leave streaks when you try to go over it again. Since you’ll have more latitude to go over wet chalk paint and thin it a little bit more, there’s no reason to use too much paint.

You Can Work Directly From the Can

Most people mix the paint in a separate container (as we recommended above), but you can also work straight from the can. Add some water to the can, stir it properly, and dip your brush. 

The downside to this is that it’s only a good idea when you’re painting furniture that’s big enough to use up the whole can. Otherwise, you’d have wasted the already mixed paint. Don’t forget to cover the can between each brush dip as it can still dry out.

Pay Attention to the Wood Grain

You may be tempted to go against the wood grain while painting, so you can cover a section faster. However, it’s always important to ensure that the final stroke is in the wood grain direction. This way, your painting will look neater.

A Guide to Applying Chalk Paint to Furniture

You Can Create Depth While Painting

If you’d like to add some depth to your painting, you should consider using a two-color distress approach to give a unique appearance to your chalk-painted furniture. Use a darker color at the base of the furniture and a lighter one at the top of it. Lightly sand the top option to complete the look and achieve maximum depth.

Consider Adopting Varied Consistency

Thinning or thickening chalk paint is very straightforward since it’s water-based. If you want the paint to thicken a bit, leave the can open for a while. If you want to thin it down, just add a little bit of water. This is not possible with latex paint because it dries out and develops a cover when you leave the paint’s lid open. Chalk paint doesn’t have this problem.

Switch Your Brushstrokes

If you want to create a unique look for your furniture pieces when using chalk paint, you should consider switching up your brushstroke intermittently. You can brush over an area horizontally first and then go over it a second time with vertical strokes. This way, you’ll give your furniture piece a linen-like look on the surface. 

A Guide to Applying Chalk Paint to Furniture

For some added texture, you should consider pouring some thick paint into your container and then get some onto the surface using your paintbrush. If you prefer a smoother appearance, use some thin paint instead, applying only gentle and parallel brushstrokes across the surface.

Sanding Can Give You a Super Smooth Finish

Most people use chalk paint for the vintage or heavily-textured appearance that can be achieved. However, if you look around online, you’ll find lots of smooth applications. The mineral content in chalk paint means that sanding it down is relatively easy, offering you a great way to produce a smooth finish.

You can achieve this by sanding lightly using 220-grit sandpaper. The focus of the sanding should be just to eliminate stipples or brushstrokes. You don’t need to sand down into the paint layer, as is the case when you’re going for a distressed look. Repeat the process after you’ve added a second coat to achieve a very smooth finish.

Other Chalk Paint Brands to Consider

As mentioned above, Annie Sloan first made chalk paints, and her company owns the Chalk Paint trademark. However, other paint manufacturers have since developed their own takes on this decorative paint. This means that you don’t only have to use Annie Sloan products. 

Some of the popular brands you can use instead include:

  • Retique It by Renaissance Chalk Paint: This is a highly-rated and eco-friendly chalk paint that is very versatile. Many people choose it because it’s one of the most affordable options in this niche. It comes in a wide range of colors and works well on all kinds of furniture. Achieving the distressed look with it is also super easy.
Retique It Chalk Furniture Acrylic Paint by Renaissance DIY, 32 oz (Quart), 32 Fl Oz, White
  • GREAT RESULTS - Superior coverage, usually 1 to 2 coats with Amazing adhesion to a wide variety of surfaces; little-to-no prep work required (just clean first)
  • FURNITURE, CABINETS & MORE- Formulated specifically for furniture, cabinets & home decor; can be used for craft and art projects as well
  • INTERIOR / EXTERIOR- Works great for interior and exterior projects alike. For exterior projects, simply use a marine finish topcoat like our Polytique It before applying the clear wax

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  • Americana Chalk Paint: This is an option to consider if you are looking for a vintage European look for your furniture piece. This is a chalky matte paint you can count on to deliver excellent results when you’re revamping your furniture.
DecoArt ADC-02 Americana Chalky Finish Paint, 8-Ounce, Lace
  • Paint that creates a unique chalky matte finish that gives pieces an old-world European look and feel
  • Package Dimensions: 7.874 H x 7.111 L x 7.366 W (centimeters)
  • Package Weight: 0.65 pounds

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  • Rust-Oleum Chalked Ultra-Matte Paint: This Rust-Oleum model is another chalk paint known for drying quickly. You can complete two coats in under an hour using it. Unlike some chalk paints, the white version of this doesn’t have that slight yellow tinge.

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  • Chalky Chicks Furniture Paint: This is another easy to use chalk paint option. It has a quicker dry time than others in the niche, and you also get to choose from a wide range of colors.
Chalky Chicks Premium Chalk Style Paint for Furniture, Home Decor & DIY Crafts – Eco Friendly – No Sanding, No Primer Needed – Multi Surface Paint – Old Lace (Off White) – 32 oz – Made in the USA
  • PREMIUM CHALK STYLE PAINT: Our Chalk Style Paint provides Superior coverage to paint most surfaces, indoor or outdoor, including furniture, wood, laminate, glass, resin, metal, brick, cement & more.
  • FURNITURE, CABINETS & MORE- Chalk Style Paint developed and used for furniture, cabinets, upholstery and home decor - Also Perfect for craft projects & more
  • VERSATILE PAINT - Designed for distressed styles as well as modern contemporary styles. Little to no prep work required. Spray gun ready

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  • Valspar Chalky Finish Paint: This paint is smooth and delivers excellent coverage. A small quantity of it can cover a great deal of space. It requires little to no preparation and will adhere to surfaces easily.
Valspar 104.0030757.005 Chalky Finish Paint, Eucalyptus
  • Little to no prep
  • Seals and Protects
  • Flawless Surface

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  • The Spruce Best Home Chalk Style Paint: This model is another interesting chalk paint product you can choose when painting furniture. You should consider using only a single coat of it if you want your furniture piece’s existing texture to be visible. However, if you’d like a smooth finish, you may need up to three coats.
KILZ 15104 Chalky Finish Paint, 1 Quart, SPR-C13 White Bead Board, 32 Fl Oz
  • The Spruce Best Home by KILZ Chalky Finish Paint is an ultra matte decorative chalk-finish paint for upcycling furniture and more.
  • Can be brushed or rolled onto old or new wood, cast stone, concrete, glass, metal, wicker and more.
  • White Bead Board SPR-C13 is a cool and crisp white.

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Go over these options if you think Annie Sloan’s products aren’t for you or can’t find them. The results will be pretty similar. If you’re working on a large project, it may be tempting to buy different brands and combine them. However, there’s no telling how the mixture will turn out.

If you must buy products from multiple brands, you should only use specific options per furniture piece. Don’t mix white Annie Sloan and white Rust-Oleum paint on one dresser, for example. The resulting mix when the paint dries might be very different from what you had in mind at the start of the process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why Should You Go With Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint is easy to work with and highly versatile. Some of the standard preparations required when using other types of paint are not necessary with it. If you have a fairly clean piece of furniture, you can jump right straight to painting it.

As a water-based paint, you do not have to worry about dangerous fumes. Most options in the market have a slight odor. They also dry quickly, and you don’t have to worry about paint dripping all over the place.

Cleaning up after painting is also very easy due to the water-based nature. Some soap and water will always get rid of the paint. Even with large spills, soaking the affected fabric or surface in soapy water can remedy the situation. For clothes, you may have to leave them in the washing machine for a little longer than usual, but once done, you will most likely not find any trace of the paint remaining.

The simplicity of using chalk paint is why it is popular amongst both newbies to DIY and experts that have painted dozens of furniture in the past. Of course, it always looks great when the painting is done properly. It is hard not to love the results.

Do You Have to Sand Before Using Chalk Paint?

As mentioned above, most of the common preparations when using other types of paint are unnecessary when using chalk paint. This includes sanding. Some people recommend sanding lightly before you start painting and in between coats, but this is not compulsory. You will get good results even if you do not use a sander at all during the process.

Similarly, there is no need for priming when using chalk paint. The closest you would come to such preparations is cleaning dirt off the furniture piece.

Is Chalk Paint Durable?

On its own, chalk paint is not very durable. This is why you need to apply wax after the paint has dried, as we have covered above. Once the chalk paint is protected by wax, it can withstand wear and tear for years.

A good tip is to use two or three layers of wax on parts of your furniture that will get a lot of traffic over time, such as the top of tables and dressers or the seat part of wooden chairs and the handles. Parts that will not see much traffic will be fine with just one coat of wax. When applying the wax, do not forget to allow enough dry time between coats.


Applying chalk paint to furniture is a fairly straightforward process that anyone can complete in a couple of hours or less. The first step in the process is deciding the kind of look you would like to achieve and get all the supplies you need to bring it to life. Once you have got everything you need, the actual painting process is easy.

Remember, you do not have to worry about sanding and priming, as is typically the case when using other types of paints. Do not forget to apply wax after the paint has dried to preserve the surface for a very long time.


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