chalk painting: “how to” details

After my last post the chalk paint craze,  one of my readers (oh, sounds like I have tons, haha) wrote to me asking more details about what I really do and for tips for chalk painting furniture. She is going to do several projects. I hope this helps her and everyone create something beautiful. You can save the un-save-able and make it better than ever!


  • Remove all hardware or handles.
  • Clean any grease, wax or oil off with low VOC mineral spirits (easy to find at Walmart)  low VOC mineral spirits doesn’t smell as bad as the old stuff. Or you can use degreaser or TSP but rinse well.
  • If there is anything that will bleed through ie. marking pen or weird stains, spray primer on it. Any glue residue must be removed.
  • If you have big dents or scratches and don’t want them to show you’ll need to fix them before painting
  • If it’s melamine or laminated you need to lightly sand (like wiping it down) to give it extra tooth, making it easier for the paint to stick. If you don’t want to sand use special primer with shellac in it.  Shellac primers come in cans or spray cans. 
  • If you want a real distressed look and don’t care where the paint sticks, skip the cleaning.  Before painting you can use a resist so the paint won’t stick very easily, so it’s easier to distress.
  • Add resists if you want a distressed look. Resists are white candles, bee’s wax, Vaseline and baby oil. Rub them where you want the paint to come off like where there would be natural wear on the piece or to show underlying paint of a different color.,
spray primer to eliminate marking pen bleed through
spray primer to eliminate marking pen bleed through


1 heaping table-spoon of drywall mud mixed with a little water till smooth about cake batter consistency

add around 1 cup of latex paint in a disposable container.

for a large projects large dresser, armoires, china cabinets etc.  double or triples amounts


  • Paint light coats, it dries super fast.

smooth finish

  • Sand lightly between coats using a sanding sponge. Like your wiping it down. 
  • Sand out drips and bumps. 
  • For flat surfaces use a foam roller. I paint 3 or 4 light coats very lightly sanding between. It will be like sanding when you tape drywall seams, lots of dust
  • This technique will fill in small scratches and dents, leaving a smooth finish when the sealer is added.

distress aged finish

chip brushes are great for an aged distressed look and dry brushing
  • Use a cheap chip brush or old junky brush
  •  Paint sloppy.
  • Layer multiple colors for a unique look.
  • Dry brushing (lightly painting with a lighter color on edges or raise details)
  •  Sand after 2-3 coats, removing any really bad drips.
  • Then distress


  • Hand sand where it naturally would wear. Corners and edges mostly.
  • Be careful if using palm sander. Use 100-150 grit to avoid take off to much to quickly.
  • You can layer many colors so when you distress they show through. Using a resist will help loosing the paint showing multiple layers
  • You can try a wet rag. Wring it out and rub at the paint this works great where you’ve use a resist ie Vaseline.
first project using chalk paint, Vaseline was used as a resist, blue chalk paint, wiped off with wet rag, dry brush with white chalk paint, clear wax lastly dark wax.


  • I find it’s necessary to seal chalk paint. If you leave it unsealed it  absorbs unwanted oils.
  • The paint also washes off when cleaning like flat wall paint, if left unsealed..
  • Sealing can be done with lots of products.
  • I use furniture wax of items that do not need cleaning with strong cleaners: chairs, small tables, night stand etc.  Wax has less odor than poly.
  • I use poly on table tops and bathroom cabinets, anything that’s going to be around a lot of water or cleaners. I use wipe-on oil based poly on most things. However, if your paint is white, and you don’t want it to yellow, I use water based poly. there is a slight change but, it doesn’t yellow as much. Rust-Oleum has new water based polys I’m trying now. I like the flat, but they are not wipe-on, only brush on.

aging with wax

  • Colored waxes can be used to give an aged look to the piece
  • Always use a CLEAR WAX FIRST
  • Then use a light or dark wax. If looks too heavy, or dark, it can be wiped off and changed.

ideas to stand out

Maybe choose a fun color! Or paper inside the back to give a fun contrast. You can use wrapping paper, posters, maps, fabrics or old wallpaper to cabinets or shelves. The back of most cabinets can be pried off. This makes it easier to paint or cover. Then just tack it back on with small nails or staples. Sides or the insides of drawers can be a brighter color or pattern different from the main body.


tips to make it easy

  • Try starting upside down on small furniture, chairs, tables, bookcases etc. so you finish right side up and unblemished.
  • If it’s too heavy to flip around, put cardboard or plastic under it and space something smaller than the legs underneath such as a stack of quarters or washers etc. Even small pieces of wood or pieces of pipe can be used so you can paint the legs easily and not paint the floor.
  • I like to paint my light smaller stuff up on old tables or sawhorses. That way my back isn’t killing me.
  • Free standing cabinets or bookcases backs can be removed to make it easier to paint.
  • Use a quality masking tape to keep from painting areas by mistake.
  • Remove all hardware or handles.
  • Always paint drawers out of the dresser and with the face horizontal.
  • Take doors off of cabinets, and again for best results, lay flat. Spacers underneath keep edges from sticking to stuff. 

staining tip

  • I like stained tops for dressers, desks and tables.
  • They are easy clean, easy to do and show less dirt and mess. Every little thing shows up on a one color top.
  • If it’s not solid wood you have to strip it. Beware of veneers! They are easy to sand through.
  • If it’s not real wood you have to paint it to change it- it can’t be stained.
  • I like the look of wipe-on poly for sealing stain. It’s easier to apply, dries fast and no brush marks than brush on poly.
dark stained top
Dark stained top, dark green gray chalk paint, white dry brushed details, clear and dark wax

special problems

  • Shellac primer is necessary for old wood that has tannin. If it’s bleeding through the paint with red-brown colors where​ there’s no finish to seal the wood (like where it’s chipped or scratched) that’s tannin coming through. You will need to use shellac primer.
  • This mostly happens with good hard wood furniture typically made before the 1950’s.
  • Shellac primers come in cans or spray cans.

 Put any questions in the comments so others can find out the answers.


my next post – sealing chalk paint: more details
Good luck and…  help your friends out and share this post on your favorite social media.

8 thoughts on “chalk painting: “how to” details

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