Chalk Paint® Tips for Beginners

No fail chalk paint tips for beginners. Transform your furniture with these techniques.

Do you have a piece of furniture you want to paint? It can be daunting to try your first piece, but it can transform your look without costing you a lot of money. I recommend starting with something small that isn’t a family heirloom. Here are my no fail chalk paint® tips for beginner (the term chalk paint is trademarked by it’s creator, Annie Sloan).

This is my second major undertaking with painting furniture. I didn’t use chalk paint the first time. You can see the large chest I painted white. This time I decided to try chalk paint to avoid all the sanding and countless coats of paint.

Tip 1 – The finish can be smooth if you don’t want a distressed look

chalk Paint tips for beginners

Most people think that chalk paint is only used for a distressed or antique look. That’s not true. I wasn’t trying to give this piece of furniture a distressed look, but chalk paint doesn’t have to look rough. You can achieve a smooth finish depending on how the paint is applied.

The mother of chalk paint, Annie Sloan, uses a very haphazard method of painting. She explains that if you want a textured finish you should apply the paint “every which way”. If you want a more traditional smooth finish it’s better to use a standard flat paint brush and paint using more traditional straight brush strokes.

Tip 2 – You don’t need special paint brush

Wherever you find chalk paint® for sale you will also find very expensive round paint brushes to apply it ($40+ per brush). They look like giant shaving brushes (I remember from my dad). These paint brushes are great, but there are less expensive alternatives on Amazon. Here is a set of three chalk paint brushes for $15.

I choose every product you see. I may earn an affiliate commission if you buy from one of the product links, at no extra cost to you. Read my full disclosure.

Alternatively, you can use a standard paint brush if you are not looking for lots of visible brush stroke texture. I used a standard $2 paint brush from Home Depot.

Tip 3 – You don’t have to buy expensive chalk paint

I ended up buying Annie Sloan Graphite paint because it was for sale at the flea market and it saved me a trip to Home Depot. A quart of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint costs around $34.

A quart of chalked paint at Home Depot is around $19. It is called “chalked paint” because the phrase is a registered trademark. Home Depot carries two brands – Rust-Oleum and Behr. I tried out the Rust-Oleum to paint tile floors and it’s as good as the more expensive brand.

A little of this paint goes a long way. It goes on really thick so if you are painting furniture, a quart is probably enough. If you feel like your paint is too thick, you can add in a tiny bit of water and mix to thin.

There are also many crafty people out there that have developed recipes for making your own. This sounds like too much work for me, but if you are into it here is a chalk paint® recipe.

Tip 4 – You can paint fast and loose with chalked paint

The beauty of this paint is that there is no sanding or prep required. I painted my small dresser in less than 45 minutes. I’m not the most meticulous painter, which is why you don’t see step by step photos. You don’t have to be with this paint.

It dries very quickly so if you need a second coat you can put one on about 30 minutes after you finish the first coat.

Tip 5 – Apply wax to seal the paint

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to apply wax until I saw the finished product after two coats. It is a VERY FLAT finish. The wax is necessary to seal the paint and to give it a warmer look.

I used the black wax because I used a graphite paint. If you are painting with a lighter color, use the light wax unless you want and antiqued look.

Tip 6 – You don’t need a brush to apply wax

This may sound redundant, but they also sell very expensive wax brushes. The wax can be applied with an old T-shirt. If you cut a rag in two pieces you can use one to apply the wax and one to wipe off the excess.

It’s almost like smearing lotion on when you apply it. Then you take the clean rage and rub it over the surface to pick up any excess. If you are trying to save money this is the way to go.

Tip 7 – Wax completely changes the color

If you don’t like the color when you get the paint on, know that it will change drastically when you wax it. The graphite color reminded me of an old car with no paint. Once I applied the dark wax, the color became a lot darker and more like shiny charcoal.

I suggest buying the larger container of wax and applying it very liberally.

Materials Needed

There isn’t much you need to use chalk paint®. No sanding is required. You need the following:

  • Drop Cloth (or a sheet). I have been known to paint inside on my wood floors and I like to use cardboard because it can absorb mistakes.
  • Dusting cloth
  • Can of paint in your choice of color. I’m using Annie’s Sloan’s graphite, but Rustoleum’s Charcoal is similar for half the price.
  • Paint brush – See my tips above.
  • Wax – Most people use the dark wax to give lighter furniture an antiqued look but if you are using it over dark paint, it transforms the color and makes it much deeper.

How to Apply Chalk Paint®

green chest before paint
Green Dresser Before
  1. Wipe down the furniture to get off any dust.
  2. Take off the hardware, unless you are going for painted hardware look. If you have wood hardware you may choose to paint the hardware the same color.
  3. Brush the paint on quickly with random strokes for texture or smooth strokes for a smooth finish.
  4. It takes about 30 minutes to dry. Once it’s dry apply a second coat if necessary. If you want to cover an old color, you will probably want a second coat.
  5. Apply wax with a rag as if you were spreading lotion over the furniture.  A paper plate is the perfect disposable tool for holding the wax. You scoop some wax out onto the paper plate and rub it on with an old t-shirt.
  6. Wipe off the excess wax with a clean rag.  You don’t have to scrub, just wipe down thoroughly. 
Chalk painted dresser
Black Dresser After

Pros and Cons of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®

The two biggest advantages of this paint are 1.) It has NO smell. I often paint inside because then I don’t have to deal with the elements. I can’t speak to the odor of other brands. 2.) This paint requires no furniture prep, priming or sanding.

The biggest con is the price. If you have a large piece to paint, you could end up spending $70 not including the wax.

can you paint kitchen cabinets with chalk paint?

This question was inspired by a reader. I have not painted my kitchen cabinets with chalk paint. But I have learned a lot about using chalk paint.

You can paint kitchen cabinets with chalked paint, BUT you must seal it with wax. The waxed paint takes 30 days to fully cure. You can still use and touch your furniture but the wax isn’t fully cooked right when you put it on. It can scratch more easily until it is fully cured.

The creator chalk paint, Annie Sloan, recommends that you apply two coats of wax to cabinet doors to make them extra durable. You should also allow the first coat of wax to cure before you apply the second coat.

Can you paint over laminate with chalk paint?

Laminate surfaces are very slick and shiny. With standard latex paint most experts recommend that you sand a laminate surface before painting it. However, with chalked paint that’s not necessary. It might require two coats of chalk paint®, but it will adhere without priming or sanding.

See this in action as Suzanne paints over an old laminate dresser with chalked paint. She’s my kind of painter, she does the task in a few hours and it looks completely transformed.

Have you tried painting any furniture with chalk paint?

Before you go, you might be interested in reading about Chalk Paint Vs. Milk Paint.

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    1. I would recommend spray paint for wicker and cane pieces. It would probably work, but it’s hard to control the drips.

  1. This is a great read!! I have used the Annie Sloan paint and wax, but started mixing my one because of the high cost. And the brush and t-shirt tips, thanks so much!!

  2. MC Sanchez says:

    How durable is chalked paint? Will it fade especially if the painted piece is left outdoors?

    1. I haven’t tested it outside, so I’m not sure. Sorry!

    2. If I chalk paint just legs of dining table to give it a distressed white look, do I need to wax over the legs?

      1. Yes I recommend waxing over all chalk paint. Otherwise, it has a very chalky feeling (for lack of a better word). You can rub it on with a cloth or use a brush. It’s not hard to apply.

        1. I’m a first time Chalk paint fan; thank you for all the great tips! I saw there are some chalk paint brands that do not need wax because it has in it already. Are they better to use?

          1. Tere,

            I’ve never tried a combined wax and paint before. I’m skeptical that I would like the results, but let me know if you try.


  3. Hello! I’m going to paint my kitchen cabinets with chalk paint and after that apply the wax. I wonder if the wax protects the colour and avoid any scratches. Also I would like to know how to clean the cabinets after applying these materials.

    Thanking you in advance

    1. Katerina,

      You can paint kitchen cabinets with chalk paint. You should definitely apply wax to protect the paint AND some experts recommend applying two coats of wax to the doors to help prevent scratching. You should also wait a day between coats.

      I hope this helps.


  4. Hello! Can you paint over laminate? My kitchen cupboards are laminate and it would be wonderful to upgrade them 🙂

    1. Yes you can paint over laminate without sanding but it is recommended that you use two coats. I updated the post and included a link to another blogger who demonstrates it in a video. Thanks for your comment!


  5. Julie Gibbs says:

    I am finding DIY chalk paint very thick and almost impossible to use. Is it okay to water it down and by how much?
    Thank you

    1. Julie,

      Yes you can thin down your chalk paint with water. Just don’t add too much at once, add a little, mix and try it before you put in more.


      1. I recommend polycrilic over the chalk paint for cupboards way more durable. Also on table tops…two to three coats….

  6. If you want to lighten a chalk paint color…do you think you can add some regular white paint? Or does it need to be chalk white paint?

    1. You can lighten it with a little bit of regular paint. Chalk paint is basically regular paint with something added to it (which varies depending on the brand). Thanks for your question Cathy. I learned something too.


  7. Swooz Brazzell says:

    Wow great job! That round dresser is beautiful and you really transformed it.
    I moved into a house with a grey stone fireplace all the way to the ceiling. I painted the stone white and then watered it down slightly to coat the grout and it looks so fresh.

  8. How long should I let the last coat of paint dry before waxing the piece?

    1. Ann,

      I wait until the paint is dry to the touch before I start applying the wax (an hour or two). The wax itself can still feel tacky to the touch for up to two weeks, so it takes a while to fully cure. I hope this helps.


  9. My first time doing this. Have a Night Stand twitch iron metal legs but the top is Dark woood and I would like to do it in a distressed Antique White look but I’m nervous. Where do I start?

    1. It depends on whether you want to paint the legs or just the top. First step would to to thoroughly clean the piece and let it dry. Then if you aren’t going to paint the legs you need to tape off where the legs meet the top. Then just start painting. The paint will look really chalky until you apply the wax so don’t be disappointed if you don’t like the look with just the paint. I hope this helps.

      1. Do you need to sand the piece first? I have the factory “coating” on my table. Thank you.

        1. You should be good to go. You can always try a small area and see how it does.


  10. Paula Phillips says:

    Great article and so helpful. I bought an old dresser from a 2nd hand store and it is already painted white. I am not sure of the type of paint on it, but it’s s not chalk paint. Will I have to sand the old layer of paint off?

    1. Paula, that’s the beauty of chalk paint. You don’t have to sand off the old layer unless you want to. You can just paint right over it. I hope this helps.


  11. If your nightstand has rings imbedded in it from drink cups can you paint right over with the chalk paint?

    1. If you can feel an indentation in the wood, the paint won’t fix that. If you rub your hand over it and there’s no indention the paint will cover it. If it doesn’t look like you want, let the paint dry and sand just that spot and paint again. I hope this helps.

    2. Rub a thick layer of mayo on the ring and let it sit for the day. At the end of the day rub any remaining mayo into the ring. This will add moisture back into the ring, and depending on the severity, make it go away

  12. Thinking about painting our dining room table with chalk paint once were done and we apply the wax to the top of the table do we have to wait the two weeks before we can use it?

    1. Yvette,

      You don’t have to wait 24 hours to use the table but the wax doesn’t feel really hard for up to weeks. You might notice a little mark on your sleeve if you rest your arm on the table. I’ve used my furniture 24 hours after I put the wax on it, it just continues to harden. I hope this helps.


  13. Do I distress my furniture before waxing?

    1. Julie,

      Thanks for your question. You can do it both ways, distress first and then wax or wax and then distress. It is slightly easier to distress before you put the wax on because there are fewer layers to get through to reveal the underlying color. But if you want to see how the finished piece looks before you distress it (which might be preferable if you are using darker colors), it’s fine to distress after. That’s one of the great things about chalk paint. There’s almost no wrong way to do it.

      I hope this helps.


  14. Hi, I’ve got a pine wardrobe which I am going to chalk paint and I was wondering if I need to use knotting solution
    Many thanks Ann

    1. Ann

      I did some research and yes you should use knotting solution. The bleed through won’t happen right away but over time with water based paint it will happen. I hope this helps.


      1. Patric Cul says:

        Maybe also try Aqua coat and I used it while painting my white cabinets that were old oak and the grain was very strong so I applied aqua coat and spread it thin with an old credit card let dry n did a second coat sanded again then painted . No grain showing.

  15. Julie Briones says:

    Wow, so many comments! GREAT! Great post on chalk painting tips, and love the piece you feature here! Great to have you at Tuesday Turn About! Be sure to visit all the hostesses this week (hint, hint!)

    1. Thanks Julie! I will definitely visit. It’s so fund to discover new blogs.

  16. Thank you for sharing your beautiful furniture makeover at the Tuesday Turn About Link Party. I’m excited to feature your post this week and hope you will stop by to share more!

  17. Can I use chalk paint on a dresser that I am going to use a bath room vanity? I am concerned about possible water damage.

  18. What is the name of the wax you are using with the chalk paint?

    1. Anna,

      I’ve used Annie Sloan’s dark wax on the pieces I painted with the charcoal color.

      It made a huge change in the finished color.

      I hope this helps.


  19. Rachel Rhein says:

    Fantastic information. Thank You. I’m a little confused about the wax. Do I use clear wax on white chalk paint?

    1. Rachel,

      The color wax you use depends on the look you want. If you use white paint and you don’t want a antiqued look use clear wax. If you want your white furniture to have an antiqued look, you can use dark wax. It’s a personal preference. If you google white paint with dark wax you will see lots of images of what that looks like. I hope that helps.


  20. I bought some old oak end tables. Want to stain the top walnut and paint the rest of the table with black/charcoal chalk paint. Will I need to sand the varnish off the tables before painting with chalk paint? I have sanded the tops to prepare for stain, but wanted to avoid sanding the rest of the table. Also, will the dark wax make the charcoal look more black? I am a beginner at painting furniture and using chalk paint.

    1. Michelle,

      Yes you can paint the legs and base of the table without sanding. That’s the beauty of chalk paint and it’s great for beginners. You will want to use the black wax over the graphite or grey chalk paint instead of clear. The graphite chalk paint looks very flat and grey until you get the wax on. Then it looks more black. I hope this helps.


  21. I was very excited to try my first Chalk paint project. I had already sanded my moms old vanity bench. Used a tack cloth to wipe it clean. Paint went on okay, but the reddish stain started to bleed through. I did the entire bench anyway. Will another coat or 2 help???

    1. Laura,

      If you are seeing a bleed through I recommend applying a stain-blocking primer before you apply more paint. Then wait 8 hours to see if there is more bleed through before you apply a second coat. I hope this helps.


  22. Linda Miller says:

    How can I get a pearl like finish with chalk paint

    1. Linda,

      Do you mean a shiny finish like pearl or pearl in color? You can mix your own chalk paint, but I don’t think it’s possible to get that swirly, shiny look that pearls have.


  23. Kathleen Wall says:

    I am preparing my 1830 historic condo in Philadelphia for selling. I have a long wall of brick that someone at some point updated with putting a shilac or glaze over it, nothing I can do about that plus too large an area. So, I’d like to chalk paint my fireplace. With most of the videos I’ve watched, they have been using a large sponge to lighten the the bricks to get the desired look.
    My questions are:
    1. Do I need to paint the mortar between the bricks, they are gray or a dark taupe which I think look fine,
    2. Is the sponge used for lightening the brick? Should I do this? and
    3. Do I need to finish job with some type of wax etc. A future resident might want to remove it.

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    1. Kathleen,

      I wish I could give you advice based on my experience, but I’ve never painted brick. It sounds like from what I read here: How to Paint Brick and here I Painted my 170 year Old Brick Wall that you need to prime brick first. It’s such a porous material.

      As for using a sponge, I’m not sure about that either. It is VERY HARD to remove, so it might be worth asking a realtor before you do it. Wish I could offer more advice, but maybe I’ll test out my fireplace and report back.


  24. If you use chalk paint and you want to stencil , do you stencil then do your wax or wax then stenci

    1. I would apply all of the paint and then the wax after the stencil. I hope this helps.

  25. Tina Wallace says:

    HI. If you paint a piece of furniture with regular paint do you still seal it with wax? Or just chalk painted furniture?

    1. Tina,

      I’m not sure what kind of paint you mean by “regular”? You don’t have to seal all paint with wax. Chalk paint in particular has a very flat finish and that’s why people like to put a wax coat on top of it. You don’t have to seal it with wax if you like the flat look.

      I hope this helps.


  26. Hi Andrea,
    I am a beginner! I would like to paint my two pine chest of drawers I haven’t decided on white or a bronze gold… but I was under the impression you had to sand it down first?
    If I went with the white chalk paint how do I get the distressed look?

    1. Marisa,

      It’s not necessary to sand before you paint unless you prefer to. I haven’t distressed any furniture but the method for distressing is basically removing small sections of paint with sandpaper. You can start small and keep distressing until you get the look you want. I think you might find this video will be useful.

  27. Hi Andrea,
    Great article! I have a few pieces I’d like to try my hand at and one is a small dresser I bought at Wood-You many years ago. The dresser was never stained or painted and I am wondering if I need to prime it before painting, even with chalk paint. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Donna. You can absolutely paint raw wood without sanding. If it’s stained you might want to rough it up but raw wood is ready to go. Never heard of Wood-You. Cute name!


  28. Pamela Thomas says:

    [email protected] I have two end tables. Chalk painted white. I’m wanting to stencil the top.
    Do I use antiquing glaze or the lime wash glaze. Also do I sand it. With just the white chalk it is really rough
    Lea e it or sand it?

    1. Pamela,

      I wish I knew the answers to your question. The beauty of chalk paint is that you don’t have to sand before it’s applied, but your piece already has chalk paint. Whether you want to sand before applying the stencil depends on your own preference. If it feels too rough to you (which it sounds like it might) then you should sand it.

      Unfortunately I have to ask more questions, before I can answer them. Is the glaze what you will stencil with? Again, it depends on the look you are going for whetgher you should use antiquing glaze (which usually gives a slight brown tone) or lime wash. I don’t know if either of these will make your stencil really pop against the paint. I wouldn’t use a glaze to stencil, but this is really a personal style preference.

      I hope this helps.


  29. I painted a dark traditional type chest with a dark chalk paint. One coat seems to do it but I noticed today (24 hrs later) that I scratched the paint off on 2 places on the top. Is this because it isn’t cured yet? Will wax seal the piece where I won’t scratch the paint off??

    1. Lori,

      Yes I think that’s why you were able to scratch it. I would touch up those spots and then apply your wax. The wax is really what finishes the piece. It can take 2 weeks to fully cure. I hop this helps.


  30. Alicia Hursley says:

    So I’ve never chalk painted kitchen cabinets, but we actually just refaced our kitchen cabinets which is why we’re here. We have a beautiful credenza that just feels out of place now and we’re hoping the chalk paint will help match it to the cabinets a little bit more. We’re pretty optimistic after reading your post. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Kanda Jones says:

    Can you use something else besides the wax for a finish?

    1. Kanda,

      You can use Polyurethane as a finish too.


  32. Thank you for a great tutorial, I’ve never painted with chalk paint and wanted to understand the process and tools -you did a great job teaching me.


    Do you sand between coats of paint ? If so , what grade . Thanks for the tips

    1. Christine,

      I don’t sand between coats when I use chalk paint. I do sand between coats when I use regular paint, but many things I’ve painted haven’t required a second coat when I use chalk paint. I paint and then seal. If you want to use sandpaper I recommend 180 – 220 grit for in-between coats.

      I hope this helps.


  34. Brenda Harlow says:

    I have an entertainment center which is probably pressed wood. Do you think chalk paint would work on it?

  35. Isabel Amador says:

    Boa noite gostaria de pintar 1 mesa de casa de jantar com tintta giz mas gostava de deixar o tampo cor da madeira. Como posso clarear o tampo de madeira? Muito obrigada

  36. Can you use regular furniture wax, like Johnson’s paste wax, over the chalk paint?

    1. Yes you can use Johnson’s was over chalk paint. I hope this helps.


  37. I have a bedroom set that has the factory “varnish”. Would I need to sand before I paint? Is there anything I need to apply before I paint? I’m a newbie…

    1. Connie,

      You can apply the chalk paint to your varnished piece of furniture without sanding or priming. It adheres to most surfaces. Good luck.


  38. Help! I am redoing a kitchen table and it has a shiny top like a protective coating can I use chalk paint on it and will I need to sand first? What grit would I use?

    1. Melissa,

      That’s the beauty of chalk paint, you don’t have to sand first. You can, but it’s not required. If you do, I would use a fine grain like 100 or 120.

      I hope this helps.


  39. I’m wanting to paint a beautiful mahogany inlaid table, chairs and china cabinet
    I’d like it lighter and the finish is very glass-like. I don’t want the red to come through
    I d like a restoration hardware look
    What would you suggest ??

    1. Andrea,

      Great name, first of all. I’d love to see a picture. By glasslike, do you mean you want a shiny finish? If this is what you want, chalk paint is not the answer. Shiny finishes are usually lacquer or some kind of Gloss or semi-gloss paint. I think you would be disappointed with chalk. You should take a look at this video She has a great example, and nothing I’ve done is this shiny.

      I hope this helps.


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