Tips for chalk painting furniture & accessories

Tips for chalk painting furniture & accessories

Tips for chalk painting furniture & accessories


There are a few reasons why I love chalk paint.

#1: It gives me the matte finish I am loving these days.

It can be left as is or distressed as much or as little as you want. It’s also super forgiving, so if you feel you’ve made a mistake (distressed a little too much, for example), you can just cover it up with more paint.

#2: Price, price, price!

Chalk paint is a very inexpensive way to refinish a piece of furniture since you can make your own chalk paint (which I always do!). Often times I use leftover paint from other projects. If you are not too set on an exact color, you can even mix different colors together. Just keep in mind that colors will not be as vibrant since you are watering the paint down, so if you are very picky about your color, homemade chalk paint may not be for you. I’m planning on trying a store bought chalk paint on a future project because I want an exact shade, and I’m also curious if I’ll be able to tell the difference. The downside will be the higher cost.

After trying many different online recipes, this is the formula I landed on:

  • 1/3 cup plaster of paris (picture below if you’re not familiar)
  • 1/3 cup cool water
  • 1 cup paint

Just dissolve the plaster of paris in cool water, and then mix in your paint. It has worked great for me on a number of pieces, but everyone’s different, so feel free to adjust to your liking. That’s another great thing about chalk paint – there is more than one “right” way to achieve the right paint for you.

#3: No sanding = Happy dance.

Enough said.


#4: It allows me the flexibility to change things up as I go.

I always distress the pieces that I chalk paint. I like sanding along the straight edges, taking my time and standing back to see if I have achieved the look I like. Take this table (the before and after):

With its great spindle legs, the high points (i.e. curves) are where you would normally notice wear, so that’s where I concentrated my sanding on this piece. I have even used a screwdriver to scratch away small little knicks – just use a light hand so you don’t actually gouge the wood.

When distressing larger flat surfaces, I randomly sand a small area, and again randomly sand another area, maybe just a little heavier, even making a few smaller scratches along the way, just so it looks rather haphazard. Just make sure you go with the grain of the wood.

One time I accidentally touched the top of a freshly painted buffet area, without a good result, and decided to try wiping some of the paint off with a rag dipped in mineral spirits. This would have been approximately 10-15 minutes after application when the paint was still tacky. I wouldn’t normally suggest doing this, but it was interesting to experiment. Like I said before, if the result was not what I wanted, I would have added another thin layer of paint on top of the mess. But in this case, I loved the look.


Here’s the before and after of the same piece. Notice the original buffet had no hardware:


#5: It’s the perfect finish to use on worn or damaged furniture rescued from the garbage heap.

Even a small area of damaged veneer can be repaired with wood filler. Take the small table I showed above. It was $5 (be still my heart!), but it was severely damaged – the rungs looked like they had been chewed up by a dog. Regardless, I snatched it up knowing that it was all fixable, and went to work. You can “sort of” see the marks below:

To repair, I easily filled in the gashes with wood filler. Some of the deeper gashes took another coat of filler. Just make sure you let each layer of filler dry before applying another. I used my fingers to smooth some filler around the spindles. Once that was left to dry overnight, I just used a piece of sandpaper to smooth out the contours.



Now that you know WHY I love chalk paint, let’s get to the steps to actually chalk paint.

  1. Clean the dirt & dust off with a damp rag. I have worked on a lot of really dirty pieces that look like they have been sitting in a garage for years. Take your time to prep. It’s really tempting to forge ahead, but I always see areas I want to address when I take my time.
  2. Fix any deep scratches, chips or imperfections. Even if you’re distressing a piece, keep in mind there is a difference between a worn look and something that has been damaged. Fill and sand any wood filler as well as the whole piece if the finish is badly damaged. One of the advantages to chalk paint is no sanding, BUT the finish on my buffet (as the example I used above) was actually flaking off, so I really sanded that portion well. A quick wipe down, and your surface is ready.
  3. Take off hardware & tape off anything you don’t want painted. I typically leave the inside of my pieces of furniture unpainted, so a combination of masking tape or painters tape and newspaper will keep your work from looking shoddy. No one wants to see paint seepage when they open a drawer, for instance.
  4. After you’ve prepped your piece, now it’s time to mix your paint. If making your own, you might find you need to add a bit more paint if your mixture seems too runny, or a bit more water if too thick. I have even added a few teaspoons of other darker paint colors I have laying around to tint. I like to mix my paint in coffee containers or even mason jars if it’s a small project. Containers with lids are key since homemade chalk paint tends to thicken the longer it sits. You may have to thin with water if that happens. I usually do a second coat a few hours later or even the next day. Side note: I also like to use a small foam roller (in addition to a brush) on larger pieces of furniture. In some cases, I like the look of brush strokes, but on others, not so much. I also usually like to do two coats of paint (ensuring proper dry time between), but if you are aiming for a very distressed look, you might only need one coat.
  5. After sufficient dry time, you’re ready to distress. See a few paragraphs up for tips on that.
  6. Add a protective finish coat. I use a polyacrylic as my final coat. I have tried a wax as well, but I prefer a more durable surface. I know people who love waxes, especially tinted ones that add a more distressed look. But I’m a person who loves to find inexpensive pieces and redo them cheaply, so the less product I buy, the happier I am.
  7. Once dry, reapply old hardware. Or in the case of my buffet, add new hardware.

    If you don’t feel comfortable drilling new holes into your furniture, I suggest asking someone who is. Being that I am the person who saves everything (if you don’t believe me, check out my last post), I found old brass colonial hardware from my stash and spray painted them a matte black.

That’s it! It might seem like a lot of steps, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be hooked on chalk paint like I am. Here are a few other pieces I’ve chalk painted below. Happy distressing!

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Morgan Hanson

360-degrees of DIY-bliss. Read about my kooky ideas, creations, kids and general chaotically beautiful life. Get inspired. Learn from my mistakes. Steal my ideas. Be merry :)
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