a year ago – by Lisa Marlin

How to Use Chalk Paint: 10+ Tips and Tricks

7 min read
Chalk painting is easy to do and creates a unique, matte finish on furniture and decor items. Learn how to use chalk paint with these handy tips and tricks.
  1. Chalk Paint Chic: How to Use Chalk Paint
  2. 2. Paint
  3. Tips for Painting with Chalk Paint Like a Pro
  4. Make Your Own Chalk-Painted Furniture and More

Chalk painted furniture is all over Pinterest at the moment, with many of us drooling over its matte, chalky appearance. Chalk paint is not only for furniture, however — it also looks stunning on decorative pieces, objects like trays and mirrors, and wall art.

It’s also super simple to do, making it perfect for anyone from artistic newbies to more experienced artistas who want to experiment with a cool new medium.

If you want to learn how to create these amazing effects, read on to learn the basics of how to use chalk paint. And if you really want to explore the wonders of chalk paint, take a look at Betterly’s Paint and Color series.

Chalk Paint Chic: How to Use Chalk Paint

Want to know how to paint furniture with chalk paint? Working with chalk paint is surprisingly simple and involves three steps: painting, distressing, and waxing.

1. Prep

Generally, you don’t need to prep, strip or sand the piece before painting. 

However, if you’re working with a piece of wooden furniture and want a smooth finish, you may want to sand it lightly first. After sanding, always wipe the piece down with a damp cloth before painting.

In fact, it’s a good idea to wipe down any piece before getting started to get rid of dirt or dust, then dry it off with a clean, dry cloth. 

If painting a piece of furniture, you do want to remove any knobs or handles before getting started.

2. Paint

Now it’s time to move on to painting, but don’t freak out. This is actually the easiest part of the process, not to mention loads of fun!

Grab some chalk paint and your preferred brush. Stir the paint and pour it into a glass jar. Then, dip the brush into the paint and make big, criss-cross strokes back and forth until you've covered the whole piece.

This is where you can really let your inner Andy Warhol come out. This style of painting isn’t too precise, so let it flow with big, generous strokes of the brush. Just make sure to cover your piece all the way to the edges and try not to leave any drips or runs.

You want the paint to keep its thin, even consistency. So if it starts to thicken on your brush, spray the brush with a little water using a spray bottle.

Depending on the paint and the finish you’re looking for, one coat may be enough. However, if you are painting a light colour on top of a darker one, you’ll probably want two coats to get full coverage. 

Let the first coat dry for at least 30 minutes before painting the second coat on top.

3. Distress

Distressing isn't a necessary part of chalk painting, but it goes hand-in-hand with chalk painting furniture. The distressed finish is part of that characteristic aesthetic that has made chalk paint so popular for creating shabby-chic furniture and decorations.

Distressing involves rubbing off the paint in specific places to give the piece an appearance of wear over time, like a comfy old armchair or a well-loved kitchen table. To achieve this effect, it’s best to apply Vaseline on the places you plan to distress before you start painting. The Vaseline prevents the paint from bonding and makes it easier to distress.

Once you’ve finished painting and it’s all dry, rub the paint on these specific spots with sandpaper. You can also sand off any runs, drips, or mistakes that might have occurred while painting, anywhere on your piece.

4. Wax

Waxing is by far the hardest part of the process, because it can be easy to apply too much. It takes a bit of practice to find the right balance. It is also important to do after chalk painting because it protects the paint and prevents it from chipping or rubbing off. Waxing also gives the paint a glorious, silky finish.

However, if working on certain surfaces or items like ceramics for example, waxing may not be necessary. 

For your wax finish, take a clear or dark wax and use a soft cloth or brush to apply one or two coats of wax to seal in the chalk paint. Once done, gently rub off any excess wax with a clean cloth.

Tips for Painting with Chalk Paint Like a Pro

1.   No Prep, No Prime

One of the great things about chalk paint is that you don’t have to strip off old coats paint. Instead, you can paint right over the top of previous layers of paint on that old chair, dresser, or wooden tray.

You just need to give it a quick clean and sand off any rough spots – no other prepping or priming is needed.  As soon as you've set your sights on a piece of furniture or décor item, you're good to go!

2.   Imperfect Perfection

If you take a close look at a piece of chalk painted furniture, you’ll see it’s a far cry from the Mona Lisa. There are brush strokes criss crossing all over the place and seemingly random distressed areas.

Painting with chalk paint isn't about perfection. Furthermore, these “imperfections” actually enhance the style. The crisscross brushwork helps to avoid drips and runs, while creating a texture with a unique look. When it comes to chalk paint, imperfection is beauty.

3.   Distress to Impress

The key to distressing is to focus on the areas that see wear and tear over time. You don't want your piece to look like it fell off the back of a moving truck. Instead, you're aiming for a look that says that the piece has been loved and used for decades. 

Don’t overdo it – if you distress the whole piece, the effect will be lost.

The areas which generally see the most traffic or use are the ones you'll need to distress. These spots are generally around the edges, knobs, handles, and a spot or two in the middle of a tabletop or chair seat.

4.   Wax On, Wax Off

The wax layer on top of chalk paint is a little like putting a clear top coat over your nail polish. It’s not strictly necessary, but without it your nail polish won’t look as shiny and will probably chip and flake.

You can choose to apply either a clear or dark wax. The clear wax will be almost invisible, while a dark wax settles into crevices and corners, adding a new dimension to the piece.

5. Quality is Everything

Chalk painting requires a specific type of paint which can get pretty pricey. However, before you opt for the bargain basement brand, a word of warning. Cheap chalk paints are often a false economy, as you’ll end up having to paint extra layers or you may even end up having to start over completely due to the poor result.

Invest in quality paints to get the best results when painting with chalk paint. Betterly’s Paint and Color series includes quality water-based and odour-free chalk paints. With all the tools, projects, and advice you need to get started, this subscription offers excellent value for money.

6. Lush Brushes

Just like paint, there are special brushes made for chalk painting furniture. Again, these have a certain price tag, but it’s worth investing in quality brushes for the best results.

In particular, avoid replacing specific chalk painting brushes with natural bristle brushes. These brushes are used with oil-based paints and stains, not water-based chalk paint. You’ll ruin such brushes by exposing them to water, so go for the right brushes in the first place!

Make Your Own Chalk-Painted Furniture and More

Once you’ve learned the secrets of chalk painting, the sky’s the limit. You’ll probably find yourself chalk painting everything you can get your hands on, from dressers to mirrors, turning your home into something from the pages of Vogue.

This fun craft will let you create something stunning and new out of the boring and old, not to mention letting you express your creative side and practice mindfulness.

We’ve covered the basics here, but there is so much more to painting with chalk paint. For a full course in how to use chalk paint, check out Betterly’s Paint and Color subscription boxes.

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