After my last chalk paint project, I have to admit that I took a little break from chalk painting, despite the fact that at any given time there are probably about a hundred things in my house I'd like to chalk paint. Yesterday, I might have even been eyeing the guest bath vanity. Keep in mind that our house is only 1.5 years old so nothing is really in need of refinishing...yet. Someone please slap me. Anyway, I finally picked up my brush again a few days ago and refinished a piece that I have contemplated several times selling or sending to the curb with a sign that says "Take Me." It's one of those floater pieces that gets moved to nearly every room in the house but never quite seems to work anywhere. We had a teeny breakfast room in our last house, and it was a perfect fit there, but it just wasn't landing so well in our new house...that is until I tried it out in our guest room, and it totally worked! Yay! The only problem is that our guest room is light and airy, and the piece I'm talking about was black and heavy looking. Color-wise, it just wasn't a good fit for the space. My solution, chalk paint. It's one of the best ways I know to quickly and relatively easily give a whole new look to a piece of furniture. I'm by no means an expert on chalk painting, but I have learned a few things by doing it, so I thought I would share some of my tips with you today to help get you started, especially if this is something you've never done before. There are so many brands of chalk paint to choose from, but Annie Sloan is my favorite, so these tips have her paint in mind, but they should work for most brands of chalk paint. Okay, grab that cup of coffee. Here we go!
FLIP YOUR CAN. The very first thing I do when I get ready to paint is flip my can over for at least 30 minutes, then I give it a really good shake. This is actually one of Annie's tips, and I think it's a really good one. Annie Sloan paint is super thick so you want to make sure it's thoroughly mixed so it distributes evenly.
PREP. You're actually not supposed to have to prep your furniture piece before you paint, but in my opinion your finish will only look as good as your base. That being said I like to sand any rough spots (you DO NOT need to sand the entire piece, but if it's a shiny or slick surface I like to rough it up a little with a sanding block), fill in any holes or nicks (unless of course, you're wanting that kind of distressing), remove any sticky or greasy gunk, then clean the furniture piece with warm, soapy water, followed by a rinse of clear water to remove any soapy residue. Dry it up then you're ready to go!
BRUSHES. The brush that you choose is super important, as it will affect the way your paint goes on. Annie Sloan sells great brushes, but like many others chalk painters, my favorite brushes to use are the Purdy brand brushes. I purchase these at my local Sherwin Williams store, but I believe that Lowe's and Home Depot carry them as well, as does Amazon. Keep in mind that chalk paint does show brush strokes, which is part of it's charm, but that also means that you want to keep your brush strokes going in the same direction. It really helps if you're painting a wood piece because you can just follow the grain of the wood. When you're finished painting, you can clean your brushes with warm water and a mild soap.
ADD A LITTLE WATER. As mentioned above, Annie Sloan paint is quite thick, and it's meant to show brush strokes. I find that adding a little water to my paint makes the brush strokes a little less noticeable and makes the paint go further. If you're going to add water, I would recommend putting a little paint in another container and adding small amounts of water at a time until you have reached your desired consistency. Also, if you're painting from the can and the lid is left off for a good amount of time, the paint can thicken even more. In this case you can simply add a little water to the can and shake it up.
RE-COATING. I like to give all of my projects two coats of paint. Because most of the pieces I paint are going from a darker color to a lighter color, I find that I need that second coat for complete coverage. Make sure to let your paint dry completely between coats. In the past I've had problems with the paint cracking when I've been impatient and not allowed adequate drying time. The good thing is that this paint dries super fast, so you shouldn't have to wait long. Speaking of that, because of this I always do my chalk paint projects indoors or out of super warm temps and direct sunlight.
MY PAINT ISN'T STICKING. Every once in a while you may have a piece where the paint just doesn't want to adhere in places. Sometimes it's hard to know why this is the case, it could be something like the piece being cleaned with furniture polish or perhaps there is a sticky, waxy or greasy spot. The way I fix this is by using Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac. This stuff is really great at priming over whatever the it is that's keeping your paint from sticking. Just put it on, let it dry and keep on painting. If you're working on an entire piece and the paint isn't sticking, that may be a case where you have to sand down the piece completely. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often. I have heard people complain that chalk paint doesn't adhere well to Pottery Barn furniture. I've never tried to paint a PB piece, but it's something to keep in mind if you're considering it.
DISTRESSING. Distressing is probably my favorite part of chalk painting. While I've heard it advised to wait 24 hours and to add your clear wax before distressing, I pretty much get after it as soon as the paint is dry to the touch. The only difference I have found in not waxing beforehand is that there is a lot more dust, but hey, that's what vacuums are for. When distressing I use a fine grit sandpaper block, but you can actually also distress with a wet rag if you've only done one color and there is wood underneath. You can distress as much or as little as you like. It's best to think of where the piece might distress naturally, and use that as your guide. If distressing with sandpaper, when I'm finished I actually pull out my vacuum cleaner and my soft bristle brush attachment and run it lightly over the piece to remove any paint dust. I then follow up with a damp cloth. You want a clean furniture piece for waxing.
CLEAR WAX. Chalk paint dries into a very chalky, matte finish, and clear wax seals it and gives it a bit of sheen. Keep in mind that the clear wax will deepen your paint color a little. Annie Sloan waxes are awesome and super easy to work with. The clear wax looks a little bit like Crisco, and probably the most important thing to remember is that a little goes a long way. I know different people have different ways of applying the wax, but for me the best way I know how to do it is to scoop a little wax onto the back of a plastic spoon then smear it across the top of a plastic or paper plate. I find it's better to do this than to dip the brush directly into the wax because you can more easily control how much you're using and you're not getting loose bristles and debris in your can. When working off the paper plate, dip your brush in the wax then dab it on the bottom of the plate to remove the excess. Apply a thin layer of the clear wax in a circular motion, pressing it into the paint. I think it's easiest to work in small sections of your furniture piece. After you've waxed a section, immediately wipe off the excess wax with a clean cloth, then move onto the next section, and wax then wipe. If your piece feels tacky, keep wiping. If I have a piece that is going to get a lot of "traffic" then I like to give it at least two coats of wax. Some people like to wait 24 hours in between coats, but Annie says you can do multiple coats one right after another so that is what I usually do.
DARK WAX. Dark wax is great for adding an aged look to your furniture piece. It's perfect to use in the cracks and crevices to add dimension. I prefer to add my dark wax with a cloth, simply because I don't need the coverage from the dark wax that I need from the clear wax. Dark wax is more for details, whereas clear wax is more for sealing. When it comes to dark wax, always apply clear wax first. If you apply the dark wax first you will have a really hard time controlling how dark it goes on. I always use dark wax immediately after clear wax because it makes it easier to control. To make it even easier to control, you can mix a little bit of clear wax in with your dark wax. This is a good thing to do if you're new to dark wax and are still learning how to apply it to get the look you're desiring. Also, keep in mind that clear wax can erase dark wax if you've added too much.
WAX BRUSHES. As I mentioned before, brushes are super important. This goes for wax as well. You can apply the wax with cheesecloth or a rag, but you can control the wax so much better with a wax brush, and you will also, guaranteed, use less wax if you have a brush. The Annie Sloan wax brush is the one I use. You can find it here. Just a couple of tips, first of all, when you have a new wax brush soak it in water over night to remove any loose bristles, then hang it brush side down to dry. Secondly, I mentioned above that I prefer to use a cloth to apply dark wax, but if you're going to use a brush for your dark wax, don't use the same brush for dark wax that you use for clear wax. It's nearly impossible to get ALL of the dark wax out of a brush, and you don't want color transfer on the next piece you refinish that you only wanted to be clear waxed. To clean your wax brushes simply use a mild soap and warm water.
BUFFING. If you have waxed your furniture piece but prefer a higher gloss finish, you can use a clean cloth to buff the piece by wiping back and forth or in a circular motion across the piece until it's shiny. Old, white t-shirts work great for this.
WHAT CAN I PAINT? I would say that you can paint pretty much anything with chalk paint. Wood, metal, glass, plastic, even fabric! My latest project was actually the first time I've painted metal, I went right over the hardware with the paint, and it adhered beautifully. The sky is really the limit!
WANT TO START OVER? If you paint and wax a furniture piece then later decide you want a different color, GUESS WHAT! You can simply add a new coat of chalk paint directly over the existing wax. How easy is that!?
Now for a few photos of my latest chalk painting project. Here's the before. The piece looks dark, heavy, and actually a little grungy. That shiny black finish showed everything!
Annnd the AFTER! I just love how much brighter and cleaner it looks! It's like a whole new piece of furniture, and it's much more appropriate for the space.
I mentioned above that this was my first time painting over hardware, and I'm really pleased with how it turned out! I simply painted over the hardware, then used my sand paper to distress, then added my clear and dark waxes for an aged look.
I have to admit that I used to be super intimidated by chalk paint, and that kept me from trying it for a long time. If it's your first time I would recommend finding a small practice piece to start on. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy and fun it actually is! Before you know it you'll be wanting to chalk paint everything in sight! Happy painting, friends! Do you have any tips to share? If so, please share them in the comments below. I'd love to hear them!