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Craftsman varnishing a wooden handmade stool at home with a blue coating on a work table, hands close up

Using chalk paint to upcycle furniture

Chalk paint

Chalk paint is perfect for upcycling furniture because it requires less preparation than other paint types. It was developed in the 1990s by Annie Sloan, whose paint is still regarded as one of the best on the market. It is suitable for use on most surfaces including wood, metal, melamine and even glass.

There are now many more companies producing chalk paint, with many beautiful, calming and vibrant colours available to match all colour schemes in your home.

Preparing the surface

Lightly sand the woodwork with a fine grit sanding paper/block, then wipe with a clean cloth. Sanding is not always essential so you should check the paint manufacturer’s instructions first.

Painting with chalk paint

Mix the paint well before starting. Use a decent quality nylon brush to get a smooth finish and reduce brush marks.

Before starting to paint, consider the most efficient order to paint each surface, to prevent you having to lean across wet paint to reach an unpainted surface or edge.

Apply 2-3 coats of chalk paint, depending on manufacturer’s instructions, with a light sanding between each coat. Ensure the paint is completely dry before sanding and applying each new coat.

Ensure you paint all the edges and into all the wee corners. If your item has no legs, for example, a bookcase, remember to place it on top of some blocks of wood to lift it off the floor and make painting right down to the bottom edges much easier.

Once your last coat of chalk paint has completely dried, you are ready to wet sand the entire painted surface to get that lovely streak-free smooth finish. Use a damp, extra fine grit sanding paper/block.

The sanding paper/block should be damp but not dripping wet. This helps to reduce the friction on the sponge and produce a lighter sand. Be careful though, you want to only press hard enough to get a smooth finish but not too hard that you rub the paint off!

If you do sand too deeply anywhere, such as corners, just touch up with a little more chalk paint.

Once you have the chalk paint finish looking and feeling as smooth as you would like, you are ready to clean it. Use a damp, clean rag to wipe off all the paint residue that is left behind from wet sanding.

When the paint residue is cleaned off, use a dry, clean rag to wipe your furniture piece dry. Let it completely dry before applying a topcoat varnish or wax to protect it.

Why is my chalk paint streaky?

Some chalk paints are meant to be streaky when applied. If you want a smooth finish, water it down to make a smoother, thinner paint.

Lightly sand with a fine grit between coats to get a smoother finish. Use a damp, extra fine sanding paper/block.

Applying wax to chalk paint

You can easily apply wax to your dried chalk paint by wiping it on with a dry cloth and buffing it in. A small amount of wax can go a long way so be cautious when using it. You may need to wax and buff your piece twice to get an even finish.

Apply at least two coats of paint, and then two or three coats of Chalk Paint Wax or Chalk Paint Lacquer to seal and protect them. Remember to always test your cabinets first with both paint and lacquer.

Brown paper bag

Once you have applied the recommended number of coats and let it dry, you can use a brown paper bag to lightly sand the topcoat for an even smoother feel.

Brown paper bags have a very high grit, somewhere around 10,000. Which means they are great for getting a buttery feeling finish and removing dust nibs without scratching that perfect sheen.