Chalk Paint 101

How to use chalk Paint

September 28, 2012

How to use Chalk Paint

Alison Grisham
Grisham Interiors

Chalk Paint 101

Paint like a Diva..or a pro ;)


Chalk paint how to: As the chalk paint buzz makes its way around the DIY world, more and more beginners have been asking how to use chalk paint and where do I start. Everyone seems to know the benefits of chalk paint… no sanding… no priming. But that’s not exactly a user’s manual. So the Divas have a little Chalk Paint 101 Just for our favorite Diva Followers :)


First… chalk paint isn’t new. It’s one of the oldest paints available. But a renewed interest in aged finishes has also given rise to a renewed interest in authentic paints from days gone by.


Chalk Paint contains calcium carbonate, a natural substance that makes up 4% of the earth’s crust. It is more commonly known as limestone, marble and yes… chalk. But it’s also found in paper, plastic, concrete and many other household items. In fact, egg shells are made of 95% calcium carbonate.



So what does all this have to do with paint? Calcium carbonate is a useful bonding agent. When used in paint, it allows the paint to bond to any surface, including laminate, glass, fabric, and wood, which is just a sciencey way of saying… the rumors are true. Cross my heart… no priming or sanding. Just paint.


So, here’s what you’ll need:


1.  a piece of furniture to paint

2.  a drop cloth or plastic

3.  chalk paint

4.  a good paint brush

5.  water

6.  clean rags

7.  sandpaper or sanding block

8.  basic tools*

9.  tape*



* optional items depending on what you’re painting


Here’s what to do:

1. Set up a work area with a drop cloth and the piece you’re about to paint. There are no fumes with chalk paint, so it’s perfectly safe to paint indoors.

2. Wipe down your piece with a damp rag so you have a clean surface. Take out drawers or any other parts of the furniture that should be painted separately, and remove any hardware, knobs or hinges.

3. If you are painting near fabric or an area that you want to keep free from paint, make sure to tape off the paint free areas. For instance, I like to tape around drawer edges since I don’t usually paint the sides of the drawers. This helps give nice clean lines.

4. I usually start with the underside of the furniture. It’s the area that matters least and it gives the painter a chance to get used to the paint.

5. You can paint directly from the can or in a separate container. But in either case, give the can a good shake before using it.

6. When starting out, I recommend using a separate container so you can play with the paint a little bit. This is the easiest way to determine the texture that fits your personal taste. You can leave it exposed to the air and it will get thicker, or you can add water to make it thinner… or, of course, you can use it as it comes. Just remember to put the lid on the paint can while you play, so the full amount of paint doesn’t get too thick.

7. Dip your brush into the paint, about a third of the way… and start painting. If you feel like it’s a little too thick just add in a little bit more water until you’re comfortable.

8. Once you like the coverage and the thickness of the paint, keep going until you’ve finished your first coat.

9. Sometimes, one coat is enough, especially with the darker colors. In other cases you may need two coats. But very rarely three.

10. Chalk paint dries quickly, especially outside. So chances are, the first coat will be dry by the time you’re ready to start the second.

11. After the second coat, give the paint a little bit of time to thoroughly dry… a couple of hours is plenty… and then decide how you’re going to finish it.

12. If you decide not to distress the furniture, I would suggest leaving it over night to really let the paint cure before doing anything else. Then you can wax. It’s easy for the paint to rub off a little, during the waxing process, if the paint isn’t entirely cured. If you decide that you DO want to distress, just make sure the paint is dry and you’re ready to go.

13. There are two different ways to distress your piece. 1. You can use a damp rag and rub the paint off in random places until you get a look you like, and then wax… or 2. You can wax first, and then use a sanding block or some sandpaper to distress. You can use sandpaper beforehand if you like. But sanding can be messy and waxing often rubs off a little more paint naturally, so don’t overdo it with the sandpaper before waxing. It may sound counterintuitive to wax first, but it makes the sanding dust a lot less messy.

14. And speaking of wax… it’s not mandatory. But I highly recommend it to protect your finish and to deepen the color of the paint. Waxing is sort of like icing a cake… to me it doesn’t feel quite finished without it.

15. When you’re finished with the look you want, wipe down the piece again, and see what you think. You may want to add more wax. But usually one coat is enough.

The most important thing to remember about chalk paint is that it’s really an art form. There are no rules and no one way to do it. Your ideas, your choices and your vision is what will make it unique. So dive right in and enjoy the freedom of making something beautiful from your heart!

paper doll nesting tables

painted fabric rocking chair


Show some love Pin it! :)



Alison Grisham


  • Robin Rutherford · Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:46 pm · Link · Reply

    Thank you so much for putting this out there. I have wanted to try chalk paint, but nervous about it not knowing a thing. This helps a lot for a novice like me and I’m excited to try it now.

    • DivaSha · Posted September 28, 2012 at 1:59 pm · Link · Reply

      Your very welcome! Please let us know if you have more questions and be sure to share your projects with us. :)

  • stellans · Posted September 29, 2012 at 4:42 am · Link · Reply

    My husband inherited a pie safe from his father’s estate which was horrendously ‘refinished’ by his well-meaning (but inept) brother. He said I can do anything I want with it except paint the back (because that has the original store stencil referencing his family’s store back in the day – totally understandable, LOL!) so I plan to use chalk paint on this. Thank you for your tutorial – it makes me feel as though I really can do this!

  • Michaelle · Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:50 am · Link · Reply

    Hi! My very first visit to your site and WoW! What a tutorial. I’m planning to paint almost all the wood furniture in my home, and have been curious about Chalk paint. Thanks for sharing. I love the way the table turned out!

    • DivaSha · Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm · Link · Reply

      So glad you found us. Please share pictures when you do and we are here to help.

  • How to Paint With Chalk Paint ~ Chalk Paint 101 · Posted October 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm · Link · Reply

    [...] Filed Under: General [...]

  • Chalk Paint 101 · Posted October 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm · Link · Reply

    [...] Filed Under: General [...]

  • Krista · Posted November 4, 2012 at 7:32 pm · Link · Reply

    So happy to find you; I am new to chalk paint and my house is filling with furniture just begging for renewal!
    I so appreciate all of you tips and that you are so willing to share your knowledge.
    I did a class with Cece Caldwells and have recently learned that they are having trouble with the dark wax; it will not cure and remains tacky.
    Are you familiar with Maison Blanche and are the paint brands and waxes interchangeable?

    Thanks you so very much! Im looking forward to spending time on your site!


    • DivaSha · Posted November 6, 2012 at 8:40 pm · Link · Reply

      Krista, Sorry for the delay. Everytime I clicked reply the phone would ring. Finally a moment of silence. I haven’t heard anything about the CeCe dark wax but I do know that all the brands work well together. I use a lot of cece’s clear wax because it is natural and I love it. I have used Masion’s paint but not the wax. If you need any more help just ask.

  • Bonnie Soles · Posted February 2, 2013 at 7:55 am · Link · Reply

    Hi just noticed, it seems that it is always applied with a brush. Can you roll in on?

    • DivaSha · Posted February 2, 2013 at 9:53 am · Link · Reply

      Bonnie, I do use a roller. More and more lately. Watch the type of roller you use because it will soak up the chalk paint. A real thick nap would leave to much texture for a smooth finish. I do find the cheaper rollers are the better ones for chalk painting. They are the best for the final coat, getting in tight spaces like inside a hutch and odd spindle type legs. Use what works for you. :)

  • Wilson · Posted February 24, 2013 at 1:17 am · Link · Reply

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though
    you relied on the video to make your point.
    You clearly know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you
    could be giving us something informative to read?

  • michaeljane Welch · Posted March 10, 2013 at 5:24 pm · Link · Reply

    I do not know what type of wax you use. Please let me know is it a specialty item, or what type. I have never done anything like this but look forward to trying.

  • Jessica Bennett · Posted March 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm · Link · Reply

    So glad I found this site! We just bought a dresser for our baby girls nursery. The people we bought it fr redid it and added the wax finish. Unfortunately, it isn’t the right color for us. The husband said I would need to sand it before I repaint it. Is that necessary if I use chalk paint. I new to all of this and don’t want to screw it up!

    • DivaAly · Posted March 20, 2013 at 8:52 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi Jessica, I have used chalk paint on several pieces with wax finishes, and didn’t sand any of them. That’s the beauty of chalk paint… you don’t need to sand. In fact, I’ve painted over oil, glass, formica… all with great success. With that said, no system is perfect. So I would suggest doing a test patch just in case this particular wax is where chalk paint meets its match. If you’re going to have a problem, you’ll know right away. If your test patch dries and you don’t have a problem in 24 hours, you’re good to go. Let us know what happens and thanks for visiting Chalk Paint Divas!

  • Jody E · Posted April 14, 2013 at 10:23 pm · Link · Reply

    Wow, you took the fear right out of me! Thank you! I bought an old student desk at the thrift store, I wanted it to put my lap top on and have a “small” desk area. I then picked out the paint. So excited. Tonight my hubby secured the drawers, I washed it all down and am now ready to paint. Its getting late, and I wasn’t quite sure how to use the paint. Then I found you! Can’t wait to get home from work tomorrow and paint!!!

    Thanks so much!!

    • DivaAly · Posted April 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm · Link · Reply

      Hey Jody,

      I’m so glad that the post helped! I’m looking forward to hearing how things go after you get painting. Let us know!! Also…try us at our facebook page at if you have any other questions. Best of luck, Ally

  • karen schroeder · Posted May 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm · Link · Reply

    Hi again, Do you ever use varathane ? Wax first, then varathane or just varathane over the 2 coats of chalk paint? Thanks, Karen

    • DivaAly · Posted May 9, 2013 at 3:47 am · Link · Reply

      Hi Karen,

      I’m a HUGE fan of Varathane! I use it a lot on table tops, and other pieces that get a lot of wear and tear. Don’t wax first. I just sand, wipe it down and then use the Varathane. As long as you distress first you’ll be in good shape. Best of luck! Ally

  • Autumn · Posted May 21, 2013 at 8:09 am · Link · Reply

    Good morning,
    I am curious, which is best to use when selecting a paint base; flat, semi gloss, high gloss, or egg shell?

    • DivaAly · Posted May 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi Autumn,

      I’m assuming that you’re talking about making your own chalk paint, either with a home made recipe or Webster’s, in which case it doesn’t really matter because the paint always comes out sort of flat once you add the thickening ingredients. If that’s the case I would pick up satin because it’s what most sample colors are mixed in at paint stores.

      If you’re talking in more general terms about paint for walls or other surfaces, I’m a fan of satin for walls and cabinets and semi-gloss for trim. Best of luck! Ally

  • Margaret · Posted May 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm · Link · Reply

    Can chalk paint be used for wooden outdoor furniture? I have some adirondack chairs I want to paint. Thanks!

    • DivaAly · Posted June 9, 2013 at 10:34 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi Margaret,

      Yes… chalk paint can definitely be used for wooden outdoor furniture. I painted some beautiful blue vintage chairs and they’re holding up great. If you want them to get weathered over time then don’t worry about putting a finish on them. They’ll age naturally and if they get too weathered, you can always paint them again in a couple of years. The other option is to use varnish. I would stay away from straight wax because of the sun. Best of luck and post a picture when you’re finished. Thanks, Ally

  • Bev · Posted June 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm · Link · Reply

    I basically did exactly what you said recently, and just picked up a brush and started playing with paint. I started out and am still, mixing home made chalk paint. This is addicting! Several weeks ago I had a yard sale with about 8 pieces I had worked on to date. Sold out in Two hours! More addicting! Hopefully my work is progressing and getting better as I go, and I think that is because I am getting braver and more daring. My goal is to paint enough to support myself and I will be happy.

    Bev @ Give me a paintbrush

  • Mathangi Kumar · Posted June 21, 2013 at 11:17 pm · Link · Reply

    I’ve always wanted to try chalk paint. YOur blog is super informative. Can you please let me know how long it takes to dry and for how long the paint lasts? If i paint my chairs at home and wax them too, I would like to know how long until the paint begins to fade.

    • DivaAly · Posted June 22, 2013 at 5:37 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi there Mathangi,

      I wouldn’t expect the paint to ever fade… at least not for years. I’ve been painting with chalk paint for quite a while and have had great success with longevity and durability. In terms of drying, you can expect the paint to cure for a week or so until it’s completely a hard finish. But you can start using it within a day or so. It will dry to the touch in 15-30 minutes depending on humidity in the air. Good luck on your project. Hugs, Ally

  • Nadine · Posted August 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm · Link · Reply

    Thanks for this! So helpful.

    • DivaAly · Posted August 9, 2013 at 3:16 pm · Link · Reply

      Thanks for visiting Nadine!

  • BrookeMcB · Posted August 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm · Link · Reply

    hi i was just wondering what kind of chalk paints are resistant to bleach? we are painting table tops in a cafe and use bleach to wipe them off… so we need a paint that will not chip or wear really easily! any suggestions?

    • DivaAly · Posted August 9, 2013 at 3:26 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi Brooke and Stella… chalk finishes are made to wear in a natural sort of way. But they do wear, and unless you put a very powerful finish over the paint, it’s not going to be a great choice for a cafe. Wax will definitely not be enough. At you’ll find a great chalk paint with excellent adhesion (and completely VOC-free). But bleach isn’t really the issue no matter which brand you use, it’s durability. You will need to put several coats of Polycrylic on the top of any paint in order to make it cafe ready. I typically recommend Varathane for floors. But I can’t really guarantee even that for a cafe. I would talk to other restaurant people and see what they do for these kind of strenuous conditions. :) Best of luck in your new business! Ally

  • Donn · Posted September 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm · Link · Reply

    I am wanting to paint my kitchen cabinets with chalk paint. The paint I was going to use is from Porter Paints. Can I add the chalk powder to it to get the same effects as buying the chalk paint from Annie Sloan?
    Thank you!

    • DivaAly · Posted September 16, 2013 at 6:40 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi Donn,

      Many people use Chalk Paint Powder added to any brand of paint (including Porter’s) to get similar effects to many boutique brands… especially the most important one… adhesion. I would contact the gals over at Webster’s Chalk Paint for some specifics and advice on the best way to use their products. Webster’s is a great company and we value their integrity. Happy Painting… hugs from Diva Ally

  • Michelle · Posted November 6, 2013 at 10:43 pm · Link · Reply

    I am new to the chalk paint experience and I’m thinking of doing an old 50s style tall dresser. The dresser is laminate wood and a very 50s “futuristic” concept (as the 50s style inspiration tended to be). I want to paint it black (thank you Mick Jaggar!) but also paint a harlequin pattern, black and white, in the middle of four of the five drawers. Right now, the middle where I want to paint the pattern is a different laminate grain of wood than the rest of the front so I already have a visual that this would work. I want the harlequin pattern to look 3D tufted (think old fashioned tufted back leather couches in the diamond pattern) and use a resin or something that, when painted (silver), will be raised to look like the tacks tufting the pattern at the points where each diamond meets. I hope I painted (pardon the pun) a visual of that.

    I was going to give the entire thing a clear wax coating first and practice with different consistencies of the wax on a spare board that I want to use as practice for the harlequin pattern. So my questions are: 1) In order to get the 3D tufted look, could I use dark wax on the white diamonds of the harlequin pattern to give the effect of shadowing; 2) do you think that I could use the wax like that; and 3) is there a lighter wax that I could use on the black diamonds to give the same 3D effect?

    I don’t want to distress this piece because I want to take the 50s “futuristic” style and use it to create a new shiny “futuristic with a twist” look. My inspiration is Alice in Wonderland, and I will be replacing the wooden knobs with green glass knobs. I wish I could post a photo of the “before” of this dresser.

    • DivaAly · Posted November 13, 2013 at 12:34 am · Link · Reply

      Hi Michelle,

      Wow!! That is a big project you’re undertaking. But it sounds really exciting! At the risk of seeming self-serving, I’m going to direct you to our site at We have created Vax, which is similar to wax in the final product. It dries to a hard durable finish with the same low-level luster as wax. But it’s very different than wax in that it’s a liquid that you can brush on and manipulate. Our Vax comes in sheer, and our ReVax, which is designed for styling a piece, comes in Hazelnut, black, and pearl. I think the Pearl ReVax would be great on your black diamonds and the Black ReVax would be great on the white diamonds. We also sell texture, which could be used to give the look of the nailheads that you described.

      Happy Painting and Best of luck with this fun art piece!
      Diva Ally

  • sandra · Posted November 30, 2013 at 8:28 am · Link · Reply

    Hello, Im a newie to using chalk paint but have used ASCP to do a few pieces, but here in Australia ASCP is super expensive, so my husband told me that i should try making it myself.
    Have you made your own chalk paint?

    • DivaAly · Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:23 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi Sandra… just saw this post. Shabby Paints is hoping to have an international presence in the next year and Australia would be one of our first locations. When we get up and running, we’ll let you know. See my previous post to you regarding homemade chalky paints. all the best, Ally

  • sandra · Posted November 30, 2013 at 8:29 am · Link · Reply

    Hello, i was wondering have you made your own chalk paint?

    • DivaAly · Posted January 5, 2014 at 11:20 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi Sandra… Apologies. You’ve probably made your own and invented a new line in the time it has taken me to respond to your post. We have probably made all the version of homemade chalk paint… and while it works generally… I can’t say I recommend it for frequent use. One of the biggest problems is the dust particles that get in the air and into your lungs while mixing. So you have to wear a mask if you’re going to do it. That’s essential!! Also… it doesn’t store very well. So typically you’ll make more than you need and end up throwing some away. So I wouldn’t call it cost effective. I’m also not a fan of latex based paint.

      If you’d like to mix your own paint because you like the wide range of colors available, I would suggest using Webster’s Chalk Paint Powder instead of the homemade recipes. it’s cost effective and it’s a great product. Happy Painting, Diva Ally

  • Ashley · Posted January 25, 2014 at 10:45 pm · Link · Reply

    I have a china cabinet i want to repaint; it’s whitish now, but i want to paint it a teal/turquoise with a distressed look. However, since it’s white already, can I use a glaze over the new color to achieve the look i want? And if so, should i seal it with polycrylic before or after i glaze? I know you would probably suggest wax, but I dont want to use wax for my first time on such a big piece. Thanks!

    • DivaAly · Posted January 27, 2014 at 8:52 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi Ashley,

      You lost me a little bit. So let me tell you what I would do and then if it doesn’t make sense, post again with your questions. If you want the china cabinet to have a distressed look, I would go ahead and paint it the color you want and let it dry. Then I would do light sanding on the corners, edges, and any detailed area that you want to distress. Since the whit was already underneath, the white will so through again. Then when finished you can seal it. There’s no need to use wax if you don’t want to. There are several products on the market that will work great for you. You can certainly use a polycrylic. But you can also go with a Varnish. At Shabby Paints, we have a no-VOC varnish that is a great sealant without the rubbing and buffing of wax. I would not worry about using glaze on the project at all. I think that’s an unnecessary step… but it’s also probably a little more work than you’d want to do right now.

      Let me know how it goes and if you have any other questions and Happy Painting!:) Ally

  • rae · Posted March 1, 2014 at 10:10 am · Link · Reply

    What wax do you recommend?

    • DivaAly · Posted March 2, 2014 at 2:02 am · Link · Reply

      Hi Rae,

      When using a wax, I’m a big fan of going non-toxic. There are several waxes on the market that claim to be low VOC, but are still toxic and can cause visible skin reactions, as well as other unseen complications. So if I use a wax, non-toxic is my first qualification. One brand in particular that I like is Daddy Van’s non-toxic, family safe wax. It’s made by a mom who wanted better products than what she found on the market and the demand just keeps getting bigger and bigger. But lately I have been using a lot more Vax… which is our non-toxic, zero-VOC liquid varnish and wax combination at You paint it on and it dries to a smooth satin finish with no rubbing and no buffing! You get the durability of varnish and the look of wax. If you want to stick with traditional straight wax, check out Daddy Vans, Bioshield, and Ruelle’s natural paste wax. Best of luck! Ally

  • Lee Cusano · Posted March 19, 2014 at 7:26 pm · Link · Reply

    Nice looking furniture. I used to do a lot of painting for an interior decorator who owned a large home. She bought a lot of furniture, pictures and other stuff for her customers from France. What you two are doing reminds me of that and her type of tastes. Very nice looking work and colors.

  • Donna · Posted March 28, 2014 at 9:04 am · Link · Reply

    My kitchen cabinets are wrapped not solid hardwood. They are white, but also 14 years old now. I want to give them that french look and put on granite tops. Will this product work on them?

    • DivaAly · Posted April 7, 2014 at 10:59 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi Donna,

      I’m not quite sure that I know what “wrapped” means. But our chalk finish adheres to just about anything, so I think you’d have good luck with it on your cabinets. It’s hard for me to know without seeing them. But Shabby Paints sticks to metal, glass, plastic… all kinds of things. The other thing you might want to consider is adding trim to the front of the cabinets to give them some architectural details. There are so many options: wood trim, bead board, ceiling tiles… etc… For a small amount of money, you can really transform the look of your cabinets. Our paint will go over the cabinets and the trim alike. For our paint, got to Best of luck and happy painting! Ally

  • The Home Boutique · Posted April 7, 2014 at 7:01 am · Link · Reply

    A great and informative blog post. We’re a stockist of ASCP in the UK and love to see how others use Chalk Paint :)

    • DivaAly · Posted April 7, 2014 at 10:47 pm · Link · Reply

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for dropping by and welcome!

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