Want to paint an old furniture piece? Chalk painting is such a quick way to update a thrifted find or transform a family hand-me-down. Check out these easy-peasy beginner tips to learn everything you need to know to paint furniture with chalk paint.
Updated June 17, 2023 | Originally published January 14, 2019
This project started months ago when I was scrolling Facebook Marketplace during my lunch break at work (a favorite activity of mine). I had been looking for a small storage piece to contain all of my craft supplies and when I laid my eyes on an old wooden cabinet, I messaged the seller immediately.
Then off went the super sweet text to my husband asking if he would pretty-please stop at a random person’s house on his way home from work and buy this random cabinet. Then he asked for a picture so he knew what he was getting and, let’s just say…he was less than impressed. BUT IT WAS ONLY $20!! And I had just the spot for it.
When my blogger friends and I decided to do our second Thrift Store Challenge this month (you may remember the preppy lamp makeover I did last time around), it was the kick in the pants I needed to finally get around to giving my thrifted cabinet a makeover. I will link to all of their amazing thrift store makeovers at the very bottom of this blog post so be sure to go check out their creations!
This painted furniture project only took a weekend, so my only wish is I would have done it sooner! This painted cabinet is the perfect size to fill a small wall (the backside of our coat closet) that separates the front and back of our house.
I have visions of the wall becoming a super organized command center someday, and today we’re getting a start on that big project by adding a closed storage cabinet for craft and office supplies.
Keep reading for all of the before and afters of my painted furniture project plus my tips for painting furniture with chalk paint for beginners.
This painted cabinet is the perfect size to fill a small wall (the backside of our coat closet) that separates the front and back of our house. I have visions of the wall becoming a super organized command center someday, and today we’re getting a start on that big project by adding a closed storage cabinet for craft and office supplies.
Keep reading for all of the before and afters of my painted furniture project plus my chalk paint tips for beginners.
This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for details.
It’s so fun to take a worn out or outdated piece of furniture and give it a fresh, new look with the help of chalk paint. And it’s pretty easy to do, too!
Here are some of the furniture pieces I’ve painted with chalk paint.
I gave my childhood nightstand a makeover by painting over the cheap laminate with chalk paint and adding new hardware. As seen in my navy bedroom makeover.
I just realized this painted piano bench is the same color scheme as the cabinet I just painted! I painted this little thrift store find with chalk paint a few years ago and still love it. See more about this bench painting project here.
This old dresser’s awful orange-ish stain was so not my style. But painting it with white chalk paint and adding pretty new knobs turned it into one of my favorite furniture pieces! See more about this painted dresser project here.
When I got tired of the dark brown color of this laminate nightstand, I grabbed a can of light gray chalk paint and got to work! See more info about this painted tv stand here.
The Beginner’s Guide To Painting Furniture With Chalk Paint
I’ve written two step-by-step chalk painting tutorials in the past, so today I thought I’d go over some of the frequently asked questions that beginners often have when it comes to starting a chalk painting project.
You can see the step-by-step instructions in these two blog posts:
Where do you find old furniture to paint?
There are so many old furniture pieces out there just waiting for a makeover! Here are common places to find old furniture to paint:
- Area Thrift Stores – Great furniture pieces often get snatched up quickly, so it’s best to visit your local thrift stores often!
- Facebook Marketplace – Get in the habit of browsing the furniture postings when you’re killing time on your phone. You can even set it up to get notifications of new postings.This is the best way I’ve found to look for furniture projects without spending much time walking through thrift stores.
- Craigslist – Craigslist and other online secondhand websites can be a great way to find old furniture.
- Family – Ask around! Your family members may have old furniture pieces they’d love to give away. Chalk paint works great on cheap laminate furniture, and many of your family’s castaways may be perfect for painting.
- Garage Sales – Check garage sale listings for the mention of furniture and hit up the ones that sound the most promising.
- Estate Sales & Auctions – Check area sales and auctions for furniture pieces.
What kind of furniture is best for chalk paint?
I have had great experience with chalk paint adhering to all kinds of surfaces. Solid wood furniture works as does cheaper particle board and laminate pieces.
You know the cheap furniture that requires tons of assembly and is covered by thin fake wood grain? They will look like a million bucks after a fresh coat of chalk paint!
Consult your specific chalk paint for other surfaces it can be used on.
If you are a beginner, make sure your furniture piece is in working condition. Small scratches and grime are easy to correct, but drawers that don’t open, damaged corners and deep scratches may require more advanced repair. I always look for furniture projects that are in great working condition and just needs cosmetic improvements.
Here’s a quick list of the types of furniture pieces that you could paint with chalk paint:
- Side table
- Coffee Table
- Dining room table
- Storage Cabinet
- Kitchen Cabinets
- Smaller projects like picture frames, serving trays, etc.
What furniture painting supplies do you need?
This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.
- Clean, lint-free rags
- Screwdriver or drill
- Wood filler
- Putty knife
- Medium and fine-grit sandpaper
- Chalk paint (I used this aqua and this charcoal)
- Small paint roller
- Angled Paint Brush
- Paint tray (or try this nifty roller cup)
- Clear wax or protective top coat (here’s the Rustoleum top coat)
- Drop cloth or something to protect the floor from paint
- New hardware (I used this aqua)
- Painter’s tape
- Dark wax (if you want more of an antique, aged look
- this aqua (specially designed for applying wax with ease)
- Artist brushes (if your furniture piece has a lot of intricate details)
- Painter’s Pyramids – (really handy for lifting furniture up off of the floor – I use mine all the time!)
How do you prep for painting furniture with chalk paint?
The big appeal of chalk paint is the promise that it doesn’t require much prep work. Other types of furniture makeover techniques usually require stripping away old paint and sanding away the finishes. Chalk paint is formulated to adhere to furniture without the need for extensive prep work.
- Sanding – Although most chalk paints say you don’t need to do any sanding, I always take a couple minutes to lightly sand the surface of my furniture before painting. Roughing up the surface will help the paint adhere better. You can always paint a test area first and then see if the paint adheres or scratches after it dries.
- Degreasing – It’s important to start with a clean surface before you get out the paint. I recommend cleaning your furniture piece with a degreaser and lint-free cloth first. This will get rid of all the dust and grime. Make sure to remove any sticky residues and gunk.
- Filling Holes – If your furniture piece has any scratches or knicks, take a few minutes to fill those in with wood filler and a putty knife. Once you cover it up with paint, no one will ever know that scratch was there!
- Removing Hardware/Drawers/Doors/Shelves – The last prep step is removing any knobs and hardware. A drill or Phillips screwdriver is likely all you’ll need to remove everything. Also, remove any drawers and shelves as it’s best to paint all of the pieces separately and then put back together once the paint has dried.
What kind of work area do you need for chalk painting?
Here are a few things to consider when deciding where to paint your furniture:
- Size – The size of work space you need is dependent on the size of your furniture piece. You don’t need a ton of additional space beyond what’s needed for the furniture itself. Plan enough room to lay your piece down the long way and spread out all of the shelves and/or drawers on the floor.
- Light – Working in natural light is ideal, but what’s a DIY project without a late night work sesh? Make sure you have enough light to see what you’re doing.
- Floor Protection – A drop cloth, brown builder’s paper, a plastic tarp, or a large piece of cardboard are all great options for protecting your floor from paint. I used a big canvas drop cloth to protect our carpet from paint while work on my cabinet.
- Ventilation – Check the label of the chalk paint you are using for specific guidelines. Chalk paint is generally non-toxic, low odor, and low VOC, so you shouldn’t have to worry about strong fumes. I painted my cabinet in our house and didn’t notice any kind of fumes. It’s also best to open a window and/or use a fan to circulate air while you work and speed up dry time (leave the fan off while you’re actually painting).
- Temperature – Check the label of the chalk paint you are using for specific guidelines. Painting at room temperature is what’s usually recommended. I like painting furniture indoors so the temperature is controlled plus it’s easier to avoid bugs and dust than painting in the garage or outside. (Plus painting in my living room is simply more convenient!).
What brand of chalk paint is best?
I don’t have a specific brand I’d recommend over others. I’ve personally tried Amy Howard, DecoArt, and Rustoleum, and Annie Sloan chalk paints, and all have been easy to work with. I’ve never done an in-depth test of different brands side by side to find the best chalk paint.
If you are a beginner wanting to chalk paint furniture, my advice is to grab a can of chalk paint in whatever brand you find at your local home improvement or craft store.
I used the Rustoleum Chalked paint for my most recent project:
What kind of paint brush do you need for chalk paint?
- Angled Brush – Use a quality natural bristle angled paint brush. Spending the extra $3 on a better paintbrush is well worth it! Paint brushes will last a long time if you take care of them and clean them properly in between projects, so get a good quality one. I use an angled bristle brush to get into the corners and nooks of furniture.
- Foam Roller – For the large surface areas, I prefer rolling on the paint with a small roller brush. This goes much faster than brushing it all with a paintbrush and you get a smooth finish.
- Round Brush – If you plan to finish your piece with wax (more on that later), you can also choose to use a round bristle brush that’s specific to waxing furniture. When you buy your chalk paint, you’ll probably notice these brushes nearby. I’ve personally never bothered to buy one because I’m cheap and so far I’ve found that my regular bristle brushes do the job just fine.
Any painting tips for getting a smooth finish?
Chalk paint is easy to work with and very forgiving, which is why it’s so easy to use if this is your first time painting furniture. It goes on thick and provides great coverage, so I usually only find I need one or two coats on a project. Here are a few quick tips:
- Since chalk paint is thick, you can brush over the wet paint a couple of times to remove any “skid” marks that your brush makes. I’ve typically found that my chalk paint settles and smooths as it dries and I haven’t had much trouble with brush marks.
- Use a roller brush to achieve a smooth, even finish.
- Always tap the lid back onto your paint can when you aren’t using it. Leaving it open can quickly dry out the paint and make it more difficult to work with.
- If you take a break from painting, stick your brush inside a Ziploc bag, cover your paint try with saran wrap, and pop them in the fridge. This will prevent your brush and paint from drying out which is what usually causes brush marks. I almost always have a few paint brushes in my fridge that are being used on projects-in-progress!
- Don’t panic when your first coat dries with streaks and brush marks. This is normal and you’ll be surprised how much the second coat will even everything out and provide the coverage you need for a finished look.
- Always use painter’s tape to get crisp lines!
How long does chalk paint take to dry?
Chalk paint dries very quickly! The Rustoleum Chalked paint I used on my cabinet project took 30 minutes to dry to the touch and could be handled in 1 hours. I waited 1 hour in between coats and let the last coat dry for 2-4 hours before moving the piece. For best results, check the label of the chalk paint you are using for specific guidelines.
Does chalk painted furniture have to be distressed?
A lot of people love chalk paint because it’s really easy to distress for that chippy, farmhouse, distressed look so many love. It’s very easy to distress your paint using a bit of sandpaper or a wire brush and you really can’t mess up!
Choosing to give it that shabby chic look or skipping the distressing is completely personal preference. I actually don’t care for chipped furniture and prefer a smooth, clean look so I skip the distressing step. I still love chalk paint because it’s so easy to apply and always dries nice and smooth, distressing is just not my style!
What’s the deal with furniture wax?
If you’ve read anything about chalk paint or looked at it in the store, you’ve probably discovered the world of furniture wax. I’m still a beginner in the wax department but have used it on a few projects now.
Chalk paint is porous and flat, so you need to seal it with something. As opposed to a poly sealer, furniture wax is traditionally preferred as the best option for sealer because it slowly settles down into the chalk paint over time and cures to a hard finish whereas other topcoats are more susceptible to flaking and chipping.
- Clear Wax – Applied over the entire furniture piece to seal the paint.
- Dark Wax – Adds dimension and an aged look to your piece. I used it on my painted bench to add darker dimension around the edges of the seat and curved edges of the legs. I have found that a little bit of dark wax goes a long way.
Here is a super detailed blog post with tips and tricks for working with furniture wax on chalk painted pieces.
Although the wax step seems intimidating, I’ll vouch for it being pretty easy once you understand the technique. You simply brush on a layer of clear wax and buff it in. Here’s a great video about using clear wax to seal your chalk paint:
How do you clean your paint brushes?
Chalk paint is very easy to clean up with water and soap. Take the time to thoroughly clean your brushes with warm, soapy water until the water runs clear. Lay them flat to dry. Care for your brushes and they will last a very long time!
How do you update the knobs/hardware?
Besides a fresh coat of paint, I love finishing off every painted furniture project with pretty new knobs or pulls. New hardware can make a big difference!
For my painted cabinet, I swapped out the small knobs for larger brass pulls. My new pulls needed two holes each, so I used the existing holes and drilled two new ones.
If you don’t replace your hardware, consider spray painting it! My cabinet has a nice metal track for shelf clips so you can adjust the shelf. I removed that hardware before painting the cabinet and covered it in a light coat of black spray paint. I’ve also spray painted drawer hinges and knobs with great success.
So there you have it! All of my beginner tips for painting furniture with chalk paint. Furniture makeovers are some of my favorite projects because the before and afters are always amazing to see. It’s so rewarding to take an old piece of furniture, choose a paint color, and give it a whole new look!
I’ve moved my pretty painted cabinet onto this little wall by our kitchen and it’s become home to all our family’s craft supplies. You can take a tour of this painted storage cabinet all filled up and organized in these two blog posts:
- It’s currently used to organize kids’ art supplies
- I previous used it to organize my own craft supplies
It really is so fun to be able to transform a cheap thrift store find into something pretty for my home. I may not be made of money, but I’m slowly adding stylish decor to our house one small project at a time.
Hopefully this tutorial will inspire you to create your own chalk-painted furniture! What will your first project be? Good luck!
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE OTHER LADIES’ THRIFT SHOP CHALLENGE IDEAS TOO!
- DIY Lumbar Pillow from Love Create Celebrate
- DIY Lampshade Upcycled Sweater from Amber Oliver
- Stoneware Jug Makeover from A Crafted Passion
- File Cabinet Makeover from Love and Renovations
- White Farmhouse Pitcher from Making Manzanita
- Sled Makeover with Dark Wax from Green with Decor
- DIY Picture Frames from Home Beautifully
Looking for more thrift store projects? Take a look at these projects:
- Thrift Shop Challenge: A Modern, Preppy Lamp Makeover
- Grey Painted Piano Bench & A Thrift Store Makeover
- A Thrifty DIY Magnolia Wreath
- Thrifty Plaid DIY Christmas Ornaments
- Thrifty DIY Painted Welcome Mat
- Elegant Wedding Table Decor On A Thrift Store Budget
Have a fantastic day!