Today I give you an honest chalk paint review based on my experiences painting with Annie Sloan chalk paint. The pros and cons of painting your furniture with chalk paint and how to make it work.
I have painted several pieces of furniture with chalk paint now, and I love the final effect and result on both of them. But I have decided I will never use it again.
Painting Furniture with Chalk Paint (Why I decided to try it out)
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I had decided I wanted to go for the old, chippy look, and preferably for a really quick and easy makeover (makes sense, duh). So I invested in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. It is not as readily available over here in the Netherlands, so I had to search for a supplier and travel quite a bit to get my personal stash of AS Chalk Paint.
I didn’t have prior experience using chalk paint but all the blog reviews had made me curious and confident it would be so easy to use. Apparently, I wouldn’t need to do any prep work at all. That was a huge selling factor because I have a big hutch in my living room that I want to paint this year.
I thought AS chalk paint might be perfect for that hutch. So I was very happy to find that there was a Dutch supplier I could visit. I brought two drawers with me (of my desk and of the hutch) to get the expert’s advice, and she helped me and send me on my way with lots of useful tips and an offer for more online advice.
Related Reading: Milk Paint Review
I had already started and primed my maid’s wardrobe when the idea to give the chalk paint a trial run popped in my head, so I painted that one first.
I am very happy about how both projects turned out, but as I said I am not all that happy about the process that it took me to get to that point.
Chalk Paint Review (what I liked and what I didn’t like)
The pros of working with Chalk Paint
- The chalk paint gives a wonderful matte finish,
- It doesn’t smell,
- It allows you to paint fast and follow up with several layers within hours,
- The clean-up is a dream.
I also found chalk paint very difficult to paint with…….
The cons of working with Chalk Paint
- It is hard to paint with chalk paint without visible brush strokes.
- It can cause bleed through.
- It is expensive.
- It doesn’t always adhere to the furniture as it is supposed to.
- You need at least one finishing layer to seal the paint.
Working with Chalk Paint on Furniture
I had no trouble on the bare wood on the top of my desk. But on the smooth, lacquered sides it went on irregular and stripy.
This had happened on the maid’s wardrobe too. I had already primed that one when I decided to give the chalk paint a trial run. The primer was a bit spotty and I hadn’t given the wardrobe an even finish with it.
Normally that is no problem at all, the first coat of finishing paint will take all that away. But not in the case of following it up with the chalk paint. Chalk paint is more transparent so I kept seeing the differences between the whiter and the less white bits underneath. Took me three layers to have an acceptable cover.
Officially you don’t have to prime when you use AS chalk paint so with my desk I decided to faithfully follow the instructions I got from the supplier and not prime the piece first.
It was no better…..
It seemed as if the first layer had big trouble adhering to the lacquered and veneered piece, so I was left with visible brush strokes and an uneven finish. But most of all I couldn’t get rid of the marks the brush left when I put it on the piece or when I changed directions with the brush.
The image above is a really big close-up (and therefore a bit exaggerated) of what happened when I moved the brush in the opposite direction. The only way I could get rid of it was running the brush from one end with no hesitations to the other end. On the desk that was doable on a full length hutch that would be nearly impossible.
Problems That Can Happen With Chalk Paint
As it turned out the visible brush strokes weren’t even my biggest problem. After the first coat was on, something else happened that I couldn’t seem to solve.
My biggest problem when painting my desk was that the old white dissolved the old varnish and as a result, I had a big yellow mess on my hands.
This close-up of the leg shows the yellow stain coming through (it was hard to photograph, it was much worse on some other bits).
At this point, I had painted one layer of grey and following the directions I had received, I followed that up immediately with the white color (the pamphlet said one could/should do it after 30 minutes if you were going for the distressed look).
The grey went on fine albeit a bit stripy, and the white went on like a dream (it adhered much better to the grey), but within 15 min this happened. The white dissolved the old varnish and sort of disappeared leaving these yellow spots behind. I recognized what happened because I had seen it before in a closet I painted with cheap paint. Back then I had to do 6 layers to more or less get rid of the yellow.
When Not to Use Chalk Paint (as Directed)
By now I have learned that this is bleed-through and that you need a special primer to stop it. I wish I had known that at the time would have saved me a lot of frustration and time. So much for “no need to prime your furniture with chalk paint”. If you run into this problem you should read my post on: How to Paint Mahogany Without Bleed Through. What works for mahogany works for any kind of wood.
Anyway, no one had warned me about bleed-through being a risk and I had already invested two layers of chalk paint into the makeover of this desk. In the end, I decided to let it dry like this overnight and then gave it another white coat. This one too somewhat disappeared and left me with a yellow stained desk.
I didn’t want to put on many more layers in an effort to get rid of it completely. After all, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is quite expensive. So instead I made peace with it. I covered some of it up with a dry brush of grey, distressed the yellow bits the heaviest, and for the rest pretended that it was part of the faux aging of the piece.
Distressing Furniture After Painting with Chalk Paint
While distressing, it became clear that the paint had not adhered very well to the legs or the sides. Because even the slightest distressing brought out the raw wood. I could never only remove the white to expose the grey underneath, it would scrape right off. Only on the top that used to be bare wood, the paint had adhered so thoroughly that I was able to sand off the top white layer and let the grey bottom layer shine through.
You can see in the image above how all of the paint was gone on the leg, I did not forcefully remove it. I distressed it very carefully with a really fine 400 grid sandpaper. For the final result I painted over the too heavily distressed bits with a dry brush of grey to make them a bit softer.
How to Finish Furniture with Chalk Paint
And I wasn’t even finished after all that. Because the “no prep work when using chalk paint” lost its luster a bit when I realised I know had to finish my furniture with a layer of sealant to make it durable and user resistant.
I chose a clear wax to seal my desk. Using several layers on the top and legs as they will have to endure regular heavy use. I think putting on those layers of seal took as much time as it would have to prime the piece of furniture. And with the proper primer I wouldn’t have had the issue of the bleed through in the first place.
All in all I didn’t save time using chalk paint, the outcome was not what I expected, I encountered problems the paint couldn’t solve and I won’t be using chalk paint on my furniture in the future.
But I love how my desk looks. The before and after is amazing. The end result of my old desk makeover was a success.
Related Reading: How to Paint Suitcases
So to recap:
What I loved about working with chalk paint:
- It takes a bit to get used to, but I love the matte finish. It suits old pieces like this very well because a shiny new finish would never look authentic.
- I love that it is practically odorless. I painted my desk in the middle of my craft room and it did not stink up my whole room.
- I love that it dries fast and you can start and finish a piece in a couple of hours.
- I love the ease of clean-up. Just run your brushes under the tap and they are clean and ready to go again in no time (you can even forget your brushes and clean them later all dried in, perfect for a messy DIY-er like me).
- It distresses wonderfully and looks very natural as if time itself has done it.
What I didn’t like about working with chalk paint:
- I couldn’t get it to adhere evenly to my previously lacquered pieces. It went on rather spotty and stripy
- It was particularly hard to not have visible brush strokes, especially where the brush either changed directions or was put on the piece.
- Because of the less than perfect bonding with the furniture, the distressing was hard to control and it was impossible to distress only to the previous layer.
- The white paint dissolved the old varnish and therefore not only did not go on well, but it also caused a lot of yellow staining.
- The time you save on not having to sand at the start of the project is wasted when you have to finish the piece by waxing it.
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Marianne Songbird is the founder of Songbird, where she hopes to inspire everyone to create a home they love, one DIY project at a time. She shares anything from craft ideas to home decor inspiration and from DIY projects to decorating hacks. Originally from the Netherlands Marianne and her husband Lex are currently renovating a 250-year-old farmhouse in Germany.