Chalk Paint: Some of the Basics

I took a three-hour Annie Sloan Chalk paint the other night with a friend. Perhaps I should have taken the class BEFORE painting two pieces of furniture and some photo frames. Despite reading about Chalk Paint online, watching tutorials, and reading blogs, I did learn some new things from the class–things I wish I knew before I got my start. Here are some of the basics that any novice chalk painter should know before their first project:

Size Doesn’t Matter

pure_bristleIf you read Chalk Paint blogs, a lot of people will tell you the brush number they used in their particular project. If you are trying to replicate their “look,” you may worry that you don’t have that exact brush size. If you are like me, your natural instinct is to want to run out and buy that exact brush size. The problem is that you already have an Annie Sloan brush and they aren’t cheap. The good news is that if you purchase Annie Sloan brushes, size doesn’t matter. The brushes are designed so that you choose the brush that feels the best in your hand  (i.e. a brush that doesn’t feel too heavy or too large). In my class, most of the women preferred the small brush, while the one male participant preferred the medium brush–not one person preferred the large brush.

If You Can Only By One Brush, Buy the Wax Brush

annie_sloan_wax_brushes-600x400Annie Sloan brushes are ridiculous expensive ($30-75). Hence my hesitation to spend this much money on a single paint brush when painting isn’t my profession. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I went with her brushes and found them to be completely awesome. The best thing about her paint brushes is that the bristles are from a Chinese Boar. This translates into the bristles being uncut. “Uncut” means they don’t leave brushstrokes.

The instructor–obviously a painter by profession–indicated that most of the “help” calls, or visits to her shop have to do with problems people encounter with waxing. Of course in most cases, people were not using Annie’s wax brushes. Once they switched over, the majority of their wax problems went away. Before Annie came out with her wax brush line, a stripling brush had to be used to apply the wax. In this process, large quantities of wax are applied to the brush. The brush then has to be pressed down hard tiny the furniture to apply the wax. Many people who have used a stripling brushes have reported neck and shoulder problems as a result of the configuration and application process. Annie’s wax brush allows you to apply wax with no pressure. Basically if you are pressing down, you are working too hard. Your are also ruining your brush.

If you are still thinking, “no way. I’m not paying that much for one of those brushes, ” consider this: the instructor  paints 400 pieces a year with a single brush!

Painting Liberally versus Smooth Modern

There are numerous ways to apply finishes, distress and so forth, but when it comes to the FIRST coat of paint we were taught two options. You can opt for “painting liberally” or a “smooth modern” finish. The former method consists of slopping the paint on in any which direction. If you like the look of a perfect finish,  then the smooth modern approach may be for you. In this method, you apply one coat of paint from end-to-end of the piece  you are painting without lifting the brush. This is actually hard to do for a beginner especially when painting long pieces of furniture like a table. Also, while this method looks beautiful and polished, the downside is that if the piece wears down the imperfections will be quite noticeable. Painting liberally, however, disguises imperfections and is better for beginners.

I should note that it can’t be stressed more that you should make sure you know your technique before painting something like a kitchen. We were told typically beginners use one technique for the first cupboard, a slightly different technique for the second, and by the fifth cupboard they’ve found one they even like better. The result–cabinets that all look different and mismatched and not in a good way.

Save Time and Money by Applying Half Coats

After the piece has dried 90%, the paint should be assessed. If wood is bleeding through the paint, the piece need a half coat. You can certainly apply a full coat, but why would you want to? The paint is very expensive and applying a full coat is time-consuming. Time is money.

Since Annie Sloan paint is highly pigmented, the wood doesn’t normally bleed through on most pieces. However, there are two exceptions –mahogany and East Coast Oak. If the piece is made of mahogany or East Coast Oak, the wood will probably only bleed through if you are opting for a lighter paint color. You won’t have an issue if you opt to use a darker color in Annie’s paint line.

To apply a half coat, your brush should be dipped into water and then into the paint (the paint should not be in the can when you do this). If you can see any water seeping out of your brush, the brush has too much water. To fix this, apply more paint to you brush. If you apply the paint with too much water, it will leave water marks on your piece and take off the existing paint. It will remove color instead of adding to the existing color.

Hope this helps any people out there getting into Chalk Paint. I can’t wait for my next class.


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