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.


Chalk Paint: Baby Dresser

I love old furniture. When I set out to decorate the nursery for our newest addition, I wanted to find an old and somewhat cheap piece of furniture that I could restore using chalk paint. Restoring furniture is intimidating to say the least when it comes to sanding, priming, and staining. It’s especially intimidating if you have no experience working with furniture. That’s why chalk paint is the perfect “go-to” as it doesn’t require any prep work other than a good cleaning with soap and water.

After perusing the Internet and Pinterest for ideas, I came to the conclusion that chalk paint seems to work look the best on furniture pieces with a lot of detailwork.  After searching Craig’s List, I found the dresser below. I instantly loved it because it was not only old and European looking, but also had a good deal of detailwork. Fortunately for me, I was able to buy it for $125 and it’s real wood—something hard to find in more recently manufactured pieces.


Since I wanted the furniture in the nursery to be white, I chose Annie Sloan’s “Old White.” This color has a little bit of cream in it and seemed perfect since I didn’t want the dresser to be too white. To my dismay, I found the color too creamy and yellowish for my liking. It also didn’t match the white  crown molding or crib that I already had in the room that are more of a true white. Since Annie Sloan paint is not cheap, I really didn’t want to pay another $34.95 for a can of “Pure White” so I decided to try and wax it with Annie Sloan’s white wax, which is relatively new on the market. (If I had liked the color, I would have opted for her clear wax).

In choosing the white wax, my hope was to make the the dresser a more traditional white color.  After about ten coats of the white wax, the dresser was to my liking. I know ten coats may seem like a lot, but from what I’ve read dressers and other high use pieces of furniture need numerous coats of wax to protect them from wear and tear. Since this dresser was doubling as a baby changing table, I didn’t want to take the risk of  putting all of this work into it only to ruin from a diaper explosion.

After applying all the wax and letting it dry, the fun began. I distressed the dresser with very fine sandpaper to bring out the details. Here is a close-up of the distressing:




Here is the final product: