Have you tried using Annie Sloan chalk paint yet? It’s without a doubt one of our favorite paints, and we use it on everything from small projects like frames to large furniture makeovers. If you’re new to chalk paint, these tips will help you get started.
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1. Is it really no-prep paint?
Annie Sloan chalk paint is often referred to as “no prep” paint. And while this is mostly true, keep in mind that your finish will only be as good as your base. Can you usually get away with slapping paint on and not doing any prep work at all? Yes, usually the paint will take to any surface you put it on with no problem. But if you’re working on a piece of furniture that has a lot of scratches and dings, you’re still going to see those after painting if you choose not to fill them. Also if your piece is dirty or greasy after years of use, the paint might not adhere as well as if you’d cleaned it. For every piece we work on, we clean the surface first. This is our favorite wood filler for filling dings and scratches. We also check for loose veneer and other damage, and if the piece has a rough or uneven surface we sand it smooth (this is our favorite sander). If we’re changing the hardware, we fill the existing holes if needed. Then we start painting. You could probably get away with not doing all these things every time, but to us, it’s worth the little bit of extra time to make sure you’re working on a nice, clean, even surface.
2. A little wax goes a long way
If you’re sealing your piece with wax, a little really does go a long way. Start by scooping a little wax onto a paper plate (we use a plastic spoon to do this). This way you won’t be dipping your brush directly into your can of wax and possibly contaminating it with paint or loose bristles. It’s easier to work off of a paper plate because you can dip your brush in wax, then dab it on the plate to remove the excess. Apply a thin layer of clear wax (you can use a rag, but a wax brush is worth the investment if you plan to paint a lot of pieces), then immediately wipe off all excess with a clean cloth. It’s probably going to seem like you’re wiping all the wax off, but you’re not. If your piece feels tacky at all, keep wiping.
I also want to note that you’re not limited to clear wax when sealing your surface. Wax is what most people mention when sealing chalk paint, but in my opinion, it’s not a very strong sealer. If you’d rather seal your piece with something stronger, you always have the option of choosing a different sealer. We often use General Finishes water based top coat on pieces that get a lot of use.
One more note, you cannot seal your piece with anything else on top of wax. It just won’t stick. Wax is always your last step.
3. Apply clear wax before dark wax
If you’re going to finish your piece with dark wax, you still need to apply a coat of clear wax first. If you apply the dark wax alone, it could stain your paint and you’ll have a hard time controlling how “dark” you make it. So when using dark wax, always paint first, then apply a coat of clear wax, then apply the dark wax. This works best if you use the dark wax immediately (or very shortly) after applying the clear wax. The fresh clear wax makes it easier to move and control the dark wax.
If you’ve put dark wax on and decide it’s darker than you want, rubbing clear wax on top of it will actually erase some of the dark wax. You can read more about our tips for using dark wax here.
4. If your paint is too thick, you can thin it with water
Annie Sloan chalk paint is a thicker paint and is made to show brush strokes. If you prefer to thin your paint a bit before using it (like I do), just add a little water.
5. You can even paint fabric
The technique is fairly simple. Add water to your paint so it’s a thin consistency. Spritz the fabric with spray bottle of water until it’s slightly damp (not soaked), then paint a thin coat on with your watered down paint. Let the paint dry, then lightly sand it with a fine grit sandpaper. Repeat with as many coats as needed. When you’re finished, apply a thin coat of wax then lightly sand it again. The fabric is supposed to feel like soft leather when finished.
Now I have to be honest, we tried this on a chair and the results weren’t great. The fabric felt like cheap pleather when we were finished. I’m not sure if we did something wrong or what, but I wanted you to know so you can do a little more research before taking a paint brush to your living room couch. Maybe we need to try it a second time to see if we get better results.
6. Don’t use wax on outdoor pieces
Annie Sloan chalk paint can be used on outdoor pieces, but the wax doesn’t hold up well outside. Annie recommends you leave outdoor pieces unsealed, but in my opinion, a piece with unsealed chalk paint won’t hold up if left out in the elements. I painted the door going from our mudroom to our garage with Duck Egg Blue chalk paint and didn’t have time to seal it right away. A couple weeks went by with it unsealed and I ended up having to repaint the whole thing because it looked a hot mess. The paint tends to absorb dirt and fingerprints if not sealed. Indoors or outdoors, you always have the option to seal your pieces with something other than wax, and if I were painting an outdoor piece, I would seal it with a finish suitable for outdoor use.
7. What to do if your paint doesn’t seem to be sticking
Every once in a while we’ll be working on a piece and for some reason the paint just doesn’t want to adhere in places. This can happen for a few different reasons. Sometimes it’s because the previous just isn’t playing nice with your paint. Sometimes the piece has been cleaned often with Pledge (which also resists paint). And sometimes we have no clue why it’s happening, but the fix is usually pretty simple.
If there’s just one small section that’s being stubborn, we usually just spray that spot with Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac. This stuff works amazingly well at priming stubborn spots. It dries in minutes, then you can paint right over top of it. If the whole piece is resisting paint, that’s a bigger problem and I would probably sand and prime the whole piece with something like Zinsser Bulls Eye 123. The good news is that problems like this aren’t too common.
8. What to do if the wood is bleeding through your paint
Some woods, such as cherry, are prone to bleeding. Combating it is basically the same as for dealing with trouble spots that don’t stick. If it’s just a couple small spots, try Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac, or if it’s all over bleeding try Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 or any good paint-on primer. Just throw a couple coats of primer right over your paint, then continue painting when it’s dry.
9. You can paint over the wax
If you paint and wax a piece, then decide later you want to paint it a different color, you can paint a new coat of chalk paint directly over the existing wax. No stripping or sanding is needed so long as the wax is fully cured (which takes about 30 days). Note: this is true for Annie Sloan products. Other chalk paint and wax products may or may not work the same.
10. If you seal your piece with wax, you may have to re-wax it occasionally
I feel like nobody really mentions this, but the truth is that a waxed finish isn’t permanent. Especially if it’s a piece that gets a lot of traffic. For example, I have a waxed table in my formal living room that never gets used and it looks just as nice as the day I finished it. I also have a pair of end tables in our family room that were waxed about 9 months ago and they’re starting to show a lot of wear. I have multiple kids and those tables have drinks and toys on them all day long. It’s suggested that you re-wax your pieces occasionally to keep them looking fresh, but sometimes I’d rather use a more permanent sealer for high traffic pieces and be done with it. This is why we don’t always use wax to finish our pieces. While I absolutely love the look of a waxed finish, I don’t have the time or desire to have to reapply wax once I’m done with it. Also keep in mind that the wax takes 30 days to fully cure, so you can only use it “gently” until then.
11. Buff for a shiny finish
If you’ve waxed your piece and want more of a glossy finish, you can buff it. You can use a soft buffing brush or just a cloth to buff back and forth across the piece until it’s shiny.
Where to buy
Not sure where to find Annie Sloan chalk paint near you? Here’s a link to Annie Sloan’s Unfolded website where you can search for distributors and workshops in your area.
Looking for more?
We’ve received many questions from readers who are trying chalk paint for the first time. You can read about the most common questions asked and our answers here: Chalk Paint FAQ’s.
You can find all our furniture painting projects and tips HERE.
We hope you found this post helpful! Wishing you the best of luck with your painting projects!
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You may also enjoy our tips for When To Prep Before Chalk Paint
Or our tutorial for painting graphics on furniture
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