We often get questions from readers about using chalk paint, and a few questions come up more frequently than others. We decided to take our top 7 most frequently asked questions about using chalk paint, and put the answers right here in one post for you.
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First, let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way…
Can I write on it with chalk?
Chalk paint is not the same as chalkboard paint. They’re two completely different products. If you want to write on it with chalk, you’re looking for chalkboard paint.
Do I need to sand and/or use a primer first?
Usually, no. You can use chalk paint to paint right over bare wood or existing finishes. There are some instances, however, when I use primer and/or sand before painting, so you really have to look at each piece individually.
Some examples of when I would sand first: The existing paint job is sloppy with drip marks that I want to remove. The existing paint is chipping. There are scratches or imperfections in the wood that I want to smooth out before painting. The existing finish is extremely shiny and slick (sometimes I like to rough it up with a quick run over it with my sander if it’s super shiny, even though it’s probably not always necessary). This is my favorite sander.
Some examples of when I would prime first: I’m painting over a wood that’s prone to bleeding, like cherry. I’ve noticed my paint seems to be easily scratched off and isn’t fully adhering to the piece. I love all the Zinsser products, including the Bulls Eye 1-2-3, and Bulls Eye Shellac.
Just remember your paint job is only going to be as good as your base, so don’t get hung up on the “no prep”
Can I thin out the paint?
Yes. Chalk paint is pretty thick, and I almost always thin it with a bit of water. I do one of two things… I pour some paint into a cup and add water until it’s the consistency I need. Or sometimes I do it the lazy way and have a small cup of water next to my paint can, dip the tip of my brush into water then into the paint. There’s no right or wrong amount of water to use, but you really only need a little. The advantage of adding water is it makes the paint easier to brush on, and your finish will be smoother.
Do I have to seal my piece with wax?
No. You can choose to seal your piece with something else instead, and I often do. I absolutely love the look of a waxed piece. But in my opinion, wax is just not as durable as a poly. Plus, wax doesn’t last forever. Technically, you’re supposed to reapply it every so often and the truth is I have no desire to go back a few months, or even a year later, and reapply wax to pieces I’m finished with. I often use a water-based poly to seal my pieces. General Finishes Water-Based Top Coat is one of my favorites, and I love that you can get it in a flat finish. If you decide to go with a poly, I always choose a water-based rather than an oil-based for sealing chalk paint. Oil based will yellow over time, and water-based is a million times easier to clean up. So again, there’s nothing wrong with wax. I just don’t want you to think it’s your only option because it’s not. Use what works best for you and suits your piece. Most chalk paint brands say you can choose to leave it unsealed too, but I don’t recommend it. Chalk paint is very porous and will pick up stains and look a mess in no time if you don’t seal it with something.
I already put my first coat of paint down and now the stain is bleeding through the paint. What do I do now?
Just apply your primer right over the first coat of paint. Then when it’s dry, continue with your second coat of paint. If it’s just a tiny spot that’s bleeding, I usually just spray the spot with a couple coats of Shellac, but if you’re getting bleeding in several areas, it’s best to just brush on a couple coats of primer on the whole piece before you continue painting. Again, I like the Zinsser primers mentioned above.
Do I have to distress it?
Absolutely not. Chalk paint distresses beautifully, and it’s my favorite paint to use if I plan to scuff it up. But you definitely don’t have to distress it and I’ve done lots of pieces that I didn’t distress.
If I am distressing, do I sand before or after I apply my top coat?
First, it depends on what your topcoat is. If you’re using a poly, you definitely want to distress first. If you’re using wax, then technically you can distress before or after waxing. My personal preference is to always distress before waxing, and here’s a few of my reasons why. First, I do a lot of graphics and multiple colors on pieces. I’ve noticed that when I sand after waxing, some of the paint color gets caught up in the wax. So let’s say I paint a piece that’s blue and white. I’ve noticed that some of the blue flakes of paint will get caught up in the wax and smear onto the white part, and because the color is inside of the wax it’s pretty much impossible to remove. Secondly, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of applying a top coat then sanding it off. How can the piece be protected if I just sanded off the top coat? And lastly, it’s just easier. I feel like I have more control over the distressing when I’m not trying to go through the wax layer. Oh, and I almost forgot, the wax completely gunks up your sandpaper. Just trust me, distressing before wax is the way to go.
I hope you’ve found this helpful, and as always, feel free to send us a message if you have other questions.
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