How to Chalk Paint Furniture Without Brush Marks
I just took my first furniture painting class using chalk paint and it was so much fun!
If you have always been interested in painting furniture but were too intimidated to try, rest assured, it’s almost impossible to mess up using chalk paint. All of the pieces painted in this class of novices came out looking amazing.
I think they made chalk paint for people like me, who have the inclination to do crafty things but not a whole lot of patience or natural talent to draw on.
What is Chalk Paint?
Chalk paint, not to be confused with ChalkBoard paint (which is paint that will turn a wall or anything else into a chalkboard), is paint made with the addition of minerals such as sodium bicarbonate.
The intent of chalk paint is that it is a thicker paint which requires no primer and less coats to get to a finished, opaque color. This makes it very appealing to use as a furniture paint since it is easy to apply and gets into all the nooks and crannies of decorative wood without much fuss.
It is also very easy to distress, modify, or apply a topcoat like a wax or polyurethane, to enhance or change the texture effect.
Why Use Chalk Paint?
So, “why use chalk paint as opposed to other paint,” you ask?
Well, here is my list of reasons:
- It’s fast. I’ve watched enough YouTube tutorials on the stuff to see that some people can slap it on in a matter of minutes and it looks GOOD. I’m slow so everything seems to take me longer to do, but I was still able to finish a piece in only a matter of hours.
- It’s super forgiving. Even though I haven’t tried using latex or acrylic paint on furniture (yet), the chalk paint goes on really easily and covers well with just a couple of coats.
- It’s pretty. There might be acrylic/latex in the same colors as well, but to me the chalk paints just look prettier and well, thicker & chalkier. It’s definitely its own look – some people like this and some don’t. If you don’t like the look of other people’s finished chalk painted pieces, I’d advise against trying it.
- You might not need a primer. This is the totally honest version, and in the totally honest version – at least from the class I took, a few people had to apply a primer before they chalk painted. So no, it’s not always a primer-free painting method. But if your piece doesn’t have paint on it already or a shiny topcoat, you probably don’t need a primer with chalk paint.
- You might not need to sand. So, again, in total transparency, I had to sand mine. Because, I had a table which had some kind of varnish on it that made it shiny. And you want the paint to stick, which it’s never going to do on a shiny/glossy surface. I can’t blame the paint for not being able to defy physics. However, only a light sanding/buffing was needed – to ensure that the paint would adhere correctly.
- It’s Low-VOC, if any. We used this in a classroom with about 30 of us applying paint and I never smelled a lick of paint. You can do this painting indoors (and probably will want to as the sun will dry your paint very fast).
- You can apply numerous techniques. This might be true for other paint types as well, but there are tons of options available when using chalk paint. You can double layer and distress, cross-hatch, blend different colors, crackle glaze, wax and color wax over it, create a wash, use a patina, use stencils and transfers, and probably do countless other things with chalk paint.
For class, we had to bring our own piece that we wanted to paint, and we got to pick out one paint color in class that we would keep.
I wanted a small end table to squeeze at one end of our couch where I had a folding table sitting for the longest time – and I found one at the thrift store for less than $20.00.
I picked a black paint color named Caviar from the Dixie Belle product line.
While I was the only one in the class who didn’t pick a brighter color, I really love the elegant look of black furniture, especially when it’s enhanced with some distressing.
I also purchased some gilding wax and a spray on wax topcoat, which I used on the piece as well.
Here are my before and after photos:
I seriously fell in LOVE with this process and couldn’t be happier with the results.
Note: if you think you see brush-strokes, that is actually my distressing technique.
The painted piece before distressing was satin smooth with zero brush strokes. I took a high grit sandpaper to the piece after painting and distressed some areas lightly, then used the gold gilding wax on all the edges softly (you can see this on the top outside edge area).
With chalk paint you CAN use a brush stroke effect so that you do see them if you want to, but that is entirely optional and all in how you apply the paint.
How to Chalk Paint Without Brush Strokes
- The key is in the prepping. If your piece is not smooth to begin with, it won’t be smooth after you paint. You need to either sand it down or prime it if you have bumps/ridges/gritty wood.
- Use TSP, White Lightening or an equivalent. This is a cleaner which will remove any oils or residue prior to painting.
- Shake your paint thoroughly before use.
- Use a smooth brush like this one. If you use a rough brush, you will see strokes.
- Use water with your first coat. This is pretty much the secret step you need to know. Use a spray bottle to spray the wood before you apply the paint, and thoroughly soak and re-soak your brush in water throughout the first coat. Keeping your brush and wood wet is what prevents the brush strokes from forming.
- The first coat should be light. To get an even coat without brush strokes, go lightly on your first layer. The second layer will only be as smooth as the first, so make sure you’re getting this evenly coated.
- Catch drips before they dry. If you’ve used water the way you should, you will get some drips on the edges. The drips are a pain to get rid of. Catch them with your brush before they harden, otherwise you will want to sand these down before the next coat.
- Don’t start your second coat until the first coat is dry. You will know that the first coat is dry when the paint feels cold to the touch. If it doesn’t feel cold, it’s not dry. You can sand with a fine grit sandpaper at this point, but you don’t have to. If there are any bumps, drips, or ridges that you feel with your hand, you may want to take some sandpaper to the piece.
- The second coat is optional. If you aren’t looking for complete coverage, you might skip a second coat. I only did one coat on mine because I wanted to distress some of it and have the wood show through a bit.
- The second coat should not use any water. Use the full, undiluted paint for your second coat.
When you are finished, you can choose to distress your piece with wet or dry sandpaper, or do any number of techniques on top of your piece such as applying gilding wax, regular wax, or a colored wax, or other finish.
And that’s it, you’re done!
I sprayed mine with a spray wax a few times as well, and it has a lovely satin finish from this that is smooth and silky.