Chalk Painting: It’s Easier Than You May Think

I’ve struggled with what to write about lately, and I think it’s because I’ve been in the throws of a winter funk: ready for Spring, but know that we have at least two more months before it truly arrives in the Rocky Mountain West. I feel a bit like the sunny daffodils that poke their heads up then get dumped on with snow, ya know?

So, being one to get bored with my surroundings easily, I was looking for simple, inexpensive ways to perk up my space (beyond dish towels and throw pillows). One project I had been eying was transforming an antique secretary desk I acquired last summer. It is a bit rickety and I knew it wasn’t very valuable, so I decided to give chalk painting a go. Here’s the “before” picture of my desk. The finish had aged to an orange shade that competed with the other wood in the room:

‘Before’: The finish had aged to an orange shade

Annie Sloan makes chalk painting easy, with a broad selection of paint colors and waxes. I had painted a hallway piece earlier in Graphite Gray, and knew that I wanted something lighter for the secretary desk. I chose the khaki shade called French Linen, which was a good complement to the Sherwin Williams ‘Jogging Path‘ paint color in our study. It also receded the desk a bit to soften its presence. I liked the look of the aged brown wax overlay, which added rich depth to the finished look.

After: Tones blend with the paint
and don’t compete with the floor

One of the best parts of using Annie Sloan’s chalk paint is that no sanding, stripping or prep work is required before you get started. Perhaps I should back up and explain what chalk paint is, anyway: it is a blend of latex paint and plaster of Paris, which adds a flat and absorbent finish to the paint, and also means that it dries VERY quickly.


To get started, all you really need is a safe area upon which to paint: a drop cloth, newspapers or your driveway. Supplies include Annie Sloan paint (which you can also layer if you choose), Annie Sloan clear wax and dark wax, paint and wax brushes appropriate for your piece and a few paper towels or wet rag for little hiccups. I also find it handy to have a disposable plastic (or other rigid) plate and mineral spirits to ‘thin out’ the dark wax. Note: mineral spirits can be dangerous, so be careful and read the warning label on the can.

Annie Sloan also has brushes that you can buy. I am not as fond of the flat paint brushes as the wax brushes, which work very effectively to grind in the wax to the finished piece. (My flat paint brush from the local hardware store worked just fine.)


Ok, are you ready?

(1) Put on your gloves, get a good dip of color and start painting. Really. It’s that easy. There are a ton of videos and tutorials out there on Annie Sloan, and she will tell you that it doesn’t matter what direction you choose. In fact, it’s even better if you don’t choose a direction, so the wax will adhere in more interesting ways to the finished piece.

2. Do a second coat. Many people suggest that you don’t need to do a second coat, but in my projects I always find it helpful to have one.

3. Wax on, wax off. Put the clear wax on first. You will not be happy if you don’t. The clear wax slightly deepens the color but not drastically, and adds a protective coat of beeswax. Just like in days of old, a good buffing is all the beeswax coating needs to make your piece shine. (You can also get in a good cardio workout and get buffed in more ways than one!)

4. Do the Dark Wax. You don’t have to add dark wax, but it adds a little more dimension if you do. I find this part particularly fun and a bit more artistic. I typically get a good amount (a tablespoon or so) of the dark wax worked into the wax brush, then thin it out with about a teaspoon of mineral spirits on the plastic plate. Working quickly over the piece that has already been finished with clear wax, in small sections, dab or wipe the dark wax on the quickly buff it off. To give your piece a more ‘aged’ look, grind and leave the dark wax into a few corners.

5. Let dry. My pieces are usually ready to move or put back together within a couple of hours, but the paint and wax will continue to cure over a few days or even a month. The best part is, if your piece gets scratched you can easily touch it up with paint and wax. To restore shine, just buff it again. Maintenance is a breeze.

That’s all there is to a basic piece! Do you like this transformation? I am pleased with the outcome. If you like the change, maybe chalk painting is for you.

Cruise Pinterest and you’ll see that many people are doing beautifully artistic things with chalk paints, interesting waxes and overlays. I love the pieces with high contrast but am not brave enough to try them. I hope you’ll be brave enough to try Annie Sloan chalk painting on a piece in your home, and that you find it to be a lot of fun. Let me know what you do!

NOTE: I did not receive any compensation from Annie Sloan or Sherwin Williams for product endorsements.

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