The Definitive Guide to Painting with Chalk Paint® and Wax

From the moment I dipped my brush into Annie Sloan’s now famous Chalk Paint® I sensed the difference. Once I realized how easy it was to work with — and saw that it actually did adhere to almost anything — I just wanted to keep painting and painting. Just dip and paint — it’s really that simple and easy.

With Chalk Paint® I have so many options. I can use it to paint a beautiful handcrafted finish with subtle brushmarks and slight texture, a finish with more texture or distressing, or a smoother, more contemporary look. The colors can be mixed and combined in countless ways. The paint has a soft matte appearance when dry, and I can further protect my finish easily and effortlessly with Chalk Paint® Wax, which gives my piece a lovely soft sheen and a luxurious hand. I can even choose to age or enhance my finish with a colored Chalk Paint® Wax or lustrous metallic Gilding Wax. The possibilities truly are endless.

Basic Facts

Water-based and odorless, Chalk Paint® decorative paint by Annie Sloan is a smooth and creamy decorative paint which is nice and easy to work with — and you can typically start right away without any priming or sanding.

As a rough guide, one litre of Chalk Paint® covers approximately 150 square feet or 13 square meters. For most purposes, one or two coats of paint are enough for good coverage.

One can rest comfortably knowing that representative samples of both Chalk Paint® and Chalk Paint® Wax has been independently tested and certified as ‘toy safe’ according to European standard BS EN 71-3, making them safe to use on children’s toys and furniture.

Suitable Surfaces to Paint

One of the most exciting things about Chalk Paint® is that it sticks to almost anything. It can be used indoors or outside on just about any surface — from wood to metal, matte plastic and laminate to terracotta, and even leather and upholstered furniture — with ease. Perfect for revitalizing old furniture, cabinetry, walls, ceilings, and floors, you’ll soon be creating gorgeous finishes quickly and easily without the fuss.

Finding your Perfect Color

The Chalk Paint® palette offers a carefully selected range of colors from soft and pale to bright and strong. These colors are beautiful on their own or they can be easily mixed to form a color that’s perfect for you.

If you simply want to make a color paler add various amounts of a white. Original will give the color a softer yet fresh look, Old White will give the color a more aged feel, and Pure will make the color more modern. You can easily find what ratio you need by experimenting — use your fingers to dab and mix colors, or a teaspoon to make small amounts. For example, a dollop of Provence and two dollops of Old White gives you a ratio of 1 to 2, making a lovely, slightly aged turquoise like the color found on old faded French shutters. You can then use that ratio to help you mix larger quantities of paint for your project.

If you’re not sure which color you’d like to use, paint an area on the bottom or the back of your piece to test your choice. You can also try applying one or more Chalk Paint® Waxes on top to see if you like the effect.

Choosing the Right Brush

Both Chalk Paint® and Chalk Paint® Wax are typically applied by brush. When choosing a brush, select one with bristles that are fairly long and flexible with a little bounce — avoid brushes with bristles that are too soft, too short, or hard and inflexible.

You’ll find that Annie Sloan’s brushes are the perfect match for Chalk Paint® and Chalk Paint® Wax. They’re easy to hold and light in the hand, making painting and waxing quick and effortless. You can use the following as a guide when selecting which brush is right for your project:

  • Chalk Paint® Brushes are perfect for when you are creating more of an aged look or distressed finish or you are wanting some texture in your paintwork. Their bristles are strong yet pliable and tapered to be slightly thicker in the center than on the ends, making it easy to apply the paint smoothly and evenly without the need to use a lot of pressure — just let the brush do the work for you! They hold a large amount of paint and can also be used for applying Chalk Paint®Wax.

  • Annie Sloan Flat Brushes feature advanced synthetic bristles that are specially designed to apply the paint evenly while minimizing brush marks. They are a good choice when you are creating a smoother finish or when you are wanting a more modern look.

  • Chalk Paint® Wax Brushes are crafted from natural bristles with naturally split ends. They feature ergonomically shaped handles for the effortless application of finishing coats of wax onto painted surfaces. They are shaped to a point to assist with working wax into intricate detailed areas and tight corners.

  • Annie Sloan Detail Brushes are a set of smaller fine bristle brushes used to paint details and shapes. They offer great control and precision and ensure an even spread of color thanks to their soft, durable bristles.

Getting Ready to Paint

Most times simply dusting off the surface will do. Occasionally you may need to wash away any noticeable dirt and grime — use a gentle biodegradable cleaner and warm water and take care to not saturate the surface. Be sure to rinse afterwards with clean water and then let the piece dry completely. Avoid using harsh cleaners or solvents that are hard to rinse away and may actually prevent the paint from adhering.

There may be rare times when you’ll need to sand to remove any loose paint, rust, and other surface debris. Use fine grit sandpaper and remember to change your piece out when it becomes clogged — a fresh sheet makes the task at hand easier to accomplish. Be sure to wipe away any sanding dust.

If you are painting wood that has knots or open grain, apply clear shellac to block any tannins that can bleed up through your new paint layers. This can be particularly true for pine, oak, and certain mahoganies. Clear shellac should also be used if your piece was repaired with wood fillers or spackling, touched up with a stain pen, previously finished with a non-permanent wood stain, or exposed to nicotine and smoke, soot stains, water rings, coffee and tea stains, permanent markers, saline stains, etc. — this will create a barrier to help ensure your newly painted piece will look its best. It locks in unpleasant odors too! Shellac is easy to apply — simply wipe on one or two thin coats with a cloth pad. Shellac dries in minutes, and then you can get on with your painting.

If you’re painting hard or slick surfaces, such as melamine, laminate, ceramic tile, or shiny plastic, you’ll need a bit of patience. First give the surface a thorough cleaning with a liquid TSP-substitute cleaner (the phosphate-free formula). This type of cleaner is also a good choice for kitchen cabinets because you'll be surprised at how grimy cabinets can get. A soft abrasive pad will make this task go easy. Then apply a thin coat of Chalk Paint® and let it dry at least 24 hours before applying your next full coat. At first you might think that the paint will never cover completely, but as soon as you add a second layer, you’ll see a nice result.

Step-by-Step: Applying Chalk Paint®

  1. Before use, shake the can for about 30 seconds. Chalk Paint® contains pigments that tend to sink to the bottom over time. Remove the lid and stir well. Use a stir stick to get down to the bottom of the can and stir in circles, touching the bottom every time to make sure that you have stirred everything up. It’s important that you shake and stir the paint well before using it, otherwise it may not be the true color or cover well.

  2. Brush on a coat of paint, moving your brush in a manner that is most comfortable for you. While some painters prefer to lay out the paint by brushing in a more linear direction, others will move the brush every which way, leaving some subtle brush marks and slight texture which can become part of the look. This should be an easy and effortless step so don’t fuss too much — most of the texture and brush marks will lay out as the paint dries. Let the paint dry completely. An easy test you can do to check for dryness is to place your hand on the surface — if the paint feels damp or cool to the touch, allow it to dry a bit longer until it feels room temperature. Depending on the environment and thickness of application, this may take 30 minutes or longer.

  3. Continue painting, applying enough coats for good coverage. Be sure to allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

When you are done painting, rinse out your brush and then wash away any remaining paint with a small amount of soap and warm water. Use a gentle soap — harsh detergents or even solvents may shorten the life of your brush. Rinse well with warm water. To avoid rusting the metal ferrule, hang or lean the brush to dry with the bristles pointing downwards. Clean the rim of the can and its lid so that you can close it properly in case you have some paint left afterwards. Be sure to close the can tightly so that the paint does not dry out.

Finishing with Chalk Paint® Wax

Finishing your newly-painted piece with Chalk Paint® Wax will protect your finish and make it easy to maintain, while at the same time giving a beautiful mellow look to painted furniture, cabinets, accessories, and even walls. The wax has a creamy consistency and little if any odor.

Working with Chalk Paint® Wax is easy — just apply it in thin layers using a Chalk Paint® Wax Brush and wipe away any excess wax with a clean absorbent cloth. After the wax has dried you can leave it as is for a natural finish or wait until the following day and buff it with a soft cloth to produce a more polished look.

As a very rough guide, you will need one 500ml can of wax for every 3 to 4 litres of paint — of course, this will vary depending on how many coats of wax you use to cover a piece. It’s best to have a little wax left over for touching up. With the lid tightly on, it will last indefinitely.

Chalk Paint® Wax is best for interior projects only. It is not suitable for outdoor use.

Choosing a Wax Color

The look you get depends on the color of wax that you choose. A piece of furniture without any decorative elements, panels, or ornaments fits best with Clear Chalk Paint® Wax. When you use this transparent wax, the paint color underneath turns slightly darker and has a richer look.

Furniture with decorative elements and panels is perfect for a colored wax. White Chalk Paint® Wax will soften and lighten the underlying paint color. Dark Chalk Paint® Wax gives your finish a more authentic aged look and it’s the best choice when you want your furniture to look old and European. If you find the brown color to be too strong, you can easily mix in some Clear or White Wax to provide your piece with a lighter expression. Black Chalk Paint® Wax has the same features as the Dark Wax except with cooler tones.

Step-by-Step: Applying Clear Chalk Paint® Wax

  1. Brush a thin coat of Clear Chalk Paint® Wax over your painted surface. There’s no need to use a lot of pressure or move in tight circles — simply apply the wax using a gentle sweeping motion, following the contours of the piece. Work in small manageable areas at a time, such as a drawer front or side of a small dresser. Wipe off any excess wax with a clean absorbent cloth as you go and replace your cloth with a fresh one when it becomes clogged with wax.

  2. Let the remaining wax penetrate the paint layers and dry. This may take as little as 10 to 20 minutes. It’s easy to tell when the wax is dry. Just place your hand on the surface — if it still feels cool to the touch wait a bit longer until the surface feels room temperature.

  3. For an optional distressed look, sand along edges and any raised details to reveal a little of the wood or paint underneath before applying a second coat of wax.

  4. Apply a second light coat of Clear Wax. Again, wipe off any excess with a clean absorbent cloth and then let the wax dry. This second coat will help to ensure complete wax coverage and creates a nice, even sheen.

  5. For a natural sheen, you can leave as is. For a more polished look, allow the wax to dry overnight and then gently buff with a soft cloth.

While the wax is drying, clean your wax brush. First remove as much excess wax from your brush as you can with a cloth or baby wipe. Then wash it with a grease-cutting soap and hot water to remove the remaining wax and rinse well. Avoid harsh detergents or solvents that may shorten the life of your brush. To avoid rusting the metal ferrule, hang or lean the brush to dry with the bristles pointing downwards. Replace the lid on the wax tin, ensuring you make a tight fit.

Using the Colored Chalk Paint® Waxes

White, Dark, and Black Chalk Paint® Waxes are used when you want to age or alter the look of your finish.

  • White Chalk Paint® Wax will soften and lighten your underlying paint colors. Brush on a thin coat of White Wax, removing any excess with a clean absorbent cloth. Less is more, so there’s no need to apply the wax too thickly. If you find the color to be a bit intense, you can easily wipe away any excess coloration with a small amount of Clear Wax on a cloth pad. Make sure that every part of your piece has been waxed at least once.

  • Dark Chalk Paint® Wax gives your furniture an aged look and it’s the best choice when you want your furniture to look old and European. First apply a coat of Clear Wax, removing any excess with a clean absorbent cloth. Don’t be tempted to skip this very important step — this is what prevents the pigments that make this wax brown from staining the underlying paint and allows you to better control the wax for a smooth application of color. Next, apply Dark Wax, letting the brush work it into the paintwork to bring out brush marks and other texture, and remove the excess with a clean absorbent cloth as you go. Rub away any excess brown coloring with a small amount of Clear Wax on a cloth pad. Make sure every part of your piece has been waxed at least once.

  • Black Chalk Paint® Wax will give a cool, dark finish to your paintwork, bringing out the texture in your brushwork and any carvings and other details as well as darkening and enriching the underlying colors. Apply it the same as you would the Dark Wax (see above).

You can mix any of the Chalk Paint® Waxes together to soften or darken the color. You can also mix a small amount of Chalk Paint® into Clear Chalk Paint® Wax to create a custom colored wax.

Letting the Finish Cure

After you’ve applied Chalk Paint® Wax, you’ll find that it will become dry to the touch very quickly. At this stage, it is still what you might call “soft.” It will start to harden as the solvents in the wax evaporate. This hardening process is known as “curing” and is what strengthens your finish and gives it its durability. Finishes created with Chalk Paint® and Chalk Paint® Wax typically take between 5 and 21 days to cure. Your new finish will prefer warm, dry conditions during the curing process — cold temperatures, high humidity, and application thickness can extend the drying and curing time substantially.

Of course, you can use your newly finished piece straight away, but you should treat it with extra care until the wax has cured completely. Avoid extreme heat and moisture and any objects that would scratch or otherwise damage the surface. Wipe up spills immediately and avoid harsh cleaners and abrasive pads.

A little bit of care and patience during the curing period will reward you with a finish you will enjoy for years to come.

Caring for Your Finish

Caring for a waxed finish is easy — simply wipe clean with a slightly damp cloth followed by a dry cloth. To remove marks or stains, use a slightly damp cloth with a little mild soap. For tough marks, rub a little bit of wax into the marked area. Refresh your finish with a light coat of wax when you can longer buff the finish to a nice sheen.

Treat your piece with care. Always use heat mats, placemats, and coasters to protect your painted and waxed surfaces. Keep your painted furniture away from extreme temperatures or humidity. Like you, your finishes prefer a moderate climate! Avoid excessive water. Also avoid all liquid furniture polishes. Waxes dissolve in alcohol, so using Chalk Paint® Wax on bars is not advisable.

Storing Your Paint

Chalk Paint® should be stored in a dry, temperature-controlled place. Do not store it in a place where weather will affect its temperature, such as a garage or attic. Protect your paint from freezing.

Caring for Your Brushes

To lengthen the life of your brushes, occasionally condition the bristles with an inexpensive hair conditioner.