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Beginners' Guide to Chalk Paint

Beginners’ Guide to Chalk Paint

The Beginners’ Guide to Chalk Paint, you may well have heard, along the way, of an old expression ‘the five stages of grief’.  Yep, no doubt you have stumbled across this term one way or another?  Well, from there, you possibly have never heard of the expression,  ‘the five stages of chalk painting’?  No?  Well, this post will hopefully give you total enlightenment to everything ‘chalk paint’.

Our passion began in 2012 and as beginners, this all may ring true to many of you when you started your journey with chalk paint?

STAGE 1: Is most definitely ‘Intrigue’: “A paint that requires no stripping, sanding, or priming?  Tell me more!”
STAGE 2: Ew, then those thoughts & ‘Intimidation’ could well set in: “Oh wait – I have to seal it with wax?  Then buff it?  That sounds scary!  I don’t think I’m ready for this.”
STAGE 3: Then you start pinching yourself – ‘Provocation’: “OK, OK, OK,!  I’m sick and tired of seeing all the pretty chalk paint projects blowing up my Pinterest stream.  It’s definitely time to bite the bullet and see if Marilyn’s Chalk Paint Powder and Chalk Paints can really live up to all the chalk paint hype.”
STAGE 4: Pondering & ‘Disbelief’: “Wait a minute – am I missing something?  When’s it going to get really complicated?”
STAGE 5: Complete ‘Elation’ and a new passion begins: “I did it!  Ain’t she a beaut?  I cannot believe it took me so long to try it.  At least, using Marilyn’s Chalk Paint Powder, I only had to mix 500 mls, which is all I needed for this project and still have enough Powder left over , so onto my next painting project!”

Beginners’ Guide to Chalk Paint, I see some of you nodding your heads on the other side of the screen.  I know for me, in the very beginning (about us), I was stuck at STAGE 2 for quite a while, but once I actually dove in to my first painting project with Marilyn’s Chalk Paint Powder added to acrylic paint, I quickly catapulted from STAGE 4 with disbelief at its ease of use to STAGE 5 with elation over how my project turned out.

And my hope after so long, is that by sharing my beginner’s experience with you all, I can help nudge some of you out of your intimidation phase and onward toward elation!

In short: “Come on in, the chalk paint’s fine!”

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

I had a lot of questions when I first started off…so I’m going to give probably more detail than usual in hopes of filling in the blanks, so you don’t have to hunt down the answers through multiple Google searches like I did.  This will be your one stop shop!

For those of you who are experienced chalk paint users, well, then, I’d love for you to chime in with your own tips and tricks in the comments below.  The more shared knowledge we can harness, the more magnificent our furniture transformations!

Step 1.  Choose your furniture piece.  

For one of my very first chalk paint projects – prior to using beautiful hand crafted pieces, I decided to tackle a very brave USA’s friend’s small ‘hot drinks station’ made of varnished teak.  Her guest room was all in blues, yet the fugly drinks station left buckets to be desired.

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

Step 2.  Gather your supplies!

All Marilyn’s products, Chalk Paint Powder, Powder Kits and Chalk Paint are sold on-line and are shipped Australia Wide with a very small shipping cost associated.

Here’s a list of the supplies I used on this project:

  • 30 grams of Chalk Paint Powder ($18.95 for 60 grams) into 500 ml can of some brand of Low Sheen Acrylic Paint ($25) in a complimentary blue to Sue’s guest room blues (thankfully, I carry Marilyn’s Powder where ever I as I never know when a quick furniture reno is needed!).
  • paint brushes: I use the Monarch brand which you can buy at Bunnings from around $10+ and leave little to no ‘loose bristles’ on your designer project!
  • 1 container of Marilyn’s uBeaut Neutral Soft Wax ($30 but goes a very, very looong way and does many chalk painting projects)
  • Either a lint free cloth for applying your wax, or a round brush (again I chose to use the Monach brand:.
  • 2 clean, soft rags (microfiber, cheesecloth, or t-shirt with seams cut out will work) for buffing your wax.
  • New drawer knobs from any hardware store (usually around $4 each)
  • Extra supplies: painters tape, paint can opener, wooden paint stirrer (again, head to your nearest Bunnings store), screw driver for removing hardware, rubber gloves, paper plate, plastic knife.

Monarch Paint Brush 38 mm

Step 3.  Choose and prepare an ideal workspace.

Things to consider when choosing the proper space:

  • temperature: we do recommend working at “room temperature.”  After having painted furniture both outside and inside, I much prefer working indoors.  Not only can you better control temperature by setting the air, but you have less chance of insects or dust landing on your piece while paint is drying.
  • ventilation: if you are in a small workspace, make sure you have windows and fans to help move the air during the drying time (keep the fans off while painting).  Although do remember that Marilyn’s Powder is non-toxic and most modern acrylic paints are environmentally friendly, they have low odor and have minimal VOCs, so you don’t have to worry about strong fumes or allergies.
  • light: working in natural light is ideal…although, many painting projects will likely last into the night.  So, bring extra lamps into the workspace if needed.
  • protecting the floor: I use cheap builders plastic sheets (again available at Bunnings) and painters tape to tape down onto a section of the living room floor, so I don’t have to worry about paint drips and I can keep my husband calm and relaxed – yep, I’m a messy painter.

Step 4.  Prep and clean your furniture piece.

These are steps I take for any furniture makeover project I’m undertaking.  So, you’ve probably heard these facts before!

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

  • Remove any removable elements like hardware, shelves, drawers.
  • Fill any holes with wood glue (or leave them for ‘character’) and lightly sand to an even finish.
  • Run your hand across the piece to find any rough patches and unsightly lifting paint bits that may need sanding to achieve a smooth finish (but you do NOT need to sand the entire piece when using chalk paint – even if it’s varnished as this piece was!).
  • Remove any sticky gunk, oil, grease, dirt with a mild detergent and water and if there is quite an amount on your piece, we recommend household steel wool, then give your soon to be designer piece with water to remove left over water scum.
  • Allow to thoroughly dry.
  • Trim edges of any sections that won’t be painted using painter’s tape (like the inside of drawers).

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

Step 5.  Apply your first coat of Chalk Paint.

Make sure your can of paint is good n’ mixed (you can set it upside down for a while…or use a wooden paint stirrer).  Then, slowly work section by section.  If you’re feeling extra anxious, you can start with a side of the furniture that won’t get as much “air time” like the back legs of a table.  That way, you get a sense for the rhythm of using this paint.  But I can tell you: it’s not as complicated to use as you may first think it is!

Beginner's Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

A few things to remember and learn along the way:

  • Since your paint, when blended with Marilyn’s Chalk Paint Powder, becomes exceptionally thick (we call it ‘jelly paint’), you may apply too much paint to a section, although the paint is very forgiving.  So, whereas with latex paint, once 10 seconds have passed and it has started to dry, you can’t go back over it without the “skid” marks.  With Marilyn’s Chalk Paint, simply add a few spritzers of water to give yourself leeway in going back over a wet section to out the paint.
  • You can work straight from the can but be sure to cap it in between dipping your brush.  We highly recommend spooning a portion of your paint into/onto a small plastic bowl and paper plate (this will also allow you paint to warm and ‘thin’ to room temperature.
  • Sometimes you may paint against the wood grain in order to more easily cover a section, but always make sure that your final strokes are in the direction of the wood grain.
  • And if you have to hit the pause button on your painting project in order to work on something else, simply pop your wet paintbrush in a ziplock plastic bag in the fridge.  It won’t dry out that way!  This is one of our truly tried and true painting tricks.
  • Don’t panic when your first coat dries looking streaky with TONS of brushstrokes.  This is normal.  And everything will look very different after your second/third coat.

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

Step 6.  Apply your second coat of Chalk Paint.

The first coat will dry very quickly – in approximately 30 mins to an hour – depending on the temperature and humidity.  Soon after, I went back in for coat #2!  And here’s where the magic really happened.  As my paint dried, I could see those heavy brushstrokes vanishing into a smooth finish.  2 coats were enough for most of the table.

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

For comparison, the horizontal bars have one coat of paint, whereas the vertical lines have two coats of chalk paint – magic!

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

On this project I ended up painting a third and a fourth coat on my tabletop because of a very faint dark streak I saw across the top that wouldn’t go away.  In retrospect, 2 – 3 coats would have been sufficient, since no one else really saw the streak but me.  (I think the streak was from some of the dark mahogany wood peering through.)  4 coats is excessive.  And as smooth as my tabletop was, I think it would have been even smoother had I not done that extra coat.  This lesson was quickly learned and never repeated!

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

This is the top with just two coats of paint – I really should have stopped right here!

Step 7.  Clean your paint brushes.

OK, our Beginners’ Guide to Chalk Paint is pretty long although we are now on the ‘home stretch and you’re weary, who wants to pause to clean your brushes?  But trust me, it’s worth the five minutes it takes to run your brushes through some warm, soapy water.  Your brushes will last for years and years to come if you take good care of them now.  Please also remember that once Marilyn’s Chalk Paint Powder is added to your acrylic paint, it becomes super adhesive so it will simply adhere to your paint brushes.

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

Step 8.  Applying your wax.

This is the step that initially perplexed and intimidated me the most, but when I first tried it, I was shaking my head at how easy it was.  If you learn anything from this post, learn this: Do not be intimidated by the waxing step.

The wax seals and protects your decorator item and although it comes out of the jar super soft, it will harden when it dries.

At the very beginning, I watched several YouTube videos to get the sense of the waxing technique but, seriously, it’s so easy.  I don’t know what I was afraid of.

Simply use a lint free cloth (or my favourite is a round brush to get into all the nooks and crannies) and apply the wax in small 30 x 30 cm squares at a time and massage into your decorator project.  Allow the wax to ‘cure’ or dry (approx 20 to 30 minutes).  Get yourself a clean lint free cloth & start to buff and buff some more (on larger items we now use an electric buff – I know, lazy, although we now do a lot of commissioned work – yep, people pay us to transform their furniture), until you see a beautiful sheen appears on your decorator item.

Beginners' Guide to Marilyn's Chalk Paint

If you want a higher gloss shine you can happily add another layer of wax (after you have buffed your first layer) until you have the ‘sheen’ you want!

Clean your wax brushes or buffing pads by popping them in Mineral Turpentine for a short while!  Worth the effort, they will last you years!

Optional Step 8.  Distress your piece.

Since this was one of my first pieces and I was on a tight time frame, I decided not to do any distressing, but if you want to try it, go for it!  You can use a medium-grade piece of sandpaper or a sanding block and rub it across the sections that would naturally get distressed like edges, corners, top, wooden knobs or detailing, protrusions, etc, simply have fun with it.  And if you feel you have over distressed your decorator item, easy, just add another layer of paint!  Just dust off your sanding with a dry brush or damp cloth before applying your clear or dark wax.

Beginners' Guide to Chalk Paint

Along with our Beginners’ Guide to Chalk Paint, we do highly recommend you check out our Chalk Paint Powder Recipe page, our Chalk Paint Techniques page and our FAQ’s page.  More advanced chalk painting techniques can be found on our Blog page.

Thanks for sticking with me with this especially long post, although I hope we have answered many of your questions? If you still have questions, we love to hear from our customers so please just contact us!


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