I used to think Annie Sloan Chalk Paint wasn’t for me, because all the examples I saw were of layered and distressed finishes. It is really part of the ASCP brand, because the paint works remarkably well for distressed and faux finishes. But, it also has its merits for modern finishes.
Why Chalk Paint?
I choose chalk paint for my painted furniture because:
- You do not have to prime first
- You do not have to sand first
- You can do different looks with a finish coat (not locked into the sheen of the paint). I finished my media center with a satin sheen, but I plan to do a glossier finish over the same paint for an end table.
Possible downsides of chalk paint:
- More limited color palette, but there are instructions on mixing paint to extend colors
- Although you skip sanding and priming, there is an added finishing step at the end (see above why I think that is a bonus)
Tips for a Smooth Paint Finish
Achieving a smooth paint finish depends on several variables. The tool and technique tips below apply to all water-based paints including chalk paint.
1. Stain Before Paint
If you want to create a two-tone look like I did on my media center with paint and stain, it is best to stain first. It is easier to stain first. Apply all coats of stain and allow to dry fully. Then, you can prep for painting by taping off any stained areas.
2. Paint Type Matters
- Chalk paint appears to apply with visible brush strokes, but it dries pretty smoothly. Several thin coats are better than one thick coat.
- Latex paint is more susceptible to brush strokes, depending on the quality of the paint. Higher-end paints dry smoother. You also have to properly prepare the surface by stripping and/or sanding the old finish smooth before painting. For an extra tip, specific to latex paints, check out my favorite additive for reducing brush strokes (a must for painting trim and cabinets).
3. The Right Tools
- A good quality brush – I prefer the Purdy XL Cub. I always have at least three in service and use them for cutting in walls, painting furniture, and even smaller craft projects.
- The best roller – I love Home Depots system for labeling brushes and rollers with good, better, best. I had always heard the white foam rollers were ideal for a smooth finish, but I always got bubbles with them. Well HD labels them “better”, so that got my looking for “best”. These thinner roller covers are labeled “best” and they are best. They say right on the label they are for painting trim and cabinets. Well, I don’t know about you, but I prefer my furniture pieces as smooth as my cabinets. The finish was incredibly smooth. This will forever more be my go to roller for furniture painting.
4. Technique matters
- Brushing – I prefer to brush first and only use the brush on narrow or hard to reach areas where the roller won’t work. Brush in long continuous strokes and don’t over brush. Paint starts drying as soon as it hits the piece, if you over brush, you will get brush strokes. Also, it is important to properly load your brush with paint. Aim for the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the brush loaded with paint. Less than that and you brush will get drag marks and more visible brush strokes. More than that and you will drip and slop paint everywhere.
- Rolling – Properly load your roller with paint. It should be saturated, but not dripping. Unlike painting walls, where you roll over and over the same area, I prefer to roll in long strokes across the furniture piece. I roll the paint all the way across, then pull the roller back, and finish with one final stroke in the original direction. Always finish each stroke rolling in the same direction. Use one long stroke to cover the entire length you are working on, instead of doing smaller sections.
How to Get a Modern Sheen
Matte or Eggshell Finish (Low Sheen)
If you paint with chalk paint, you need to apply wax or another finish after the paint dries. For a modern finish, I do not use clear wax. Waxing is a multi-step process, applying the wax and then later buffing the wax. It provides a quality result and durable finish, but the sheen is matte. More buffing can make it shinier, but it still won’t achieve a satin finish.
I used clear wax on my dipped office chair. It has a nice smooth finish, but it is low-luster.
Satin or Gloss Finish (Medium to High Sheen)
For modern pieces, I prefer a satin finish, and sometimes a gloss finish. For both I use Minwax Polycrylic in the respective sheen. Not to be confused with oil-based polyurethane, Polycrylic is a water-based protective finish that will not yellow. Polycrylic can also be applied as a finish coat over stain, too, which makes it nice for two-tone (like my media stand dresser) or tri-color pieces (like my tri-color dresser). The Polycrylic requires 2-3 coats. I do not recommend rolling on the Polycrylic. Even on the can they recommend brushing it on. I use my trusty Purdy brush and brush on the Polycrylic in long even coats. I have been happy with two coats on my pieces, but the can suggests three coats. Make sure to let the Polycrylic dry thoroughly between coats. Also, if you do notice any brush strokes, you can lightly sand with 220-grit sand paper in between finish coats.
On my modern media stand, I applied two coats of Polycrylic in Satin Finish. I used the same finish on the stained wood drawer fronts.
I am so glad I gave Annie Sloan Chalk Paint a try. Just because most examples are distressed and layered, doesn’t mean you can’t create a modern look with chalk paint. Even with the extra finishing step, I prefer chalk paint to latex paint for furniture. I think the finished result is better.