How to Get a Professional Finish with Chalk Paint

Tutorial How to get a professional finish with chalk paint.

In today's post I will provide the basic step-by-step instructions of how to create a professional finish with Chalk Paint. This process will help you transform your outdated furniture with outstanding results! Not every project requires all steps, for instance, I don't always sand or distress the paint, but for most projects I do. Follow the basic steps and be creative with your project and you will be a pro in no time!

Following these steps will take your project from basic to professional. I'll include a supply list of the products I use at the end of the post, but I've tried to also include some alternatives as well.

This lovely oak table was gifted to me by my son-in-law, Anthony. Both the finish and structure were in great shape, but I wanted to give it a classic black finish with an aged appearance.

Oak table before

Steps to Get a Professional Finish

After cleaning and making any necessary repairs, follow the steps below to get a professional finish:

DIY professional finish with Chalk Paint

Apply one to two coats of chalk paint. 

Step 1  Apply one to two coats of chalk paint.
Painting is so fun!
Applying the paint is my favorite part of any project! It's so fun to watch the project transform just by using paint. What I especially love about Chalk Paint is that it doesn't require a primer coat.

Some colors with less pigments, such as Pure White or any of the reds, might require 3 or more coats to get complete coverage. One coat of paint might be appropriate for a primitive or heavily distressed finish

The next steps assume that the paint will be sanded. Following the sanding steps in between coats of paint will provide the smoothest finish possible, although it's not necessary. But it will set your project apart and give it a professional finish.

STEP 1: Sand back the paint using a flexible sanding pad. 

Step 2 Use a flexible sanding pad.
Use a flexible sanding pad.
This step will remove obvious brush strokes. However keep in mind that not all brush strokes are bad! A hand painted finish adds character and charm. In my mind, if you want a "factory finish", well there are plenty of factories that manufacture furniture. Instead, embrace the beauty and craftsmanship of a hand painted finish.

The flexible sanding pads are especially useful on rounded edges, furniture legs and spindles as it gives more control. I use the sanding pads on almost every project I work on. I cut the pads in half with scissors and they fit my hand perfectly. The pads are reusable and I get a lot of use out of each pad.

Be sure to wear a mask while sanding and cleaning the sanding dust!

STEP 2: Use 220-grit sandpaper to wear back the finish and apply distressing.

Step 3 use 220-grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding pad.
Use 220-grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding pad.
After sanding back the paint with a sanding pad, I next use sand paper to continue the sanding process. 220-grit is my go-to sandpaper. For a more distressed look use 150-grit. A power sander can also be used but it doesn't offer as much control as hand sanding.

I wrap my sandpaper around my sanding pad for added control and to avoid over-sanding. I start with a light pressure and gradually increase the pressure until I get the look I want.

For instance, if I want a worn look I will apply a little more pressure, rubbing back and forth, in the area I want to achieve a worn finish.

STEP 3: Use a soft brush to gently brush off excess sanding dust.

STEP 3: Use a soft brush to gently brush off excess sanding dust.
A large soft bristle paint brush makes clean up easy!

There will be lots of sanding dust to deal with, so I use a large soft bristle paint brush to gently brush off the excess, trying to avoid creating a giant dust cloud. Alternatively a soft bristle broom could be used, but only if it's clean as you don't want to add dirt to your project.

For flat surfaces, I use the brush to sweep the dust into a pile and then use a plastic grocery bag as a dust bin.

STEP 4: Rub a tack cloth over the furniture to remove remaining sanding dust.

STEP 4: Remove sanding dust with a tack cloth.
Remove sanding dust with a tack cloth.
Basically a tack cloth is sticky cheese cloth. I'm not a huge fan of how it feels (sticky), but it's not horrible, and it's so effective at getting rid of excess dust it is a worthwhile step.

The tack cloths come folded, so simply wipe the furniture with the cloth. When the area of the cloth becomes full of dust, refold the cloth and continue wiping.

For small projects I don't use the entire cloth, so I fold it up and put it in a plastic sandwich bag for future use.

STEP 5: Use a damp shop towel to remove any remaining residue.

STEP 5: Use a damp shop towel to remove any remaining residue.
Clean with a damp shop towel
At this point most of the sanding dust is removed; however, I like to give it a final wipe down prior to waxing.

For this step I use a dampened shop towel which is basically a heavy duty paper towel, but it doesn't fall apart easily when wet. As the towel picks up residual sanding dust, I re-wet it, wring it out, and continue wiping the furniture.

A lint-free rag, such as a t-shirt could also be used instead of a shop towel. However, I don't recommend a wash cloth as the rougher texture can actually remove the paint (although I do use a wash cloth when I want to "wet sand" a project).

STEP 6: Apply a coat of soft clear wax.

STEP 6: Apply a coat of soft clear wax.
Soft clear wax
The final step is to apply a coat of soft clear wax. The trick to applying wax is to not use too much. I use a waxing brush, but you could also use a lint free cloth to apply the wax. However, I've found the waxing brush is faster and uses less wax.

Working in small sections, use just enough wax to spread evenly over the surface. Then use a lint free cloth to wipe off the excess. It is "dry" to the touch almost immediately; however, it can take a few weeks to fully cure and harden.

Once it's cured it will provide a strong durable finish. For table tops a second or third coat can be applied for extra durability, but wait at least 24 hours or more between coats.


I mentioned in a previous post that my camera isn't working properly; specifically the auto-focus. So until I can get a new camera, I've switched to using the manual focus. I took a lot of photos of the finished table, but the following are the only ones that are even close to being in focus!

Table painted in Graphite
Oak table painted in Graphite.
For this project I used two coats of Graphite (Annie Sloan Chalk Paint). I followed the steps listed above and finish with a coat of soft clear wax.

Dark colors give furniture a classic but dramatic effect.
The paint was sanded to apply a worn and distressed finish.
A closer look at the table top below shows how using sand paper can achieve a worn finish.

Hand sand paint to get a worn finish
The table top was given a worn finish using 220 grit sand paper 
wrapped around a flexible sanding pad.

The flexible sanding pad is especially useful when working on rounded corners, spindles, and furniture legs.
Control distressing with hand sanding
A flexible sanding pad is perfect for distressing rounded edges.

I painted the hardware and then gently sanded back the paint to reveal the original finish for some added dimension.
Painted hardware with distressing
Original hardware was painted and then distressed.

The photo of the drawer below gives an example of the different looks that can be achieved with various amounts of sanding. The drawer front was sanded smooth, heavier distressing was applied to the edges, and the trim areas were given a worn finish.

Painted and distressed hardware
This photo shows the heavier distressing on the edges
and the worn finish in between.
And a final look of the before and after.

Before and after oak table finished with Graphite chalk paint

Once the basic steps are completed then additional finishes such as dark wax, glazes, etc. can be applied. But that's a post for another day. I hope you found today's post informative and I appreciate you stopping by! If you're working on a project and have any questions then feel free to comment or message me on Facebook.

If you liked today's project then be sure to enter your email in the "subscribe" section at the top right of the page. Or feel free to follow me on Facebook

Supplies used for this project:

Below are the supplies I used for this project. (Affiliate links included. It doesn't cost you extra. I earn a few pennies. You're awesome!)


  1. Fabulous, fabulous, and fabulous. Thank you!

  2. Looks great! Love the original casters - it gives the piece character.

  3. Your projects are gorgeous. I'm going to try my hand at some refinishing/painting furniture in the very near future. My question is... instead of wax as a top coat can you use another clear coat product like varathane or similar product over chalk paint. My thinking is what if I want to paint it again? How hard would it be to remove the wax and is it as durable as varathane?

    1. Thank you Kerri. The wax was developed to work specifically with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) and will give it a beautiful finish. If you ever want to repaint it you can paint directly over it with ASCP. But if you prefer something other than wax then I recommend General Finishes High Performance Top Coat. It comes in either a flat or satin sheen. Once it's dry you can lightly sand it with a super fine grit sand paper for a smooth finish. If you use a different brand over a light color you might get some yellowing, so be sure to test it out first. Best of luck with your project!

  4. I have some
    questions for you? Can you use a tack cloth to clean off saw dust in between sanding..I have so much old varnish to take off an old cigarette smelling cedar chest I have to clear the dust out of the way to see how the sanding is coming and second what do you put over the cedar chest knots before you paint it.

    1. Hi Sandy, Yes you can certainly use a tack cloth. When using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint you don't need to use a primer, but depending on the wood I sometimes put on a coat or two of clear shellac prior to painting. The shellac can help stop "bleed through" and can also block residual odors. If you still notice an odor after you finish your prep work then you might want to use a stain/odor blocking primer. Good luck with your project!

  5. Another wonderful transformation!

  6. That piece is simply STUNNING !! 😍

    1. Thank you Diena. I love the classic finish of black furniture.


Post a Comment

A note regarding comments: I welcome questions and comments and make every effort to acknowledge every comment. Please note that comments on older posts are moderated to reduce spam, so there might be a delay before your comment is published. HINT: Select the "notify me" box to receive an notification of replies.

Popular Posts