How to Chalk Paint a Dresser for a Cheap Makeover
Want to spruce up your house while on a tight budget? Buying new furniture and decor might be out of the question, but you can always repurpose what you have to save money. That’s why I love this chalk paint dresser tutorial. It’s taking what we already have – or have gotten cheap – and completely changing how they look without killing our budget.
I’ve become a pro at repurposing pieces in our house. Whether it’s end tables, dressers or coffee tables, I love stripping, staining and painting furniture to change the look of our house without spending a ton of money.
One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to use chalk paint. By choosing to chalk paint furniture, you can easily change pieces you already have without breaking the bank or your back. Chalk paint is easy to use, stays put, and has infinite possibilities when you layer different colors with different waxes.
This week, I’ve decided to chalk paint an old black dresser with teal and gray. I love a good chalk paint makeover, so I’m recording the steps to show how easy and cheap a chalk paint dresser is!
What is chalk paint?
Chalk paint is latex paint that’s had plaster of paris and water added to it. Remember using plaster of paris, water, and newspaper strips to create paper mache sculptures? Yup, it’s the same stuff.
Chalk paint colors vary from brand to brand, so if you don’t like what one brand offers, check out another! Or, make your own.
Why use chalk paint vs regular paint?
Chalk paint is very forgiving compared to latex paint. It dries much faster, and you can create beautiful layers of color in a way that you can’t with latex. It’s easier to use and clean up, and is less expensive than straight latex paint because you use less. It’s also great for your first time painting furniture or a vintage dresser, which can have a lot of intricate design aspects that are harder to cover.
Plus, I’ve never had chalk paint peel or stick the way that latex that hasn’t set right does. And, it goes on much easier over old paint while creating a beautiful matte finish, as you’ll see in my photos.
Choosing to use chalk paint involves a couple more steps than painting with straight latex paint, but a little paint goes a long way. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that it’s a cheap and the best way to completely change the look of any pieces of furniture – as well as an inexpensive way to spruce up a room.
Can you use chalk paint on wood furniture?
The beauty of chalk paint is that you can use it on just about anything – wood, plastic, even fabric! As long as it’s not something that will sit outside in the weather, chalk paint will work great on any surface. Due to it’s ingredients, it adheres well to just about anything.
Chalk Paint Colors
Chalk paint comes in just about any color you can imagine, from white paint to black and everything in between. Each brand has a different spin on their recipe and tinting of colors. Some are more muted colors, while others are more bold. Some popular brands are Annie Sloan chalk paint, FolkArt Home Decor chalk paint, Rust-Oleum chalked paint, and Chalky Chicks chalk finish paint.
If you have a paint color you love at home, and can’t find it something similar in a chalk paint line, you can always make your own! You can even create your own chalk paint with one of the many chalk paint recipes found on Pinterest. Essentially, you add plaster of paris and water to a latex paint that you already have and voila – you have chalk paint!
There are a ton of great chalk paint recipes. Here are just a couple:
Plaster of Paris recipe
- 1 1/2 cups of latex paint
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup of Plaster of Paris
Non-Sanded Grout Recipe
- 1 cup of paint
- 2 tbsp of non-sanded grout
- 1-2 tbsp of water
Baking Soda Recipe
- 2/3 cups of paint
- 1/3 cup of baking soda
Calcium Carbonate Recipe
- 2 tbsp calcium carbonate powder
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 cup of paint
There are tons of other great recipes on Pinterest, however, experimenting and figuring out which type of paint you like best seems to be the way to go. I’ve tried the baking soda recipe and really loved how it turned out. It was gritter than the chalk paint you pick up at the store, but it worked wonderfully for the project I wanted to use it for.
How to use Chalk Paint
Using chalk paint is very easy. Luckily I just updated some furniture with chalk paint that had been passed to us, so I took photos and wrote down the steps.
Items needed to chalk paint furniture:
- Hand sander and/or sandpaper (multiple grit sand paper suggested)
- Wood filler (only if you have holes you need to patch!)
- Wood applique pieces for additional decoration (optional)
- Wood glue (only if you want to add those ornamental wood pieces)
- Tack cloth
- Drop cloth to protect the floor
- 2 jars of chalk paint (I choose Americana Decor Treasure (turquoise color) and Americana Decor Relic (dark grey) for this project)
- White candles
- 1 jar of Americana Decor Creme Wax (I mixed my clear and white for this)
- Chalk paint brushes
- New hardware or drawer fronts for the dresser/furniture (optional)
- Soft cloth to buff the furniture after wax dries
Where to buy chalk paint for furniture
All in all, the required items added up to less than $30. I did already have a sander and sandpaper lying around, as well as wood glue and chalk paint wax. However, you can easily find this stuff on Amazon or when sales hit at your local craft or home improvement store, like Hobby Lobby.
I do recommend getting a paint brush specifically for chalk painting. They are just much easier to hold and really help to create a beautiful texture. You can get a two pack for around $12. One of the best brushes for chalk painting I’ve found is this one.
How to Chalk Paint a Dresser (Or any furniture projects)
Chalk paint is a good way to update furniture that you no longer like the color of or just want to change up a room. Chalk paint is good thing to use on furniture because it does a great job of covering all the cracks, nookies, and crannies that furniture can have. It’s also great for covering up scratches, spots were the stain has dulled, or a previous bad paint job.
Let’s walk through painting your furniture with a step-by-step tutorial:
Step 1: Prepare the furniture.
It’s important to do some prep work before you paint. Start by removing the knobs off of dressers and drawers. Then, you want to sand off any thick parts of old paint or stain. Essentially, you want to break up that old glossy layer that the paint or varnish has created. The new paint will stick much better if you remove that smooth top layer.
Do you have to sand before using chalk paint?
You do NOT have to sand before using chalk paint. However, I chose to because there were layers of paint built up that would have caused awkard bumps. Also, this piece was really old and I just wanted to make sure any grime and excess stuff was off to achieve the best results. However, chalk paint stick pretty well to the entire surface of just about anything – so it’s your choice!
I start out with a lower grit sandpaper, like around 100. That means it’s more coarse, and will clean off the old paint faster. In this case, there were wood pieces on top of the dresser that were used as a base to a changing table. I removed them, but there were thick paint ridges left behind. I used the 100 grit sandpaper to remove them and create a smooth finish.
Next, I used a higher grit sandpaper to lightly sand and smooth the wood. You don’t have to take off all the old paint – but you do want the surface smooth. Otherwise, you’ll feel and see bumps that’ll drive you nuts throughout the entire piece.
I suggest using a sander if you have one. Hand sanding is fine, but I prefer my arms not to fall off. Maybe you enjoy workouts though – if so, you do you, boo!
Step 2: Fill in any holes.
As you can see here, I had some holes where the top wood pieces were held onto the dresser with dowels. Use some wood filler to fill in those holes. I suggest actually over filling them, because it tends to shrink when it dries.
Once the wood filler is completely dry, you’ll want to hand sand it with some sandpaper. Sand off the excess, and create a smooth surface.
Step 3: Clean the furniture.
Now that you’re done sanding, you need to get all that grit off of the furniture for a smooth paint. Use a tack cloth to pick up all of the dust and dirt. A tack cloth is a cheesecloth that has linseed oil on it. They’re great for grabbing all those tiny particles and creating a clean surface.
Step 4: Add wood appliques to fancy things up.
These are purely optional, but they can spruce up a dull piece of furniture. They are unfinished wood pieces that look like flowers or scrolls.
The wood appliques are easy to add. Just add wood glue to the back, place, and put something heavy on top. Do not add too much glue, otherwise it’ll leak out and make a mess. If this does happen, just grab a wet paper towel and wipe off the excess.
Luckily, wood glue is really strong and works great. If you’re worried about them falling off, you can try nailing them on as well. I would recommend using an actually nail gun though, since trying to nail appliques with wood glue on the back is slippery and tricky work!
Pro tip: Adding things like appliques create a beautifully textured surface that will better showcase your awesome paint skills. Why not try one of these?
Step 5: Add your first layer of chalk paint.
Alrighty – we’re ready to add our first coat of paint! The color that you want to show as a highlight, you’ll want to put on first. When applying chalk paint, you can paint in one direction in small sections to create an even, smoother coverage. Or, you can choose to create brush strokes in multiple directions to add texture and bumper coverage.
Before you ask, a spray gun will not work to apply this paint. It’s too thick and would clog the system in a heartbeat. Luckily, when you chalk paint furniture, it dries really fast. As soon as I was done with the third drawer, the first one was dry. If you see any thin spots in your paint, go back and touch them up so you have solid coverage. If you try while it’s still wet, you can end up taking off paint. Weird, I know. If you experience this, wait for it to dry and then touch up as needed.
Step 6: Use candles to create patchy spots.
Look at your furniture and figure out where it’s most likely to have wear spots. I tend to add them around the edges, where there are any curves or bumpy spots (like on the appliques), or on the edge of the top of the dresser.
Any place you want your highlight or base color to show through, you’ll want to rub the candle over it. The more wax you deposit from the candle, the more you’ll be able to remove the top color.
Pro tip: The wax from the candle creates a barrier to make it easier to remove the top color. If you want to make it really distressed and chunky, you can use petroleum jelly or something similar to create a greater barrier.
Step 7: Add your top chalk paint color.
Wondering how long between coats of chalk paint? Don’t worry – it dries quickly so you’ll have to wait a not very long time to make sure everything’s dry. I’d say 30 minutes, tops!
Next use your chalk paint brush to add your top color. I wanted a grey chalk paint dresser so I covered the turquoise with a second coat that was grey. Make sure that you do an even coat and cover everything, including the tiny cracks and dips around your appliques.
Step 8: Time to sand, again.
Now that your second color of chalk paint is dry, you’ll want to sand off the bits that you covered in candle wax. Just use a high grit sandpaper (a finer sandpaper) and start small. You can also use a wet paper towel to remove the paint in a smoother fashion.
Sandpaper will create a chunkier removal of the top paint (see picture), and the wet paper towel will create a smoother removal.
Remove as much or as little as you want to create a unique chalk paint furniture look. If you sand or wipe outside of the area without the candle wax barrier, you will remove both layers of paint. It takes a lot to do that though, so don’t be shy about putting your elbows into it!
Step 9: Wax on, wax off.
Now that you’re done painting and distressing your piece, I’m sure you want to know how to finish chalk paint furniture, right?
You need to seal the piece so that the paint doesn’t accidentally get scraped or washed off. You’ll want to add a wax coat to seal the piece.
Chalk paint wax can come in multiple colors to add another layer of color to your furniture. In this case, I used some clear mixed with white. It created a small tint to corners and dips that added some dimension to the piece.
When you add the wax, you want to brush it on with your chalk paint or wax brush in a very, very thin layer. I like to brush it on, and then wipe it off with a clean cloth towel. It keeps the color from being overbearing and taking over.
To get it into all the cracks and crevices, use your chalk paint brush and paint in swirls to fill those spots. It will be hard to remove the wax from the crevices, but it adds depth and color to your furniture.
Pro tip: If you are using a colored chalk paint wax and it gets too dark or heavy, just apply a clear wax over top and wipe before they dry. The clear wax helps to remove the excess darker wax easily.
Step 10: Buff your furniture.
After letting your top coat dry overnight, use a soft clean towel to buff the furniture to the amount of shine that you want. I left mine relatively dull since distressed and shine don’t quite go together in my mind.
Step 11: Add knobs
If you have drawers, add some new and fun knobs. I snagged these at Home Depot for about $3 a piece, which was the most expensive part of the whole project!
Step 12: Enjoy your “new” furniture!
Now that your chalk paint dresser makeover is complete, put it in its place and admire your beautiful work!
Chalk Paint Furniture Before and After:
Not too shabby, eh? The best part is that there are tons of great chalk paint dresser ideas out there – a white chalk paint dresser diy with a stained top, a solid color with no wax/secondary color, or even colored wax to deepen the hues in the depressed areas. You can try multiple coats of paint, or just one. The possibilities of chalk paint are endless!
And they don’t stop at chalk paint dresser ideas – you could chalk paint your entire bedroom furniture suite to do a cheap and easy refresh on your room.
There are a million chalk paint furniture ideas that you can use to change up your home without spending a fortune. Now that you know how easy it is, you can find ways to use chalk paint all over your house. I’ve refinished bookcases, dressers, and even created several picture frames and painted them. The ways in which you can use chalk paint are endless!
I’ve also updated our bathroom mirror frame with paint – you can check it out here! Good luck and happy painting!
Thinking about selling your updated furniture piece once it’s complete? Learn which items sell best on sites like Etsy here.
Did you find this tutorial on my turning making my chalk paint dresser grey helpful? If so, comment below and show me your before and after furniture makeovers! I’d absolutely love to see them!
Here are a couple of related articles I’m sure you’ll love:
A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More
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