How to Chalk Paint a Table – Apply and Seal Plaster-Based Paint

This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission from purchases made through them, at no additional cost to you. You help to support

Modern aesthetics have deviated considerably from those of previous years. The browns of the early 80s and the grays and blacks of the late 90s have all but fallen away, and in their place, we have modern minimalistic aesthetics with impressive finishes. Some of the most popular around are industrial chic and pastel aesthetics, which accomplish a lot with very little, and their soft tones can be found in pretty much any setting including office spaces and modern homes. How are these colors achieved? One of the easiest ways to go about this is to use chalk paint, as it offers soft finishes with stunning colors, and is relatively affordable too! This being said, let’s have a look at how to chalk paint a table, whether chalk paint is durable or not, and why it makes such a good choice for the aforementioned looks.



What Is Chalk Paint?

While most people think that chalk paint simply refers to a type of paint it’s actually a registered trademark brand of one Annie Sloane who invented and patented a paint produced from pigment and calcium carbonate, which gives the paint its chalky appearance, all the way back in the early 1990s. Since then, this plaster-based paint has become something of a staple in the home improvement industry thanks to its ease of use and effective aesthetic finishes.

Chalk Paint Contains Calcium Carbonate

What is chalk paint though? Well, put simply chalk paint is a water-based paint type that has been used for years to paint wooden surfaces. This paint adheres to wood extremely well and can be used in time-sensitive scenarios where a number of surfaces need to be painted but you don’t have the time to wait for oil or acrylic-based paints to dry and cure.

Chalk Paint Dries Quickly

Even though it is a water-based paint type, chalk paint tends to provide a strong tonal finish that doesn’t get diluted when it’s absorbed into the wood grain on the workpiece. This makes it a great alternative to latex-based paints, which tend to lose their intensity if they aren’t applied in multiple coats over time. This makes chalk paint the ideal alternative, and as a result, it has skyrocketed in popularity over the decades.

What is arguably the party piece of chalk-based paints is the fact that it can be applied to a wooden surface with little to no preparation. You see, where oil-based and acrylic-based paints require the wood to be cleaned and in order for the paint to adhere to the surface correctly, chalk-based paints can simply be slapped on and they’ll function exactly as intended, typically with no run-off or blotching.

Apply Chalk Paint Directly to Wood

This has made chalk paint a very popular choice when restoring old furniture or when your workpiece consists of repurposed wood. It naturally creates an aged aesthetic that is relatively easy to distress, ensuring that the rustic aesthetic has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is a combination of this and the fact that chalk paint is so easy to use that it has maintained its popularity, not to mention the fact that pastel aesthetics are all the rage at the moment.


Where Can Chalk Paint Be Used?

Where can chalk paint be used, you ask? The only thing that makes chalk paint better than its minimal prep time is the fact that it can be used on virtually any surface you can think of. Chalk paint can be used on wood, metal, plastic, ceramic tiles, and even brick and mortar! The quality of the finish can vary, and some surfaces may require more than one coat, but it’s still a pretty good finish regardless.

Paint Tile with Chalk Paint

There are loads of examples of chalk paint being used on surfaces that most crafters would never dream of using water-based paint. You could use chalk-based paint on exterior furnishings like plastic lawn furniture, deck furnishings like wood tables and chairs, or even brick pillars on the exterior of your home!

Chalk Paint on Patio Furniture

The possibilities are endless, you just have to ensure that you understand the limitations of chalk-based paints. Is chalk-based paint durable? Sure, but like any paint, there are limits to its durability, and at the end of the day it still has a water base, which means that it will run if exposed to sufficient rain and sunshine, which could end up ruining your workpiece completely.

This being said, chalk paint can be used on some unexpected surfaces. There are examples of chalk-based paint being used on upholstery, and even wooden trim around homes, which is pretty cool considering the incredible aesthetic impact this paint can have on any space. If you’re curious to see what effect this paint can have on a surface, check out some of the awesome things people have done with chalk paint online, it could give you some good inspiration!


Do You Need to Seal Chalk Paint?

As we mentioned previously, chalk paint is relatively durable, but if you’re going to be using it on surfaces that will be exposed to loads of traffic and/or experience loads of impact and abrasion over time, you might want to consider sealing it. If you’ve never used a sealer before it’s basically a protective layer that can be used with or in place of a primer.

Wooden Table with Chalk Paint

Not only does this ensure that the paint will adhere well to the surface of your workpiece, but it will also ensure that you don’t experience any bleed-through when you apply your paint to your workpiece. This can happen if you’re working with a porous wood species, which could soak up the majority of your initial coat once it starts to dry.

Sealing Wood for Chalk Paint

Sealers can be purchased pretty much anywhere that paint is sold (unsurprisingly) and we recommend using some especially when painting wood to ensure you get the best finish possible. There are specialized sealers for chalk paint available, which tend to do a better job, but you can use an all-purpose primer too if you’re in a pinch, on a budget, or simply don’t want to make a trip to the store.

You can make your own chalk paint too. All that you need is a tablespoon of water, a bunch of calcium carbonate powder, and some acrylic paint (of any color). Mix them all together and you’ve got your very own chalk paint to do with as you please. You can mess around with the ratios too if you’d like to dry out different consistencies and tones.

You Can Make Your Own Chalk Paint


Does Chalk Paint Come in a Variety of Colors?

Considering that chalk paint is primarily used to create pastel aesthetics it would be a shame if it didn’t come in a variety of colors. This being said, chalk paint is available in pretty much any color you can think of, not just the eccentric yellows and blues that are normally associated with it, and any color you can’t find on the shelf can probably be made for you.

Chalk Paint Color Range

Chalk paint can be found in most primary colors, but it can also be found in shades of grey, earthy browns, light greens, and even more obscure colors like maroon and ocean blue. These colors are typically used to breathe life back into old furnishings like couches, cupboards, dining room tables, and even old storage chests.

Mixing Chalk Paint Colors


Is Chalk Paint Expensive?

This depends on what you define as expensive, but generally speaking, chalk paint is pretty reasonably priced, especially compared to other paint types, as well as the fact that it’s a niche paint type. The price of chalk paint tends to vary depending on the quality and brand you’re going with, but you tend to get what you pay for when it comes to the quality of chalk paint.

How Much Does Chalk Paint Cost

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t examples of brands that give you good value for money, but it’s pretty rare. Going with the original chalk paint from Annie Sloane is a good call as you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that you’re working with a quality product that won’t let you down later on. This being said, be sure to check out the reviews for the chalk paint you’re considering, regardless of whether it’s cheaper or not.


What Type of Finish Does Chalk Paint Provide?

If you’re in the market for a smooth, sleek finish, you might want to consider another paint type. Chalk paint creates a matte finish with a rough texture, which enables you to hide imperfections on the surface of your workpiece without you having to do any spot repairs. This might seem counterproductive considering that most people want their restored furnishings to appear flawless.

Chalk Paint for Custom Finishes

However, this rough texture has an entirely different aesthetic impact that may be challenging to appreciate for some at first, but it tends to grow on you over time. The look tends to feel somewhat rustic and distressed, which can feel out of place if you want your furniture to blend in, but could work in your favor if you’re going for a laid-back look for your space.



How to Chalk Paint a Table

Wondering how to chalk paint a table? Painting a table with chalk paint is a quick and easy way to breathe life back into your living room or dining room eating spot. This is why we have prepared a short tutorial detailing the best way to go about painting a table with chalk paint, what you will need, and how to ensure that your finish lasts for as long as possible once you’re done. Keep in mind that this process can be used to paint other wooden surfaces too, but other materials might require different preparation and/or priming substances. This being said, let’s get started with a few things you’ll need.

  • A set of clean cloths
  • Sanding paper/ a sanding block/ power sander
  • Primer for chalk paint (optional)
  • Sealer for chalk paint (recommended)
  • A paint tray
  • A brush and roller set
  • A tarp or some old newspaper
  • Gloves graded for use with paint

Chalk Paint for Table Refurbishment


Prepare Your Workspace

They say that if you fail to prepare, you should prepare to fail. We think this is might be a bit extreme, but it’s always a good idea to ensure that your workspace is well prepared for the task ahead. This can save you loads of time and effort down the line, so be sure that you have everything you need and that you won’t be looking for tools or part of your workpiece during the painting process.

Chalk Paint for Painting Table

How do you prepare your workspace? Well, you could start by laying down a tarp or some old newspaper to protect your flooring and anything else that potentially get some stay paint on it. Lay down your tarp and ensure that it’s secure to avoid it sliding out from underneath you and causing a nasty fall as a result.

Prepare Area to Chalk Paint Table

Secondly, you should ensure that your workspace is well-ventilated at all times when painting. Now, we know that chalk paint contains virtually no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) thanks to its primary water base, but painting in a room with no ventilation can give you a nasty cough, so it’s best to make sure that your workspace has adequate airflow at all times.

Finally, you should ensure that you have on all of the appropriate personal protective gear to ensure that your person is protected from any stray paint particles. As we mentioned previously, chalk paint is water based so there’s no need for a mask, but you should wear some gloves and old clothing to avoid getting any paint on your skin.


Clean Your Workpiece

Chalk paint can be applied to wooden workpieces without any preparation, right? Did we lie to you? Is this a scam? No, chalk paint can be applied to the wooden workpiece with little to no preparation, but this doesn’t mean that it should be. Why should you clean your workpiece, then? Well, a clean workpiece ensures uniform adhesion once your paint has been applied.

Clean Table for Chalk Paint

This means that any grime on the surface of your workpiece won’t prevent the paint from adhering to certain spots. Failing to do so can result in unsightly bumps or bleed-through once you begin painting, so it’s best to ensure that your workpiece is thoroughly cleaned before you even begin to apply your paint.

All that you need to clean your workpiece is some soap, water, and a clean cloth. Mix the soap and water together and dip your cloth into it. Wipe down the surface, ensuring that you get any dirt and grime all the way off. Be sure to get into any nooks in the wood grain to ensure that the paint adheres to these sections as well.

Equipment to Clean table for Painting

Once you’re happy with the job you’ve done cleaning your workpiece, allow it to dry completely before moving on to the next step in the process. Remember that wet wood will not accept the paint or primer so it’s best to ensure that your wood is completely dry before attempting to prime or paint it.


Sand Your Workpiece

Again, if you’re just interested in doing a quick paint job, you don’t have to follow these preparation steps, but we would recommend doing so in the interest of achieving a good-looking and long-lasting finish. Sanding your workpiece is a quick and painless process that should go off without a hitch, and you can use sandpaper, a sanding block, or a power sander depending on the size of your workpiece.

Sand Table for Chalk Painting

If you’re going to be sanding manually it can take a lot longer, but it gives you a good feel for the wood and costs practically nothing compared to buying or renting a power sander. If your table is rectangular or square, we recommend sanding along the length of the table, tackling one section at a time. Be sure to get into those hard-to-reach places as those often need to most help with adherence.

If you have an irregularly shaped workpiece, like a round coffee or dinner table, you could try sanding from the edges toward the center, or from the center toward the edges depending on the size of the table. Once you’re happy with the job you’ve done sanding be sure to remove any remaining wood particles using compressed air or just a clean cloth before moving on to the next step in the process as these could stop the primer from absorbing into the wood.


Paint Your Workpiece

Now for the moment you’ve been waiting for. Open your can of chalk paint and pour some of it out into your paint tray. Get some paint on your brush or roller and start painting from one end of the table to the other, section by section, following the length of the table until all of the surfaces have been painted. Don’t be afraid to get some more paint on your roller every once in a while to ensure that your paint job is consistent.

Chalk Paint Table Painting Tips

Once you’re done with the primary surface of the workpiece, it’s time for you to sort out the finer details. Get some paint on your brush and get started on the legs of your table and any other connecting joints. Be sure to get any little nooks and spaces that are within your eye line, and don’t forget the edges underneath the table too!

How to Apply Chalk Paint to Table

Once you’re happy with the job you’ve done painting, allow the paint to dry for the manufacturer’s recommended time period. Once your paint has dried, you have a few choices to make. You could try a distressed look by sanding the paint lightly with some 120-grit sandpaper, or you could add another coat to solidify your matt aesthetic.

How to Distress Chalk Paint


Seal Your Workpiece

Whether you have roughed up your workpiece or given it another coat to fix any bleed though (or both), we recommend sealing your workpiece to protect all of your hard work. There are loads of sealers that you can use to protect your workpiece, but the best kind for chalk paint would be one that has been designed for chalk paint, as it will allow you to maintain the texture and finish.

Sealer for Chalk Paint on Table

There are two types of paint sealer you can choose from, primarily the aerosol kind and the kind that you would apply conventionally. Which one you use is entirely up to you, but aerosolized sealers tend to work a lot faster than the ones you’d apply with a brush, so we recommend going with those if you’re trying to stick to a schedule. Once you’re done, allow the sealer to dry and cure completely according to the manufacturer’s recommended time period before you make use of the surface.



Now that you know what chalk paint is, what chalk paint can be used on, whether it needs to be sealed, and how to use it to paint a table, it’s time for you to get out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember that bleed-through is normal and that it can be solved with another coat and some sealer, and to make sure you get all the little spots underneath your table too.



Frequently Asked Questions


Can You Chalk Paint Tables and Chairs?

Chalk paint is a versatile, water-based paint that can be used on plastic, metal, fabric, and wood. This being said, it is entirely possible to chalk paint tables and chairs if the surfaces are prepared correctly and sealed to ensure their longevity.


Is Chalk Paint Durable for Kitchen Table Surfaces?

Is chalk paint durable for kitchen table surfaces? Chalk paint is one of the best paints for quick painting jobs, as it requires little to no preparations to adhere well. This being said, if you’re going to be using it on a kitchen table, you need to seal it to ensure that your finish isn’t damaged, as while the paint might adhere well, it is not as durable as other paint types.


How Long Does Chalk Paint Last?

Chalk paint doesn’t last nearly as long as other paint types especially when unsealed. To be fair, though, chalk paint can last for up to five years if it is applied, sealed, and properly maintained over time. This is why it is recommended that you always seal your chalk paint workpieces.