The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint
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    The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint

    The Ultimate Guide

    • Chalky Finish Paint: Overview
    • See Every Chalky Finish Paint Color
    • What is Chalky Paint
    • Tips for Using Chalky Paint
    • How to Paint an End Table
    • How to Paint a Dresser

    How to Paint an End Table With Chalk Paint

    Upgrade your end tables with a DIY makeover in a few simple steps

    Painted end table in a living room

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Project Overview
    • Working Time: 4 - 6 hrs
    • Total Time: 1 day
    • Skill Level: Beginner
    • Estimated Cost: $45

    Chalk paint is a revolutionary product that revitalizes most surfaces with minimal prep work. It is ideal for distressing furniture and decor items like candlesticks, mason jars, and picture frames, creating a timeless finish. It comes in all the usual colors you would expect for painting. Distressing or revitalizing an end table can be simple, quick, and fun.

    Chalk paint is one of the best paints for end tables to give them a distressed look. The secret to using chalk paint is to not re-brush over something; it dries fast and can leave streaks. Also, chalk paint tends to be thick, so add a little water (about a 5% ratio) to get it to a good consistency for easier, even use. If you don't use wax or polyurethane to seal the paint, it is more susceptible to damage from moisture, chips, and scratches. Wax enriches the paint look, while polyurethane is better for protecting against water stains.

    Some experts say that if you have an antique table (or anything antique), it's best to leave the original stain. However, if the current finish is so damaged, it would take a skilled woodworker many hours to complete with resanding and staining (and you don't have the time or money for that); you can update the table with chalk paint. Other potential paint options include acrylic, latex, alkyd, and milk paint.

    What Is Chalk Paint?

    Chalk-style paint resembles a surface covered in chalk—a flat, matte-looking appearance. It is different from chalkboard paint and is not meant to be written on. The paint is latex-based and cleans up with water instead of mineral spirits.


    Even though this paint claims that it is a no-prep paint, a little prep work will go a long way. Lay down newspapers or contractor paper to protect the work area from drips or paint spillage. Take the time to sand the surface and create a smooth finish before painting. Also, add an ounce or two of water to the chalk paint per the manufacturer's instructions. Many paints will come in powder form or have a thick consistency that requires adding water. 


    Before you paint the antique end table, inspect it for identifiable manufacturer's markings or consider getting it appraised. Make sure the table doesn't have a very high market value before painting it.

    Safety Considerations

    Whenever you sand anything or undertake a painting project, you should use a dust mask or respirator to protect yourself from fine particulate matter or toxic fumes. Goggles and gloves are recommended to protect your eyes and skin from paint splatter.

    How to Paint an End Table With Chalk Paint

    What You'll Need

    Equipment / Tools

    • Medium to high grit sanding block
    • Rags
    • Paintbrush
    • Putty knife (optional)


    • Chalk paint (We used The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint in Casual Sophistication)
    • Clear sealing wax (We used The Spruce Best Home Clear Sealing Wax)
    • Wood filler (optional)


    1. Gather Your Tools and Materials

      Invest in a quality paintbrush that is designed for chalk paint or latex paint. One of the worst offenses of using a cheap brush is the bristles falling out of the brush while painting, ruining the look of your project. Wood filler and a putty knife are optional and dependant on the condition of the wood.

      Gathering tools and materials for painting an end table

      The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    2. Fill Any Imperfections With Wood Filler

      You can use chalk paint on many surfaces like metal, stone, concrete, and wood. The paint hides imperfections well and usually requires little to no prep work. However, a little wood filler will go a long way if the surface has holes, deep scratches, or large gaps missing. Apply a small amount of wood filler using a putty knife and allow the spot to dry completely. Lightly sand the surface with a medium grit sanding block to smooth out the wood filler.

      Filling imperfections with wood filler

      The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    3. Create a Smooth Surface by Sanding

      If the end table's wood is in good condition, you may be able to skip this step altogether. If the furniture is in poor condition and has an alligatoring, cracking stain, or peeling paint, sanding will dramatically improve the finished product. 

      Use a medium to a high-grit sanding block to scuff up the surface and create a flat finish free of noticeable imperfections. This end table had some areas where the stain had started cracking and bunching together. It was sanded until smooth to the touch and no longer bumpy. 


      Scuff up glossy surfaces to help the paint grip the furniture better. Chalk paint adheres better to glossy surfaces than other paint, but this quick step will ensure the paint will stick and all surface oils and grime have been removed.

      Sanding the surface with a sanding block

      The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    4. Thoroughly Clean the Surface of the Table

      Once sanding is complete, clean the surface with a damp cloth and allow the table to dry completely before going on to the next step. For best results, chalk paint needs a clean surface free of dust or debris. 

      Cleaning the surface of the end table

      The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    5. Apply the First Coat of Chalk Paint

      Chalk paint works well on uncoated or painted surfaces. However, avoid using it on areas that people will walk on or any furniture you will keep outside. Paint one or two even coats of chalk paint; allow the paint to dry completely between coats (at least six hours between coats). 

      Applying the first coat of paint to the end table

      The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    6. Buff Surface With a Wax Sealant

      Chalk paint is flat matte and benefits from an additional layer of protection. To create a distressed two-toned wood look, use dark sealing wax. To create a more timeless finish, rub on a thin layer of clear sealing wax. To apply the wax, put a small amount on a clean, lint-free cloth. Rub the wax into the surface using circular motions and allow it to dry. Once dry, get another rag and buff the surface to create a satin finish. 

      Buffing the surface with a wax sealant

      The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Reapply Wax to Keep Paint Looking Fresh

    To maintain the quality of your finish, reapply the sealing wax as needed. If you want to change the look of your table and give it more of an antiqued look, apply a dark sealing wax after the clear sealing wax layer. Also, apply wax in a thin, even layer. Too much wax can cause excessive build-up.

    • Why is my chalk paint coming off?

      Chalk paint needs to dry thoroughly before you wax it; otherwise, it will come off during the waxing process. Chalk paint can also peel off if you paint on peeling paint, the furniture hasn't been sanded, the brush was overloaded with too much color, or you used low-quality paint.

    • Does chalk paint last on furniture?

      Chalk paint is a good choice for furniture if you apply a wax sealant or polyurethane topcoat after the paint has cured.

    • Is chalk paint durable enough for a dining table?

      Chalk paint is durable enough for a dining room table, but only if you have sealed it properly with wax or polyurethane.

    • Is chalk paint hard to clean?

      It's not hard to clean a chalk paint surface; you only need water and a towel. If you need soap, use a mild Castile soap soapy mixture. Afterward, reapply the wax to restore its luster.

    Watch Now: Fun Ways to Use Chalky Finish Paint