Monday, July 30, 2012

School of Restoration No. 7: DIY Chalk Paint

Hello and welcome to another class in the School of Restoration here on The Divine Minimalist. In case this is your first class, my name is Jesse and I post monthly tutorials that teach different techniques you can use on your furniture.  Today, I am so excited to be sharing the long awaited DIY Chalk Paint tutorial.  You've probably heard a lot about chalk paint lately, and if you haven't then you're about to.  It took me a long time to finally try this stuff, for no other reason than sheer laziness. If you have the same problem I had, then I'm here to motivate you to get to it.  This paint was easy, fun & is soo soft!  It sticks to almost everything which is why I knew it would be perfect for this roll top desk a friend gave to me.  Enough talking, let's get to it!
  • Furniture of your choice
  • Screwdriver (if hardware needs removing)
  • Latex paint in your color (I chose two colors, one for highlighting detail)
  • Plastic mixing cups & paint sticks
  • A Tablespoon
  • Gloves & Mask - safety!
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Medium to Fine sandpaper or sanding sponge.
  • Clean Rags (I use old T-shirts)
  • Finishing Paste Wax
I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, I prepared for the worst and it turned out to be the best! Let's begin.  Here's my roll top in it's original state:
I loved it when I saw it, but I did shudder at the idea of painting (or re-staining!) all those teeny tiny crevices and cubbies. I imagined this was going to be a nightmare, but it had waited long enough!  Let me start by saying, I now highly recommend redoing a roll-top desk - I love them. I should get a bumper sticker that says "I brake for Roll Tops", but that would just be awkard. Anyway, check out these legs:
Naturally, you want to take apart what you can and remove any hardware that stands in your way.  Unless of course you are going for that painted-over hardware look and will distress later, then by all means go ahead. Mine wasn't too bad.
Go ahead and gently sand some areas (masks on!)  if they look not-so-hot, but you don't have to do too much because chalk paint really sticks to anything. Even high gloss, it's crazy.
Gather up your supplies for the paint:  The tablespoon, mixing cup, plaster of paris, water & your paint.  Here's the recipe we are going to be using:
  • 2 cups of paint
  • 5 tablespoons Plaster of Paris
  • 2 tablespoons water
Pretty complicated right? Ha! Now, I did not come up with this recipe all by my lonesome, I have Jamielyn of I heart nap time to thank for doing all the experimentals for me, and posting it! Gotta love that internet.  Her recipe is spot on, and worked wonderfully.  I've even chopped it in half with great results.

Start by putting the plaster of paris in the bowl, and adding the 2 tablespoons of water. Stir it until it's like pancake batter, and add the tiniest amount of water if it's giving you a hard time (ha, a pun!).  I had to add a little to mine too, so don't worry if you do.  You're on the right track, and this stuff is pretty forgiving.  Once that's all smooth, scrape it all into your paint and stir until it's nice and creamy.  Just make sure the clumps are gone.
What's that little yellow thing?  Oh only my new best friend! The things people think up, I swear. Normally I pour paint into a tub and get it on absolutely everything around me - until now.  Those days are long gone! This little guy snaps right onto the rim of any paint can, and creates a cute lil spout.  Yes, quarts and gallons! In case you're wondering, this is Martha Stewart's "Blue Suede", which they are now mixing with Glidden.

So your chalk paint should be ready by now, since you've stirred and it's all lookin' good.  The next steps are pretty obvious, just start painting. It dries fairly quickly, as you'll see, and I think that's an added bonus. I recoated after an hour and a half. The first coat was so good I almost didn't do a second one, I couldn't believe it - this stuff is really thick!
Did you notice I didn't prime first?  No, I'm not crazy.  Chalk paint rarely needs primer.  It sticks to the surface like a dream come true.  A little peak at the interior:
Things were moving so fast. I had the first coat on the entire thing in about 30 minutes. Unbelievable.
These are the rolls that I feared the most, and guess what?  Now I love them the most! The paint went in, the wood just soaked it right up, and it's still so soft and flexible.  You'll see what I mean when you try it.
These close-ups are showing what a nice finish I have after only two coats.  Nothing was showing through at all, and oh, did I mention? No need to primer? Shocking...
I decided to use a slightly lighter color to highlight some of the detail areas on this desk.  I simply made a smaller batch with the same ratios, and coated the trim and some of the handles.
After your piece has dried overnight, it's time for a little distressing.  Chalk paint, as it turns out, is the ideal paint for achieving this look. It's so much easier to sand off than any paint I've used so far.  If you don't want this look, just skip it and get to sealing your piece to protect this paint.

There are a few options for distressing, you can choose one or all.  Here's a quick rundown on each:
  • Sandpaper - fine or medium grit, you can easily take off edges to show the wood below. 
  • Sanding Sponge - great for curves and details, almost effortlessly removing layers of paint. 
  • Clean Wet Rag - this is a new one for me! You can rub a wet rag over areas for a smoother distressed look, removing evidence of sandpaper. 
  • Clorox or Baby Wipes - Similar to the wet rag.
I found that starting with the sanding sponge and paper to get it really moving, and following up with the wet rag worked best.  I was able to really smooth out the distress, making it look like it naturally occurred.  
That's a little before and after of my hardware, in the corner there.  That was with about two quick swipes of the sanding sponge.  Here is my roll top with it's finished distressing:
If you chose not to distress, this is where you can jump back into class. The wax.  There are many finishes you can choose, of course, but for this piece I wanted to try my hand at a dark paste wax - which was also new to me.  And I love it too!  I used this Citrus Shield, and made sure to buy Dark.  This stuff smelled fantastic, by the way. 
Following the directions, I used a clean cloth to smear globs of this stuff all over one side at a time.  I used a circular motion, to really get in the grooves. After a few minutes, you can see it dull up a bit, and you just buff it off with another clean cloth.  Then just finish all sides & repeat if you wish. I wanted strong durability, so I definitely repeated.

Attach your hardware, and stand back to enjoy what you've created!
What a nice little collage of the roll top.  The dark wax really added a lot to it, deepened the colors in such a nice way.  Wax comes in clear, too, if you don't want to have that happen.  So, did it work? Have I converted you to the chalk side? I hope you had as much fun as I did, this really blew me away - I knew I was going to have to bump this one up to front of the line for tutorials!  This color was a new one for me too, but my mom insisted that it was a more "colonial blue", that would match the style of the desk really well. She was right! I'm glad I listened.

Thanks for tuning in for yet another session of School of Restoration. If you decide to try this on something of yours, send in your pictures - we'd love to see & share them.  If you missed the last few tutorials, you can find them all here. If this was your first, Hello! My name's Jesse, from Nine Red, and I'm happy to be a guest poster here. Tune in next month for another technique tutorial in the School of Restoration, here on The Divine Minimalist.  How perfect was it to do a desk, right before school starts... I could totally see myself studying here!


  1. Another great tut Jesse! I've bought the plaster of paris to mix my own but haven't done it yet. Yours looks divine! I'm so glad you tried it first lol I think I'd run the other way at the thought of painting a roll top! omg you brave girl, looks amazing!

  2. Thanks! Yea, I admit - I was pretty scared, but luckily chalk paint goes on so well that I was quickly calmed. Plaster of Paris all the way! You know what - I'd recomend just getting a cheap or old wisk, and using that to stir the plaster in. I imagine it would get smoother faster than the stick.... I'm gonna try that next time :)


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