Beginner’s Guide to Using Chalk Paint® to Achieve a Distressed Vintage Finish

Today’s post goes over the basics of using Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint® to achieve a heavily distressed finish using one color of chalk paint! There are a lot of techniques you can use with the chalk paint, so the methods described here aren’t a one size fits all. They are specifically for this type of finish.

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I’ve been working on this nightstand for what seems like an eternity! We found this little nightstand at a thrift store (check out THIS blog post about how to find the right furniture to chalk paint) for Brandon’s side of the bed. He has been using a modern style nightstand that didn’t match our decor at all. In an effort to match my current nightstand, which is heavily distressed and chalk painted, I decided to do the same to this piece.


What is Chalk Paint®?

Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint® is a particular brand of chalk paint which is widely known (she put Chalk Paint on the map). Chalk Paint essentially has a matte finish, which you can add a lot of character through with waxing and distressing. The paint is super easy to use, can be used on practically any material, and gives you a lot of control over the amount of character you want to add to your piece. There are so many techniques out there, but today I’m focusing on painting a piece of furniture one color followed by heavily distressing. I have learned these steps from lots of youtube videos, blogs, workshops, and trial and failures. Something to remember about Chalk Paint – it is not meant to be perfect! Give yourself some grace when working with the paint and wax.


Before I dive in, I have got to be honest. This piece gave me a run for my money! I had so many issues with this piece, it seemed like the project that lasted forever, and I actually started questioning how much I love chalk paint on larger pieces of furniture. I’ll be writing a blog post about the issues I had, and how to prevent them and how to fix them. I have never had issues with smaller projects with chalk paint (candle sick holders, frames, etc), but this isn’t the first time that a larger piece of furniture really tested me.


I will say, I found a new brand of furniture paint recently and  I signed up for a class in a week to learn how to use it. I’ll be reporting back how I like the paint! I feel like a traitor lol, but after the amount of issues I had, I really wanted to try something new that seems like it may be a better fit for larger furniture pieces being used more frequently. Who knows though… I do have a special place in my heart for Annie Sloan!


Steps to Achieve a Heavily Distressed Finish with One Color Chalk Paint


  • Klean-Strip Liquid Sander Deglosser, find it HERE
  • Chalk Paint, I used Annie Sloan’s Old White
  • Paint Brush, obsessed with mine, click HERE
  • Old rags
  • Canvas Drop Cloth, find it HERE
  • Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax, like THIS
  • Annie Sloan’s Dark Wax, like THIS
  • Large and small wax brushes, THIS set is awesome
  • Low grade cheese cloth, THIS bulk package would be ideal if you plan to paint often
  • 400 grit sandpaper, wet or dry paper works best like THIS
  • 220 grit sandpaper, wet or dry paper works best like THIS

Prep your piece

  1. Prepare your space by placing your canvas drop cloth down and gathering all of your materials
  2. Using Klean-Strip Liquid Sander Deglosser wipe down your piece thoroughly to remove any dirt, wax, or oils on your piece.
  3. Some woods or paints will bleed through the chalk paint unless they are sealed by shellac, make sure you use THIS one. Note: sometimes it’s hard to figure out if your piece needs shellac until you’ve already started. I will do a post on this soon. 

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    Before pictures of our nighstand



  1. Stir your paint before using. If you have time, turn the can of chalk paint upside down about thirty minutes before painting. This will help get rid of any build up on the bottom of the can. If your paint is too thick, you can add a little water to your paint. It is recommend to not paint straight out of the can, as the air causes the paint to dry/thicken in the can…. I always paint out of the can though. I used Annie Sloan’s Old White for this project.
  2. Using your brush, I am obsessed with my medium sized Annie Sloan Brush (the shape helps you achieve so many fun techniques), paint your first layer of paint. I do not go in all different directions. I like to paint in the same direction and create a clean finish.
  3. If your piece has drawers, it is often easier to remove the drawers and paint these separately.
  4. Allow this layer to completely dry.
  5. Go back and apply a second coat of paint and paint in the same direction as your first coat. Be sure to get into all of the grooves of your piece.

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Remove drawers while painting.

Clear Wax

  1.  Here’s where things get fun and scary! Before starting the wax though, wait 24 hours for the paint to dry. I do this to ensure the paint is completely dry, and I feel like it helps the paint be more durable when the piece is in use.
  2. Using 400 grit sand paper, very lightly buff your paint. This sort of presses the paint into the piece to create a super smooth finish. You are not distressing here, just smoothing out the paint. Wipe off dust before moving forward.
  3. Using a wax brush, apply Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax all over your piece. I personally use a flat wax brush to do this. If you buy the set I recommend (find it HERE) use the largest brush. You should notice the paint is absorbing the wax, sort of like lotion on skin. You will not want to apply too much, but make sure you are sealing the paint.
  4. Use a piece of cheesecloth to wipe off any excess wax



  1. Using 220 grit sandpaper, distress your piece. I like to distress areas that get a lot of wear and tear over the years. Edges are a great place for this. I usually start small and then gradually add more distressing.
  2. Lightly reseal the areas you distressed with wax using your brush.
  3. Take your smaller wax brush and very lightly tap it into Annie Sloan’s Dark Wax.
  4. Working in small sections, lightly sweep your brush over the areas you distressed with the dark wax. Quickly go back with a cheesecloth to blend the wax. If you added too much dark wax, dip a clean cheesecloth into the clear wax and buff away the excess dark wax. The clear wax sort of acts like an eraser.
  5. If you want to add dark wax to the larger sections (like the top of my nightstand or sides), use the same gentle sweeping motion followed by buffing and blending with the cheesecloth. I typically do stripes of the dark wax and blend. See the pictures below!

Note: this step is where you get to have a lot of fun and add vintage character to your piece! Don’t be too afraid of this step. The clear wax is your back-up and you can erase the dark wax if its too much. 


Top of the nightstand after the “stripes” or dark wax were blended in.
Dark wax has been lightly applied on the bottom of the drawer were it was distressed. Has not been blended yet.

Notice the difference in how the drawer looks after the dark wax is blended.
Close up of distressing

Close up of distressing

Dry & Let the Wax Cure

  1. Gently run your cheesecloth over your piece. It shouldn’t “drag” anywhere. If it does, that area has too much wax. Gently buff any of these areas out.
  2. The wax is technically dry in 24 hours, food safe in 3 days, but it’s not fully cured for 26 days! I try not to use my piece until the wax is fully cured.
Always have to include a picture of my best girl, Tira

And there you have it!! If you’ve been wanting to giving Annie Sloan a try, I hope this blog inspires you!



Some links may be affiliate links- at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases. 




4 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide to Using Chalk Paint® to Achieve a Distressed Vintage Finish

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