Painting Cabinets with Chalk Paint

When James from Homey Improvements contacted me hoping to share a step-by-step guide for painting cabinets with chalk paint my answer was a resounding, heck ya!

I’ve used chalk paint to paint a couch and to paint my DIY pedestal table but never to paint cabinetry. I hope you find this tutorial as helpful as I did!

Bio:  James is a kombucha tea-sipping blogger who focuses on DIY projects and sustainable living via his family blog Homey Improvements. He enjoys pilates and loves his job as a green construction builder.

Take it away, James!

Are you looking for a way to renovate your bathroom or kitchen cabinets without hiring a contractor? Hate priming even more than you hate sanding? Then this is the project for you.

Chalk paint is a DIYer’s best friend, so grab a screwdriver and start taking apart your cabinets. It’s time for a cabinet makeover!

 Chalk Paint Cabinets

What’s the Big Deal?

Is it really that wonderful? Well, chalk paint sticks to just about anything. We’re talking:

  • concrete or wood
  • metal
  • matte plastic
  • already painted surfaces

Remember your last painting project and the loads of sandpaper and bucket of primer you had to use? Chalk paint does away with all of that. No sanding, no priming and it dries quickly. That’s a big time-saver.


Let’s Paint Cabinets!

Before you take a screwdriver to your paint can and get to work, let’s make sure we have our essential supplies:

Supplies to Paint Cabinets with Chalk Paint

Affiliate links are used in this post for your convenience.

Let’s get started!


How to Paint Cabinets with Chalk Paint

Step 1: Prep Your Painting Area

If you’re painting inside, this is the time to tape newspaper to the floor. Really, painting outside in natural light would be ideal, but I know taking the entire cabinet off the wall wasn’t an option for me, so it probably isn’t for you.


Step 2: Basic Maintenance

While the whole point of using chalk paint is to save time, we still have some basic maintenance to do on our cabinets before we paint them. Check the following:

  • Wipe down the cabinets and make sure all the gunk is gone. Tip: Toothpaste clumps will ruin your paint job.
  • Remove the hinges on the cabinets so you can easily paint the doors. Tip: Store hinges and screws in a Ziploc bag or Tupperware.
  • Don’t sand – unless you find a rough patch. This paint isn’t actually magic, it’s just close.


Step 3: Paint Can Dance

Sure, you can open the can of paint and stir it with that plain old wooden stirrer they give you at the paint store, or you can work those arm muscles and do a shake dance with the paint can.

If you plan on making your own chalk paint, you’ll need to go to a store to get the paint can with the powder (either calcium carbonate or plaster of Paris) in it professional shaken.


Step 4: Start Your Engines

Just like that, it’s time to paint. From my experience you’re going to need two coats of paint. I’ve heard of people using more, but that was plenty for us. The paint’s overall texture is thicker than normal latex paint, so be careful.

The good news, though, is that even though this a fast-drying paint, you’ll have enough time to spread it out without fear of leaving brush strokes.

Don’t panic if you see brush strokes in your first coat. They’ll disappear in the second coat.

Chalk Painted Cabinets

If you want a shabby chic look, use sandpaper after your paint dries but before you apply the wax coating.


Step 5: Apply the Wax Coating

There’s no way around it — applying a wax coating sounds weird and difficult. Don’t worry, though; this step is a snap.


Why wax? We might love the look of chalk paint, but the feel of the paint without the wax is actually chalky. The wax does several things. It:

  • forms a protective seal over your paint
  • removes the odd, chalky texture of the paint


To apply, scoop a small amount of wax onto your paper plate to prevent contaminating your canister of wax. Smoosh your brush into the wax, but make sure you don’t get too much. How much is too much? Treat the wax like you would foundation on your face. A little goes a long way; you don’t want your face or your cabinet to melt halfway through the day.


Work the brush with the grain of the wood/paint and not against it. You should see the color brighten up just a bit, but not enough to alter the color, so don’t worry about that. Once you’ve applied a fine coating, grab your soft rag and brush the surface. Think “Karate Kid” for this one. Wax on, wax off.


It’s important that you don’t leave too much wax on the furniture. Wipe with the grain of the wood, and if you touch the wax and come away with any residue on your fingers, keep wiping.


Just like paint, the wax has to dry. Give it at least 24 hours to dry and then you’re ready to go.

How to Paint Cabinets with Chalk Paint


If you’d like a visual, watch this tutorial by Paula Driesell from Locksley Lane.


Use wax sparingly – you can add more, but you’ll struggle removing excess. I accidently applied way too much to the first cabinet and realized we were actually leaving fingerprints on the cabinet because of the wax. Since wax easily shows fingerprints, you might want to consider using polycrylic (though it changes the look of the chalk paint slightly).


Once the wax has hardened, your cabinets will look just as good as mine.

DIY Chalk Painted Cabinets


And they do look amazing, James!  Thanks for sharing this tutorial with us!!

In the chalk paint projects I’ve done I’ve used Minimax’s Paste Finishing Wax and have loved it.  You can find it for the best price, Here!

There is so much to love about this bathroom–the soft greenish-blue paint on the walls, the marble countertops and undermount sink, the lanteen-styled wall sconce, the espresso framed mirror to add contrast, the L-shaped cabinetry, the sleek cabinet pulls, and of course the flawlessly painted cabinets!

Excellent work!  You can head over to Homey Improvements and check out James’ blog HERE.

As always thanks for being here!!!:-)


Step by Step Tutorial on how to paint cabinets with Chalk Paint

Easy Chalk Paint Recipe

I Love Hearing from You!

  1. I have used chalk paint many times, but always on smaller pieces of furniture. I have heard it was great for painting cabinets, so this tutorial is so helpful. The waxing process always freaks me out 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!

  2. If you are making your own Chalk Paint what do you use to add a different color? Say I wanted to a shade of blue how and when and what do I add to make my paint blue? Thanks for your help.

    • Hi, Teresa! The chalk paint I have made is made with 3 things– calcium carbonate ( white powdery substance), water, and latex paint. Latex paint is the same paint you paint walls with. So all you have to do is go to a store with paint and look at their paint fan decks that show all the colors (it doesn’t matter whhat brand) they have and pick the one you want just like as if you were going to buy paint to paint a wall.

  3. I have used chalk paint on a redo kitchen table and 6 chairs…Annie Sloan. I used poly acrylic finish. I love Annie Sloan because of the color palette and they are all meant to mix together and layer colors. Rather than sanding, we were told to use a damp clean cloth to wipe off where you want to expose the under color. Do this when the chalk paint is dry to the touch, but not cured. It gives you better control and a smother finish. I have taken some classes and was taught to make sure you keep the paint brush wet, as with water. It doesn’t weaken the color and goes on very smoothly. You can really extend how far this little bit of paint can go over a much larger area. I’m ready to do my kitchen cabinets and have done some sample boards using the wax finish. I am told the wax should be worked into the paint, thus the put on, wipe off process. The paint and wax bond together and the wax must cure for at least 30 days, which will stop you from getting finger prints. It really does provide a very hard finish and looks lushes! 2 applications of the wax is important, but the 30 curing is a must!

  4. My kitchen cabinet doors have laminate on them that is lifting and peeling off. Underneath, the doors are made from MDF. I’m thinking, “just pull it off of all the doors and paint them” figuring on priming them before painting. I could save a lot of time with chalk paint if I don’t have to prime. Have you ever chalk painted on MDF? Any special instructions I need to know?

    • Hi Linda! Is under the laminate that is peeling off smooth? If not you may want to give it a good sanding to smooth it out. But then you can go right ahead and paint. No need to prime!:-)

      • Thank you for answering back so quickly Tamara. Yes, the MDF is very smooth, so I can eliminate both steps (sanding and priming). Big Smile!

  5. I’m thinking of painting my dark living room furniture. It’s very new, modern and has a gloss finish. I think you will know what I mean. I am hoping to make the living room more ‘cottagey’. Do you think this process will work on this furniture? Thanks for you time. Jane

  6. Love the tutorial. Could you please please tell me what kind of cabinets those are? I have the exact same ones (came with our house), and have been looking all over to buy more.
    Thank you!

  7. I was told that when painting bathroom cabinets(specifically) to avoid using the clear wax because of the humidity. I had plans to do my master bath this spring and my cousin told me this. Also, I am wondering what brand and type of paint you prefer when making your own chalk paint . Thanks! 🙂

  8. Hi I’m a newbie to nice and your step to step helps me a lot the trouble I have is when I see kitchen cabinets bein chalky painted then rub bred dwn they are never flat cupboards like mine so I need to know how much do I rub to get shabby chic thx a lot Karen X

    • Hi Dixie, thanks for your question! It looks like James used the Country Chic kind that I believe you have to buy directly from a supplier. I’ve just used Miniwax’s Paste Finishing wax that I bought at Home Depot for $10 and it worked great! You can also buy it on Amazon for cheaper at this link, (affiliate link). Hope this helps!!:-)

  9. I have started my kitchen caninet chalk paint project. My first coat looked ‘ok’ and I have worked with chalk paint successfully many times but my second coat looked clumpy, and not professional so now I’m scared!! I only did one door because I was thinking maybe I neede to let it dry more… I am starting again now, do you think I should ‘thin it out with water’ ?? I’m already in it now so I have to finish, please help!! My husband is going to kill me!!! He didn’t want me painting our dark cherry cabinets but I hate them!! I want farmhouse white : )

    • Hi, Shari, have you tried sanding the “clumpy” parts down with fine grit sandpaper? That should help. If the paint seems clumpy it needs to be mixed better. If it is in a can you can take it to any paint area and ask them to shake it up for you. If it is DIY chalk paint you can try adding a tad bit more water and giving it a really really good mix. Let me know how it goes!!

    • Hi Krista! I’m sorry it isn’t going as expected. I would try lightly sanding them with fine grit sand paper and then applying a fourth coat and see if that solves it. Let me know how it goes!

  10. Has anyone got a recipe for how much of each product to use for a gallon of paint? Chalk paint goes a long way but I don’t think the cup recipe would last too long. 😉 I like to make my own but have only made small amounts for small projects up till now. It wears really well and I am hoping would do so on the kitchen cabinets too. Thanks for the post.

    • Hi Robinette! Yes, you should be able to use chalk paint over an oil based paint without a problem! If for some reason it doesn’t seem like it’s adhering well then you could try putting down a coat of primer first.

    • Hi, Bonnie, thanks for the question! I actually haven’t used Annie Sloan chalk paint before but from the research I did it seems that the general consensus is that her chalk paint is not self-leveling. Hope this helps!

    • I’m actually reading now from different peoples blog that you should not use the wax because it is so hard to clean when it gets dirty. There is a matte finishing coat you can get instead of the wax. I am seeing lots of people having to re paint because of the wax.

  11. Hi! I painted my kitchen cabinets about 6 years ago with latex paint and I did not sand them first. I now want to repaint using chalk paint. On some of the cabinets the paint is chipping, do I need to sand them this time because I did not or because of the chipping

  12. tamara….I am redoing my bath and want to do this to my bathroom cabinet….I am also painting my walls….should I paint my walls first and then do the cabinet or vice versa?

  13. Hi! I’ve used chalky paint & wax & distressing methods on real wood furniture. I want to redo my kitchen cabinets but they are laminate with MDF. How can’t I use diy chalky paint to accothis. I’ve lived here 15 years I rent the owner doesn’t want to sell but I paint interior exterior redo my backyard & terrace & landscaping. I need to do something about the kitchen! Can you give me some advice?

  14. This is great! Im a realtor and have been advising my clients to update their old oak bathrooms to white before selling. Makes a HUGE difference and this is an inexpensive way to update. Love this post for it’s easy instructions and links! Thank you.

  15. So is the wax applied by your fingers? or with a soft rag? or the wax brush? I read how he said fingerprints show up easily with wax…..? Loved reading this! Thanks!

    • Hi, Brianna, thanks for the question! This comes down to a matter of preference…some people prefer using a soft rag to work the wax in while others prefer using a wax brush, either is an acceptable way to apply the wax. Hope this helps!!:-)

  16. I used Annie Sloan paint and wax on my dinning room table , 2 coats of paint 4 coats of light wax over 6 week time…problem was my husband coffee mugs melted through the wax number of times can I reprint the table over the wax then use a shellack over the new paint ?

  17. Used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint dark blue on dinning room chairs then used the Annie Sloan black wax ,but used too much ! Rubbed and rubbed used a electric buffer ,cured for 3 months still getting dark wax marks on clothes ….what to do next ????????