If you want to start a DIY project and you’re not sure how to get a smooth finish with chalk paint, we hope that this article will give you all the information needed to start right now. Of course, chalk paint is not that easy to work with, but here are some tips and tricks on how to get a smooth finish with it.
Sanding is important
For someone that has never done this before, sanding may seem like a daunting task. However, most of the time, there are huge benefits in sanding the furniture before painting it with chalk paint. Furthermore, when you sand furniture you don’t have to put in all that much effort. It’s important to sand the furniture for a number of reasons.
First of all, it will help you remove eventual scratches, or dings, and even level some rough patches. If the surface you are sanding is a smoother one, it roughs it up a bit giving the paint something to stick to, to adhere. This will greatly reduce the likelihood of the paint chipping down or peeling. And last but not least, sanding provides a smoother finish once you have used chalk paint on the furniture.
Going deeper into the knowledge of the sanding process, you will have to learn a thing or to about grit. To sand the furniture, you will be needing sandpaper, and grit is a measure of the coarseness of that sandpaper (how abrasive it is). When buying sandpaper, higher grit numbers will be less abrasive and finer.
On the other hand, lower numbers like 80 will be rougher, more abrasive. Now, you will want to use multiple types of sandpaper. Using the most abrasive ones (80 to 120) you will have to sand the uneven patches, the dings, and the bigger scratches found on your furniture piece. After that, change the paper for one with a 220 coarseness so you can give the furniture an overall sanding.
If you don’t find any big imperfections, no dings, and all that, you don’t need to give the piece the first sanding with the most abrasive sandpaper. Step 2 would be the only one you need. You can have an additional, optional final sanding using a fine paper with a 320 number or even 400 if you want to provide an even smoother finish.
Interestingly enough, some people will also do a fine-grit sanding between paint coats. But this means more work and the results are not that different. You can try it, nonetheless.
Sanding tools needed
There are two types of sanding tools you would need – it’s the classic battle between electric and hand sanding tools. While you can sand furniture without the help of electric tools, using precise machinery to do that for you will help you have more fun and will generally finish things faster. You can find simple electric sanders for low prices, and even if you’re on a tight budget, they are recommended.
Electric sanders will do the hard work for you – but if you prefer to get your hands really dirty, you can always do it without them. A regular orbital sander will be useful for small jobs, much like a palm sander, or a small-detail sander. They should be easy to use, and if you’re using a detail sander you can get its pointed tip into hard-to-reach spaces.
If you don’t want to spend more money, you can always forget about the electric tools and focus on sanding on your own. Smaller jobs should be accomplishable with hand sanding products. You don’t need to complicate things too much, and with a few tools, you can finish the job. You will need foam blocks, thin sanding pads and sanding sheets, and refillable tools.
How do you actually sand?
Now that we’ve established what kind of tools you need for sanding, and why this process is important, let’s see how you should do it. A first suggestion is to sand your furniture outdoors because even hand sanding will create a lot of dust. You don’t want to inhale all that dust, and you don’t want it to spread around your home.
Even when sanding outside, you still need to make sure you are protecting yourself and others, and if you’re using electric tools, make sure to wear eye protection. Find some goggles for home projects, as they shouldn’t be too expensive at hardware stores. Furthermore, also wear a face mask, and if you know you have breathing problems, you should use a mask even if you’re using hand tools.
Another tip is to sand along the grain of the wood. What does this mean? Use the sanding tools to sand in the direction the wood grain goes (along the wood lines). This should end up giving the furniture a prettier finish and will help you avoid scratches in the process. When sanding raw wood this is particularly important.
Don’t put too much pressure on the wood. Although you will have to apply some force, you don’t have to press that hard when hand sanding. If you find yourself working too hard and sweating too much it means you need a harsher piece of sandpaper, with a lower number grit. If you are using electric tools, let the sander do the work for you without pressing too hard – otherwise you might get too deep into the wood.
The sanding process brings a lot of dust with it. You can attach a shop vac to the sander, more precisely to the dust collection chamber, in order to reduce the dust coming out of it. Other options include keeping shop towels and a furniture spray bottle at your disposal. Don’t forget that you also need to clean the furniture piece after sanding, so you can get to the painting part.
Choosing how to paint
Deciding upon the tools to use when painting is up to you, but it can all also depend on the size of the object you want to paint. You could use a brush, a roller, or a spray gun. Now, depending on the tool you use, the application method differs. When you want to paint a piece of furniture with a brush, and you also want to get a smooth, uniform finish, you need to have a natural-bristle brush.
It also needs to have long and flexible bristles to be able to spread the chalk paint nicely. Dipping it into the can and then tapping the handle against the lid of the can will remove excess paint. Applying the paint afterward, make sure your moves are unidirectional and you are painting one section of the furniture piece at a time until you cover the entire surface.
Using a roller, pour the paint into a paint pan, then use a high-density foam roller to load it onto. The size of the roller depends on the furniture itself, but in most cases, a four-inch mini model should do just well. Using the grid of the pan you can scrape the excess paint where you see it. Using unidirectional strokes, roll thin layers of paint, then pull the roller back and make one more stroke over the initial one.
When using a spray gun keep in mind that chalk paint is thicker and doesn’t flow that smoothly, so it might be difficult to apply it using a gun. However, you can do it by watering it down and adding 2 tablespoons of water to a cup of paint. You can also load the paint in the gun as it is, but you will need to operate the gun at maximum pressure, and you will also need a powerful gun with the spray tip of at least 1.8 millimeters to allow the paint to spread.
Although the last suggestion might work, it has a higher risk of damaging your paint gun, so if you really want to try it, test the method on a small part of the furniture.
The technique you use
There are multiple ways to paint your furniture, and there are people that prefer using multiple tools and techniques too. You will sometimes have to use the brush for those hard-to-reach places, where a roller or paint gun won’t work. You can start with the brush and use it in long continuous strokes without overbrushing. As soon as the chalk paint hits the surface of the piece it will start drying, so if you over brush it, you will get visible brush strokes.
You want to have at least half of your brush loaded with paint – if you have less than that the brush will drag the paint and leave visible strokes. On the other hand, if you put too much paint on it, you will have drips of paint everywhere.
When using a roller, properly load it with paint. You want it to be saturated but don’t overdo it. You don’t want it to be dripping. When painting walls with a roller you want to roll over the same area again and again, but things are different when painting furniture pieces. You need to keep a steady line and give a maximum of 3 strokes.