Chalk Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets endure a lot of wear and tear. From cooking splatters to sticky fingers, they take a beating. After years of use, their finish can start to show it. That’s when a makeover seems in order. And for many homeowners, chalk paint has become a popular choice for refinishing kitchen cabinets.

Chalk Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Chalk paint offers some advantages over traditional cabinet paints. With minimal prep work, chalk paint can give dated cabinets a quick facelift. The matte finish and range of colors also allow plenty of style options. But chalk paint has some downsides to consider as well. To get the most out of a chalk paint kitchen cabinet makeover, it’s helpful to understand what chalk paint is, which brands to choose, and the best practices for applying and sealing it.

What Is Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint has become a popular decorative paint known for its matte finish and vintage, distressed look. Originally developed in the 1990s by British paint maker Annie Sloan, chalk paint is made from calcium carbonate, like chalk. This gives it a velvety, matte texture. The chalky pigment allows the paint to grip surfaces easily without sanding or priming. It can be used on various materials from wood and metal to glass, concrete, and leather.

Chalk paint differs from traditional cabinet paints like latex or oil-based enamel paints. It has a much thicker, almost clay-like consistency. This allows it to cover surface imperfections and old paint colors well, often in just one to two coats. The matte finish has a vintage, worn-in look compared to the sleek sheen of glossy cabinet paints. Chalk paint can also be distressed to achieve a timeworn, antique style by sanding edges or applying a glaze.

With chalk paint’s simple application and decorative finishes, it has become a go-to choice for refinishing old furniture and giving all types of surfaces a quick makeover. Using chalk paint to refresh worn kitchen cabinets has grown popular for those seeking an updated yet vintage style.

Why Use Chalk Paint on Kitchen Cabinets?

So why would you choose chalk paint over traditional paint for kitchen cabinets? Here are some of the benefits that make chalk paint an appealing option:

  • Minimal prep work – With most paints, you must thoroughly sand and prime the surface first. Chalk paint doesn’t require priming or sanding for most surfaces. The heavy consistency allows it to adhere well without a base layer. This makes prep work quicker and easier.
  • Good coverage – The opaque pigments in chalk paint provide great coverage, even over dark colors. It can effectively cover grease stains and worn areas in one to two coats. No need for multiple layers of primer and paint.
  • Range of colors – Chalk paint is available in various colors, from bold hues to soft neutrals. Popular brand Annie Sloan offers over 35 choices. There are also paint lines for kitchen cabinets like Cabinet Coat by General Finishes.
  • Matte finish – The flat, matte look of chalk paint gives a vintage, rustic style. Chalk paint is the perfect choice for those wanting an antiqued, timeworn look for their kitchen.
  • Distressing capabilities – Chalk paint can be easily distressed, sanded, and glazed to create an aged, antique effect. The finish mimics a relic from the past.
  • Quick makeover – With minimal prep and no need for priming, chalk paint can give cabinets a fast facelift compared to traditional paint. In a weekend, you can take old cabinets from worn to wow.

For those reasons, many find chalk paint ideal for refreshing their kitchen quickly and affordably while achieving a stylish, unique look.

Popular Brands of Chalk Paint

Which brand should you choose if you decide to take the chalk paint route for your kitchen cabinets? Here are two of the most popular options:

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

As the original creator of chalk paint, Annie Sloan offers various colors specifically formulated for different needs. Their Old White and French Linen are go-to choices for kitchen cabinets. The Old White has warm undertones that work well for most wood cabinetry. French Linen is a light beige-gray that creates a timeworn look.

Annie Sloan chalk paints spread well with minimal brush marks. They recommend using a high-quality brush specifically designed for chalk paint. Their brand brushes have thick, rounded bristles that apply the paint smoothly. The paint costs around $40 per quart.

Rust-Oleum Chalk Paint

For a more budget-friendly option, Rust-Oleum’s chalk paint line offers similar performance at about half the price – roughly $20-25 per quart. Their Linen White and Faded Oyster colors work well for kitchen cabinets.

Rust-Oleum’s chalk paint flows and spreads easily with a dense foam roller or quality brush. It costs less than specialty paint brands but lacks some of the vibrancy of pricier paints. Still, it provides good coverage at an affordable price point.

Regardless of your chosen brand, be sure to get high-quality application tools like a dense foam roller, soft bristle brush, and paint pail with a built-in grid. These make applying the thick paint much easier.

Prepping Kitchen Cabinets for Chalk Paint

While chalk paint doesn’t require extensive sanding or priming before painting, some prep work is still important:

  • Clean thoroughly – Remove all cabinet doors and drawers to access the box frames. Clean all surfaces with a degreasing cleaner like TSP substitute to remove greasy residue. Rinse and let dry completely.
  • Remove hardware – Remove all hinges, knobs and handles to paint the cabinets easily. Set hardware aside in labeled bags for re-installation later.
  • Lightly sand glossy areas – Although sanding is minimal, you’ll still want to scuff glossy areas like a polyurethane finish to help the paint adhere better. Use 150 grit sandpaper lightly on glossy fronts.
  • Fill any flaws – Use wood filler to patch cracks or holes. Let dry completely before painting.

With prep work complete, your cabinets will be ready for chalk paint. Work in a well-ventilated area and allow adequate drying time between coats. Now let’s look at the best ways to apply chalk paint.

Application Techniques for Chalk Paint on Cabinets

Chalk paint has a thicker consistency than normal paint. Here are some tips for achieving the smoothest finish:

  • Use a dense foam roller – A high-density roller applies chalk paint beautifully. Load the roller well and apply even coats using a zig-zag motion, then smooth out.
  • Choose the right brush – If using a brush, select one made specifically for chalk paint. The bristles must hold the thick paint well and tapered edges help avoid visible brush strokes.
  • Thin if needed – If the paint is too thick, thin it slightly with water or mineral spirits. Start with 2 tablespoons per quart and add as needed.
  • Apply thin coats – Chalk paint offers great coverage, so resist loading it too thick. Thinner, even layers provide the best results.
  • Work top to bottom – Paint cabinets starting at the top and working your way down. This avoids drips marring freshly painted lower areas.
  • Get sides and edges – Chalk paint can leave visible brush marks on cabinet and door edges. Roll or brush these areas vertically to minimize noticeable strokes.

Follow those tips, and you can achieve a smooth chalk painted finish. But chalk paint also lends itself to a distressed, antiqued look if desired:

  • Sand edges – For a worn finish, lightly sand corners and edges. Avoid sanding the flat center panel so base color shows through.
  • Add glazing – You can also apply a dark glaze over the top to accentuate crevices and distressing. Wipe most of it off leaving color just in detailed areas.
  • Add character – Consider leaving visible brush marks in less noticeable areas to mimic an authentic aged piece.

So feel free to get creative and customize the finish to your style! Once painting is complete, it’s time to seal and protect the finish.

Sealing Chalk Painted Kitchen Cabinets

While some sources say chalk paint doesn’t require a top coat, it’s highly recommended for cabinets. An unsealed chalk paint finish can easily show signs of wear with fingerprints, grease, and moisture. A clear topcoat helps protect, preserve, and clean up the finish.

These are good options for sealing chalk paint on cabinets:

  • Polyurethane – Oil-based polyurethane provides a durable yet clear topcoat to protect the matte chalk paint while retaining its appearance. Use a satin sheen. Apply 2-3 thin coats with light sanding between each.
  • Polycrylic – Polycrylic is a water-based polyurethane that dries faster than oil-based with less odor. It provides good protection for chalk painted cabinets while maintaining the matte finish. Apply 2-3 coats allowing each to dry completely.
  • Wax is the most common sealer used with Annie Sloan chalk paints. Apply a thin clear or tinted wax coat using a brush or lint-free cloth. Buff well by hand or machine. Wax protects while accentuating distressing. However, it requires more frequent reapplication than polyurethane or polycrylic.
  • Lacquer – High-quality brushing lacquer makes an excellent sealer for chalk paint. It dries fast with a crystal clear finish. Quickly apply several thin coats using a foam brush or paint pad, recoating within two hours.

No matter the sealer chosen, avoid overbrushing chalk paint as it can disturb the matte finish. Be sure to use a non-yellowing formula for the clearest protection. With several coats of a topcoat sealer, your chalk-painted kitchen cabinets will look fantastic and stand up well to daily use.

Maintenance and Longevity of Chalk Painted Cabinets

How long does a chalk paint job last on kitchen cabinets? Proper prep, application, and sealing can have a long service life. Here are some tips for getting optimal durability:

  • Allow adequate drying time – Let chalk paint cure fully, 5-7 days, before regularly using the cabinets. This prevents damage to the uncured finish.
  • Handle carefully at first – Use care when opening/closing doors and drawers for the first few weeks until paint has hardened fully.
  • Seal thoroughly – Adequate sealing is key to durability. Reapply topcoats per manufacturer instructions as needed.
  • Clean gently – Use only soft cloths and mild cleaners on chalk painted cabinets. Avoid abrasive scrubs.
  • Refresh wax – If using wax as a sealer, reapply a thin coat once or twice a year to restore protection.
  • Touch-up wear – Look for areas like edges and handles and use chalk paint to spot touch up.

With proper care and maintenance, a chalk paint job can look beautiful for 3-5 years or longer before needing a refresh. The finish may show signs of wear sooner if sealing is insufficient or the cabinets are subjected to heavy use and abrasion. But occasional touch-ups can keep chalk painted cabinets looking freshly updated.

Pros and Cons of Chalk Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

Before deciding if chalk paint is right for your next kitchen cabinet refresh, weigh these pros and cons:


  • Quick, easy application
  • Minimal surface prep needed
  • Excellent coverage and durability when sealed
  • Wide range of color options
  • Creates unique vintage, distressed look


  • Susceptible to marks without sealing
  • Can have visible brush strokes if applied improperly
  • Not as washable as glossy enamels
  • Distressed look not suitable for all kitchen styles

The Bottom Line

Chalk paint could be an excellent choice for those seeking a quick kitchen update with timeworn character and charm. It can hold up well to everyday use with proper prep, application, sealing, and care. Just be sure to consider the maintenance required and if the matte, antiqued look fits your kitchen’s style. Achieving the right finished look takes some skill and practice but can be worth the effort.


Are you tired of your worn, dated kitchen cabinets but dread refinishing them? Chalk paint offers a relatively easy way to give them an updated yet vintage look. With minimal sanding and prep work, chalk paint can adhere to surfaces without priming and provide opaque coverage in just a couple coats.

Popular brands like Annie Sloan and Rust-Oleum offer various color choices for painting furniture and cabinets. While chalk paint doesn’t require sealing, a protective topcoat is recommended for kitchen cabinets to protect from moisture, grease stains, and wear. The matte finish can show signs of use rather quickly if left unsealed.

Applying with the right tools, using proper technique, and adequately sealing the finish are key to achieving long-lasting results. While the distressed, antiqued look of chalk paint isn’t right for every kitchen, it can provide a quick, budget-friendly makeover for those favoring a vintage style. With the right prep and care, refreshed chalk painted cabinets can endure years of cooking, cleaning, and busy family life.