Kitchen cabinets are one of the most visible parts of any kitchen. As the centerpiece of the room, they majorly impact your kitchen’s overall style and feel. Over time, cabinets can look dated or worn or less suited to your taste. Giving your kitchen cabinets a fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest and most budget-friendly ways to update the heart of your kitchen.
Chalk paint has recently become an extremely popular choice for DIY cabinet makeovers. Known for its matte finish and versatility, chalk paint allows you to achieve virtually any colored or distressed finish without traditional cabinet paint’s intensive prep and priming demands.
In this guide, we’ll explore why chalk paint has become the choice for refreshing dated kitchen cabinets on a budget. We’ll cover everything you need to know, from the most popular color choices to techniques for achieving a smooth, long-lasting finish. Let’s dive in!
What is Chalk Paint?
Chalk paint is a versatile, matte finish formulated specifically for furniture and home décor projects. The most widely known brand of chalk paint is Annie Sloan, which DIYers prize for its superior coverage, adhesion, and wide color selection.
What makes chalk paint different than traditional paint? Here are a few of the unique characteristics that have made it so popular for kitchen cabinet makeovers:
- No Sanding or Priming Required – Chalk paint is formulated to adhere smoothly and evenly to a wide range of surfaces with minimal prep work. Unlike traditional cabinet paint, you can paint directly over existing cabinet finishes and avoid hours of sanding and priming.
- Matte Finish – The soft, velvety matte look of chalk paint gives kitchen cabinets a timeworn, vintage look. The muted finish hides imperfections beautifully.
- Thick Consistency – Chalk paint has a thicker, paint-like consistency than thin cabinet paints and stains. The density allows it to cover existing finishes and surfaces evenly and smoothly.
- Range of Unique Finishes – From distressed to chippy to two-toned finishes, chalk paint makes achieving unique painted finishes easy for beginners. The look can be tailored from shabby chic to contemporary.
With minimal prep work required and limitless finish options, it’s easy to see why chalk paint has become the go-to for upgrading kitchen cabinets on a budget and with less painting experience.
Most Popular Chalk Paint Colors for Kitchen Cabinets
One of the best aspects of chalk paint is the vast spectrum of colors and finishes it can produce. From bright and cheery pastels to rich, moody hues, chalk paint comes in virtually every color imaginable. Here are some of the most popular color choices for kitchen cabinet makeovers:
Soft whites, grays, tans and other neutral tones are versatile options in modern and cottage style kitchens. Try an antique white or extremely light gray for an airy, coastal vibe or go slightly bolder with a pale gray-green hue like Annie Sloan’s Old Ochre.
A crisp, clean white never goes out of style. White painted cabinets immediately make the space feel lighter and more spacious. Try pairing white upper cabinets with colorful lowers for a striking two-toned look.
From deep navy to bright cobalt, blue makes a gorgeous statement on kitchen cabinets. Navy cabinets with brass hardware exude vintage character, while lighter shades of blue like Duck Egg give off relaxing, beach house vibes.
For a dramatic, polished look, black chalk paint adds a bold, contemporary edge. Black lower cabinets grounded by white uppers and open shelves is a popular, high-contrast look.
Earthy green hues like sage and forest green inject personality into kitchens dominated by wood tones. Try mixing a bit of white chalk paint into a dark green base for a lighter spring green.
Warm antique whites and creamy off-whites like Annie Sloan’s Old White provide flexibility to skew slightly more modern or traditional. Cream cabinets provide a subtle neutral backdrop without starkness.
Heavily distressed paint techniques expose wood tones underneath for an antiqued, well-worn look. Mix a grayish blue like Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue with white for a weathered, vintage feel.
The best way to narrow down your perfect color is to order a few chalk paint sample pots in your top choices. Paint large swatches on boards to view in your kitchen lighting before taking the plunge!
How Durable is Chalk Paint on Kitchen Cabinets?
Many DIYers love the smooth matte finish and decorative versatility of chalk paint but worry about how it will hold up on heavily used kitchen cabinets over time. Does chalk paint provide a durable finish that withstand everyday wear and tear? Or will it scratch and chip easily?
Proper preparation and sealing is the key to long-lasting, durable chalk painted cabinets. While chalk paint adheres to surfaces nicely on its own, taking a few extra steps will help it withstand constant use without showing marks:
- Proper Prep – Lightly sand and clean cabinets thoroughly before painting to remove grime and create a surface the paint can “grip” onto. Degloss if needed.
- Primer – Priming first is an optional extra step that helps the paint adhere more durably, especially on slick surfaces.
- Multiple Thin Coats – Build up thin, even layers of chalk paint for maximum coverage and durability. 2-3 coats are usually needed.
- Proper Sealing – The keys are sealing chalk paint properly after painting and gently caring for the finish over time.
Many reviewers report their chalk painted kitchen cabinets holding up beautifully for 5+ years and counting. But poor prep and lack of sealing leads to diminished durability and chipping over the years. Investing a bit more time upfront pays off!
Chalk Paint Cabinet Makeover Prep Tips
While chalk paint doesn’t require intensive sanding or stripping like traditional cabinet paints, proper prep is still important for achieving the best adhesion. Here are some recommended steps to prep kitchen cabinets before painting:
- Remove doors, shelves and hardware to paint separately. Work in a dust-free area.
- Clean thoroughly with TSP or degreaser to remove grease and grime so paint adheres well.
- Lightly sand to rough up the finish. 120-220 grit sandpaper works for most surfaces.
- Degloss slick or glossy finishes with liquid deglosser so chalk paint sticks.
- Fill any holes/imperfections with wood filler and sand smooth.
- Prime high-gloss or very slick surfaces if needed for better adhesion.
- Wipe away all dust with a tack cloth before painting for best results.
Proper prep sets the stage for the chalk paint to cling to cabinets tightly. While priming is optional, deglossing slick surfaces and light sanding helps the paint grab on so your makeover lasts for years.
How to Apply Chalk Paint for a Smooth Finish
The rich, velvety matte finish of chalk painted cabinets is part of the look’s widespread appeal. But achieving an ultra-smooth finish takes more finesse than traditional cabinet paint. Here are pro tips for applying chalk paint smoothly and evenly:
- Use a High-Density Foam Roller – Foam rollers apply the thick paint more evenly than brushes. Load roller well and roll in sections.
- Thin Layers – Build up thin, even coats of chalk paint rather than glopping it on thickly. Thin coats provide the smoothest finish.
- Sand Between Coats – Lightly sand each coat as you build layers to smooth brush strokes and create an ultra-smooth finish.
- Brush in Direction of Wood Grain – Brush topcoat toward the wood’s grain to help hide any remaining imperfections.
- Work Methodically – Paint systematically in sections while smoothing each section as you go. Don’t overload the roller or overbrush.
Patience and working in thin, systematic layers leads to the flawless, smooth painted finish that chalk paint is known for. Take your time and don’t overload the roller or brush. The results will be worth it!
Top Tips for Protecting & Sealing Chalk Painted Cabinets
While chalk paint adheres to surfaces nicely, proper sealing is essential for creating a long-lasting finish on kitchen cabinets. Topcoats protect the matte chalk paint from damage, dirt, grease and moisture.
Two popular options for sealing chalk paint are wax and polycrylic:
- It provides a soft luster and enhances depth of color
- Must be reapplied regularly for ongoing protection
- It gives a subtle sheen similar to vintage painted furniture
- Best if you enjoy nourishing the finish over time
- Provides a protective acrylic barrier that holds up to cleaning
- More durable protection from daily wear and tear
- Dries to a uniform matte or satin finish
- Won’t change the color like wax may slightly
- Doesn’t require reapplying as often as wax
- Resists moisture, grease and dirt better than wax
- Some find it easier to apply evenly than wax
When choosing between wax or polycrylic sealing, consider your finish goals. Wax nourishes the chalk paint over time for an authentic antique look. Polycrylic provides harder protection for cabinets that need to stand up to more daily use and abuse.
Most pros recommend at least 3 coats of polycrylic for maximum protection on heavily used kitchen cabinets. Let each coat fully cure for at least 2-4 hours before applying the next layer. Use thin, even brushstrokes to maintain the matte finish of the chalk paint underneath.
For best results, some painters recommend a couple layers of wax to seal the chalk paint initially, followed by 2-3 coats of polycrylic on top for added protection. The wax helps build an initial seal while polycrylic provides a durable top barrier.
If opting for wax, choose a hard furniture wax like Annie Sloan’s for the most durable protection on cabinets. Softer waxes may require reapplying every 1-2 months to keep kitchen cabinets looking pristine under heavy use. Pay special attention to areas near the sink and stove.
Sealing chalk paint properly is the key to making your kitchen cabinet transformation last for the long haul. Take the time to apply multiple coats of your topcoat of choice and keep wax cabinets nourished over time. The extra effort will pay off in cabinets that withstand busy kitchen life beautifully!
Here are more tips for sealing and protecting chalk painted cabinets:
- Apply at least 2-3 coats of a topcoat like wax or polycrylic for sufficient protection.
- Allow proper drying time between coats as recommended on the product label.
- Use a brush or foam applicator to apply topcoat in thin, even layers.
- Work methodically in sections to maintain a consistent, smooth topcoat.
- To refresh over time, clean with a mild soap and water, re-wax or add another layer of polycrylic as needed.
- Buff wax topcoats gently with a clean cloth to renew the protective finish and shine.
- Use care when cleaning chalk painted cabinets to avoid excessively scrubbing on the matte finish.
- Immediately wipe up spills and water to avoid staining or damaging the chalk paint over time.
- Consider matte polycrylic for a finish closest to the soft sheen of wax without regular reapplication.
- Store wax in a cool area so it doesn’t soften and wear down as quickly. Harder wax lasts longer.
Proper sealing and gentle care is key to making your chalk painted kitchen cabinets stand the test of time. Invest in quality topcoat products and be diligent with application and maintenance. The result will be a timeless, vintage painted finish you’ll enjoy for years!
Popular Techniques for Distressed Painted Cabinets
One of the most popular techniques for chalk painting cabinets is achieving an antique distressed or chippy finish. The gently worn, timeworn look adds vintage character and dimension. Distressing chalk paint finishes is much easier than traditional paints thanks to chalk paint’s thicker consistency.
Here are some simple techniques for distressing kitchen cabinets:
- Apply paint in uneven layers focused on edges and corners to simulate aged wear.
- Use sandpaper, steel wool or abrasive pads to rub paint away vertically, exposing wood tones beneath.
- Chip away paint along edges and drawers using a scraper or screwdriver handle.
- Soften edges by brushing lightly with a dry paintbrush to blend paint into wood grain.
- Rub sections with baby wipes after painting to create a mottled, timeworn look.
- Consider glazing over distressing for an antiqued or weathered finish.
The beauty of chalk paint is how effortlessly it creates chipped, aged finishes compared to the labor intensity of distressing traditional paints. Take it slow and build up layers of dimension at your own pace for a uniquely imperfect finish.
Achieving a Two-Toned Look with Chalk Paint
Want to inject even more character into your kitchen cabinets? Try a two-toned chalk painted finish! Combining two complementary colors, one on the upper cabinets and another on the lowers, adds striking contrast and dimension.
Some popular two-toned color combinations for kitchen cabinets include:
- Navy lower cabinets + White upper cabinets
- Black lowers + Light gray uppers
- Green lower cabinets + Antique white uppers
- Light blue on bottom + Darker blue uppers
Tips for executing a flawless two-toned finish:
- Tape off sections neatly before painting. Use painters tape for clean lines.
- Start by painting the lighter color so the darker color will cover any drips.
- Allow proper dry time between coats to prevent colors from bleeding together at edges.
- Remove tape immediately after the last coat before paint fully dries.
- Softly distress edges between colors so they blend naturally.
Take your time taping off sections and removing tape promptly for the sharpest contrast between your two colors. The striking combo will infuse your kitchen with personality!
Cost to Chalk Paint Kitchen Cabinets
One of the biggest appeals of refinishing kitchen cabinets with chalk paint is the cost savings over a full cabinet replacement. But what exactly is the cost to chalk paint an average sized kitchen? Here is a breakdown:
- Chalk paint – $30-50 per pint x 2-3 pints per cabinet door = $180-270 just for paint
- Wax or polycrylic sealer – $15-30
- Sandpaper, brushes, rollers – $20-30
- Optional primer – $20-40
- Hardware – $200 for new pulls/knobs
Total Cost: Approximately $250-400 for DIY materials. More if hiring a professional painter which averages $2000-4000.
While not cheap, chalk painting kitchen cabinets costs a fraction of $10,000-30,000 for a full cabinet replacement. For under $1000, you can give your kitchen a completely fresh, customized look.
Factors that increase cost are hiring a pro, extra prep work like priming or repairs, and using premium paint brands like Annie Sloan. But the result is kitchen cabinets that look like you spent thousands for a fraction of the price!
Should You Chalk Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets?
Chalk paint offers a budget-friendly shortcut to transforming the look of your kitchen cabinets without the mess and labor of stripping or traditional painting. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of using chalk paint for your next kitchen refresh, consider the key benefits and drawbacks:
- No intensive sanding or priming needed
- Thick consistency covers existing finishes smoothly
- Hides flaws and damage beautifully
- Wide range of unique finishes like distressed and two-toned
- DIY friendly for beginners
- Soft matte finish provides a timeworn, vintage look
- More affordable alternative to new cabinets
- Requires proper prep and sealing for long-term durability
- Can chip or show marks more easily than other cabinet paints
- Matte finish shows grime, needs gentle cleaning
- Wax topcoats require more regular maintenance
- Risk of brush marks in finish without proper application
While chalk paint isn’t necessarily the most heavy duty option, proper prep and sealing can help your makeover stand the test of time. If you’re willing to invest some elbow grease upfront and provide gentle care over time, chalk paint offers a budget-friendly shortcut to a picture-perfect kitchen transformation!
Transforming Your Kitchen Cabinets with Chalk Paint: Step-by-Step
If you’re sold on revamping your kitchen cabinets with beautiful chalk paint, here is a step-by-step guide to get started:
- Chalk paint in your chosen colors
- Sandpaper (220 grit)
- Paintbrushes and foam rollers
- TSP or degreaser
- Liquid deglosser (if needed)
- Wax or polycrylic topcoat
- Drop cloths & painters tape
Step 1: Prep the Cabinets
Remove doors, drawers, shelves and hardware. Fill any holes with wood filler, let dry and sand smooth. Clean cabinet boxes and doors thoroughly with TSP or degreaser. Sand lightly to rough up surface and degloss any glossy areas. Wipe away dust.
Step 2: Paint Cabinet Boxes
Protect floors and countertops with drop cloths. Use painter’s tape for clean edges. Apply 2-3 thin, even coats of chalk paint using a foam roller in sections, smoothing as you go. Sand lightly between coats for an ultra-smooth finish.
Step 3: Paint Doors
Paint the backs of doors first, then fronts for coverage. Again apply paint in thin layers, sanding between coats. Use extra finesse on the cabinet door fronts for a flawless look. Allow proper dry time between coats.
Step 4: Distress/Add 2nd Color
This is when to distress cabinet doors, add a second color on door/drawer fronts, or experiment with paint techniques before sealing. Make sure to remove tape promptly once sections are painted.
Step 5: Seal the Finish
Apply at least 2-3 coats of wax or polycrylic over paint, allowing full drying time between layers. Use thin, even brushstrokes working in sections for the most durable finish.
Step 6: Install Hardware
Once fully dry, install new hardware like knobs and pulls to give your kitchen a completely refreshed look. Fill old hardware holes with wood filler if needed.
Step 7: Admire Your Work!
Step back and admire your brand new, gorgeously painted kitchen cabinets! Enjoy the fresh, uplifted look and improved functionality of your kitchen.
With the right prep, application and TLC, your chalk painted kitchen cabinets can look pristine for years rather than showing signs of wear. Don’t be afraid to take your time and do the job right. Soon you’ll have the vintage kitchen of your dreams without the hefty price tag!
Common Questions About Chalk Painting Kitchen Cabinets
If you’re new to DIY painting projects, chances are you have plenty of questions about how chalk paint will perform on your kitchen cabinets. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
How long does it take to chalk paint kitchen cabinets?
For an average 10-15 cabinet kitchen, expect the painting process from start to finish to take 2-4 days. Day 1 for removing doors, hardware, sanding and priming. Day 2 for applying 2-3 coats of chalk paint. Day 3 for distressing and adding a second color if desired. Day 4 for sealing the finish.
Does chalk paint work on laminate cabinets?
Chalk paint can be used over laminate cabinets without all the sanding other paints require. Lightly degloss and scuff sand laminate cabinets before painting for the best adhesion.
How do you get a smooth chalk paint finish on cabinets?
Use a high density foam roller, apply paint in thin coats, sand lightly between coats, and brush topcoat on in direction of wood grain for an ultra-smooth look. Work methodically in sections.
Can you use chalk paint on cabinet boxes?
Yes, chalk paint adheres extremely well to cabinet box surfaces. Remove doors and hardware, clean boxes well, then paint boxes before doors for an easier process.
How durable is Annie Sloan chalk paint?
Annie Sloan is known for thicker, denser chalk paint that provides superior coverage. As with any chalk paint, proper prep and sealing is key for maximum durability over the years.
What sheen is best for chalk painted cabinets?
Chalk paint’s matte finish is part of its appeal. Either wax or matte/satin polycrylic sealers help maintain the muted, velvety look. Gloss polyacrylic sealers make the finish look too shiny.
How do you clean chalk painted cabinets?
Use a mild soap and water. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbing aggressively. Immediately wipe up spills to prevent stains and damage. Re-wax cabinets over time as needed to maintain their protection.
Achieving a Flawless Chalk Paint Finish
Painting cabinets with chalk paint is more about finesse than intensive preparation. You can still achieve stunning, smooth results by following best practices:
- Always test colors first on posterboard samples to ensure you love the tone in your kitchen lighting before committing.
- Work in sections systematically, fully smoothing and sealing each section before moving on.
- Thin layers of paint applied with a foam roller provide the most seamless look.
- Lightly sanding between coats helps eliminate brush strokes and create a smooth finish.
- Remove painters tape promptly before paint fully dries for the crispest paint lines.
- Seal thoroughly with 2-3+ coats of wax or polycrylic, allowing proper dry time between layers.
- A high quality brush is key for applying topcoats smoothly without leaving brush marks.
Your kitchen cabinets will look professionally painted with some focused effort. Don’t rush the process and be diligent about properly sealing the finish.
Ideas for Repurposing Chalk Paint Leftovers
Don’t let leftover chalk paint go to waste after finishing your kitchen cabinet project! Here are creative ways to repurpose partial cans:
- Paint lamp bases, trays, pots or vases in coordinating colors
- Use it on additional furniture like dining chairs, cabinets or sideboards
- Paint an old dresser as bathroom storage or upcycle with new hardware
- Give terra cotta pots or garden planters a refresh with a coat of chalk paint
- Freshen old frames, crates, boxes or yard decor with leftover paint
- Touch up any nicks or scratches on painted cabinets in the matching color
Chalk paint sample pots can also be mixed to create custom colors for small DIY projects. Don’t throw it out – put it to use!
Breathing new life into outdated kitchen cabinets doesn’t have to be an expensive, labor-intensive endeavor. You can craft a completely customized, vintage-inspired kitchen makeover with some chalk paint and creativity. Experiment, have fun with it, and enjoy the revitalized heart of your home for years to come!