Easy, Step-by-Step Distressed Chalk Paint Finish Tutorial

I love decorating! I enjoy changing things in my house and keeping our decor fresh and unique (as much as is possible with the busy schedule of raising and running kids around). A guest I once had over complimented my home decor and style when they were visiting, but quickly added that they would never have/or want to spend the money to get the same look. (Picture my heart smiling and then quickly turning to a frown as I heard that comment.)

I am afraid a lot of people feel that way. What Hil and I are passionate about sharing in this blog are ways to make home decor affordable and possible for everyone.

We absolutely believe that home decorating, and being budget conscious, can go hand in hand! Most of the pieces in our homes have a story of where we got them or how we made them. I have found pieces on the side of the road, at garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, or been gifted items from a friend that I have tweaked or refinished to fit my design preferences. Having a beautifully decorated home doesn’t have to cost a fortune- not even close! You just need to be willing to put a little elbow grease into it and get creative!

With that in mind, here is how we turned a $3 thrift store find into a farmhouse style distressed tray that I guarantee no one would assume had a $3 price tag. And the best part, it was super quick and easy! This finish can be applied to smaller home decor type pieces, but can easily be applied to larger furniture that needs a makeover as well. The supplies and the technique are then same.

What you need: You will need an item to be refinished. It can be made of any material you like. Two colors of chalk paint, choosing the base color that will be an accent peeking through the top coat color. We used Rustoleum’s Charcoal and Linen White Chalked Paint. You will also need a clear polyurethane sealer; we used Rustoleum’s Chalked Clear Matte Finish. Grab an all purpose paint brush and/or sponge brush. An all-purpose paint brush can be used for all the steps that follow, I used a sponge brush for the first step. It’s a matter of preference.

To start your project be sure to wipe down and fully dry the tray before you start painting. Then using a 2 inch sponge brush I painted a thin coat of Charcoal Chalked Paint onto the tray. I didn’t worry about covering it too heavily, as I would later be distressing the tray and didn’t mind a little of the rust color coming through.

I covered the entire tray with one coat of the base color paint and then let it dry completely for about 20 minutes. That’s the beauty of chalk paint, it dries pretty quickly so you don’t have to wait too long before moving onto the next step.

Next, I used my Purdy all-purpose brush to paint a thin layer of sealer over the entire tray. During this process you will see some of the original finish of the piece showing through the charcoal paint. If you don’t want to see any of the original finish, be sure to paint a second coat of the base color before sealing it.

Let the sealer dry completely for at least 30 minutes before the next step. When the sealer is dry it will be transparent instead of slightly opaque.

I then used my brush to apply a thin layer of Linen White Chalked Paint over the entire tray and let it dry for 20 minutes or so.
At this point you will still be able to see the charcoal color through the white paint.

Once the first coat has dried, I painted a final coat of the white chalk paint over the entire tray, including the handles, and let it dry completely.


When it was dry, I used a damp sponge to distress the tray. This is where you can use your creative discretion and determine how much distressing you want to do. I took the rough side of the sponge and gently rubbed in a circular motion until I achieved the amount of distressing that I wanted.

I typically distress a bit, step back, look at the whole thing, and then determine whether I’ve done enough, or will distress it more. There isn’t a right or wrong here, it’s a matter of personal preference, so don’t stress over this step! If you distress more than you wished you would have, touch up those areas with another coat of white paint before you move onto the next step.

You may need to dampen your sponge a time or two during the distressing process. Once I finished scrubbing, I gently wiped down the entire tray with the soft side of the sponge to smooth any brush strokes and let it dry.


To finish it off, I used my brush to apply a thin coat of Chalked Matte Clear Sealer to the tray. I used this sealer as opposed to a wax seal for this tray because it is going to be used on my dining table and likely need to be wiped down with soap and water from time to time. I tend to like poly better for easy clean up on high traffic pieces. Furniture wax is a good option as well, again, it’s a matter of preference. Be sure not to brush the sealer on too thick and wipe any drips with your brush while still wet. 
So that’s it! Pretty simple, inexpensive, and done in an afternoon!



We hope you found this tutorial helpful! Have fun with a project of your own! We would love to see if you try this finish, so please send us a pic if you do!


chalked paint tutorial


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