I test and review Annie Sloan Chalk PaintRetroCraftyArtsyFartsyYes, I am going to write about shabby chic. Don’t yell at me! I actually like shabby chic style — I pretty much like all decorating styles if they are done well. This story, though, is not about painting big pieces of furniture (please think hard before you do this!) Rather, it is about my desire to paint several old wood display shelves that I have collected from estate sales and turn them into display-assemblages to hold various of my Kitschmas weebits. My plan is to paint the display cases white… add vintage wallpaper or vintage wrapping to the back… and probably also glitter them up. I’ll give the finished products to friends and relatives, as a complement to my vintage ornament wreaths and other Kitschmas krafties. Once I geared up to start, I thought I would merge these painting projects by testing various paints to use. My first test: Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Read on for my product test — and initial verdict about this DIY-painters-gone-wild chalk paint.

Getting start with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint: Expensive

I test and review Annie Sloan Chalk PaintBecause I read virtually no other home decor blogs (they annoy me on too many levels), I didn’t know that Annie Sloan Chalk Paint was a phenom. But then, in one of our discussions about painting vs. not painting wood furniture, a few readers mentioned the product. So finally I decided to use this opportunity to see what all the fuss was about and to weigh in.

A store nearby sells Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, so I headed over, and — thank goodness I was able to put this on the company credit card — because you surely noticed my headline right away: Yes, the supplies to get started cost me $238.85. Okay, so this is headline hyperbole, because a lot of the cost was in the made-in-Italy brushes, which should be longterm “fixed” costs, and also in the waxes, which will go along way. But still: I wanted to test this system… and to test it in its recommended entirety, I needed all the Annie Sloan tools… so, even if I decided, after my test that, nah, not worth it, I’d still be stuck with all the tools.

Here’s the breakdown of costs for the official Annie Sloan products:

  • Large wax brush — $72.00 [This was the best brush you could buy for applying the wax.]
  • Small wax brush — $52.00 [I bought a second, smaller brush to use for the antiquing wax. The store recommended a separate brush to apply the dark color antiquing wax so that the two waxes don’t mix.]
  • Small paint brush — $32.95
  • 2 mini waxes — one clear, one dark for antiquing — $31.90 [that is $15.95 each]
  • 1 small can of Old White chalk paint — $13.95
  • 1 tin of gilding wax — $22.00
  • Total with tax: $238.95

Recommendation: If you are only going to do small projects or test projects, like mine, I really do not think you need to buy the brushes. In addition, for this project, I wanted a very smooth finish and for that, I actually found it better to apply the chalk paint with an inexpensive sponge brush. For the wax, just use a small normal natural bristle paint brush.

For this project, I did not use the small wax brush or the gilding wax. But I’ll still show you what I spent here, cuz my receipt says All Sales Final.

  • annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-2The display shelf, $5, found at an estate sale. I see these at virtually every estate sale I go to, they are so abundant.
  • The wallpaper came from a roll I bought for $1 at an estate sale. But I am not counting this in my total, because I already had it on hand, and because, don’t ask me how I know this, but $243.85 is a funnier sounding number than $244.85.

Step One: Apply the chalk paint

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-4annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-6annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-7annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-9When I bought the chalk paint, the salesperson told me that it should paint two or three small shelves like the ones I was describing. My experience: No Way! Above: Putting on the first coat of chalk paint. The coverage was not good. It took me three coats to get decent coverage — and I could have used four, but I ran out of paint. Kaput.

As for the process: I used the Annie Sloan paint brush for the first two coats. I found it a very frustrating tool for this particular project, as I had to get into the piece at 90-degree angles — and using the brush with this paint I could see all the odd and unappealing brushmarks, at least until I sanded. The paint was very thick.

One of the promoted advantages of this chalk paint: You don’t need to prep your surface. For this small piece, I did nothing but lightly sponge the display shelf to get rid of any dust before painting.

I found that the paint had virtually no odor. That said: I am not very good at smelling. BUT: I did get a headache — I am actually very sensitive to odors, apparently at the cellular not nasal level, and will get blasting headaches from certain smells. While I’ll stop short of saying it was a blasting headache, I’d say, yes, I got a noticeable low-grade headache — so there is something in the air.

I did this indoors on a cold winter day. Maybe better to do it where and when you can open the windows.

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-13annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-14For coat #3, I: (1) thinned the paint with water to try and make it go further especially where I needed it, since I was going to be out of paint after this third coat, and (2) used a sponge brush to apply the paint. I thought that with these two changes I had much better control of the paint. And as you can see, with the third coat I finally had good coverage. Even so, I could have used a fourth — inside certain of the shelves, the paint is still not opaque — but I was out.

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-5Above: I also could not really get the small paint brush into the small paint jar very easily…

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-10… So, I decanted the paint into a plastic thingy.

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-12Above: One more first-world whine: $33 natural bristle Made in Italy paint brushes should not leave bristles on your piece the first time you use them.

Step Two: Sand, as desired

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-15Above: The next step was to sand the edges to get the (1) smooth flat surfaces and (2) distressed edges that I wanted.

Big “Like” — even a the level of “Love” — for this product once I got to this part of the project: I found that, yes, with enough paint on the wood to work with… (applied with the sponge brush)… then sanded with very high grit paper… I could get a very smooth finish on the flat surfaces. No brush strokes visible at all. The edges distressed up no problem, and I had good control. At this point, I had not even waxed yet, and I was really liking the outcome.

Note: I think that Annie Sloan advises to sand after the wax is applied. I did not follow that instruction. I sanded before waxing.

One note: This part is super messy. The chalk paint sands like a dream — but make sure you have a plan to clean up.

Step Three: Wax

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-16Ooopsy, I didn’t take photos of the waxing part. Soft wax is required to set the chalk paint. You apply it with the wax brush — then buff it off with a lint-free cloth. If you do it right, you get a somewhat lustrous sheen. “Doing it right” means not over-applying the wax and then, buffing like a maniac. I think I did a fine enough job on this part. It was good exercise for my right arm, which I have not updated you on since I broke it last October because the whole thing bores me so. I have declared myself “cured” even though I am not.

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-17Above: After I applied the clear wax with the brush… but before I buffed… I applied the dark antiquing wax — mostly just on the edges — with a lint free cloth. Then I buffed everything.Tip: Be careful with this dark stuff, it was my experience that once I laid it down I could not easily wipe it off if I did not like how it looked.

Wallpaper for the back of the display shelf:

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-18Who recognizes where we used this same wallpaper
in a different crafty project?
Gold star if you can name it.

This wallpaper actually is the complement wallpaper to the vintage wallpaper in my bathroom — which is where I planned to hang this shelf. Yes, I started thinking this would be for Kitschmas, but when I saw this paper again in my hoard, I thought it would look great in the bathroom with its sister, the flowered wallpaper. And, I didn’t have any art or anything up in the bathroom, so I had the space.

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-19In typical pammy whammy schmeck-aleck style, I simply glued the paper to the back of the shelf. I need to be super duper careful not to poke a hole when moving this around. That said, this solution was not just out of total laziness — I wanted the shelf to lay totally flat on the wall, so I did not want to mount the wallpaper on anything thick. That said, I could have put it on a strong paper or piece of thin acrylic sheet or something. Honestly, I think that working on the internet for all these years has reduced my patience to the size of a pea.

The finished product and my verdict on Annie Sloan chalk paint:


Tip: You can click any and all photos
in our stories and they should double in size on your screen.

I test and review Annie Sloan Chalk PaintI installed the shelf in my bathroom… then I ran all over the house playing stylist looking for its and bits to put in it to get it “just right.” I stuck with golden tones (except for the center piece for effect), all of a certain height, each a different shape, and just one item per display box, as my bathroom is simple, glowy and uncluttered.

When I style: I get very mathematical and have rules like the ones I note above. I think there is a science to styling — it is not just an art.

I LOVE IT! So darned proud of myself I could just bust.

Even though I know I probably could have bought a display shelf just like this at HomeGoods made in China on clearance for… $19.99, I am actually very happy with this little project I made all by me myself and I.

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-28annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-31The shelf is installed at eye level in my bathroom and every time I go in there Mr. Poodle and my +1 and his sister as a weebits and all the other little pretties are right there to greet me. The display brings me a thunderbolt of instantaneous joy every time I go into my sweet little bathroom.

Pros of using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint:

  • Great finish — I loved the luminous finish of the end product — note, I applied a lot of paint, including with a flat sponge brush, and then sanded it to get a smooth finish.
  • Great color — The color Old White — a great color.
  • Quality — Quality of the paint, in terms of final result, seems very good.
  • No prep — No sanding or stripping required before application.
  • No smell — No icky smelly (to me, but I am not good at smelling) — BUT, I did get a headache.

Cons of using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint:

  • Poor coverage — Took me three coats, and this small piece still was not totally covered. I was told at the store that my small jar should do three of these pieces — it didn’t even really cover one.
  • Pretty expensive — If you buy all the Annie Sloan tools, your upfront costs are pretty steep. And, the paint did not give great coverage, so you might need a lot. It took me one complete jar of $13.95 paint to cover this shelf, and I really could have used more to obtain the complete coverage I wanted. On this issue, though, *stay tuned* as I test other popular alternatives. It could well be, the Annie Sloan is “worth it” in terms of final quality weighed with cost — that is, “value”. We’ll see. 
  • Requires waxing — Waxing is required to set the paint, and this part of the process takes patience, some finesse, and certainly some muscle. Depending on the use of the piece, I think they said you may need to rewax occasionally. Note: I am also told you can use a clear water-based finish — lots of folks seem to love this Varathane product (affiliate link). I will try this next time and report back on that option.
  • I got a headache from the smell.
  • You are going to yell at me because I wrote about chalk paint.

Initial Verdict: Not having done any comparisons to other painting options for this project series… and putting a placeholder pin in the cost issue — because I will be assessing “value”… the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint seems great.

I test and review Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

  1. Carol says:

    I love some aspects of shabby chic, especially heavy linen slipcovers. I’m not a huge fan of display shelves, however, for that room you nailed it. With a mid century cool-onial house, and the shelves looking very colonial to me, it would have been the elephant in that beautiful bathroom in the original finish or bright white. In this situation I do like small painted pieces to fit the decor. What a great way to reuse something. Your bathroom makes me think of a white fitted sheath dress with a taupe grosgrain ribbon belt and trim, the wallpaper a scarf and the shelves a gently worn white wicker purse. Now you have a cool-onial accent in the bathroom. Classic.

  2. Susie Q. says:

    If I can save $200 by sanding something, I’ll sand it! I have my own method, which I’ve used on a few small things–sand, paint, sand, furniture paste wax, shoe polish, wax again. I just keep wiping, waxing, and sanding until I get the effect I want.

    1. Kelly Montano says:

      Susie Q,

      What type of paint do you use? I am intrigued by this method. I may want to try it on my cabinetry when I am finished painting them.

  3. Carolyn says:

    Annie! You have inspired me to start looking for otherwise junky furniture instead of paying big prices for build-to-fit. Thanks a million zillion.

  4. patticake says:

    There are a few brands of ‘chalk paint’, ‘milk paint’, etc. on the market under different names and believe me when I say that we wanted to love this stuff, for a number of reasons. But after using two brands (Annie Sloan, and CeCe Caldwell), found them to be expensive, difficult to work with, and the results weren’t nearly as good as using good ol’ regular paints ( and I know how to refinish and paint furniture :0) And, as Geraldine pointed out, you can get the same type of mixture without buying the brand name, pricey products. Also, what many don’t think about is the sealant/finish, once you’ve done your painting. The best way to do this for
    long-term, permanent wear (without having to periodically
    re-apply topical products) is again, the good ol’ fashioned methods of sealing- which are not ‘chalk’ or ‘milk’. We REALLY wanted to love these paints, but after trying them, wouldn’t recommend them for all the reasons mentioned and in commentary here.

  5. Christina says:

    I have used Annie Sloan and am also sensitive to fumes from an asthma standpoint, and had no trouble at all. I also love the finish, but find it too expensive.

    Upon recommendation from an acquaintance, I made my own chalk paint with Behr flat paint, plaster of paris and white glue–worked great! I finished it with the clear wax sold at Home Depot, I think the brand is American Decor.

    Love this site, keep up the good work!

  6. Kirsten says:

    Sort of 1969-ish, my mom had her own project that was very much like this one. This was decades before the Shabby Chic fad. My mom called it “antiqueing.” Most of our bookcases—some all wood, some a mixture of bricks and boards—plus several tables and a desk in our house were painted olive green with an overlay of brown stain that showed the brush marks (on purpose). I can still remember my mom painting and sanding, and painting and sanding for weeks out in our carport to achieve the perfect effect. The last bookcase, which I’d inherited, fell apart about ten years ago. Your post has left me feeling very nostalgic!

    1. pam kueber says:

      Oh yes, I remember that color! In fact, I think I have a shelf like that somewhere in my house, found at an estate sale. It had a base of an eagle!

        1. MJ says:

          I have a mirror with a green “antiqued” frame. The paint came in a kit and looked great then, and not too bad now. imagine my surprise, when my dad took the glass doored bookshelf off the top of his winthrop style desk and painted it with the same green I used on the mirror frame in the 1970s!!! EEkkkk! But my sister has it now and she can deal with that nightmare……lucky me!

          1. Mary Elizabeth says:

            Antiquing is back; it’s now call “glazing.” My first project happened when I was a graduate student and newlywed in 1969, living in an old hot dog stand which washed ashore during a hurricane and had been made into a cottage. (Strange, but true!) I found an old Victorian wash stand at a garage sale, quite beat up, and I antiqued it with a commercial antiquing kit, avocado green with brown glaze. It served as a TV stand in my tiny living room, which had pinch-pleat drapes of cream with avocado and blue flowers (Marimekko style, but not real Marimekko) and sofa pillows to match, designed and crewel embroidered by me. I loved doing those projects and have no idea where the things went.

            My latest antiquing/glazing project was my knotty pine kitchen island, which DH built to blend in with, but not match, all the golden knotty pine in the kitchen. I painted it with sage green milk paint and Sanded it so the knots showed through. Then I put a brown glaze on recommended by the milk paint manufacturer. The effect is almost the same as with my old antiquing kit from 1969. I used General Finishes water-based milk paint, about $16.99 per quart then, and also one of their glazes. No special tools were needed, other than brushes suitable for latex and other water-based paint and clean rags. After sanding, I put on the glaze with a brush and wiped off immediately with a rag. Because it was in a kitchen, on top of everything I put a water-based polyurethane in a matte finish.

            Here’s a discussion of milk paint vs. chalk paint by a professional design person: http://missmustardseed.com/2012/05/milk-paint-vs-chalk-paint-again/

            1. pam kueber says:

              Goodness, there are too many ads on that site. Embedded in a gazillion places — in photos, behind the header, sidebar galore, junky ads at the bottom. #overdone Just sell yer paint, for heaven’s sake, MMS!

              1. Mary Elizabeth says:

                Oh, gosh, Pam, I’m sorry about the pop-ups. I didn’t see them all because some are blocked on my computer. I like Miss Mustard Seed’s work, if not her web site.

                As for being a cat woman, I have to say I’m not, although I have all the signs of becoming a Crazy Cat Lady in my old(er) age. But I’m in my sixties, I’ve been married twice, had a varied education and career, and lived in a number of interesting houses, all of which I’ve left my DIY decorating mark on to one degree or another. But I have to say that the refurbished hot dog stand/cottage was the most challenging.

                  1. Mary Elizabeth says:

                    Retro Renovation is permanently unblocked–comments never go to Spam either. I know what I like. 🙂

  7. lulubq says:

    Great looking shelves–love that you incorporated “shab chic” into retro style!

    I found using my own chalkpaint, made with food grade calcium carobnate (GNC, Amazon) and a bit of water is smoother than using plaster of paris–great coverage –you’ll get what you had hoped for from the Annie Sloan as far as coverage, if not better. I tend to go pretty heavy on the calcium and pre blend it with water before adding the paint.

  8. Richard says:

    Great job Pam!

    I’d ask for the gold star because I remembered it from the dollhouse, but… at this point how could anyone know if one was cheating or not by reading the posts?

    I will probably never do this process but it was totally worth reading for “I decanted the paint into the plastic thingy.” Hilarious.

    200 years from now someone may be stripping all that paint off, and will complain about the unknown person who painted that perfectly good wood antique-y thingy.

  9. cheryl says:

    WE can it something besides “shabby chic “. I`m not a purest , why not mix styles ? I have made my own chalk paint before , not impressed. I buy the cheap stuff at Joanne fabrics with a coupon . Works great. I buy and sell , redo Upcycled for a living. The wall paper is a great idea ! keep creating !

  10. Jayne Rhodes says:

    I use Annie Sloan’s chalk paint and waxes all the time… sorry !! yes I paint furniture… but only if it needs it. Nice retro wood will always stay like nice retro wood! I have used Autentico chalk paint also… but doesn’t have the same consistency and their wax doesn’t create the lovely patina the other wax does. Incidently the wax used to be Hannants wax. We in the UK buy 1L paint pots and this covers lots. I use Old White all the time. Maybe the store should explain when to use the certain brushes and add water to some paint for the first coat. The smooth brushes are great for, well, smooth work, and the bristle round brushes should be used if you are wanting a thicker, ‘brushed marked’ look, this then helps the wax stay in this marks and creates an older look. If you feel the dark wax is too dark, you simply ‘clean’ if off with clear wax. This will remove it. (You have to always put clear wax on your piece first, then dark wax if you are just wanting smidgings of darkness). Dark wood made in the 50’s may bleed through, so you need to shellac it first and definitely shellac pine knots. But the paint is wonderful I have to say ! Thanks

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