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:

annie-sloan-chalk-paint-review-22

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

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  1. Neil says:

    Dear Pam,
    You’ve learned the hard (and expensive) way that those hoity-toity I-talian brushes are a scam, in the sense that they’re presented as being essential. They’re not, and their shape makes them ungainly except for limited applications. Sure, they may be quality tools (I emphasize the word May, because they certainly should NOT EVER shed bristles at such a dear price! If it were I I’d be tot’in ’em back to the store to complain about their shoddy, sheddy performance, “Final Sale” or not…somebody’s got to complain.) The bald truth is that they are No better than good quality natural bristle brushes one can get at the paint store.

    The quality paint store brushes are the absolute best for several reasons. Now, it’s true that they, too, are tres dear to buy, but if properly cleaned after every single use they will literally last Decades, are excellent for all kinds of painting, not just they kind you did, and have been designed and constructed to merge with the artisan’s hand and support the achievement of superlative results. (Many moons ago I was a pro house painter and I know whereof I speak, don’tcha know.) They’re the ones that are flat, about a half-inch thick and two or three inches wide, and beveled so that they’re pointy on one end. And, they won’t shed bristles; and…they are superb for getting in tight corners and for laying down a layer of paint in even, smooth strokes, and for diminishing unsightly brush strokes to trouble the eye after so much pains-taking work (Don’t get the plastic-bristle ones, only the natural bristle).
    And here’s a salve for your frustrations: Developing a skillful hand at decorative painting takes practice (just like playing at Carnegie Hall) to hone the best, most gratifying, harmonious touch; so naturally the first go-round is a botheration for nearly any-old-body, not just you. It ain’t your fault. Keep at it and you’ll be a master.
    By the way, nice finished product!

  2. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Neil’s comments on paintbrushes match my own experience and back up what Pam always says about “consulting licensed professionals.” I always ask my go-to paint store guy, who used to be a painter, if I need some new kind of brush for a specific project.

    I like the “hoity-toity I-talian brushes” and “sheddy, shoddy performance.” That Neil has a way with words as well as paint.

  3. denise says:

    I’m adding to the brush conversation…

    Any new brush no matter the cost, should be ‘worked’ prior to painting. Moving the bristles back and forth, bending it in all directions, will make loose bristles pop up. It is inevitable that a few bristles have not caught in the glue and ferrule. Any well made brush (and usually they are expensive) should have very few bristles come loose. A cheap-o brush like a chip brush, well, you’ll be there for a few minutes trying to get that one to stop shedding.

    I think these particular brushes are made for larger pieces of furniture. The flatter of the three is probably very nice to use on a piece that is bigger. I use smaller versions of this for smaller pieces and I like the way they bend and work into corners. The two larger ones with the graduated bristles, I believe are made for swirling the wax on, with the tip being used for edges and legs. Generally, with waxing, even with a pad or cloth, it gets swirled on to better move it against the surface.

    I have spent a good chunk of change on some good quality brushes and when cleaned well, they will last a very long time. I’ve had some for 25 years, and they’ve been used regularly.

    On a general note, make sure the brush purchased is the right one for latex or oil based paints and varnishes and use the correct clean up of water or solvent. The clean up liquid should run clear when clean. If needed, for stubborn paint, use a wire brush to get the dried paint off. Shake out the brush and hang it with bristles pointed down to dry completely. When dry, keep the brush in it’s sleeve if it came with one, or wrap paper around the ferrule and bristles, making an envelope of sorts, for storage. This helps to keep the bristles clean and dust free.

    1. Mary Elizabeth says:

      Amen to all that, Denise. These are routines in brush care that my dad taught me, and it never occurred to me to mention them here.

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