How to Stain Over Chalk Paint Furniture

Chalk paint has become a popular choice for DIYers for painting wood furniture. And it’s with good reason. It looks amazing, it’s easy to work with and the cleanup is easy since you only need soap and water.

Now let’s say that you’ve chalk-painted your furniture, but you want to get creative and apply a stain. After acquiring your wood stain you might be wondering how the furniture would look with and without stripping the chalk paint before applying the wood stain.

With the right techniques, you can practice either approach. In this post, we will cover how to stain over chalk paint.


Yes, you can stain over chalk-painted furniture, but it might not turn out the way you expected. Rather than getting a natural wood grain finish (which is what you get when staining over bare wood), you would get a unique rustic, weathered look. Staining over chalk paint can give your furniture a charming distressed look. 

Can you Stain Over Chalk Paint?

You may have heard of applying chalk paint over stained wood, but have you heard of the reverse? Staining over chalk paint? Can it be done?

Yes, you can stain over chalk paint without any issues. But the real question is, should you? Ask yourself first what your goal is when staining over chalk paint.

When you stain over chalk paint or any other paint, you won’t get a wood grain finish like when staining over bare wood. Instead, you’ll create a weathered and aged look. It gives the painted furniture a rustic style. This is a great effect if you want to give your furniture some old-timey character. 

On the other hand, if you want to give your furniture a natural wood grain finish, you’ll have to strip off the chalk paint from it. Otherwise, the chalk paint will act as a barrier and prevent the stain from soaking into the wood. You can only bring out the beauty of the natural wood grain with a stain when the wood is exposed.

Alternatively, you can do a combination of both approaches. Instead of stripping the chalk paint entirely, you can remove it only from “stress areas”. These are the places on the furniture that receive the most contact or use such as the edges, corners of a drawer, the arms of a chair, etc. Sand down these areas to the wood grain, and then apply the wood stain to the entire piece of furniture.

The result will be a piece of furniture that’s partly stained wood and partly rustic painted wood. It’s a unique look that you won’t get with exclusively painting or staining.

How to Stain Over Chalk Paint (to Make it Look Like Wood)

Choosing the Right Stain

As mentioned, you won’t be able to achieve a natural wood grain finish by just staining over chalk paint. For this effect, you’d have to strip the paint off so that the wood stain can properly soak into the wood.

But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make chalk-painted furniture look like wood (or faux wood). You can, but you’d need the right tools (particularly the right type of wood stain). The color of the chalk paint matters too.

You have three options when it comes to wood stains including oil-based wood stains, water-based wood stains, and gel wood stains.

Oil-based wood stains are the most popular choice when it comes to choosing a stain, due to their durability and deep penetration. These stains tend to “stick” to chalk paint the best since oil-based stains have strong adhesive qualities. 

Water-based wood stains have a thicker consistency than oil-based wood stains, and they don’t penetrate the wood as deeply. That said, they don’t adhere as well to painted surfaces as their oil-based counterparts. On the flip side, they dry faster and are easier to apply. 

Your best option might be gel wood stain when it comes to staining over chalk paint. Because of its jelly-like consistency (like wax), it doesn’t drip or leak like other wood stains. That said, it’s often easier to apply than liquid stains. Additionally, since gel stains are more opaque than transparent liquid stains, it’s easier to achieve a solid wood-like appearance with these stains.

For the best results, use a wood stain that has a darker shade than the chalk paint.

Tools and Supplies

  • Chalk paint (if the surface hasn’t been painted already)
  • Paintbrush (use different brushes for paint and wood stain)
  • Sandpaper (have at least two varying levels of grit: medium and fine)
  • Palm sander (optional)
  • Protective mask and gloves (you don’t want to breathe in sand dust)
  • Wood stain (preferably gel wood stain)
  • Graining tool (optional; lets you imitate the look of natural wood grain)
  • Protective finish (water-based polyurethane and polycrylic are great choices)

Step 1. Prepare the Surface

If you have just finished applying chalk paint to your furniture, you don’t need to clean off the surface. However, if it has been accumulating dust and grime over the course of a few months, a quick cleaning is needed. 

Wipe down the surface with a cloth soaked in a light dish soap and water solution. If the surface is sealed with wax, use mineral spirits to remove it (the wax) first.

Once you’ve cleaned off the surface, give it at least 30 minutes to dry. 

Step 2. Apply the Wood Stain Over the Chalk Paint Surface

With a clean brush or rag, apply the wood stain to your chalk-painted surface. Apply thin coats to avoid creating brush strokes and general unevenness in the finish.

Take note of the open time of the wood stain you’re using. This is the amount of time that you can work with the wood stain before it becomes too dry to manage. Read the product label for more information about a wood stain’s open time.

Step 3. Create Wood Grain Effects (Optional)

To make the furniture look like real wood, you can create wood grain effects on the wood stain. You can use several techniques to mimic the look of natural wood grain. The easiest is to use a graining tool. You only need to press the graining tool on the surface while the stain is still workable. You can also use a fine-tipped brush to add details like knots or cracks.

Step 4. Wipe Off Excess Stain

Use a dry cloth or rag to wipe any excess wood stain. Wipe in the direction of the wood grain to create a more realistic appearance.

Step 5. Seal the Stained Surface

Once you’re done with your stained finish, it’s important to seal it with a top coat. A top coat ensures maximum protection for your stained surface.

Use a topcoat that’s compatible with the wood stain you used. Water-based polyurethane or polyacrylic should do the trick for most gel stains. 

Wood Stain Over White Chalk Paint 

When staining over white chalk paint, consider what the final result will look like. 

If you want to maintain the whiteness of white chalk paint, then you’d have to stay away from opaque stains (no gel stains if you’re going this route). Use a transparent oil-based or water-based wood stain instead. With white chalk paint, a layer of transparent stain on top will help to keep the furniture’s color light but with a slightly amber hue.

If you want to make your white chalk-painted furniture look like dark wood, use an opaque gel wood stain in a dark color. Minwax has gel stains that come in gorgeous wood colors (e.g. cherrywood, maple, mahogany, etc.). Follow the steps above and apply the gel Minwax stain over chalk paint.



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