How to Chalk Paint a Dresser

chalk painted dresser diy home improvement project

This post shows you each step for chalk painting a dresser, which includes, sanding, painting, sanding strategic spots, and sealing with polyurethane.

Below is a picture of the mahogany dresser before chalk-painting it. Neal and I used this for many years in our bedroom.

Step 1: Sanding

I used fine sandpaper to remove any bumps or “burrs” and to give it a smooth painting surface.

Step 2: Chalk Painting

This is my favorite color of chalk paint. I have used it to transform several pieces of furniture. It is sort of an oatmeal color and goes with everything. It also looks good over black or brown.

primitive chalk paint

A few painting tips . . .

Use painter’s tape to protect the areas you don’t want to chalk paint. The tape below protects the side of the drawers.

Painter’s tape also protects the mirror from getting paint on it.

Chalk paint has a grainy texture, which is characteristic of chalk paint. The purpose of using chalk paint is the ease of sanding the paint off to expose the undercolor.

When you paint, be sure to paint in the direction of the grain of the wood. Try to paint with long, even strokes. When you paint the edges, make sure your last paint stroke ends at the edge of the table – – sort of letting your paintbrush finish this stroke going off (or away) from the table.

Also, check for drips. If you have a drip, go over this again with your paintbrush.

I painted two coats of chalk paint, being sure to get all the crevices.

Step 3: Sanding dresser after chalk painting

The purpose of sanding is to sand off some (but not all) of the chalk paint in strategic spots to reveal some of the mahogany wood to give it an aged/worn look. Hence, sand more in areas (edges, handles, etc.) where more wear from use or touching would occur over time.

I use finer sandpaper (320) initially and sometimes use more coarse sandpaper (120) if the chalk paint is not sanding off easily enough or not revealing enough. I suggest starting with fine sandpaper (320) and then transitioning to more coarse sandpaper if needed. Deciding how much to sand off is a matter of taste.

I sand all the like areas first – – end pieces, inside and then outside, feet, and then the top for last. This helps me to double-check myself for consistency (so all the sections blend/match), but at the same time, I want it to look random as if naturally worn spots. The edges are easiest, but I don’t overdo it. Even though I try to be consistent, I am also somewhat inconsistent to give it a naturally worn appearance.

Rounded areas are fun to do because you can give them a really worn look.

I constantly look over the piece until I am happy with its appearance. You can sand more or less depending on your preference.

Step 4: Dusting (from sanding)

Use a dust cloth or rag to wipe off the dust created by sanding. Sometimes I  use a blower which gets all the dust out of the cracks and crevices. If needed, I wipe it down again with a mildly damp cloth and then allow it to dry.

Step 5: Applying Polyurethane

Instead of using wax, I use Minwax wipe-on poly (clear satin). My advice is to wear rubber gloves so you don’t have to clean your hands with paint thinner. To apply the polyurethane, use a cotton rag; a piece of an old T-shirt works great.

Polyurethane does not create a shiny look, so I like this better. However, it provides great protection. My typical practice is to apply two coats on the entire piece of furniture. (If I am doing a table, I do three coats on the tabletop.)

Be sure to apply the poly in the same direction as the grain of the wood. Use long even strokes in a very uniform way to give it a smooth and consistent finish. If you are not consistent, you might see smudges after it dries. If that happens, don’t sweat it, just learn from it. Over time, you will not even notice this.

Read the directions and give plenty of time to dry between coats — overnight is best.

The polyurethane tints the color a little – – sort of an antique/aged look, which I like.

Step 6: Spray Painting Knobs and Handles

I used flat black spray paint to paint the brass handles and knobs. I flipped them over and made sure I painted every nook and cranny.  When spray painting, it is best to do several coats rather than spray paint too heavily. Allow time for them to dry between coats.


After they dried, I reinstalled them.

We gave this to our daughter and son-in-law. They removed the mirror and use this for their television in their bedroom.

So, here is the final result!

Pin this for future reference.

Check out some of my other chalk painting blog posts:

Get some chalk paint and a brush and transform something from trash to treasure!

Let me know what you think or if you have questions about how to chalk paint a dresser by commenting below.

Happy Chalk Painting!


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