Using Chalk Paint for Oak Kitchen Cabinets (test door)

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is no longer available in my area. That’s too bad as I really liked working with it but I understand the retailers’ reasoning. She is a small store and the ASCP has little mark up and had backorders so hence makes her little profit. DIY’ers were coming in to buy paint but not buying her furnishings so again, it didn’t make sense to sell the paint.

She’s switched to another brand, American made, lower cost, and I suspect bigger profit margin. It’s called Ce Ce Caldwell and is supposed to give all the same benefits as ASCP but is American made. One thing I don’t like is the color palette; some of the colors are just too trendy. While I could mix ASCP to come up with many classic neutrals, the color pallet of Ce Ce Caldwell doesn’t give me that room. However, the price is definitely lower then ASCP.

I don’t know that I believe the marketing hype. Is there a real Ce Ce Caldwell? There’s no photo of her on the page selling her paint. There’s no bio, no store, no photos of her painting projects etc… so I suspect (and I’ll eat crow if I’m wrong) that this is just to hype the paint to mom DIY’ers who feel they are buying from a “person” not a huge company.

The first thing you must do is MAKE A TEST DOOR! Don’t jump into painting your entire kitchen before making the test door.

Sanding, pros and cons

The Chalk Paint brands say you don’t have to sand. If you don’t plan on sanding you must clean your kitchen cabinetry and I recommend TSP (found at paint stores like Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams) for removing the grease. However, if  you are going to sand, I wouldn’t bother cleaning – the sander will remove it.

If you don’t sand, and you use Chalk Paint, you will get a more distressed look and have less control over the end distressing. If that is what you are going for, cool, but if you are unsure, I would recommend doing one test door without sanding and one with sanding. After I did this I immediately saw that the no-sanded door would not be as smooth in paint coverage as I was going to like.

Follows is a comparison. The first, on the left, was not sanded or primed before adding chalk paint and distressing. The second, on the right, was sanded, primed and than chalk paint was applied before being distressed.

click to see close up comparison

The original oak cabinet door was first sanded with 80 grit and then 120 grit. Plan on at least 2, 80 grit pads and 1, 120 paid for an average door, front and back. I used my Mouse Sander (also called a Palm Sander). The goal is to remove as much of the top, shiny coat (the varnish or polyurethane) as possible. I am not concerned about the stain color or getting it sanded down to bare wood.

In my experience if the shiny coat is not 98 percent removed you will have very poor paint application. This is especially true if you decide to use latex or enamel paint instead of chalk paint.

On subsequent doors I used a de-glossing product: Krud Kutters Gloss Off which helped the prepping go quicker. I used it before sanding.

Priming, pros and cons

If you wish to have a heavily distressed appearance or are looking to sand back for aggressive distressing, don’t bother priming.

If you want an even coverage with no distressing, or have very poorly made cabinets with an obvious grain pattern (such as plywood) that you want covered, consider priming. If you are painting over pine and don’t want the knots to show, also consider priming.

EDITED TO ADD:  Later, I decided to save chalk paint, I did 1-2 coats of priming, depending on the strength of the wood grain and one coat of chalk vs. 3 coats of chalk paint as shown in this post.

Applying Chalk Paint, Coat One

The CeCe Caldwell paint seems a bit thinner to me then the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint brand but generally covers just as well. The CeCe Vintage White color is very similar to ASCP’s Old White, with a cream hue. The CeCe Simply White is a nice clear white which becomes whiter and brighter upon each coat.

From working with both brands, neither will give good coat coverage with one application.  Don’t get sucked into believing the hype on this chalk paint… it’s good stuff but it is designed to show through so you can distress. It will not give even coverage without successive applications. At this point you can’t see as much difference between the two whites – that emerged with the 2nd and 3rd coat.

The first application of paint, I prefer to work down into the grain with an X pattern using a brush. The point with coat one is to get all of the area thoroughly covered. Don’t worry that you still see the grain pattern underneath on the first or second coat.

Applying Chalk Paint, Coat Two

Within an hour it’s ready to coat again. The great benefit to Chalk Paint is it is Low to No Odor paint and it dries amazingly fast. For a kitchen remodel you will be able to get your kitchen up and going very quickly without living with fumes for weeks at a time.

Coat Two I apply with a foam brush and/or a foam cabinet roller. You should start seeing even coverage at this point, though a strong grain or darker stain will still show through. You can distress and go with a very distressed look with much of the under color showing through or go on to Coat Three.

Applying Chalk Paint, Coat Three

I decided to go with Coat Three as I want solid coverage. Before applying use a sanding block lightly over the wood. This will smooth the chalk paint and you will start seeing the brush strokes even out if you used a brush or foam applicator brush. For the last coat I use a foam roller to get as smooth a surface as possible.


Distressing is a personal choice. You may want to experiment with how much you like (you can always take off more; it’s almost impossible though to put back on if you take off too much). If you decide to distress, it brings back the undercoat of the original stain or bare wood (depending on how hard you sand and the colors underneath).

On my Mouse Sander I use 120 grit or higher to distress. If you are new to distressing, start with a sanding block or just a sheet of high numbered sandpaper. Focus on the edges of the door and where there is a profile or recess.

To get ideas on distressing patterns you like on cabinetry look at Pinterest, visit Kitchen Showrooms (even Lowes has some distressed cabinet doors on display), Open House Tours, and even Home and Garden Shows.

The national trends on Kitchens state that distressing is out… I think it depends on the area of the U.S. and what type of kitchen you have. I’m going for a contemporary farmhouse kitchen look so it fits. A contemporary modern style of kitchen wouldn’t look right distressed (well maybe if you were going with an industrial loft look but you get my point).

Stain, Colored Wax or Clear Wax topcoats?

At this point your door is ready to finish. You have several options. You could use a Walnut stain to tint the door color which darkens the white or cream and tints the bare wood. This I did with my Annie Sloan Chalk Paint test door (see pic below). The door is all ASCP Old White but the bottom half had a rub of stain on it.

To apply stain, dab a t-shirt or soft rag in the Walnut oil stain and then rub on and rub off. To finish the stained cabinet door I would put on two coats of clear wax.

You could also use Tinted Wax which gives some of the same appearance as the rubbed on and off oil stain seen above but seems to collect more color in the crevices. People report mixed results with Tinted Wax and I think this is because you should do a TEST DOOR! LOL! and experiment with how this medium works before jumping in with it

Or you can go with Clear Wax with no stain or tinting. This will be choice for the Kitchen Cabinets due to what I saw with the test doors (keep reading 🙂

Note! Using Polyurethane or Varnish over white or off-white paint colors is a big NO NO! It will yellow your color and as it ages, yellow more.

Test Door Evaluation

With the finished test doors, what you may not be able to tell on the computer is that the Ce Ce Caldwell Vintage White is a very close match to the ASCP Old White. It’s a creamy, off white color. The Ce Ce Caldwell Simply White is a very bright, clear white that doesn’t quite show up in these photos.

At this point I realize one thing: the Walnut Stain is not going to work with the wall color or the floor tile. It’ s not griege enough to go with the wall, and it brings out the pink in the white floor tile so nothing but ugly there.

Now you’ll see how photos are deceptive. These next were taken without a flash but the Simply White looks creamier than the Vintage White – the exact opposite is true in real life.

This is why you can’t go by the Internet or your computer for colors. Get a test sample and make a test door to see it in various lights and against other colors.

The Simply White would go well with the rest of the white molding and I think would look better undistressed and for a totally white, bright kitchen. However, the Vintage White will go better with the drawer and cabinet hardware, as well as the rustic feel of the drop pendants that I’ve been working with in the design. Vintage White would also allow me to do some topical tint or distressing in the egg and dart crown molding we installed.

Tomorrow, I’ll do a full test door in the Vintage White and distress it to see the end result to make sure that it’s the Winner (here is what the final test door looked like):


One thought on “Using Chalk Paint for Oak Kitchen Cabinets (test door)

  1. Pingback: Kitchen’s Final Test Cabinet Door (using chalk paint) « Simply Rooms (by design)

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