How To Guide: Paint & Wax Furniture with CeCe Caldwell's Chalk + Clay Paints

  download PDF

How To Paint and Wax Furniture with CeCe Caldwell's Chalk + Clay Paints


Basic Steps:  

1.  Prep/repair/clean 

2.  Paint

3.  Enhance, distress, glaze (optional)

4.  Finish with brush on finish or wax


Supplies/Tools Needed:

  • sandpaper (220 for fine sanding and 320 or higher for finishing)
  • paint brush 
  • wax brush
  • paint
  • painter's tape
  • drill or screwdriver
  • wood fill (optional--for filling holes and repairing missing veneer, etc.)
  • tack cloth (optional--but I think this is one of the biggest contributors to a perfect finish)
  • paper plates (optional--I put them under the feet of the furniture)

These instructions are very general and can be used (for the most part) for any brand of furniture paint but I always use CeCe Caldwell's Chalk + Clay Paints because I like it best, it is 100% Natural (no VOCs, no chemicals at all) and made in the USA!

  • Remove all doors and drawers. Be sure to label doors/drawers if needed so you know where to return them after painting. Remove hardware, including hinges. Put it in a ziploc bag or in a safe place.
  • You can decide at this time to sand your furniture if you want. This is optional. CeCe Caldwell’s Chalk + Clay Paints works on any surface and you do not have to sand but I like to sometimes depending on the finish that is left on the piece. If I do sand I usually use 220 grit paper but if it has a lot of layers of old paint I use 80 or 100 then follow up with 220 before beginning to paint. 
  • Clean thoroughly.  I use TSP Substitute as it not only gets all the oils and cleaners off of the surface it also really dulls whatever finish is left giving the paint something to really stick to.  Most of the time I do not have to sand!  **if you have sanded your piece you do not need to use a cleaner...just a tack cloth or damp microfiber cloth to get all of the sanded dust off the surface and out of the nooks and crannies.
  • If there are any damaged doors or holes fill them with woodfill or similar product. If you are changing hardware and the existing holes are not in the correct places you should fill the holes left by the hardware at this time and follow the directions for the product you are using. I have seen tutorials for using wood fill (my choice), bondo, spackle and many other products. I have had success with spackle but mostly use wood fill for my minor repairs and filling hardware holes.
  • Clean your furniture again. Be sure you have all the dust and residue from sanding and repairing cleaned off before beginning to paint. This is also the time to tape off any parts you want to keep from being painted.
  • Stir well (2-3 minutes). The pigments and minerals in the paint need to be re-incorporated. You will also notice the paint ‘loosening’ as you stir.
  • Apply first coat of CeCe Caldwell’s Chalk + Clay Paints with a brush or roller. I use a high quality synthetic brush for painting. You can find them here at Vintage Bette or at any big box retailer. You can also buy a Paint & Wax Starter Kit and get all the little extras and supplies you need to paint and wax your first furniture project.  This coat of paint will likely look really bad and patchy and if this is the first time you have used this paint you will be surprised by how quickly it dries!
  • When your first coat is dry apply your second coat.  I like to wait about 2 hours after it 'looks' dry.  If you do it right away sometimes as you are applying the second coat the brush will pull up the first frustrating.  So wait a little longer than you want to but there is no need to wait longer than a few hours.  Sometimes if you are painting white over a dark stain or black you will need a third coat.  This paint will lighten in hue as it dries and is sanded but will darken again to the true color when it is waxed or finished with a sealer.
  • **a word about brush strokes and the technique of applying this paint** When I am painting a piece with the intention of sanding the finish to a smooth ‘Pottery Barn’ feel before applying my seal I apply the first coat one direction then the second coat in the opposite direction. I usually apply the first coat in the awkward way (against the grain) so the second coat is the ‘right way’ (with the grain) so that as I sand the surfaces it is covered well and looks perfectly smooth. If I am going to do a layered look or I am planning to use Aging Cream, a Glaze, or I am trying to add texture for dry-brushing later— I apply the paint in a cross hatch method and throw all conventional rules of painting out the window. This is to get the brush strokes to be random and not have a pattern to them because later when I apply the other products they will stick in the brush strokes and that is what provides the visual interest and texture. If you are wanting a super smooth, ‘Pottery Barn’ finish to your piece this is when you
  • If you are wanting a super smooth, ‘Pottery Barn’ finish to your piece this is when you should sand with 220 grit sandpaper. If you are wanting to subtly distress your piece this is also the time to do that. You can distress with a wet rag by wiping away the paint along the edges or you can use sandpaper the same way. My most favorite way to finish furniture is to lightly sand the entire piece at this time with the 220 grit sandpaper and get the surfaces perfectly smooth. In doing this the edges become subtly distressed naturally throughout the process. If you do not want any wood showing through or any distressing I recommend avoiding the edges of the furniture as you sand it. If you do not want to sand your piece you can instead crumple up a piece of kraft paper (or even a brown grocery sack —no ink) and ‘polish’ it at this time. It is a quick step and it settles down any crusty spots as well as brings out the natural shine of the paint before applying the final seal.
  • Clean your furniture after your final coat of paint has dried and you are finished sanding or burnishing it. I like to use a tack cloth to do this as it is sticky and literally pulls all the dust and particles off of your piece in preparation for Waxing Cream or Clear Wax.

How To Apply Waxing Cream or Clear Wax to Painted Furniture

  • Remove a couple of tablespoons of Waxing Cream or Clear Wax from your container and put it on a paper plate or a piece of cardboard.
  • Stick your wax brush in the wax/cream to ‘on load’ some of the product.
  • ‘Off load’ the product onto the paper plate or cardboard so that the only thing left on your brush is the little bit you didn’t get off. (WHEN APPLYING WAX OR CREAM A LITTLE BIT GOES A LONG WAY AND IT IS BETTER TO HAVE TOO LITTLE AND APPLY MORE COATS THAN IT IS TO HAVE TOO MUCH)
  • Apply what is left on the brush to your piece. Remember a little bit is best, a light coat is what you want. You will see a visible difference in the color of your paint. Be sure you get the wax/cream worked into the brush strokes.
  • When using Waxing Cream you can work in small sections if you like and buff immediately after applying it but when using Clear Wax you must wait for the wax to ‘dull’ before buffing (about 10-15 minutes). I usually apply the wax or cream to the whole piece then buff. By the time I apply the Clear Wax to the entire piece the section where I started has ‘set’ and become ‘dull’ by the time I am finished with the rest of the piece.
  • With a buffing brush or clean, dry, lint-free cloth buff the wax until it shines. Most often people use a cloth but there are tools to make this step much easier like this drill attachment we sell at Vintage Bette. This cuts the time you spend finishing your piece drastically and is much easier than buffing an entire sideboard or armoir with a cloth.
  • When your piece is buffed it is finished. Remember to be gentle for a few weeks as the Wax or Cream will continue to set and harden for up to 30 days and it is best not to expose it to anything wet during that time.
  • Share your successes with us!  Email us photos:, share on Facebook or shout out on Instagram @vintagebette


Here are a few lists of tips for painting furniture:


Here are some of our favorite blog posts/tutorials/how-tos for painting furniture:

Newton Custom Interiors: How to Paint Furniture: Great Tips for Getting a Smooth Finish