/ / / My Solution to Stop Chalk Paint Bleed Through

My Solution to Stop Chalk Paint Bleed Through

Are you freaking out seeing brown streaks come through your chalk paint? I’m here to help you stop and fix annoying chalk paint bleed through because it just happened to me too!

Nothing is more annoying than chalk paint bleed through! Nothing. The whole point of chalk paint is no prep and slap it on to everything for a beautiful finish.

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a dirty lie. Paint – I mean any kind of paint including chalk paint is made with water.

There is always a chance of bleed through when painting over a stained piece of furniture. 

Especially mahogany stains.

annie sloan chalk paint in paris grey with chalk paint and craft brushes

Chalk Paint Bleed Through Defined

If you are painting over a stained piece of furniture and an area wasn’t properly sealed with an oil polyurethane, lacquer, or shellac the wood stain will likely be activated by the water in the paint. 

What does that mean? You will see red or brown streaks coming through the chalk paint or regular paint.

Typically a mahogany stain is the worst culprit in chalk paint bleed through. 

close up of chalk paint bleed through stain

A person’s normal reaction is to keep layering on chalk paint! Sorry to tell you that’s not going to fix it.

The red or brown stains (like magic) will keep coming up to the surface. It’s the most annoying thing ever!

While testing some Annie Sloan chalk paint on a small project, I just experienced this issue.

The furniture piece is an old one that I bought on consignment.

My best guess it was made in the 70’s.

stain bleeding through annie sloan chalk paint

About 15 years ago, I primed, then painted it white, and antiqued it. 

That little desk area on the inside got ignored and I wanted to give it new life!

Chalk paint seemed like the right answer, but I should have thought to prime first…

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How-to Stop Chalk Paint Bleed Through or Staining

In reality, you should always test to see if you get bleed through before using chalk paint.

The truth is sometimes this doesn’t always work.

In my circumstance, I tested the main surface and no problem.

Then I painted the sides and poof there was an ugly stain! 

annie sloan chalk paint applied with brush in Paris Gray

So it can happen to anyone and on random parts of the furniture you are chalk painting. 

Here is my solution to fixing chalk paint bleed through and it’s easy!


If you experience staining, STOP! More chalk paint will equal more problems. It’s time to get out the stain blocking primer. 

In my situation, it was a small stain and in one area, so I kept painting. There are exceptions to every rule.

For example if you are painting a large armoire, SAVE MONEY by using the primer and don’t waste the pretty chalk paint that is creating bleed through. 

Stain Blocking Primer to Cover Chalk Paint Bleed Through

Ya’ll know I am a big Valspar fan and I always have a gallon of  Valspar Bonding/Stain Blocking Primer on hand for emergencies.

Not only does it de-gloss surfaces, so you don’t have to sand before painting, but it also covers stains. YAY!

It’s great for water stains too.

Valspar Bonding Stain Blocking Primer Stops Chalk Paint Bleed ThroughStep 1

Depending on the situation you will need to either cover the entire piece with one coat of stain blocking primer to seal it.

OR if you have a small area like I did, then you can just spot treat each area.

primer over chalk paint bleed stain

For a large piece of furniture, apply the primer like you would paint: use a roller on large expanses and a brush in the smaller areas. 

Shake and stir the primer really well. It can look thick and clumpy, so work to get it smooth first.

In my situation, I was able to use a craft brush to apply a thin coat of bonding/stain blocking primer over the stain and surrounding areas.

valspar stain blocking primer covering over chalk paint bleed through

You WILL SEE THE STAIN through the primer. Primer is meant to SEAL and not COVER.

Please don’t worry, if you still see a little brown showing through.

Step 2

Let the primer dry overnight. This is important so the stain is contained and the primer is dry, before reapplying the chalk paint.

Here I’ve applied just one additional coat of the Annie Sloan chalk paint and decided to cover the dark detail at the same time 🙂

chalk paint in paris gray covering over bleed stain

It’s all better now! It takes just a little effort to seal those chalk paint stains. 

So don’t freak out when you see chalk paint bleed through, because now you know how to fix it!

WATCH: Go to Instagram and click my “highlight” Chalk Paint to see this unfold.

Consider following me on Instagram for daily updates and to see my stories for a more personal view of my life. 

Honest Review of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Now that I’ve finished chalk painting this little desk area I have some feedback on Annie Sloan chalk paint.

As I mentioned, it was my first time using it. 

The reason I chose this product is because I’ve never tried it and it comes in a sample pot.

You can see that with wanting to complete such a small project a quart would have been expensive and wasted. The sample pot was $13. 

woman painting with annie sloan chalk paint in paris grey

If you are new to my blog, I must share a very large project I did using Valspar Chalky Paint in my dining room and the full tutorial is HERE.  This was an expensive piece of Century furniture that used to be stained.

Shop this Room

After using both products, one large project and one small what do I think? Let’s do a quick comparison, so you can judge for yourself:

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint 

  • Limited color palette with only 37 options and custom mixing will create additional colors
  • Most novices can’t mix to achieve the colors they want, so I am calling this a con
  • $35 per quart
  • Sold in sample sizes, which is a plus
  • Flakes and shows brush marks
  • Good coverage on first coat
  • Requires 2 coats
  • Limited distribution, only at small retailers
annie sloan brush marks paris gray close up
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey

Valspar Chalky Paint

  • 2,500+ colors to choose from their paint rack or custom tint another brand
  • $30 per quart, no sample pots
  • No brush marks and flexible (doesn’t flake)
  • Excellent coverage on first coat
  • Requires 2 coats
  • Widely distributed, sold at all Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores
valspar chalky paint in shark fin close up no brush marks
Valspar Chalk Paint in Shark Fin, with Custom Wash

My honest review fairly comparing both products: Annie Sloan gets a 6 out of 10 and Valspar gets a 8 out of 10! The only way I’d give Valspar Chalky Paint a 10 is if it went on in one coat and came in sample pots 🙂

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Review of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint vs Valspar Chalky Paint

All I can say is thank goodness I used the Valspar chalk paint on my credenza – I would have been very upset if it had brush marks and flaking!

Happy chalk painting my friends! Are you curious about the little project I started with chalk paint? Here is the full reveal!

As my FREE GIFT to you, with email sign-up a detailed paint sheen project guide! 

You will know the right sheen for every project…


Please consider following me on Pinterest and Instagram for daily inspiration.

Until next time…

Porch Daydreamer


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  1. Hello, I am getting ready to paint my oak kitchen cabinets and have been looking for the right primer to go under my chalk paint. I have done some tests areas and noticed bleed through with regular zinsser primer underneath. I came across your blog and decided to try the Valspar bonding primer. However it seems very thick and hard to work with. It did not go on smooth and left a bunch of tiny little bubbles. Do you have any tips to make it go on smoother and eliminate the bubbles? I put it on after a few layers of chalk paint when I noticed the bleed coming through. Thanks!

    1. Yes it is definitely thick! Stirring it very thoroughly will help. I apply with a nylon/poly brush and a foam roller or spray it on. Never have I had any issues, so I am not sure what happened in your project. You should only apply a thin layer – just one coat.

  2. I did a lot of research before starting my project, refinishing a 40-year oak built-in desk and wall shelf. Stripped off the old varnish, sanded, put on two coats of Valspar bonding primer, and three coats of Behr chalk paint. It looked good! When I applied Polyacrylic ultra matte finish, boom! started seeing blotchy yellowing coming through. Uggghhh! I suppose my best bet is to put on another coat of the bonding primer. But I’m seriously considering buying another paint that doesn’t require a protective topcoat, like Valspar or Benjamin Moore mentioned above. Any suggestions?

  3. Any tips for what to do if you didn’t realize this problem existed until after you already put the clear coat on top of the chalk paint? Will more paint help then, or do we need to strip and start over?

    1. The top coat may have sealed the stain. Test a 4 inch square area in one of the worst bleeding areas with chalk paint to see if you have any issues. If not, paint and if so prime!

  4. Hi Lauren
    I’m basically having the same yellowing, and covering issue with chalk paint. I’m re doing a very old desk. Much of it is sanded, but just lightly.. It also has many tiny, hard to get to areas, and compartments. My question is, can I use the primer directly over the two coats of chalk paint I already applied? Also, any advice as to how to prime those hard to get at areas? Thanks so much.
    Stephen F.

  5. Hi! I just spent what seemed to be a decade of my life sanding, cleaning, priming (x3), chalk painting (x2), and putting a topcoat on a dresser and end table. I sanded the majority of it right down to the bare wood to get decades of grime and yuckiness of and painted using the Rustoleum brand chalk paint and top coat. Primer was on recommendation from Home Depot and specifically says it seals wood. Looked great at first, but several weeks later it’s yellowed and the wood slime is heavily coming through the paint 😭😭😭 what do I do now? Still have one half sanded dresser to go but I’m afraid of sanding off too much of the stain now. It seems to only be where I took it down to bare wood. HELP!

    1. Oh, gosh! That is SO frustrating. Is it pine wood? When you say slime, is it wood sap? Sorry, but it’s hard for me to say what happened. Valspar Bonding Primer has saved many people stopping all kinds of bleed through. Since you used two products that aren’t ones I use, it’s hard for me to advise. You may want to reach out to Rustoleum customer service with pictures and see what they say to do.

  6. Can I distress furniture that I’ve successfully managed to stop the bleed through? I’m thinking the distressing will allow the ugly red mahogany to stain around the distressing. However i want the distressed look on this piece.

  7. Hi, this post saved my first chalk paint project. Thank you so much.
    I used the the primer you recommended and let it dry overnight, now I did one coat of white paint, it looks a lot better but I still see some of the stains. Should I do a second coat of chalk paint or should I prime it again?


    1. I am glad it helped! I am a big fan of testing a small area first. White doesn’t cover as well, so try to cover the darkest brown spot you see with chalk paint. If the streaks come through the paint, then prime again 😁 I need to add that to my tutorial-seeing the brown through the primer scares people, but primer is for sealing and not covering.

  8. hi i have just painted kitchen cupboards i didnt sand just left what was on there cleaned it and painted came up just fine ,now i then went to use my clear gloss as when i used the wax it yellowed,but when i applied my gloss it yellowed too .my hardware man assured me it wouldnt yellow and yet there it is yellow ,its turned me off chalk paint maybe i should have just used white gloss and been done with it .

  9. Sooo I didn’t see bleed through until I had already applied the wax!!’ 😫 Do I need to sand the wax off first or will that Valspar primer bond to the wax? Thanks so much !!!

    1. Jenn, oh gosh! That has to be frustrating. I haven’t waxed anything for this very reason – wax is harder to correct or paint over. Hopefully, you only had bleed through in certain areas. You can just sand those areas, clean and apply the bonding primer. If it’s the whole thing, try to prime over a small area of wax/bleed through and see if the primer adheres after drying overnight. Just lightly scratch with your fingernail to test. If it seems like the primer adhered to the wax, then you can do the whole piece. If not, buy an electric sander – sorry!

      1. Glad to find this! I just spent a week chalk painting a large green stained hutch and today started to add the polycrylic sealer, and have green brush strokes popping up in a couple places on the top piece of the hutch… (I wonder, since this sealer is water based, if that’s why it is all of the sudden pulling the stain to the surface…) I will try the same technique you have mentioned here over the these small parts, and then decide if I have to prime the whole bottom part of the now-painted hutch, the 8 doors and drawers (ugh!) or spot cover the problem areas…

        1. Oh gosh I keep hearing of this and that the sealer is pulling up the bleed through. I’d love to hear if bonding primer worked. I’m going to try and find a small piece and see if I can recreate the issue and experiment so I can advise the best fix!

  10. Hi Tracey, Love your page ~ Have you ever had any experience painting over thermafoil? I guess it’s considered a vinyl wrap that is put over cabinet doors. I am in the process of doing refacing of the doors and drawers in my kitchen as it would be way too much work to try and cover the vinyl with paint etc. I do have a cabinet made with the same thermafoil in the bath off the kitchen. I would love to paint that one as it’s only one cabinet. I would love any information that you may have on painting over thermafoil.

    Thanks in advance.
    Donnajean 🙂 From South Weymouth, MA

    1. Hey, Donnajean! Thanks you. I haven’t done this myself, but my friend had someone remove the thermafoil and then paint. The cabinets look beautiful! Here is another NC blogger who has a great tutorial video on how to due this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfNuB1qi9WE

      It looks pretty easy and then you can sand and paint like you would over wood. Hope this helps and good luck 🙂

  11. Hello! I just stumbled upon your blog when I googled the issue I was having with a piece of furniture I just chalk paint. The top was sanded and the rest was lightly sanded. I painted it with rustoleum turquoise chalk paint and had bleed through but didn’t know what it was at the time. It needed a second coat anyway so as an inexperienced painter I figured the second coat would cover it. Of course it didn’t. I’m fine with the look for the most part as I’m going to distress it and I think I can make it work. However the top won’t look as great as there are marks where there had been rings from a cup or something along those lines. I’m wondering if I can put some primer over top of the already two coats of chalk paint and then once the primer dries finish it off with one last coat of chalk paint? I usually use Zinsser 123 primer. Thank you in advance!

    1. Hey, Robyn! Sorry that happened to you, but so glad google found me 🙂 Yes, if you haven’t top coated the top of the piece lightly sand with 220 grit sand paper to see if you can get the rings to soften a bit. Then clean off the dust thoroughly. Prime with a stain blocking primer – not sure about Zinsser, but recommend Valspar Bonding primer at Lowe’s. Apply a coat of chalk paint (maybe 2) over the primer and protect the top with either wax or a water based polyurethane. Hope this helps! I’m sure it will be beautiful.

    2. Hi! I’m in the middle of a project currently and am having alot of tannins coming through. I stopped chalk painting and went and bought a primer. Will kilz klear work like the valspar?

  12. Hi! Have you tried this product/technique to prevent bleed through on black walnut? I’m working on an antique 1940s era vanity. Painted two coats of shellac first then a coat of chalk paint I mixed myself with Valspar flat latex but am starting to see yellow. Before I added more paint I wanted to fend it off so I have been looking for some options! Thanks!

    1. Kristen, shellac is made of beetle secretions and isn’t as stable plus can be yellow. That is an older technique that has been abandoned for newer water based primer/sealers. The yellow may be coming from the shellac. As I say, stop and get to priming! Don’t waste the chalk paint 🙂 Is there a reason you mixed the chalk pain with latex paint? The adhesion of the chalk paint may be diminished a bit because of that. Good luck!

  13. As a pro painter of 44 yrs. ,i appreciate your honesty….drives me crazy how so many bloggers say to just paint their kitchen cabinets with chalk paint! no, prep, no priming! anyone worth their salt knows that the best paint jobs are a product of scrupulous prep work….tedious as it may be, that is what provides the longevity of the project….and as you pointed out…Priming! stop the bleed thru before you paint., and don’t get me started on the prices of chalk paints and such…total rip off, especially that Annie Sloan stuff.
    thank you for letting me vent…😲

  14. While I know so many are fans of chalk paint, I also know it doesn’t work on everything. And, I am not a fan of the brush marks as you mentioned. I have painted several furniture pieces using Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint and love it. Easy to use. Primer and finish in one. And, very little brush strokes. The finish is super durable, so no need to apply wax or poly. Thank you for your honest review of the product.

    1. Thanks, Lauren! Yes, I am new to chalk paint and previously used Valspar Cabinet Enamel which sounds exactly like the BM product. Great one-step no top coat paint, but I always prime first before using it. I know I may not be in the “popular camp” saying I don’t like Annie Sloan, but the results speak for themselves 🙂

      1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being the only blogger I encountered who addressed the issue of “Bleed Through.” I had no idea what was going on until I found your site. I watched countless how-to videos and not once was this addressed. Imagine how horrified I was when brown streaks appeared through the paint. Like, where did those come from? After reading your rescue tips, I immediately went out and picked up the primer you recommended. I can’t wait to fix my project!

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