chalk paint bleed through on furniture

How to Fix Chalk Paint Bleed Through on Furniture

In Tips by Jamie P.

After purchasing some luxury formula chalk paint we decide to prep our piece of furniture and begin to apply our paint. However, after our first coat of paint, we notice an unpleasant sight, its a yellowish-brown color, and its quite disgusting honestly. It may seem like your piece is ruined, however, this is what we call bleed-through in our chalk paint and it is an easy fix.

The easiest way to fix chalk paint bleed through is to properly seal it. The best product to seal out these wood bleeds and other stains is clear shellac spray, simply spray the affected areas and wait for it to dry. Once dry you can apply more chalk paint and your project will be free of bleeds. 

What is Bleed Through in Furniture Painting?

When painting furniture we often come across numerous challenges and struggles that we must overcome to finish our projects. A lot of the time we have issues with paint on wood, if we do not properly prime and seal we tend to see wood bleeds in our paint.

Wood bleed-through is a discoloration in the paint caused by the existing tannins in the wooden furniture. We often see this over wooden knots and certain types of wood, but realistically any project you are working on can bleed through. This discoloration is often a brownish-yellow stain that seeps through the paint and is noticeable on the top surface.

There are ways to deal with these bleeds during a furniture makeover, you could prevent the issue from happing at all or you can fix it as you go. Below I go over in detail how to prevent bleed-through and how to fix it.

bleed through annie sloan chalk paint lem lem

How to Prevent Bleed Through Before You Start Furniture Painting

There is a difference between preventing and fixing bleed through on your painted piece. Sometimes I don’t use a primer and I get away without any wood bleeds, but this is usually when I use dark colors. Dark paint hides these bleeds pretty well, but white paint and lighter colors we often see everything through it, especially bleed through.

The best way to prevent bleed-through before you start painting furniture is to apply a shellac-based primer or an oil-based primer. Avoid water-based as the wood tannins are more likely to bleed through such primers. These sealing primers keep the bleeds below the surface and let your paint color shine.

Sometimes bleed through manages to cut through sealing primers, but this is rare, however, if it does just follow the information below.

How to Fix Bleed Through When Using Chalk Paint

Chalk paint comes in all sorts of colors, but with the lighter colors, we often have bleeds and staining issues. We can properly prime the piece as mentioned above or we can fix the bleeds as we go. Many chalk paints say no primer and no sanding is needed, but I disagree. Sanding is what helps the paint adhere and last longer, but once we sand we increase the chances of wood bleeds. Sanding involves removing old finishes that may have been keeping bleeds in. But anyway, this is the best fix:

The best way to fix bleeds in chalk paint is to spray clear shellac over the area that has bled. Many times a full piece can bleed throughout, so just spray the shellac over the entire piece, if your furniture is large you may need 2 cans. After your shellac has dried you can then brush on your chalk paint and enjoy watching the paint dry free from the yellow stains.

Fix Furniture Painting Bleed Though in 3 Steps:

  1. Locate the Bleed Though Areas
  2. Apply Shellac Spray Over Bleeds and Wait Until Dry
  3. Apply Chalk Paint Bleed Through Free

Applying Shellac Spray To Bleed Through | BEFORE & AFTER PHOTO

What Are The Best Products to use When You Have Furniture Bleed Through?

Zinnser Bulls Eye Shellac Spray



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For all the Bleed Through fixing the Zinsser Shellac-Based Spray is all you need. It will seal over wood bleeds and other stains making your chalk-painted project go as planned. The best thing is that it doesn’t take long for the shellac to dry, so apply and finish that project as soon as possible! You can spray this as a primer to prevent bleeds, but I think its best to use when you already painted a piece and you now see bleeds coming through. Use the spray and apply as needed, in certain areas or throughout.

BIN Shellac-Based Primer

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The best of the best when it comes to a shellac-based primer is BIN Shellac-Primer. It has ultimate stain-blocking ingredients that leave your chalk-painted pieces bleed through free, and all other stains and messes you don’t want coming through. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but when applying these shellac and oil-based products be in a well-ventilated area and use a respirator if possible. Safety first!

BIN is also the best option to seal over knots in the wood, I have used this stuff on the construction site before to seal exterior wood knots, this stuff is the real deal. It is available in both spray and in the can, you could order it online or purchase it from a local hardware store.

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Flat White Primer

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I have been using Rust-Oleums Flat White primer since day one of my furniture flipping journey. Why? Well, it’s super affordable and easy to find! I find it has blocked out bleed through exactly how I wanted it to, just spray a coat on before paint and you are good to go. It is oil-based and it should be applied in a good ventilated space. The oil-based formula makes for a more durable surface and also seals in other stains that the surface might have. I highly recommend this for beginners and even the pros, it cost less than the shellac options plus you can find it at big hardware stores like HomeDepot is extra-large cans for the same low prices.


Video of Me Fixing Bleed Through Over Chalk Paint

In this makeover video I am using Annie Sloan chalk paint and I did not use any primer. I ended up having bleed through and needed to apply a sealer. At this time there was no shellac available in local shops so I used Rust-Oleum clear spray and it worked perfectly. The process of using clear rust-oleum and clear shellac is the exact same! See how I did it in the video below at the 7:13 minute mark.


Chalk Paint and Bleed-Through FAQs

Can You Use Rust-Oleum Clear Spray Paint Over Bleed Through?

Yes you can use Rust-Oleums clear spray paint over bleed through, I did this over a recent project and applied Annie Sloan chalk paint right over it and the bleeds were no longer coming through. There was no clear Shellac available so I used what I had and it worked!

Will Wood Tannins Bleed Through Chalk Paint?

Yes, wood tannins leave a yellow-brown stain in chalk-painted furniture and they must be sealed off properly to be avoided. Not all wood furniture will cause bleed through when using chalk paint, but it is better to prevent the issue or be prepared to deal with it if it arises. Either prime the piece using a shellac-based primer or an oil-based primer, but if you didn’t prime and have bleeds use a clear shellac spray over the bleeding areas.

When Will I Most Likely See Bleeds When Using Chalk Paint?

You are most likely going to see bleeds using chalk paint when painting with lighter colored paints. As we know, light paint does not cover and hide as well as dark paint, which is pretty obvious. Furthermore, we will see bleeds in the paint when we sand down to bare wood, this causes the tannins to come out because there is no barrier stopping them. And lastly, we see bleed through on darker woods and wood with a lot of knots, the knots always bleed and I recommend you should prime over big wood knots.

What about Water Stains Bleeding Through Chalk Paint?

Water stains cause bleeds too, they aren’t the same and may not even look as bad but they can still be hidden. Follow the same steps using shellac-based primer and shellac spray over the damaged area and you shouldn’t have any issues. Sand the area if the water damage caused any warping or indentations.

Final Thoughts

Overall, using chalk paint on wooden furniture could lead to bleed through in the chalk paint but if you follow my helpful tips you can prevent or fix any issues you may be having. Bleeds are 100% natural in painting furniture so don’t feel discouraged thinking you did something wrong, you didn’t! Everyone learns the furniture painting process one way or another, with proper preparation and knowledge you can avoid bleed-through forever!

Good luck on your next project and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions via email.