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Annie Sloan chalk paint – bleed through – beaten

Tannin, or resin from leaky knots will bleed through water-based paints that have no stain inhibiting ingredient. Annie Sloan chalk paint may therefore suffer from bleed through. That is just the way it is. But never fear.

The girls’ solution – from Annie Sloan’s site

From How to use chalk paint

With some pieces of furniture, typically pieces from the 1930s and 1940s, after painting the first coat there is either a yellow or pink stain which bleeds through the paint. No matter how may coats you paint, the stain colour will continue to bleed through.

The ANSWER is to get something called *Knotting or sometimes it is called shellac. Get the clear one and apply it using a pad rather than a brush. It dries in minutes and you can get on with painting immediately!

( *it’s a natural product from an insect in South East Asia, using a resin deposit that the insect extrudes to help them stick to trees. Strange but true!)

Clear shellac knotting

Yes, the lac beetle is a strange beast which isn’t oozing quite as much as it has in the past, leading to sky-rocketing prices for shellac based sealers. (This is a taste of what shellac is used for.)

clear knotting solution to stop bleed through Clear knotting or “white knotting” is bleached shellac, and is essential if spot sealing the occasional stain. ie It will dry a pale shade of honey and the subsequent dabs of chalk paint will cover fine. You can get International from B&Q type places, Ronseal do one.

Patent knotting is the dark brown shellac which you should avoid for dealing with bleed through on chalk paint, because it will take a lot of covering.

A boy decorator’s solution

Styptic knotting – is “white” knotting, but styptic sounds a bit more “craftsman-like” than plain knotting and is a professional decorating product as traditional and old as the hills!

And if you have lots of bleed through to heal, I wouldn’t dab, I would seal the whole surface with knotting!

After the first coat of chalk paint, this door panel stained in several big patches. So rather than be selective, I painted it all again with styptic knotting, and waited a couple of hours before over painting. What you see is one coat of chalk paint nearly finished.

bleed through sealed back with knotting

Trust chalk paint ahead of knotting

I would definitely advise against over-thinking the bleed through situation – ie don’t take the normal painter approach of trying to seal knots or dodgy surfaces before you apply the first coat of chalk paint. Follow the Annie Sloan mantra of no prep, let the first coat of chalk paint find the weak spots, if any, and if required, then seal over the bleed through.

Couple of things about knotting.

Technically you should lightly abrade a coat of knotting before overpainting to provide a key, it is very shiny. But this is chalk paint, so who needs to rub down anything to make it stick!

One or two coats?

I was taught to apply two coats of knotting, the second one for added peace of mind. The second coat has to go on very quickly and no fussing, as knotting is a reversible coating. ie apply it over itself and the solvent in the topcoat softens up the coating beneath. This reversibility is a pain, but it has one advantage in that you can constantly revive brushes used in shellac paint, by dunking in shellac-based paint.

Do you need 2 coats of knotting in this situation?

I didn’t think it was necessary in this particular situation. But other times, you are best advised to coat twice for belt and braces.

Does knotting cure all bleed through

Yes, but no, but yes but…

Ordinarily, yes, but sometimes a weepy knot can bleed so badly that the resin will lift any coating, even shellac-based products.

Knots that are scuzzy, but have stopped exuding resin, you can wipe over with a rag soaked in meths to clean away old residue. Now I am going to contradict what I just said, but in this instance, if you have seen a knot that needs this much attention, it would be a good idea to seal it a couple of times with clear shellac knotting before chalk painting.

Very bad knots can be drilled out and filled.

What is Zinsser BIN?

Zinsser BIN is pigmented shellac, so you get knotting and white primer in one.

Is BIN suitable to stop bleed through?

Yes, but only if you apply it over the whole surface first. If you are touching in spots or small patches, BIN is not a safe choice in that it will probably show through subsequent coats of chalk paint.

So if you spot-prime bleeding patches with 2 coats of BIN using a brush, and overpaint with any colour other than white, you will probably see the white sealer through the chalk paint. I say probably, because it didn’t happen on one example I show elsewhere in the site, but I think that was down to the BIN being sprayed and the edges were nicely feathered. And I was lucky?

Therefore, if spot sealing, follow Annie Sloan’s advice with clear knotting. Apply with a pad on random bleed through, making sure to feather out the edges else it will ridge. And if staining is widespread, my advice is that it can often work out quicker and less stressful, with less thinking involved, to simply apply knotting on complete sections, and leave the Zinsser BIN alone.

If you have any other questions, head over to the forum we have about chalk paint and furniture painting. A few of the other Traditional Painters I work with will have something to say, I am sure.

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8 comments to “Annie Sloan chalk paint – bleed through – beaten”

  1. Alan Iles

    Another very thorough article Andy. All excellent advice.

    The Zinsser BIN is probably most peoples choice for this type of work, and although it works a treat under the usual eggshells and gloss paint, it may not be the best product under chalk paints, as you rightly suggest.

  2. Glynis Pope

    Still not clear from all I have read if chalk based paint can be used directly over varnished pine without sanding or priming? I assume there would be no bleeding as the pine would already be sealed with the varnish. I’m buying a house with a lot of ugly pine cladding on the walls.

  3. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Chalk paint is a very useful paint choice for furniture as to all intents and purposes it can be successfully painted over any surface with no preparation (beyond removing dust and blu tack.)

    Most times it is specced/ referred to here as the answer for waxed surfaces, this article refers to Chalk paint over varnish.

    In theory you are right about the bleed through being held back, in practice you will know when the first coat dries.

    I endeavoured to make a list of all the scenarios for priming and topcoats, I will go through it again and fill a gap or two. :)

  4. rachel

    This has been great to read all the comments as i was a little concerned about bleed through’s. Will be visiting wickes and B&Q to stock up on knotting solution thanks to the posts. I have purchased my first tin of chalk paints & wax. Can’t wait to give it ago but was thinking about the brushes to use. Do i have to use Annie Sloan paint brushes or can i use other makes ?

  5. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    I highly rate the Wooster FTP range of brushes for chalk paint, they are available online, I use the 2.5″ for most jobs. This is a list of good brushes for DIY (and pro) painters but for your job, the FTP is the best.

    By all means send us pictures of your finished work, happy to show other DIY what is possible


    Hi, I am still confused on what is the best product to get for bleed through, can you please help me? I have painted a bookcase with two coats of Annie Sloan paint in Pure and have lots of pink bleed through. Should I use Zinsser B-i-n Primer & Sealer to go over the paint? will this work?

    Kind Regards,

  7. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Hi, I am advocating the use of shellac knotting to stop bleed through, mainly for ease of use.

    I mentioned BIN because it is a well known shellac based primer sealer, but I don’t think it is the greatest choice for chalk painting. I altered the article re: Zinsser BIN, to clarify:

    Is BIN suitable to stop bleed through?
    Yes, but only if you apply it over the whole surface first. If you are touching in spots or small patches, BIN is not a safe choice in that it will probably show through subsequent coats of chalk paint.
    So if you spot-prime bleeding patches with 2 coats of BIN using a brush, and overpaint with any colour other than white, you will probably see the white sealer through the chalk paint.

    Does that help?

  8. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Zinsser BIN is pigmented, so spot priming may look patchy through the chalk paint. If you have BIN on hand and have no clear knotting, then best to paint whole sections with BIN. If you have the clear knotting as described in the article, this can be used as a spot primer or for painting whole panels.

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