How to Antique a Tray Using Chalk Paint

Thrifted silver trays are painted and antiqued to look like heirlooms. An affordable and easy way to add antique looking pieces to your home decor.
light and dark antiqued trays

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Updated 03/2022

My blog name came about quite naturally. I enjoy the process of DIYing something to make it more beautiful!

In the case of these thrifted trays, I took something shiny and newish and made them look decades older very simply with just paint and wax, a process I'll share with you. 

Hey, I'd love to have some real family heirlooms...but if I can't have em, I can always pretend!

That was the look I was going for when I decided to makeover these silver trays. The large tray is a silver-plated tray I found at Goodwill and is quite heavy. The smaller one is just a cheapy one (probably Dollar Store quality) that I also found at Goodwill.

stack of antique trays created with paint and wax

How to antique a silver tray with chalk paint

I'm going to tell you how you can give an authentically aged look to silver trays. I realize not everyone is into making things look antique..but this same technique can be used to make old things look new again, so it's a win-win!

This is a talk-through tutorial because the trays were refinished well before I became a DIY blogger. So no step by step pictures of the process. However, I am confident that I can talk you through the steps because it's not rocket science and I will share my best tips along the way 😉

Find a tray

Whether you head to the thrift store, dollar store or raid your mom's (or grandma's - with her permission of course!) china hutch, find a tray! 

Designer Tip: If you're going for the old, vintage look, it's best to use a tray that has curves and embossed (raised) areas. This will give the most authentically old look.

backs of silver trays

Clean the tray

You will want to clean and degrease the tray before painting it. I like Krud Kutter and Totally Awesome. Both do a great job removing any sticky bits so we have a clean surface to work with. If you don't have either one, you can wash the tray in hot, soapy water and dry well.

Paint the tray

Now it's time to paint the tray. I recommend chalk paint for this step because it will stick to shiny surfaces without any prep. I painted my larger tray with white chalk paint and the smaller tray with a gray/beige chalk paint.

So grab your chalk paint and brush on a coat. If you've never painted a shiny, metal surface with chalk paint will think you have goofed big time. There will be streaks everywhere! Don't worry, the subsequent coat will fix all that! Make sure you're using a quality brush. This paint brush is my favorite. I love the shorter handle, which makes handling it a breeze.

Designer Tip: Aim for a thin coat of chalk paint, trying not to paint over the same surface twice but you also want an even coat, no drips. So gently brush out any thicker areas of pooling paint.

white painted and antiqued silver tray, vintage ironstone, basket, pink peonies

Once the paint is dry, give it another thin coat. Let it dry again. If you're new to chalk paint, one of the benefits is the dry time. It will dry much faster than other paints, and should be ready for a second coat in less than 30 minutes. You can also speed up the dry time by using a blow dryer or heat tool.

My trays did not need more than 2 coats of paint. If for some reason you're still seeing a lot of streaking, go ahead with another coat.

Sand the tray

Now it's time to start adding some age to the painted tray. Grab a sanding sponge (you can find these in the painting section of any hardware store) with a fine grit and lightly sand your tray. Your aim here is to smooth out the chalk paint gritty sections, as well as to remove sections of the paint from the raised surfaces.

Use a light hand when sanding. If you go too heavy, you will remove too much paint and you really don't want to have to paint it again!! 

Designer Tip: Check the surface of the tray with your hand. You will feel the surface begin to get very smooth.

If you have embossing on your tray, rub the sanding sponge over the surface, removing some but not all of the paint. You can opt to distress it as much or as little as you want. Try to think of where it would naturally wear if it really were an old piece.

close up of embossed edge of painted and antiqued tray

Wipe the tray

Use a damp rag to remove all the paint dust from the tray. We want a clean surface for the next step, which is waxing.

Wax the tray

I used both clear and dark wax on my painted trays. The clear coat seals and protects it and the dark wax provides that depth of an antique piece. I applied the wax with a lint free rag (old white t-shirts are perfect!).

Designer Tip: When working with dark wax on a light painted surface, you must put a coat of clear on first or the dark wax will be permanently adhered to your paint. The beauty of doing the clear wax first is that you can play around with the coverage of the dark.

Too much dark wax? Grab some clear on a cloth and wipe it off. It is flexible and forgivable. To get the best look of a vintage piece, add dark wax in the grooves and the embossed sections. You want the dark to blend in and not really be that noticeable but give it depth.

Once you've waxed to your satisfaction, wait 10 minutes or so and then use another lint free cloth and buff the wax. Buffing is simply rubbing hard in a circular pattern. Buffing works the wax into the paint and removes any excess wax. As you buff, you will immediately see a beautiful sheen that is unlike anything you would get from a poly coat. 

close up of white painted tray shows the light distressing

And that's all there is to painting and antiquing a silver tray! Remember that waxed pieces need about 3 weeks to completely cure so set your tray aside and try not to use it for awhile. I know it will be hard as you'll want to use it and show it off every chance you get! I paired my DIY antiqued trays with some authentic vintage ironstone pieces to show you just how well they work together.

pair of painted and antiqued trays on wall behind stove

Designer Tip: If you're going for a more modern look, paint your piece, and lightly sand to smooth the surface but don't distress with the sanding sponge. Wax with clear wax and you're done!

I'd love to know if you tried this project! Please leave a comment below!

Are you curious about what else you can paint with chalk paint?

Love it? Pin it to remember!

stack of painted and antiqued silver trays, ironstone, pink peonies, basket

bringing beauty to the ordinary,


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  1. I am so on a chalk paint kick right now! But I never, ever thought of painting a tray. Wonderful idea!

    {hugs} Ashley

    1. I know, me too! I have another idea in mind that I'm going to try...can't wait to share :) Thanks for the kuddos my blog friend :)

  2. I do paint trays and love the way yours turned out.

  3. Love the way that turned out! It looks great! Have a great day!

  4. Oh pretty! What a great way to give those old trays a fresh new look!

  5. Just came over from Carolyn's Homework Inspiration Board to read more about your beautiful pig tray. What kind of wax are you using for these chalk-painted trays? Is it car wax, floor wax, or some kind of craft wax? I have two very large, silver-plated catering trays that are too nasty to be used without a doily-like paper liner. I'd love to dress them up, so would appreciate some brand names of your favorite products, too. Thanks.

    1. Hi Charade, so happy to answer your question. I use MinWax Furniture Paste from either Home Depot or Lowes (under $10). They sell both a clear/natural and a dark. It is the same as using a poly but gives a softer finish (looks-wise) and I just prefer using it. Hope that helps!

  6. I so want to try my hand at chalk paint and I'm glad you made this post because now I feel a little more confident to give it a try. The tip on using the clear wax first was great because I would never have thought of doing that!

    1. Terri, you will absolutely LOVE using Chalk Paint! It literally adheres to everything, no special prep needed! I just did a post on using it, that you might find helpful. Includes a DIY recipe :)

  7. Where do you buy chalk paint?

    1. Hi Joan, I did a post about different chalk paint retailers and compared their products. You can also make your own using flat latex paint mixed with Plaster of Paris. Here it is
      You can also buy it online. And Home Depot is now selling small pots. They're by Americana Decor. In other words, it's pretty much everywhere!

  8. I think your white tray is fabulous. I have painted similair trays with black or bronze paint but I love the tray in white. I am off to find a tray to paint. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks so much Traci! I'm so glad I inspired you to "instant action", LOL! Would love to see your white tray when it's done.

  9. These are so awesome! I just have a question. After you finish them and wait for 3 weeks, can food actually be placed on these safely?

    1. Thank you so much. That's a great question. As long as the wax you use is food safe,it will be fine. Check the label of the product you are using.

  10. I just received my Mom's silver tray/tea set. I'd like to do something like this so I could actually use it (not for food/drink but as a decoration). Can chalk paint be removed if I ever changed my mind? Thanks!!

    1. Great question, I'm not actually sure. If its sterling silver, you probably can soak it in water to remove the majority of the paint and then use a silver cleaner. However, I'd definitely do some research first!

  11. Hello! I have a little problem. I painted my silver tray with chalk paint but it is wiping off. I've used three coats so far. It looked pretty good. When I started applying the wax, the paint started rubbing off. What in the world did I do wrong? And is there anything I can do to fix it?? I've put a clear coat of wax on.

    1. It sounds like the paint wasn't given enough time to fully dry and bond to the tray. Sometimes those slick surfaces take longer for the paint to fully bond to. I would leave it alone for a couple weeks, then you can try lightly sanding and repainting. Give each coat of chalk paint a day to dry before painting another coat. Then, once you're happy with the paint, give it a full 48 hours before you apply any wax! That should take care of it!

  12. I think you're correct that I didn't let it dry all the way between coats. I will give it another try. Thank you!


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