What is Chalk Paint and How to Use it – a Beginners Guide

If you are not familiar with chalk paint, you probably wonder what all this hype is about. When you go to Pinterest, it seems like all you can see there are chalk paint upcycling and distressing projects.

But that soft matte chalky finish paint can be used for just about anything. From rustic, vintage shabby chic style to modern, bold, opaque finishes. From furniture to walls to kitchen cabinet, glass, and plastic. And most importantly is fun and hassle-free.

Want to know more? Read on to learn what chalk paint is and how to use it.

What is chalk paint and how is it different

Chalk Paint was created and trademarked in 1990 by British artist Annie Sloan. It was created out of necessity. She couldn’t find anything that would suit her needs best. She was a busy mum who wanted to have a product that would let her paint a piece of furniture, seal it and put it back in place in an afternoon.

She wanted something that wouldn’t need any prep like sanding and/or priming. She wanted mixable colors without getting muddy or dull. She wanted paint formula that adheres to pretty much any surface or material and can be used indoors and outdoors.

I can relate to this so much, so I’m very, utterly grateful that she had come up with this recipe for perfect paint. And if you look at it, it is perfect.

Not to be confused with a chalkboard paint used for making a surface that you can write with a piece of chalk. This paint doesn’t need any prep work like sanding or priming. It cleans up with water like latex paint. It’s thicker, which means it’s easier to use(less dripping and easy clean up). It also has a more forgiving beginner-friendly finish.

The brush strokes are visible, but that is the part of the look. And it can be easily sanded or distressed, and you can use soft wax or chalk lacquer to seal.

One thing that it’s absolutely freaking amazing is that it adheres to practically any surface. Even already painted one including lacquers and high gloss finish. Without any prep! Awesome!

What is chalk paint best use for

The answer is simple – it can be used for anything. In recent years, it has become prevalent for upcycling projects. Old furniture in particular. And as it is very forgiving, it is excellent for beginners. A lot of people use it to achieve that distressing, shabby chic, and vintage look in their projects. But if you like the modern, sleek style you can easily achieve it too with great results.

It can be used on fabric, walls, floors, metal, plastic, brick, glass, even marble. It’s often used for kitchen cabinets. From tables and dressers to sofas and drapes. The possibilities are endless, and you can transform your home literally with a lick of paint.

How to use chalk paint

Because the idea behind this paint was to be versatile and easy to use, this is pretty simple.

There is no need to prep(like prime or sand), but the surface should be dry and clean. In most cases, one coat of paint is enough, and you only want to sand it for super-smooth results(remember to wipe the dust off).

It is quick to dry- usually, only 1h between coats is required and then apply wax to finish and buff with a cotton cloth once dried. For a more durable finish, use chalk paint lacquer.

You can touch up with the same color, and there won’t be any difference. And you can paint Chalk Paint over the wax and then wax again.

A tip from the Annie Sloan website:

To get started, tip the pot upside down and shake before use. Then open and stir well. If the paint is too thick, just add a little water and stir. For the best results, we recommend using a good quality paint brush like the Chalk Paint® Brushes to apply the paint.

Chalk Paint Project Ideas

Since it’s very popular, there is a tonne of excellent chalk paint project ideas and examples. It shows how versatile this paint is. And what amazing results you can achieve.

Opaque results using chalk paint

The project above comes from Angela Rose Home and it’s an excellent example of beautiful opaque color achieved with chalky paint.

layered and distressed

A beautifully executed chalk paint layering and distressing from Salvaged Inspirations.

fabric

This fantastic example of painted fabric comes from Suit Pieces.

walls and brick walls

I absolutely love this beautifully painted wall. It comes from inspirations on the Annie Sloan website.

kitchen cabinets

This great example of using chalky paint to refresh kitchen cabinets comes from Simply Today Life.

Where To Buy Chalk Paint, and how much does it cost?

There are many places online as well as offline to buy this type of paint. If you want the real thing, you can only buy it from Annie Sloan. A 32-ounce can sells for $34.95, so it’s a bit pricey.

If you’re not willing to spend that much, many similar copycat brands are selling chalky finish type of paint. The biggest choice would be online, of course, but you can still get it in several stores.

Home Depot (in-store and online) sells several brands like Rustoleum (30 oz for $19.98), and Behr( 1 quart for $19.99) and Decor Art(16 oz for around $16). You can also purchase them as many, many other brands over at Amazon.com.

Then there is a Magnolia Home offering very lovely, beautiful colors($32 per quart).

You can find Valspar Chalky tintable paint that can be made in over 40 different colors at Lowes. And Target sells Rustoleum chalked spray paint for about $6.50 for 12oz.

Walmart has a Kilz brand in stock at $20 for a quart. You can find other small companies selling this type of paint like CeCe Caldwell, American Paint Company, Shabby Paints, Miss Lillians. These are a little harder to come by in stores but readily available online.

How to Make Chalk Paint-DIY recipes

If you feel that you can’t justify the cost of chalk paint or you’ve got a lot of projects to do, you can try and make your own chalky paint. It’ll definitely make it more affordable.

The recipes I’ve found are very easy to make, and results are just as good as the original in most cases. They work best with latex paint in eggshell or satin finish, but any acrylic paint will work too.

Best homemade chalk paint recipes

Baking Soda Recipe

  • 1/3 cup of baking soda
  • 2/3 cup paint(latex)

This recipe is best for an old, weathered, distressed country look(especially furniture). The texture of the mix is gritty, and the paint needs to be sanded down to get smoothish results. The finish is chalky but not as smooth as you’d expect from chalk paint.

Non – Sanded Grout Recipe

  • 1 cup of paint
  • 2T unsanded grout(white)
  • water to mix the grout

This recipe dries fast, mixes well, and applies like branded paint, but because it dries fast, it thickens quickly too. So if you choose this one only make enough for immediate application.

Distressing needs sanding, and the finish is like a branded paint-smooth and chalky.

Plaster of Paris

  • 3 parts paint
  • 1 part plaster of Paris
  • water to mix

This one makes a smooth paste that applies like branded chalk paint and can be stored and used later. It has a great consistency. Distressing needs sanding, though, but the finish is very much like a branded paint-smooth and chalky.

Plaster of Paris + Calcium Carbonate

  • 2T calcium carbonate
  • 2T plaster of Paris
  • 2T water
  • 2 cups of latex paint
  • mix the powders and water together and add to the paint

This recipe is similar in texture and application, like the one above. But because the finish is hard, it’s not recommended for distressing. The plus side is that it can be used for higher traffic areas.

Calcium Carbonate

  • 2 parts of paint
  • 1 part calcium carbonate

This recipe is very popular, and I’m not surprised why. It’s fast-drying(like 30 min fast) and has great consistency and coverage. The application and finish are like a branded paint-smooth and chalky. 

And it can be stored for more extended periods as it doesn’t thicken much over time. It’s excellent for distressing, but it needs sanding while the branded paint can sometimes be distressed with only a wet cloth.

Chalk painting tips for beginners

#1 No Prep(sanding or Priming) Required

As you must know by now, one of the reasons behind creating chalk paint was the need for no prep or priming. So that’s it. This paint doesn’t require any prep to achieve amazing results. 

If you have an old piece of furniture you want to upcycle, you just need to make sure it’s clean and dry, and you’re ready to go. No more dreading the preparation and sanding. No more sanding dust particles everywhere, no more mess.

#2 perfect imperfection

The fantastic thing about chalk paint is that the finish doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s why it’s terrific for beginners and it’s amazing for distressing. You can layer the paint and sand through the layers. You can criss-cross the brush strokes, and the uneven surface will give the piece even more character. No need to stress about it

#3 Chalk Paint Price

While the original chalk paint is expensive, you can find cheaper alternatives on the market. There are a lot of choices in brands as well as colors. And of course, the most affordable option is to make a DIY version of chalky paint yourself. So no excuses to not give it a go :)

#4 to wax or not to wax?

Like in the case of regular paint, the topcoat is a step you don’t want to skip. Wax is best used for chalked paint to seal it. You can go with a clear one, or you can add more character and depth with a colored one like black or brown.

Use a cloth to put it on and another to buff and remove excess. Tip: Use a couple of clean old cotton socks and thank me later :) Oh and remember to distress before you seal.

#5 Brushes

You can buy paintbrushes that are made explicitly for chalk paint, or you can get cheaper ones. I think you should invest in a quality brush or two that will give you excellent results and will last you longer. However, if you decide to go with the less expensive option, just remember to buy a brush with synthetic bristles.

#6 Distressing a Piece The Easy way

Distressing with chalky paint is pretty popular. Just going over to Pinterest will show you how much. It’s crazy. While there are many tutorials on how to do it, the main point is to keep it simple. Especially if you’re a beginner.

Use two contrasting colors or just one if you want the wood to be visible. Paint them on top of each other. Distress the piece in places where the paint would naturally wear off like edges, corners, and high traffic areas.

You can use sandpaper to sand off the top layer. Or use vaseline/wax in places you want the paint to come off and just wipe off the paint. If you want to know more, I recommend my article on distressing wood, where you can find 16 different distressing techniques.

FAQS

If you want to learn more about using chalk paint here are some faqs that could help you. If there is a question that you may have that is not answered here, please leave a comment, and I’ll try to get back to you asap.

How much does One can cover? Is it worth the price?

In the case of chalk paint, just the quality is worth the price. One can will cover around 140 sq feet and will last you ages as you only would do 1-2 coats at a time. But most importantly, it will save you time.

No prep, so no time spent sanding and priming(as well as costs of materials used to do so). And short drying time means you can turn over your projects faster. Fantastic isn’t it?! Especially if you’re a busy business owner or a busy mum like I am. Remember, you can always try the other brands of chalk-style paint to reduce the cost.

Can you use chalk paint in a sprayer??

The answer is yes! This is an excellent way to achieve a smooth finish without brush strokes. And there isn’t much of overspray either, so little paint is wasted. You’d probably want to water the paint down a bit, though, to get the best results.

Can you use it on kitchen cabinets, dining tables, etc.? How durable is it?

Yes, you can use it on any surface. It will adhere to anything. As long as you remember to seal properly with wax, you’d get a very durable finish. For high traffic areas, paint at least 2 coats of paint and 2-3 coats of wax or even 4 if using poly for a topcoat.

Or go for Chalk Paint Lacquer that is great for high traffic surfaces-durable and wipeable. It has UV protection so it can be used outside as well, and colors won’t fade.

Can you seal chalk paint with anything other than wax?

While using soft wax is the most popular way of sealing chalk painted surfaces, you can use any water-based topcoat like brushed-on Polycrylic. Any brand should be fine. Just make sure you chose the sheen you want as they vary from satin to high gloss.

You can also use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint lacquer in matt or gloss. It’s great for kitchen cabinets or tabletops- durable and wipeable.

Is chalk paint only for heavily distressed finishes?

You can use it as you please. While this paint is popular for a distressed look, you can achieve many other results with it. From totally opaque to layered and blended as well.

Do you have to wax in between layers if you’re using 2 colors?

You don’t have to but you can if you want. Usually, you just paint the 2 colors on top of each other and distress with a sanding sponge until the bottom layer is visible.

I’ve had some trouble with bleed through? How do you fix this, or what approach should I take?

I’m just going to refer to Annie Sloan here:

If you see a stain bleeding through the paint, apply a coat of clear shellac (knotting solution) directly over the paint you have already applied. Treat the whole affected surface to avoid any patchiness in the final finish. One or two coats of shellac applied evenly with a cloth pad will block the stain.

Can I mix chalk paint colors?

When using Chalk Paint, you can mix any of the colors together without the risk of them becoming mudded or dull. That was one of the ideas of Anie Slone’s when she developed her paint.

Summary

Chalk paint is very versatile, easy to use, and forgiving. Even for beginners. You can achieve all sorts of interesting looking pieces that are very unique. From furniture to fabric to kitchen cabinets, tables, and even walls and floors. The imagination is the limit.

Although a bit pricey, the quality is fantastic. But if you won’t go for a budget option, you can choose one of the copycat brands, and the results will be similar. You can even go for a DIY recipe and make your own chalky paint.

Although it doesn’t require any prep, make sure your surface is clean and dry, and don’t forget to seal it with a top coat of your choice for durability.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and I hope I’ve helped to shed some light on the chalk paint topic. Don’t forget to pin it to your DIY painting furniture board.

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