What Is Chalk Paint?

The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint in Retro Vibes

The Spruce / Jordan Provost

When browsing through the DIY section on Pinterest, you’ll inevitably come across numerous tutorials that use chalk paint to create a beautiful, distressed finish on furniture. While this specialty paint is been popular, there are some misconceptions about what it is and what it’s used for. Here’s everything you need to know about chalk-style paint.

What Is Chalk Paint?

Chalk-style paint has become incredibly popular, in part thanks to Pinterest, but you might be wondering what sets it apart from traditional paint. At a glance, chalk-style paint is recognizable by its soft, ultra-matte finish. It resembles a surface covered in chalk, hence the name. The paint itself is latex-based, meaning you can clean up with water instead of mineral spirits, and it tends to be thicker and easier to work with than standard paint.

What Is a Matte Finish?

Unlike a high- or semi-gloss, a matte finish has no sheen to it. Instead, it has a bit of a chalky or flat look.

It’s also important to note what chalk paint is not—despite its similar name, chalk paint is not the same as chalkboard paint, another popular specialty product that turns any surface into a chalkboard, where you can write with chalk and then easily erase it. Chalk paint, however, is more akin to standard wall paint, just with a different finish. Avoid drawing on your chalk paint, as it may ruin the surface.


Watch Now: Ways to use Chalky Finish Paint

The History of Chalk Paint

The term “chalk paint” is trademarked by the company Annie Sloan, which created it in 1990. Annie Sloan, the founder of the self-named company, wanted a paint that required less prep and was easier to work with. When she couldn’t find a product that suited her needs, she created one. Over the next few decades, the formula was honed so the paint would adhere to just about any surface and require little to no preparation.

Fun Fact

A key characteristic of the original chalk paint, according to its founder, is that most colors don't contain any black pigment, so they can be mixed without becoming dull or muddy.

Chalk paint quickly gained popularity, becoming the go-to for creating distressed furniture or shabby chic decor. Today, other companies besides Annie Sloan sell similar products, but they’re branded as “chalk-like”, "chalky-style" or as having a “chalky finish.”

The Best Uses for Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is commonly used on furniture, as it gives pieces a gently aged appearance and is easy to distress. It’s a great option when working on an intricate furniture design, as you don’t have to sand or prime the surface you’re painting. It’s also very forgiving, making it a good option for beginners delving into the DIY world.

However, chalk paint is by no means limited to furniture. It’s incredibly versatile because it sticks to just about any surface, including walls, floors, and even metal. Many people use chalk-style paint on their kitchen cabinets, especially in shabby-chic or country-style decor.

Another popular way to use chalk paint is to create a two-color distress. Essentially, you paint a base color, then cover it up with another shade. Once it’s dry, you can gently sand down areas of the top layer of paint, so the initial color shows through. It’s a great way to create an authentic and distressed appearance on furniture.


When using chalky paint, apply a few coats for adequate coverage and a nice finish.

How Much Does Chalk Paint Cost?

The original chalk paint from Annie Sloan typically costs around $42 per quart, which will generally be enough to paint a small dresser. However, there are other brands that sell similar products, including DecoArt’s Americana Decor line of “chalky finish” paints, which sell for around $8 per 8-ounce jar.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also make your own chalk paint mixing regular latex paint with Plaster of Paris. This may be a more budget-friendly route if you’re painting a large area, but there’s a bigger margin for error.

Is Chalk Paint Durable?

One of the most common concerns about chalk paint is whether it’s durable enough to use on high-traffic pieces. The short answer is yes, but only if you take the time to seal it properly. With Annie Sloan paint, it’s recommended to use soft wax to cover the paint, and you may want to apply two or three coats on tabletops and other areas that will get a lot of use—just be sure to allow the wax to fully cure in between coats.

When you follow these instructions, your chalk paint will likely look beautiful for several years, though you can alway re-wax the surface if it starts to look shabby. Alternatively, you can use varnish or even polyurethane to seal your chalk paint, and many people report this method works well to improve durability. However, this may take away from the matte finish.

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  1. Chalk Paint: Trademark Details. JUSTIA.