What Is Chalk Paint?

The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint in Retro Vibes
The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint in Retro Vibes.

The Spruce / Jordan Provost

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 has been popular for a few years, 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.

It’s also important to note what chalk paint is not. Despite its similar name, chalk paint is not the same as chalkboard paint. Chalkboard paint is another popular specialty product that turns any surface into a chalkboard, where you can write with chalk then easily erase it. Chalk paint, however, is more akin to standard wall paint, just with a different finish. Bottom line? Don’t try to draw on your chalk paint, as it may ruin the surface.

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The History of Chalk Paint

The term “Chalk Paint” is actually trademarked by the company that created it, Annie Sloan.

The original chalk paint was invented in 1990. Annie Sloan, the founder of the self-named company, wanted a paint that required less prep and was easier to work with, and 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.

Another key characteristic of the original Chalk Paint, according to its founder, is that it doesn’t contain any black pigment, so the colors can be mixed without becoming dull or muddy. This lets you create a variety of unique shades, all of which will have the beautiful chalk-like finish.

Thanks to these unique properties, chalk paint quickly gained popularity, becoming the go-to for anyone creating distressed furniture or shabby chic decor. Today, other companies besides Annie Sloan sell similar products, but they’re branded as “chalk-like” or “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 actually incredibly versatile since it sticks to just about any surface, and it can be used on 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 fun distressed appearance on furniture.

How Much Does Chalk Paint Cost?

The original Chalk Paint from Annie Sloan typically costs around $35 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 eight-ounce jar.

If you’re feeling really 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 larger 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 you 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, and 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.