What Is Chalk Paint, Anyway?

updated Aug 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Laura Moss)

Recognized by its soft, matte finish, chalk paint is commonly used to give furniture an aged, distressed look. This popular type of paint was first produced by Annie Sloan, but other companies have developed their own versions, and the world is full of DIY alternatives that save the $35-per-quart cost of the real deal. Curious to see what all the hype’s about? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Chalk Paint?

Originally developed by the paint brand Annie Sloan, this type of paint gives surfaces a dreamy, matte look. It’s often used with soft wax, which seals the paint and leaves a silky finish. Besides being low-VOC and water-based, its thick consistency makes it easy to use, with little to zero prep involved, and a low propensity for drips — which makes both painting itself, not to mention cleanup, easy.

Chalk Paint Ideas

You can get a lot of different looks using chalk paint, ranging from a more distressed, “shabby chic” finish, to a more modern approach that just covers the surface with a solid, opaque coat of paint.

Becky, from Homestead 128, painted her piano a deep graphite grey, followed up with some furniture wax from Miss Mustard Seed. The entire project cost about $50, and took her around two hours to complete.

The blue dresser above from A Simpler Design has a slightly more varied look, which gives the piece dimension and interest. 38th Street has a good tutorial on how to achieve this layered chalk paint finish using two different paint colors, and no sanding required.

Some people like to sand the painted surface, exposing the wood underneath, to get an even more distressed finish. Susan of Saw Nail & Paint tried out Magnolia chalk paint to give this entryway stand a vintage feel.

(Image credit: Laura Moss)

Kitchn contributor Jessica Davis painted her entire kitchen with chalk paint, even the floors, and is thrilled with the result. Head over there to hear her thoughts on using Annie Sloan, and how it’s held up over time. (Also lead image above.)

If you like the idea of painting and stenciling over an old tile floor, like the kitchen above, also check out this entryway. The owner used chalk paint for the base and the stars, followed by a lacquer finish to protect the design.

(Image credit: Giani Granite)

If you have a chair you love, with upholstery you hate, try painting over the fabric with chalk paint. This $4 Goodwill chair was transformed with a little of Giani’s Chalkworthy Antiquing paint, followed up by a coat of wax.

For more inspiration check out these projects:

How to Use Chalk Paint

You can use chalk paint on pretty much any surface, keeping these things in mind:

  • Chalk paint is fairly thick, which means you don’t have to sand or prime beforehand. This saves hours of prep work, especially when you are doing a big project like kitchen cabinets. (Although no sanding is required, you might want to wipe them down, however, especially if there’s grease or residue buildup.)
  • Paint as you would with ordinary paint to cover the surface. Chalk paint usually has less drips, and is quick to dry, often needing only an hour in between coats.
  • Use your technique of choice to get a layered or distressed finish, or go for a solid opaque look.
  • To seal the surface, apply two to three coats of wax after you’ve finished painting.
  • When you need to touch up later, just use the same paint to cover up any spots or scratches, then wax right over it again. As long as you use the same color, you’ll never know the difference. (Just save a little bit of any custom-blended paint so you don’t have to try to color match the second time around.)
  • Since this paint is water-based, clean up is easy and the same as latex paint.

Where To Buy Chalk Paint

Annie Sloan has the copyright on the term “chalk paint” so other vendors use slight variations on the name. When Googling, try different but similar words like chalked, or chalky, paint to find options.

(Image credit: Restored Home)

Check the Annie Sloan database for a stockist near you, or order online at Restored Home. A 32-ounce can above retails for $34.95. The downside is that her color selection is limited, but they are easy to mix to get the shade you want.

(Image credit: Home Depot)

Rust-oleum sells Chalked Ultra Matte Paint at places like Amazon or Home Depot, where it sells for about $17 for a 30-ounce supply. It also comes in spray paint form, which is greater for quick, smaller projects.

(Image credit: Target)

Valspar’s Devine Color Chalky Finish Paint for $29.99 is only available in limited Target stores, along with the Step 2 sealing wax. But you can order it online. Lowe’s also has another Valspar product, just with different packaging, for a similar price.

(Image credit: Kilz)

Kilz has a line of chalk style paint, which you can get at Walmart in stores and online at Walmart.com for a little over $20 for a quart. It comes in a range of twelve colors. They also sell the sealing wax for about $10 for 2.4 ounces.

There are other smaller companies like CeCe Caldwell, American Paint Company, Shabby Paints, Miss Lillians —but these are a little harder to come by in stores, and will probably need to be ordered online.

How to Make Chalk Paint

There are several popular homemade chalk paint recipes that require adding either baking soda, plaster of paris or calcium carbonate to regular latex paint, and while these DIY versions require a little more finesse to master, in comparison to store-bought brands, they are a great alternative for those on a budget.