What is chalk paint?

What is chalk paint?

Chalk paint has been making trends in the painting and DIY world over the past few years and for a good reason. If you’ve only recently heard about it and wonder what makes it so special, this article will give you the information you’re looking for. If you’re looking for an easy to use, beautiful finish, and no prep needed paint solution, then chalk paint is the answer.

DIY origins 

Chalk paint gets its name by the chalky, matte, and often distressed appearance it creates when used on furniture. It isn’t your average, store-bought paint, but was invented in 1990 by British artist Annie Sloan. Unlike typical paints, which either require lots of prep work or have flat finishes, Sloan wanted something different. She wanted a paint that was easy to apply, clean up afterward, and looked good. That led to the creation of chalk paint, which does precisely all that. Essentially, chalk paint is an all-in-one paint. Everything from furniture, wood, metal, plastic, walls, and even brick will take to chalk paint with ease.

What is chalk paint made of? 

The paint itself is made up of a latex base with a powder added to help create its trademark matte finish. It also makes the paint very forgiving, so visible brush strokes or thin patches add to the appeal instead of standing out. It’ll also feel like chalk, so it both looks and feels antique.

How is chalk paint different than other paints? 

Before getting into the many benefits of chalk paint, it’s also important to understand what it is not. Chalk paint itself is much thicker than regular paint, so there is less risk of drips or uneven paint lines. Even if you apply too much in one brush, it doesn’t dry quickly, so you can even out the layer. Aside from a simple wash, any furniture or wood doesn’t need to be sanded or intensively prepared first. Also if there is an old layer of paint underneath, chalk paint will still go on smooth and even.

Chalkboard paint vs. chalk paint 

People often confuse chalk paint with chalkboard paint. While just as popular, chalkboard paint is used to turn any walled surface into a chalkboard. Chalk can then be used on it and just as easily removed just like a chalkboard. This makes it popular for kids rooms or convenient kitchen backsplash that can be used to make grocery and to-do lists. Using chalk on chalk paint, though, will ruin or damage the paint. Chalk paint is only meant to create a vintage, distressed style for walls or furniture.

Milk paint vs. chalk paint 

Milk paint, which really does have a milk base, is made up of entirely natural ingredients. Typically, that includes milk protein, lime, pigment, and clay. It’s also a completely green paint option, similar to chalk paint. Both are water-based, have no VOC, and are completely odourless. The differences, in addition to how it’s made, are in their application. Depending on the surface, milk paint may need a bit of sanding to help the paint stick. Any surfaces that aren’t porous won’t accept milk paint. It also comes as a powder, which must be mixed before it is used.

Once mixed, be careful to use it all, since the paint will spoil after a few days due to its milk base. Chalk paint, though, is ready to use immediately and won’t expire so quickly. Milk paint finishes also vary, depending on what surface they are applied to, but they tend to look more chipped than scuffed vintage.

Latex paint vs. chalk paint 

While chalk paint does have latex in its mixture, the two paints are still different. First of all, latex paint must be sanded and primed before the paint can be applied. If not, the paint won’t adhere to the surface properly and will end up peeling off. Chalk paint, however, can be applied without any sanding or priming. Latex also isn’t meant for distressing furniture, as any sanding will result in the paint coming off and not wearing down to an antique style. Chalk paint is more durable against various temperatures, so hotter or colder changes won’t affect the paint. Once dried, the chalk paint will just as easily expand and contract and not flake or peel. Latex, however, is temperature-dependent, which is important to check before it is applied.

What is chalk paint used for? 

One of the main benefits of chalk paint is that you can use it for almost everything in your home. Whether for walls, cabinets, wood, or even fabric, chalk paint will work on it all. The most popular choice is to use chalk paint on furniture to give it a matte appearance.

Dressers are an easy go-to with chalk paint, especially to create a new vintage style. Kitchen cabinets are another of the more popular areas to use chalk paint, and it’s a unique option for renovation updates. Without any of the prep work and sanding, you can have new-looking cabinets in no time at all and without any mess. To turn a wall into a feature, matte, chalk décor is also a perfect way to add a “wow” factor into any room.

If you don’t want the distressed look, just skip the sanding and apply two coats of chalk paint. Rocking chairs, a feature wall, or even brick will all look just as stunning with a simple matte, chalk appearance. You can also combine chalk paint with other designs, such as leaving a stained wood section or using it as decorative trim. If you need some ideas, just take a look online at some of the inspirational chalk paint ideas.

Benefits of chalk paint 

The simplicity and near-endless uses are the two main benefits of chalk paint. Any DIYer or those new to painting can use chalk paint without worry or hassle. Even surfaces that have already been painted or have a stain will still work with chalk paint. Without the need to prepare any surfaces as well, it’ll completely speed up any renovations. The latex base of chalk paint means that cleaning up is as easy as washing your paintbrushes with soap and then drying them.

Colour-wise, it is not just limited to chalk white. Annie Sloan has 42 different shades available, and similar store-bought versions also have their own available colours. To create a completely new colour, just mix and match chalk paints and see what you can create.

Chalk paint can also be applied in a few different ways, depending on different detailing or the size of the work. Paintbrushes are the traditional choice, but rollers and even spray guns are also possible methods. If you use a spray gun, thin the paint with a little bit of water first so that it sprays evenly and easily.

How to use chalk paint 

A few steps are involved when applying chalk paint, but it is still an easy DIY process. The first step is to choose a piece of furniture, a wall, bookshelf, or anything else that you want to paint. When selecting a space to work, make sure you have some ventilation, such as a fan or an open window. Chalk paint is VOC free, so this just helps prevent any dust or debris settling on the wet paint. Make sure to carefully clean your project’s surface and remove any hardware that you don’t want to paint.

Chalk paint is thick, so don’t apply too much in one go, but keep in mind the paint is also easy to fix. It doesn’t dry as quickly as latex, so any mistakes can easily be fixed right away. Make sure if you are painting wood that you paint in the direction of the wood grain. After the first coat has dried, you can apply the second and let that dry.

Distress the look 

At this point, you can choose to add a distressed look or move on to applying a protective wax layer. Distressing will give the furniture an aged, vintage style, that some homeowners enjoy. Use a grit sandpaper or sanding block and rub areas that would naturally see wear and tear. That typically means chair legs, corners, or specific detailing. Then use a cloth to remove any excess dust and prepare the surface to wax. Chalk paint can also be left un-distressed to create a more modern finish.

Wax layer 

The final clear wax layer is an important part of finishing chalk paint, as it helps protect the look. Either use a wax brush or a lint-free rag to apply the wax. Simply dip or paint the wax onto the finished paint and then massage and buff it. The wax will help enhance the paint’s look, while dark wax can add a more vintage look. Walls won’t need a wax finish, but furniture could use a wax or lacquer finish to protect them.

How much does it cost?

Depending on where you choose to buy your chalk paint, the prices and available sizes will vary. You can buy sizes in either 120 ml for samples or one-litre tins on the official Annie Sloan website. You can also find stocks of chalk paint wax or floor lacquer and different brushes and tools. The paint itself costs about $35 per quart, but that cost will vary for different stores and brands. The sizes sold are typically enough for one project, such as finishing a dresser. As with any paint, chalk paint also has a shelf life and should be used within one year of being opened.

Chalk paint recipes 

If you’re a particularly enthusiastic DIYer, you can also create your own chalk paint at home. Keep in mind that it may dry differently and have a different shelf life than store-bought, so be sure to use it quickly. The best part about DIYing your chalk paint is that you can make exactly what you need, whenever you need it.

Recipe #1

All you’ll need is:

  • Plastic paint pails
  • 1/3 cup flat latex paint

Without the sheen, this will help create the finished matte look.

  • 1 cup cool water
  • 1/3 cup plaster of Paris

You can buy this in most hardware or building supply stores.

  • Stir sticks

Simply mix 1 cup of the flat latex paint with 1/3 each of cool water and plaster of Paris. Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth and completely incorporated, and voila! Your own, homemade chalk paint, ready to use. This recipe will create enough for one project or one coat on a standard dresser.

Keep in mind that if you are making a coloured chalk paint, the plaster of Paris will slightly fade the colour. Simply add a bit more coloured latex to even out the shading.

Recipe #2

Another popular DIY chalk paint recipe uses calcium carbonate in the mixture. Adding calcium carbonate helps create a smoother and more velvet-like finish. For this recipe, all you need is:

  • Plastic paint pails
  • Stir sticks
  • 2 tablespoons of calcium carbonate powder
  • You can buy this at most health food stores.
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons of plaster of Paris
  • 1 tablespoon of warm water
  • 1 cup of flat latex paint

Mix the calcium carbonate powder and warm water until combined, adding more water if it’s too thick. Then add in the latex paint and stir everything together. The optional plaster of Paris is if you want to make a more durable chalk paint finish. In that case, mix the powders first, then add two cups of latex and combine.

Talk to the pros

If you’re still a little unsure about chalk paint or stuck on what colour to choose, the official Annie Sloan website has some help. She has various tips and tricks, recommended techniques, and even inspiration from other DIYers. Since chalk paint differs from other paints, use a spare piece of wood to practice a few strokes. It’s a quick learning curve, so you’ll be a pro in no time. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to contact or call any painting professionals to help or offer some guidance. You can’t beat professional expertise, so don’t hesitate to ask once you have some ideas in mind.

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