Chalk paint is a favorite decorative finish of home decor enthusiasts, DIYers, and pros. It goes on easily, adheres to many types of surfaces, and provides a uniquely attractive, ultra-matte finish for your project.
Originated by Annie Sloan in 1990, chalk paint is made from calcium carbonate, talc, and pigment. With most projects, you can skip the sanding and priming steps and jump right into applying your chalk paint. The best chalk paint will adhere to most surfaces, requiring only a light cleaning for preparation. The ultra-matte finish can be enhanced with decorative techniques, including layering different colors and using dark or clear waxes.
Read on to learn about the different types of chalk paint, what to consider when making your selection, and how to choose the best chalk paint for your next project.
- BEST OVERALL: The Spruce Best Home by KILZ Chalky Finish Paint
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: FolkArt Home Decor Chalk Furniture & Craft Paint
- BEST FOR KITCHEN CABINETS: Country Chic Paint Chalk Style Paint
- BEST FOR FURNITURE: Retique It Chalk Furniture Paint
- BEST FOR WALLS: Shabby Chic Furniture Chalk Paint
- BEST FOR FABRIC: Deco Art Americana Décor Acrylic Chalky Finish Paint
- BEST SPRAY CAN: Rust-Oleum Chalked Ultra Matte Spray Paint
- BEST PROTECTIVE COAT: Howard Products Chalk-Tique Light Paste Wax
Types of Chalk Paint
Technically, the name “chalk paint” is a trademarked brand name owned by Annie Sloan. But the phrase (or “chalked paint”) is commonly used to indicate a type of paint that produces a chalky, ultra-matte finish. You can find chalky-finish paints that are applied from a spray can or with a brush. In either form, chalk paint is typically easy to use thanks to its self-leveling nature.
Spray chalk paint will go on much faster, making your painting project quicker. And, if you’re painting a piece with intricate carving or spindles, spray painting allows the paint to penetrate crevices or hard-to-reach places.
Though spray chalk paint provides smooth coverage without streaking, it doesn’t penetrate the surface as well as regular chalk paint. Also, it takes more layers than regular chalk paint to cover your project, potentially making it more expensive. Finally, keep in mind that this oil-based option takes a more involved cleanup than water-based chalk paints would entail.
Several commercial chalk paints are formulated with a 100 percent acrylic base. This is a water base that uses acrylic polymer as a binder to hold the pigment in place.
Its composition offers several advantages over spray types. Acrylic-based chalk paint dries quickly, in just 20 to 30 minutes on average. When wet, the paint can be cleaned up easily with water, but the color is permanent when dry. Acrylic-based chalk paints will adhere to almost any surface, making them versatile for numerous DIY projects. You can use them on painted or unpainted wood, as well as other surfaces such as glass and metal. Acrylic-based chalk paints are flexible, so they can be used on canvas or fabric, too.
Another desirable feature of acrylic-based chalk paint is its lack of odor and fumes. You can safely apply this paint indoors an clean up with ease.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Chalk Paint
Chalk paint could be just right for your next home project. Before investing in a product, consider the surface you’ll be covering, the type of finish that you wish to create, and the application method you want to use. Then, investigate the best chalk paints for your project.
With chalk paint, you can achieve one-of-a-kind finishes that complement your decor. For a velvety, ultra-matte finish, apply chalk paint and follow up with clear wax, or leave the piece unwaxed altogether. You can also experiment with layering and waxes to create unusual hues. This paint type offers room for variety:
- To deepen the color or create an aged appearance, apply dark wax after your chalk paint is dry. Keep in mind that waxes are dry to the touch after a couple of hours, but need a two-week curing period before they are truly hardened.
- For a multi-tone finish, some DIYers create unique finishes through layering different colors of chalk paint. (Remember, you won’t need to sand after painting, because chalk paint will dry to a smooth finish.) You can further customize by applying transparent or dark wax.
- Distressing and sanding the edges will give you the vintage look found in shabby chic and modern farmhouse home-decor styles.
Chalk paint’s consistency is thicker than most paints, making it self-leveling. This means you shouldn’t see brush strokes as much as you do with other paints and can easily achieve full coverage with a smooth finish.
You can attain a thicker texture by simply leaving the top off the can of water-based paint. On the flip side, you can add more water to chalk paint to create a wash that just barely covers the surface. Be sure to stir your chalk paint thoroughly before you start to paint.
If you are painting fabric upholstery, add water to thin your chalk paint. To facilitate smooth coverage, you’ll also want to spritz the fabric with water to dampen it before painting.
Easy application is one reason why chalk paint is so popular. There’s little preparation required before you dip your brush and start painting. For best results, you will need to invest in a brush specifically made for chalk paint, such as one with natural boars-hair bristles.
Clean the surface before you paint, but don’t use a cleaner with heavy chemicals. You can skip priming. Sanding is also unnecessary, unless you need to use wood filler in cracks or holes before painting. Of course, you should follow directions on your chalk paint can, but a general rule for drying time is 20 to 30 minutes. After that, you can apply a second coat. Most chalk paints provide full coverage in one to three coats.
Allow 24 hours before applying wax. Note that the wax will appear dry after a couple of hours, but requires a two-week curing period before use.
Our Top Picks
Chalk paint is a versatile product that can be successfully applied to a variety of surfaces, from kitchen cabinets to fabric-upholstered furniture. Some of the best chalk paints are listed here.
The Spruce Best Home Chalky Finish Paint is a water-based, 100 percent acrylic paint. The KILZ paint produces an ultra-matte, decorative finish that’s great for upcycling vintage furniture, as well as painting new wood or other surfaces. Apply chalky finish paint with a brush or a roller on wood, glass, wicker, concrete, or cast stone.
Available in 16 colors, you can experiment with warm and cool neutrals, as well as bold and vibrant hues. Add clear or dark sealing waxes to achieve the on-trend decor effects you want.
Allow one hour for this chalky finish paint to dry to the touch and apply a second coat in about two hours. One quart covers approximately 60 to 100 square feet. You can clean up this acrylic, chalky finish paint with soap and water.
This acrylic paint with an ultra-matte finish, from FolkArt, is an affordable choice for both crafting projects and larger jobs around your home. It can be sanded and layered to achieve the distressed effect that turns everyday pieces into unique decor objects.
There’s no preparation necessary when using FolkArt chalk paint, and it dries in just minutes. On top of that, this water-based and non-toxic paint cleans up easily with soap and water. Use FolkArt home decor chalk paint on multiple surfaces, including wooden furniture, cabinets, plaster walls, metal, glass, terra cotta, and canvas.
You won’t need to sand, strip, or prime surfaces before painting. It provides excellent coverage and is available at a good price. Add depth and visual interest to your finish by sanding and re-applying in layers to produce a distressed effect.
Country Chic’s chalk-style paint is formulated for painting furniture and home decor, but it’s also durable enough for exterior applications. That makes it ideal for holding up to the heavy-duty use that kitchen cabinets receive. A water-based paint containing chalk, clay, and minerals, it dries to a smooth, ultra-matte finish.
In addition to its durability, this chalk paint is eco-friendly,and certified to be 100 percent free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It’s devoid of harsh chemicals, such as phthalates and formaldehyde, and meets European Toy Safety Standards; these safety features add to its suitability for kitchens.
To use, simply clean the cabinet surfaces, and you’re ready to paint. It has a built-in primer and topcoat, so it’s considered an all-in-one paint, eliminating the need for sanding and priming.
For your next vintage furniture rejuvenation project, you won’t need to haul out the paint stripper, sandpaper, and primer. Simply apply one or two coats and admire the smooth, chalky finish. This product lets you cut down on the time, effort, and mess required to turn worn-out furniture into showpieces.
This paint is hypoallergenic and nontoxic with zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and almost no odor, so you can work on your furniture projects indoors. Use a drop cloth to protect surfaces.
Renaissance developed this 100 percent acrylic chalk paint specifically for furniture and cabinetry. For a successful application, simply clean loose dirt and grease from the surface before painting. One or two coats will provide adequate coverage with a smooth, ultra-matte finish.
This water-based paint by Shabby Chic is nontoxic and safe for use indoors, even around children. It will give your walls a smooth, matte finish and is formulated for use on plaster and other painted surfaces. Generally requiring two or three coats, it will cover multiple surfaces, including bare wood, painted wood, metal, plaster, brick, and plastic.
Rich pigments create an array of 37 attractive colors from which you can choose. Cool or warm neutrals complement many decor styles, while pops of color add visual interest. Match or contrast your wall paint with other colors in your home decor for an overall pleasing effect.
Americana Décor has specially formulated its acrylic, chalky finish paint to successfully apply to fabric. In addition to fabric, you can use this paint on many other surfaces, including paper, canvas, plastic, wood, terra cotta, and metal.
Before painting, be sure that your fabric, or other surface, is clean. There’s no need for sanding, priming, or additional preparation. The chalky finish paint is water-based, and cleans up easily with soap and water. After drying, add a coat of wax or varnish to protect the painted surface. The application of chalk paint, followed by wax, will give your fabric a leathery texture.
Americana Décor chalky finish paint is 100 percent acrylic, and it dries to a smooth, ultra-matte finish. Use it on fabric to revitalize tired, faded, upholstered furniture.
Use Rust-Oleum Chalked spray paint to add an on-trend, chalky finish to vintage furniture, lamps, shelving, cabinets, and more. Combine the ease of spray painting with the velvety look of an ultra-matte finish when you use Rust-Oleum Chalked spray paint. This oil-based paint comes in a wide array of colors and provides coverage in one to three coats. It can be used on ceramic, glass, canvas, metal, and wood with minimal preparation; you just need to clean loose dirt from your project before spraying.
Except for unpainted wood or wood high in tannins, priming is not necessary. You can spray additional coats a few minutes apart. It’s a good idea to spray on a top-coat sealer to protect the piece, after first allowing your paint to dry for 24 hours. Be aware that the oil-base component of Rust-Oleum chalked spray paint makes cleanup more difficult than with water-based paints.
After your chalk paint dries, you can create that rich, velvety patina by applying Chalk-Tique paste wax. It not only adds to the beauty of your piece, but it’s also formulated to protect and preserve chalk-painted surfaces.
Choose from a dark or light option to create the look you want. The dark wax will produce that distressed appearance that has become so popular in recent years. If you want to seal and protect your chalk-painted project, without adding the distressed look, apply the light paste wax.
They contain a UV inhibitor, so both dark and light waxes protect your project from sun-fading. The wax’s protective properties come from a high-quality formula of beeswax, carnauba wax, orange oil, and surfactants. These ingredients are specifically blended to protect and preserve the life of chalk-painted surfaces.
Tips for Using Chalk Paint
Before painting, clean your surface with a mild cleaner containing no harsh chemicals. Be sure the surface is dry. Stir or shake your paint for thorough blending. When using water-based chalk paint, you can thicken it by leaving the top off the can or thin it by adding water.
For best coverage, apply with a natural bristle brush, such as one made from boars’ hair. The smooth, self-leveling quality of chalk paint makes it easy to fully cover your piece with the right brush.
Most chalk paints produce satisfactory results in one to three coats. Apply a second coat after 20 to 30 minutes and allow 24 hours before finishing with dark or clear wax. Wait two weeks for curing before using your piece.
- Use a brush specially made for chalk paint.
- Allow 20 to 30 minutes drying time between coats.
- Wait 24 hours drying time before applying wax.
- Avoid using the piece for two weeks.
FAQs About Chalk Paint
Chalk paint has been around for 30 years, and it’s still as popular as ever, but the preparation, application, and finishing steps are a bit different from regular paints. With the best chalk paint, it’s easy to apply and get great results, but perhaps there are a few questions you want answered before starting your next project.
Q. What is chalk paint?
Chalk paint is typically a water-based paint that contains calcium carbonate and talc to achieve an ultra-matte finish.
Q. How do you get a smooth finish with chalk paint?
Use a brush specifically made for chalk paint and apply one to three coats for a smooth finish with no sanding necessary.
Q. How should you paint furniture with chalk paint?
Clean dirt and grease from the piece with a mild cleaner and dry the surface. Apply one to three coats of chalk paint. Read product directions for drying times.
Q. What happens if you don’t wax chalk paint?
Without wax, chalk paint will have a smooth, ultra-matte finish. Wax will add depth and a soft luster to the color and preserve/protect the finish.
Q. How do you remove chalk paint?
First, remove any wax with mineral spirits and a sponge. Then, remove the remaining chalk paint by scrubbing with steel wool and a follow-up sanding.