Chalk paint is everywhere these days, am I right? It seems like the new hot thing in DIY for refinishing furniture, color correcting cabinets, and more; and it’s a great way to refresh the look and feel of the house, without having to break the bank.
And we’ve noticed that you’re sure interested in it, judging on the numbers of you who are searching for it right now. So we decided it was time for a little demystifying — and some great DIY tips — on how to use this great paint product for its fullest effect. Because we’re always thinking with home improvement in mind, and chalk paint is a super-hot home improvement trend right now: great for projects in kids’ rooms, fantastic for kitchens, and useful for the resale value of your home if you’re thinking about selling in the near future.
First off, what is chalk paint? It’s a specialized paint product made with chalk and minerals, available from several sources including Annie Sloan and CeCe Caldwell; Hometalk users report that they’ve also successfully made their own. It comes in a range of colors, and it’s designed as a highly flexible paint product which allows the user to control the evenness of the coating, visibility of brush strokes, and level of distress in the finished product. People often use it for making distressed and antiqued furniture, as well as coating other paint jobs like cabinets, window frames, and more. The texture is velvety and soft, and it’s eco-friendly with a very low VOC content.
What are the advantages of chalk paint? Well, it goes on directly over existing paints, so you don’t have to sand and do other prep work to use it (although it helps if you’re covering glossy materials). In addition, because the product is specifically designed for giving furniture a distressed look, it’s much easier to manipulate it to get the desired appearance. While it goes on with a matte finish, it can be waxed (to seal it and prevent damage) and then buffed to increase the degree of shine, creating even more flexibility.
What’s the coverage like? A one quart can covers 140 square feet, which is pretty substantial! And remember that while this product is more expensive than conventional paints, you’re skipping sanding, priming, and other prep tasks, which cuts down on expenses in the long run.
Okay, great, so how do you use it?
Well, that’s a two-part question.
If you mean “how do I apply it,” the first thing to know is that you can put it on practically anything. Yes, really. Chalk paint adheres to wood, fabrics, metal, glass, plastic, leather, and more. You may need to use multiple coats, but once the paint dries and is sealed with wax, it’s staying right where it is. You can thin chalk paint to create a wash, use it straight out of the can, or use it thickened (leave the lid off the can for a few hours) for a chunkier feel. When the paint is totally dry, apply a finishing wax to totally seal it. You can vary the thickness and buffing level depending on whether you want a smooth or high-gloss finish.
If you mean “where do I apply it,” well. The world is your oyster, my friend. Hometalk users have been hard at work with some amazing chalk paint projects, and here are just a few of my personal favorites:
Tricia’s kitchen features chalk painted cabinets! Look closely, and you’ll see the distinctive smooth, lush texture. This photo highlights how chalk paint doesn’t have to appear strongly distressed.
What’s the difference between milk paint and chalk paint? Both are used to refinish furniture to give it a distressed look, although both can also offer a much smoother, cleaner look depending on how they are applied. Milk paint, however, is made from all organic materials (like the name would suggest) and it doesn’t have the long shelf life chalk point offers; once you mix it, you need to use it. It also can’t be applied to as many items, can be more prone to cracking and crackling, and it behaves less predictably.
Check out a few milk paint projects to get an idea of the differences:
Laura in Illinois finished this dresser with milk paint. As you can see, the paint has a more distressed look, with larger areas of surface rubbing, in part because of the way she painted it and also because of the nature of milk paint.
Petticoat Junktion used milk paint and significant distressing to turn a rather homely table into a very cool vintage piece.
Want some advice from the pros? We talked to Annie Sloan and other experts this summer and the archive of the talk is handily available for posterity. Trust me: you’ll want to check it out.