What Is Chalk Paint?

Becca Stokes
Written by Becca Stokes
Updated June 7, 2021
Chalk painted cabinet
bellanatella/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Chalk paint makes it easy to give your furniture a cute, chic look

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Chalk paint is a unique, chalky style of paint that can be used with finishes or waxes to help you create a down-home, shabby-chic feel without buying all-new furniture. 

Though true chalk paint is a product trademarked by Annie Sloan, you can find copycat versions from other paint companies. Home decorators and DIYers alike use these paints to give furniture a matte look that’s so popular in the farmhouse vintage style. 

Here’s how it works: chalk paint is applied to a surface (such as that ancient bookshelf with great bones you snagged at the flea market) and then followed up with a coat of wax or another sealant to lock in that newly vintage look. 

When you’re shopping for chalk paint, make sure you are actually buying the correct product. Chalkboard paint is very different—it’s used on surfaces to create an actual chalkboard effect, whereas chalk paint is a water-based paint combined with plaster of paris, baking soda, or other amalgamations to create a distinctive matte look. 

Where Should I Use Chalk Paint?

Its water-based formula makes chalk paint a versatile tool to add to your home decorating arsenal. Chalk paint is popularly used to breathe new life into furniture and give it an old-yet-fresh feel. If there’s a surface in your home that’s in need of a revamp, chalk paint is a fast and easy way to transform it. 

Whether a bedroom wall, a bathroom cabinet, or that beat-up end table you’ve carried around since college—if the surface is dry and clean, you can put chalk paint on it! That’s true even if it’s been painted many times before. In fact, some folks find that the more times a piece of furniture has been painted, the more they like the look of the chalky cover-up.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Chalk Paint?

When it comes to using chalk paint, the pros generally outweigh the cons. 

Chalk paint is beloved by DIYers for a few reasons. One of the biggest is just how easy it is to use. When you’re getting ready to use chalk paint on a piece of furniture, very little prep work is required. On most surfaces, you can even skip that annoying step of sanding away what remains of old varnishes. Chalk paint can look its best, in fact, when used on top of cracked seals and varnishes. 

Because chalk paint is water-based—unlike other oil- or latex-based paints you might have used in the past—a little soap and water is all you need for cleanup. Plus, chalk paint has a consistency different from other paints, which means it’s less likely to drip. 

There are, however, a few drawbacks when it comes to using chalk paint on furniture (or elsewhere!) in your home. While chalk paint works on nearly all surfaces, metallics are an exception. And if the furniture you’re hoping to paint is laminated, you’re also out of luck. 

After you paint, you must apply wax to your project to lock in the chalk paint color and make sure the effect lasts a long time.

How Long Does Chalk Paint Last?

According to Annie Sloan, when it comes to shelf life, their chalk paint lasts for up to one year inside the can. However, they also mention most chalk paint thickens as it ages, and it can be thinned by adding water as needed. But if your paint has rusty streaks, it’s time to toss it out.

As for how long chalk paint lasts once you’ve applied it to your furniture, well, that’s all a matter of how often you add wax! Because chalk paint is water-based, it requires wax (or another form of sealant) as a top coat to lock in all that stylish matte shabby-chic goodness. Without that wax, one hot cup of coffee is all it takes to rinse that paint away. 

Make sure you reapply wax to your chalk painted furniture at least once every three years so it lasts long enough to become the antique you’re already pretending it is!

How Much Does Chalk Paint Cost?

When shopping for chalk paint, you’ll notice there isn’t much range. Chalk paint isn’t an expensive product, and the fact that it requires no other special materials (other than a paintbrush and sealant) also helps cut back on expenses. 

Chalk paint by Annie Sloan costs $38 per liter. Other brands of chalk paints include Rust-Oleum ($19), Jolie Paint ($40), and Wise Owl Paints ($40).

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