How to Use Chalk Paint

Updated: Jul. 25, 2023

You've heard of chalk paint, but do you really know what it is? We've got the answers on chalk paint and how to use it.

Chalk paint has become a staple of furniture restorers and upcyclers. Chalk paint is a low-VOC water-based paint that is also a primer, making it an ideal paint for furniture since it adheres to almost any surface. When it dries, it has a flat, chalky finish, and it takes on a soft sheen after sanding with fine sandpaper and a wax finish coat. Be aware that chalk paint is not chalkboard paint, which can be used as a writing surface.

What Surfaces Can You Use Chalk Paint On?

Chalk paint lends itself well to shabby-chic, farmhouse style, cabin or upcycled pieces. It distresses well, and can be applied over painted surfaces or unfinished wood. As chalk paint is slightly thicker and less likely to drip, you can easily paint the decorative curves and spindles when refinishing furniture like a childhood desk or antique dresser.

Chalk Paint Preparation

You can apply chalk paint over most clean, dry surfaces that are paintable or have already been painted. If you want a smoother finish for a minimalist look, lightly sand the item first, and wipe clean. Use a natural bristle brush, or you can opt for chalk paint in a spray can. When painting furniture, test it on a hidden part of the piece to see if you like the effect. After the paint dries, use very fine sandpaper or a sanding sponger to smooth out and give the paint a light shine. Chalk paint is water-based, so clean your paint brushes with soap and water.

Do I Have to Seal It?

Yes and no. Most chalk paint aficionados say that you should apply wax to a finished piece to seal the porous chalk paint, make it more water-resistant and give it a lustrous finish. Unwaxed items are more susceptible to paint wear and stains. If you choose to wax, make sure you sand, distress or embellish with other paints before waxing.

Dark wax will bring out the curves, accents and imperfections of the piece itself. Clear wax will allow the paint color to remain close to the original. Apply with a soft, lint-free cloth, and lightly rub the wax into the painted piece. Remove excess with a second lint-free cloth. Reapply wax as needed, depending on the amount of wear your piece gets.

Can I Make My Own Chalk Paint?

You can find recipes for DIY chalk paint using latex paint and other ingredients, such as plaster of Paris or baking soda. Your results will vary depending on the recipe you use and the item you’re painting. You can also buy chalk paint powders to add to latex paint.

Once you know how to use chalk paint, you will want to raid the attic or antique stores for those old, forgotten pieces of furniture. Find the perfect color of chalk paint and paint the furniture to create a completely new look.