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What Is Chalk Paint for Furniture and How to Use It  

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Chalk paint is a unique type of paint used to give furniture and other home decor items a rustic, shabby chic, or vintage look. Chalk paint was created by Annie Sloan, who needed an easy way to give her furniture pieces a distressed look without having to sand them down. It has become an increasingly popular option for those looking for a more affordable and easier way to update the look of their furniture. 

Chalk paint for furniture offers a simpler, quicker way to achieve a matte, vintage look for your favorite pieces. It is ideal for a rustic design aesthetic. Chalk paint is the perfect tool for beginners and DIYers since it doesn’t require exceptional skills or extensive painting experience. 

What is chalk paint - Annie Sloan chalk paint cans, white kitchen table, and diy chalk paint recipe collage.

The great thing about chalk paint is that it requires very little preparation work before painting. Unlike many other types of paints you don’t need to strip away old finishes or sand down the surface beforehand, saving time and energy when it comes to redecorating your home.

In this article, we will talk about chalk paint, how it differs from regular latex paint, how long it can last on furniture, how to achieve a smooth finish, and how to apply it properly to various surfaces. 

I will also give guidelines on using chalk paint wax or topcoat and tips on how to distress chalky paint. 

Get more painting tips and furniture makeovers here!

Chalk Paint vs. Regular Latex Paint

First of all, chalk paint is NOT chalkboard paint. 

Chalk paint is a decorative type of paint used mainly for furniture. It was developed in 1990 by Annie Sloan, a revolutionary British paint expert. Being among the leading global authorities in paints and colors, she invented chalk paint to solve the difficulties she usually encountered with regular latex paint. 

Annie Sloan wanted one paint that could do everything — and that’s precisely what she did with her Annie Sloan paint.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Coco and French Linen.

She came up with a flexible, water-based, quick-drying paint. There have been quite a few variations with similar properties recently developed by other brands. Still, they all chalk up (pun intended) to one thing — chalk paint offers plenty of benefits compared to regular latex paint. 

How Long Does It Take Chalk Paint To Dry?

Chalk paint dries up considerably fast. A piece of furniture coated in chalk paint may be ready for light use within 2 hours or even less. 

Ensure you leave your chalk paint furniture in a well-ventilated area to speed up the drying process. 

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How To Distress Chalk Paint

This is great about this revolutionary type of paint — it is a DIYer’s dream come true!

Distressing chalk paint makes a piece of furniture seem as if it’s vintage. You will intentionally tarnish the surface so that it looks used and worn out. This technique will work well if you want a rustic, shabby-chic vibe in your home. It can help make an office feel homier and cozier

Layered chalk paint on coffee table.

Distressing with chalk paint simplifies the process since it already produces that matte, vintage look on its own. Distressing further enhances that antique vibe. There are several ways to do this — manually, with wax, dry brushing, and layering

Here are some key points with each method of distressing:

  1. Manual distressing: Manual distressing involves the use of 180-220 grit sandpaper or steel wool.  Sandpaper is best for flat surfaces, while steel wool is great for irregular surfaces and hard-to-reach areas. 
  2. Distressing Chalk Paint with Wax: Using dark wax or glaze to distress chalk paint creates a unique, old-fashioned look.
  3. Dry Brushing to Create Distressed look: Dry brushing is the simplest way to create that distressed look on any piece of furniture. Dip a clean paintbrush into your can of chalk paint. Brush off excess paint and lightly brush the paint onto your piece of furniture.  Don’t worry if the wood peeks through the paint — that’s the idea!
  4. Distressing Chalk Paint by Layering: Distressing by layering requires two colors of chalk paint. This creates an old-fashioned look and makes your furniture look like it’s been used over a long period.

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How To Apply Chalk Paint Wax

Chalk paint dries into a chalky (hence the name) matte finish with a chalky appearance. 

Some people prefer this simple, rustic vibe, especially when this texture works well with your design aesthetic, such as a shabby chic look. 

However, if you want a more finished look, a final wax coating will give that sleek, glossy feel.

Chalk paint wax is applied as a top coat to provide a more durable finish. It is also ideal for frequently-utilized surfaces, which may quickly succumb to regular wear and tear. 

Chalk paint wax is virtually odorless and non-toxic (primarily beeswax), so it is safe and convenient to apply indoors. You can apply wax to your paint using a wax brush or a soft, clean rag or lint-free cloth. 

Select from clear wax, dark wax, or tinted wax. 

Dark antique wax by Amy Howard used for distressing chalk paint furniture.

After applying wax, it is best to allow a full two weeks to 30 days cure time prior to heavy use.

Tips for applying chalk paint wax:

  1. Apply wax using wax brush: A wax brush is a convenient tool that you can use for even coverage and faster wax application, particularly over large, flat surfaces. It also makes it easier to apply steady pressure so that the paint quickly and evenly absorbs the wax.
  2. Apply wax using a rag: A soft cotton rag is ideal for getting into those nooks and crannies that a wax brush can’t reach. If you decide to go this route, remember that you will always need two rags handy at any given time — one rag for wax application and another for wiping away excess wax. 
  3. Remove any excess wax: Immediately go back over the piece and wipe away any excess wax before it has had an opportunity to dry.
  4. Buff to achieve desired level of sheen: This final step is essential if you want your painted piece to have a nice, soft sheen and a smoother texture. Buffing also pushes the wax deeper into the paint and wood, allowing maximum adherence and protection. 

Different Waxes

There are many different wax options available. Some quality waxes that are a popular choice include:

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How To Seal Chalk Paint with Poly

Another option for a chalk paint sealer is a poly topcoat. This could be polycrylic or polyurethane.

Sealing your chalk paint is essential since this step gives protection and adds durability to your work. A good seal helps ensure that the item you’ve painted won’t easily get chipped or scratched with frequent use or cleaning. 

We’ve already discussed the benefits of using chalk paint wax, but what about poly?

Polycrylic and polyurethane options for top coat over chalk paint.

A polycrylic varnish provides maximum protection for your painted items, making them look good as new even with regular use and daily exposure to sun or rain. It is available in both matte and glossy finish, so you can still stick with your rustic vibe or elevate your pieces with a soft sheen. 

Polycrylic can be applied with a brush or roller. Here is a step-by-step guide for proper lacquer application:

  1. Cover your workspace with an old towel, trap, or cloth. This helps catch any spills or splatters, protecting your floor and making cleaning up much easier once you’re done. 
  2. Put on your gloves. It is best always to protect your skin when doing paintwork.
  3. Stir the lacquer with a stick. Some elements settle at the bottom, so you should give your can of lacquer a good stir now and then as you work. Do not shake the can to avoid bubbles.
  4. Dip your brush or roller into the lacquer. A little goes a long way. 
  5. Apply lacquer over the paint. Make sure every inch of your item is covered in a thin layer. 
  6. Do NOT overwork the topcoat.
  7. Let the lacquer dry. Leave your item untouched for 1-2 hours. 

You can also apply a second layer of lacquer on your painted piece. This step is optional but provides added protection and considerably boosts durability. Remember to use a thin layer of polycrylic and let it dry for another two hours

Polyurethane tends to have an even more durable seal. But, it does have a tendency to yellow or turn an amber color over time.  

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How To Clean Chalk Paint

You may find that your chalk paint furniture tends to get dustier or dirtier sooner than your other pieces with a glossier finish.

This is due to chalk paint’s matte finish, which attracts more dirt, dust, debris, and even fingerprints. However, fret not because cleaning chalk paint is as easy as its application methods. 

Cleaning chalk painted furniture using microfiber cloth.

Grab a clean, damp rag and wipe your chalk paint furniture clean.

Remember not to use strong cleaning products with harmful chemicals since these may damage the matte finish.

Add a little water for a slightly damp cloth. 

If there are stains, clean your chalk paint furniture with warm water and some mild dishwashing soap. Mild dish soap can help remove any stains or debris.

Follow up with a clean, dry rag, and your chalk paint furniture will seem as spotless as the day you painted it. 

If the paint starts looking dull, apply a thin coat of wax or lacquer to bring back its soft sheen and provide it with added protection. 

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How to Paint Over Chalk Paint

Painting over chalk paint is easy in most cases. Typically, after cleaning chalk-painted furniture it is ready to be repainted!

If a piece of furniture has multiple layers of paint or if there is thick wax that hasn’t fully cured, sanding will be required.

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How to Remove Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is easy to paint over, however if you determine you would like to remove the chalk paint from your piece of furniture you have a few relatively easy options.

To remove chalk paint:

  • Sand using electric sander
  • Chemical stripper such as Citristrip
  • Heat gun (not recommended)

The most successful method I have used is sanding. It is a lot of work, but will give you a beautiful, smooth finish. Sanding is especially helpful if you prefer to get down to the bare wood to see the wood grain.

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Does Chalk Paint Last on Furniture?

Chalk paint lasts considerably well on furniture, primarily if wax or lacquer is used as a top coat. Chalk paint wax adds protection and durability and can help make the handiwork on your furniture last a long time. 

However, make it a point to assess your furniture before chalk paint application. The initial condition of a piece can also influence how long chalk paint can last. 

For instance, if your furniture has been previously finished with varnish, lightly sand the surface so it can be porous enough to absorb the paint.

As previously mentioned, there is a risk of tannins bleeding through when painting over an old, dark stain. 

In this case, a primer might still be needed unless you sand down to natural wood.

If your furniture has deep scratches or nicks, you will still be able to see these blemishes after painting unless you choose to use a wood filler. In most cases, this will add to the antique look, but it is something to note.

Can Chalk Paint Be Used on Walls?

Chalk paint can be used on walls, especially if you’re after that unique texture and matte finish for which chalk paint is known.

It’s best to wax or seal your paint for added protection and durability. After all, chalk paint is known to chip easier and require touch-ups sooner than other types of paint.

It is not recommended to use chalk paint on bathroom and kitchen walls. These areas in a home are typically exposed to varying degrees of temperature and humidity.

Furthermore, these areas frequently need to be cleaned to eliminate dust and grime and prevent mold and mildew formation. 

Chalk paint’s matte finish will attract more dirt and unwanted particles to your wall’s surface. 

On What Surfaces Can Chalk Paint Be Used

Chalk paint can adhere well to a number of surface types, adding to its versatility. 

You can use chalk paint on the following surfaces:

These items are just some of the surfaces that work well with chalk paint. I find chalk paint adheres well to nearly all surfaces.

See many of my before and after chalk painted items here.

Why Use Chalk Paint

There are lots of great reasons to use chalk paint. Minimal prep and ease of use are the top reasons why you would select chalk paint over other types of paint.

Here are some aspects in which chalk paint and regular latex paint differ:

Preparation Required

Inexperienced DIY painters can achieve a beautiful result with chalk painting without much work. The prep work is much easier with chalk paint versus regular paint (latex). This ease of use is one of the main reasons so many have fallen for chalk paint!

Unlike regular latex paint, you do not have to prime or sand surfaces before paint application when using chalk paint. 

Chalk paint can adhere to practically any surface without primer and prior preparation. On the other hand, regular latex paint requires primer as a first layer for adequate adherence to the first coat of paint. 

For best results, it is a good idea to thoroughly clean any furniture piece before starting furniture makeovers. A clean surface is essential whether using chalk-style or traditional paint.

It is also crucial to select good paint brushes to ensure a beautiful result.


Chalk paint will give you a matte finish that’s ideal if you’re going for a rustic or antique vibe

It is excellent for country-style homes, period pieces, or family heirlooms.

On the other hand, you’ll end up with a shinier, sleeker look with regular latex paint. This finish works well for modern homes and if you’re keen on fine lines and smoother textures without noticeable brush strokes.


Chalk paint is non-toxic and eco-friendly so it can be safely used outdoors and indoors. It has lower levels of synthetic binders than regular latex paint and contains virtually no harmful substances. Compared to latex, chalk paint is practically odorless.

The best chalk paints contain no or very low voc (volatile organic compounds).


Both chalk paint and regular latex paint need a final clear coat to seal. Note, however, that not all projects require a final clear coat, especially if the piece you’re painting won’t be used regularly and will seldom be exposed to the elements. 

Things such as a coffee table or kitchen cabinets will get a lot of use. Due to this heavy use, sealing for a protective finish is the best option.

Nonetheless, the wax finish for chalk paint is more durable and provides better protection than the clear coat for regular latex paint. 


Chalk paint is more expensive than regular latex paint. 

However, since it is thicker, you will need less chalk paint than latex paint if you work on pieces of the same size. Moreover, since chalk paint does not require a primer, you will save more money in the long run.

Also note you can make your own chalk paint with Plaster of Paris or calcium carbonate. Just mix with regular latex paint and you can create any number of chalk paint colors.


Regular latex paint has been around much longer than chalk paint, so it comes in a wider variety of colors and is more readily available. On the other hand, although chalk paint is quickly gaining popularity, it is harder to come by. 

The color choices are also more limited

Different Brands of Chalk Paint

There are several brands of chalk paint currently on the market. Some of the more popular brands of chalk paint companies include:

  • Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®
  • Amy Howard One Step Paint
  • Magnolia Home Chalk Style Paint
  • Behr Premium Chalk Decorative Paint (Home Depot)
  • Kilz Chalk Paint

While it is not considered “chalk paint,” I have started using and loving Heirloom Traditions Paint for many smaller projects around my house. If you love painting furniture, it is a good choice worth considering.

Cons of Chalk Paint

While I have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) using chalk paint over the past few years, there are a few drawbacks. Of course, this is true with every kind of paint, so you must determine what is most important.

Cons of chalk paint when compared to latex paint:

  • Easier to see brush marks.
  • Chips more easily.
  • More Expensive than latex paint.
  • Takes more coats of paint for good coverage (more layers of paint for white or light colors).

It should also be noted while most paint brands state no primer is needed, I would still recommend using a primer when painting with white paint or light-colored paints. 

Primer is not needed for black painted furniture or other dark colors.

This is especially important when painting over old, dark woods or concerned that tannins might bleed through to the surface.

Where To Buy Chalk Paint

Chalk Paint is fast becoming a household name. It used to be quite challenging to get your hands on a can of your preferred color, but these days, this versatile DIY paint project partner is becoming more and more accessible. 

Here are some leads on where to buy chalk paint:

  • You can’t go wrong with the original chalk paint — Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. The company has an impressive roster of Stockists from whom you can purchase chalk paint. They can have your orders delivered to your doorstep in no time.
  • Country Chic Chalk Style Paint (available on Amazon.com) offers extra convenience because it does not require a top coating of wax at all. It already contains a top coat, making your DIY projects even easier. 
  • Dixie Belle (available on Amazon.com) chalk paint is another practical option. It is loved for its thicker consistency
  • Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint (available on Amazon.com) is perhaps the most affordable chalk paint in the market today, making it an excellent choice for beginners. It comes in a wide range of colors that you can choose from. 
  • Krylon Chalky Finish Paint (available on Amazon.com) offers a unique take on chalk paint. It comes in spray form, helping you accomplish your DIY projects much faster. The spray paint dries into the same matte finish we love about traditional chalk paint. 

Final Thoughts

Using chalk paint is a great way to embark on DIY paint projects that lets you achieve that rustic, vintage vibe with minimal effort and less time. It is a versatile medium requiring little to no preparation before application. Chalk paint simplifies paint jobs and allows beginners to enjoy the whole process.

Good luck giving old furniture new life. It feels so nice to give an old piece of furniture a completely different look with a little bit of work and creativity.

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