How to Make & Use Chalk Paint

I have big plans to travel the world one day. Not just travel somewhere in the world for 2 weeks, but to take an extended, long-term travel kind of trip. I would love for this to happen sooner rather than later, as this is the biggest reason that we have chosen not to start a family yet. There is basically just one thing standing in our way. Funds. Well, and debt. During some rough times we met Ms. Visa and Mr. Mastercard and they weren’t very kind to us 😉 The solution to getting out of debt is simple: spend less and make more money.

I decided to take something that was an interest of mine and see if we could make any money with it. We have made over $800 in buying ugly furniture, giving them a makeover and selling them on Craigslist. My favorite new discovery is: chalk paint! I am by no means an expert but since a few people have asked me how I make my chalk paint and how to use it I figured I would write an article about it!

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Before

After

After

What is Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint is  flat latex paint that has a chalky/powdery substance added to it that creates a chalky feeling surface. Why would you want that? Well, the chalkiness makes it easier to distress if you want your piece to look aged. It also makes the paint spread more evenly, thickens the paint so that you have less drips on the edges and it also acts as a primer. Also, since it covers better you end up using a lot less paint. Chalk paint can be created at home with various substances, including: Plaster of Paris, non-sanded grout and baking soda. It can also be bought ready-to-use by the name brand Annie Sloan if you are short on time. They come in beautiful colors but I have never tried any because it can be quite expensive (~$35/quart). I found an interesting blog here which shows the equivalent color using Sherwin Williams paints, which can be bought for $7/quart. 

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Plaster of Paris

How Do I Make Chalk Paint?

I have only ever made chalk paint with Plaster of Paris. Why? Because it’s awesome. The original recipe I found online called for:

2 Cups Latex Paint

5 Tbl Plaster of Paris

3 Tbl Cool Water

I followed this recipe for awhile but I felt that the Plaster of Paris didn’t dissolve very well in the cool water. And I am terrible about measuring things; it takes too long and I couldn’t find anything good to measure the paint in. The recipe I follow is more:

3 Parts Latex Paint

1 Part Plaster of Paris

Warm Water

I put some Plaster of Paris into a wide mouth jar and add enough warm water to create a thick, pancake like consistency and then add 3 times more paint and mix together. I usually use a Popsicle stick to stir it and then I screw the lid back on and give it a few shakes to make sure it is well mixed together. The reason I like using jars is it makes it a breeze to mix together and it stores really well. Just make sure that you clean the rim before you screw the lid back on otherwise it can get stuck.

After you have used the paint for a while it tends to get a little on the dry side and may get really thick. Like, butter thick. At this point I sometimes add a little more paint and water to thin it back to the normal consistency, or more often than not if it still spreads fine I just continue to use it. As long as there aren’t any chunks in it I find it works great.

What prep do I need to do before painting?

There is hardly any preparation required before using chalk paint. Make sure that your piece is clean and dust it off if needed. Also, if there are any scratches or uneven areas on your piece you should sand them out here. Otherwise, there isn’t any other prep needed!

What can I paint with chalk paint?

Simple answer: anything. The wonderful thing about chalk paint is you don’t have to prime your piece first and it sticks to practically anything.  The only problem I have found is when painting on metal surfaces you need to allow more time to dry between coats and wait over night before you seal it with wax otherwise the wax makes the paint soft and scratches off easily. 

What do I do after I paint my piece?

Chalk paint dries much faster than normal paint and covers better so you usually only end up needing 1 or 2 coats (maybe 3 coats in spots if you are painting a light color over a dark piece). After it dries I always sand it with some fine sand paper (320 or 400 grit) to make it really smooth. This step is really important and you won’t regret spending the extra time because it really makes the piece look expensive.

After you have sanded it to make it smooth, now is the time to distress it if you are going to. I use 220 or 320 grit sandpaper for this and pay extra attention to the corners and places that would have normal “wear and tear” like around drawer handles.

Finally, make sure that you dust off the piece well after doing the sanding. If you continue on to the next step while there is still dust on it you can make the paint look a little discolored when you are sealing it.

How do I seal the paint?

The last step is sealing the paint and this will remove the “chalky” look from it. My favorite wax is the one featured below, Howard Citrus Shield Premium Paste Wax and I found it at Home Depot for about $10. The best part is it has a wonderful lemon-y smell to it! I usually just use a cheap cloth to apply the wax liberally all over the piece, let set for about an hour and wax it off with a clean cloth. I have left the wax on for hours before and it doesn’t really seem to harm it if you leave it on longer than an hour.

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Howard Citrus Shield Premium Paste Wax

I recently started using dark wax to age a piece instead of distressing. This is the dark wax I use, Fiddes & Son in Antique Brown, which I found online for about $20. You can apply it all over the piece or you can apply it just to the spots you want darkened and wax the rest with clear wax. The length of time I leave the dark wax on depends on how dark I want it to get. I make just leave it on for 10 minutes or I may leave it on for an hour.

Fiddes & Son Antique Brown

Fiddes & Son Antique Brown

The truth is, there is no “right” wax to make or use chalk paint and the best way to learn about is to just start experimenting with it. It is so easy to use and you can’t really go wrong with it! So, happy painting!

Do you have any tips or tricks for using chalk paint? If so let me know in the comments below! 

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