Chalk Paint Tips: What You Do and Don’t Need

Copy of SHOP

We’ve all been bombarded by the Pinterest posts. We all know chalk paint is taking over the world. I was first introduced to the product when my mom kept sending me pictures of the things she’d painted. Nothing was safe in her house for a while and we kept joking she’d eventually paint the kids. Then I found a dresser by the dumpster, got some chalk paint, and my life was changed.

I have a problem. It’s my Instagram project hashtag now #Ihaveaproblem #upcycling. That’s me. I’m the furniture hoarder. I’m the crazy thrifter stacking $7 coffee tables in my apartment living room while my husband looks at me like I’m crazy and cries over his wallet.

For the unsuspecting beginner, walking down a paint aisle at the craft store can be intimidating, exciting, confusing, or all three rolled into one overwhelmed feeling. There are all kinds of brushes, all brands of paint, and then the waxes…clear, white, antique, crème…

I’ve learned a few things by trial and I’ll share them with you.


Pros and Cons of Chalk Paint

Pro: a little goes a long way

Con: you’re a lemming if you become a chalk painter

Pro: it dries really fast and doesn’t make a mess

Con: you can become a furniture hoarder even if you live in an apartment because you don’t necessarily need an outdoor space to paint

Pro: one (maybe 2) coats and you’re done

Con: the color selection isn’t quite as wide as with “regular” paint

Pro: it easily brings new life to battered old pieces

Con: you can’t ever leave a battered old piece behind because you know the easy potential it has


Chalk Paint Brands

Something you may or may not know about me is that I love a bargain. I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for something. Sales don’t begin to interest me until they’re 50% off or more. You can keep your 40% off coupon…I know a 50% sale is coming and I won’t miss out on that extra 10% if I can help it. (TwinDad, you don’t have to cry over your wallet anymore!)

Chalk paint supplies can be pricey. Have you ever looked at the tag on a bucket of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and the accompanying brushes? Yeah. It makes you just want to go buy new furniture instead.

I’ve seen a lot of brands of chalk paint popping up at my local craft stores. I’ve never used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) so I can’t review the quality. I have used Americana Décor, Folk Art, Martha Stewart, and Craftsmart paints though and I’ll give you the run-down on those, starting with the most expensive:

Martha Stewart chalk paint is usually about $10-12 a bottle. The bottles are tall and skinny which makes it hard to get a paint brush in there. The color selection isn’t huge but there is an “Antique Sky” mint green color that I love. You do need to apply 2-3 coats of this paint to get complete coverage. I haven’t found anything special that makes this brand particularly worth the price, but you try it and tell me what you think! The colors seem fairly unique so don’t pass them over when you’re looking for something particular because you just might find it.

Americana Décor chalk paint is around $7-9 a bottle. These bottles are short and fat for easy paintbrush access which I love. The color selection, in my opinion, is limited, but the basics are great. I use the crème wax for all my projects. “Primitive” and “Vintage” are staple colors in my household. Usually all I need is one coat of this paint, but sometimes I want two if I’m painting a light color over something darker. I’ve found that the unused portion will thicken and dry up over time, so either use it all fairly quickly or make sure to stir it and possibly add a drop or two of water to keep from wasting.

Folk Art chalk finish paint (about $6-7) doesn’t have a huge color selection either, but has some really pretty shades of blue and an awesome ivory. I’ve mentioned using “Sheepskin” before and it’s another staple color in my household. One coat usually does the trick, but the bottle opening is narrower and I have to use a smaller paintbrush.

Craft Smart also has a line of chalk paint and gel stains for about $6-8 a bottle. The color selection is pretty great! I’m excited to try more. I use the “Silver Gray” a lot. 1-2 coats gets the job done and, like Folk Art, the opening is narrower and takes a smaller brush.

Krylon chalk spray paint is about $10 a can and has some great colors. It is advertised as indoor/outdoor. I tested a bright green on my old, faded wooden bird feeder and it, so far, has held up great against rain and shine. It behaves just like most spray paints but has a chalky matte finish like traditional chalk paints.

Take Away: there are a lot of brands out there and though everyone hails ASCP, you don’t have to pay top dollar for your chalk paint. Experiment with what your local craft store carries and don’t tie yourself down to one brand. If you can use coupons, you can get these brands really cheap so why not try them all?


Wax: What Does it All Mean?

There are 3 main kinds of wax: clear, white, and antique. They all have a “creme” texture but antique is a bit thicker.

  • Use clear wax to complete every project. This seals and protects the paint and gives a hint of a gloss finish. NOTE: if painting on glass, don’t finish with wax since it, in my experience, strips the paint.
  • White wax gives a great white-washed finish to darker pieces. I especially like the look of it over a dark charcoal gray paint.
  • Antique wax is used to darken or distress painted pieces. A tiny, tiny bit goes a long, long way. Test a sample first and remember you can always add more.

Chalk Paint Tools

The brushes. The array of brushes. The price of said brushes. It’s sort of daunting.

I go for the multipack of super cheap plain bristle brushes in various sizes. Sure, they lose a bristle here and there and you might need to get a little paint on your fingernails to get them off your project, but it’s worth the saved money. You can use the same kind of brush for your clear crème wax too, just make sure you keep the wax and paint brushes separate. Even if you clean them after each use, the wax brush will dry a little stiffer which can affect the way paint is applied if you use it for paint next time.

Clear or white crème wax work just fine with a regular bristle paintbrush, but when it comes to applying dark antique wax, I like to use something different. I’ve tried just using an old cotton tshirt to wipe on and buff off excess, but that tends to make it too dark and splotchy. I finally bought a small wax brush and, let me tell you, it is worth the $6-7. I don’t usually say that,  but in this case I will admit it’s true. The compact round brush allows the application of wax to be light and even. I still follow up with the old tshirt to wipe excess and buff, but having the brush apply the wax makes a huge difference.

You can get little plastic paint dishes to pour paint into while you’re working, but pouring paint into a dish and then pouring excess back into a bottle seems a little pointless to me. For the chalk paint bottles with smaller openings these might be a better alternative to smaller brushes, but I buy the multipack with different size brushes anyway. It’s up to you what you find most convenient.

Sandpaper is your friend. Distressing is a really fun way to finish off chalk painted pieces and add that extra dimension. Have some sheets of medium grit sandpaper around and have fun. Remember you can always add more later, so start small and keep going bit by bit until you reach the desired effect.


General Painting Tips

Paint with the grain.

Keep strokes straight and long.

Apply antique wax to edges and details.

Distress edges and details, focusing on areas that would be affected by natural wear.

Let paint dry completely before applying wax.

Glass can be chalk painted, but it doesn’t hold as well so I wouldn’t recommend it.


I love chalk paint. I love thrifting and giving new life to old pieces, and chalk paint is a great and easy way to creatively accomplish that. In this throw-away culture it’s sad to see so much waste. Before buying new and mass-produced, check out the options at your local thrift store and consider updating a better-made (if chipped, dinged, scratched, or plain ugly) piece. New hardware and a fresh coat of paint go a long way, plus, you’ll feel pretty good about creating a one-of-a-kind personalized piece for your home and saving money along the way. Happy painting 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Chalk Paint Tips: What You Do and Don’t Need

  1. Hi. I have a dilemma. I got the FolkArt chalk paint at Joann Fabric. The “sheep skin” color looked like a regular paint, but the red looks like a cream cheese. I tried to stir it in hopes it would turn “liquidy” but no luck. All I’m doing with it are stripes across the table. Do you think I can still use it, or do I just go back and exchange it?

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    1. Sometimes older chalk paints thicken and the consistency changes. Since chalk paint is water based and not oil based, you can try adding a tiny bit of water and stirring thoroughly to make the consistency a little thinner and more like regular paint. Exchanging for a new bottle is certainly an option as well! Hope this helps!

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