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How To Make DIY Chalked Paint For Fun & Inexpensive Home Decor Makeovers

Paint with a chalky finish can cheaply help you modernize your home

The reason I love DIY projects is that you can get awesome results on a BUDGET! Paint is always one of the easiest ways to update any room or your home decor. Now if you think chalky paint is just for those farmhouse gals, then you probably should just keep reading!

 If you are like me and want to be able to redo almost anything for near pennies or almost free, then you are in the right place. Chalk paint should easily be in every DIY’ers toolkit.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read our full privacy policy here. 

What is chalk paint?

Chalk paint gained popularity in the 1990’s. Annie Sloan trademarked the term “chalk paint” then.  Therefore, we even have noticed Home Depot will even refer to this type of paint as chalked paint (probably not to infringe on the trademark). Chalk paint is known for its matte or chalky appearance. However, you always don’t need to have the end product look chalky depending on the final top coat you are using, whether it is wax or clear polyacrylic.

In this post, we will refer to our DIY decorative paint recipes as chalked paint, chalky paint, paint with chalky finish, etc. This is simply due to the fact that Annie Sloan has trademarked the term chalk paint. The thing to note is that there are so many different ways to describe a paint that is no prep, will stick to so many different surfaces and has a chalk-like finish when dry.

Paint brush applying gray chalk paint to dresser

Why use chalk paint?

The main reason we think chalk paint became popular is due to the fact that you do not need to prime whatever you are working on. You also can use a variety of surfaces, which makes it a DIYer’s best friend. 

Chalk paint also dries very quickly, so a whole dresser or even bathroom vanity can be painted in one day (even with 3 coats). If you are using latex enamel paint, you have to wait in-between steps for a longer drying time.

While you do not have to use a primer, you will end up wanting to paint 3 coats of store-bought or DIY chalked paint and you will have to seal the paint if you want it to last. A lot of DIY friends like chalk paint because it can easily be distressed for that shabby chic look.

While chalk paint and other chalked paint variations have their advantages, depending on the brand, they can be quite expensive. If you are painting large furniture or even cabinets this will add up. 

Even though we don’t recommend painting cabinets with chalk paint, we know others who love it. Instead, we use this cabinet painting method in our kitchen cabinets and bathroom makeover.

The reason we love DIY projects is that you can get awesome projects on a budget. While store-bought paint can be a little pricey, we have made our own DIY chalked paint to help redo several pieces of furniture in our current home.

Are chalkboard paint and chalk paint the same thing?

NO!!!! Let me say it again, no. Don’t get confused when you go to the store and see chalkboard paint. This paint is made to make the surface like a chalkboard and not the chalk paint we are talking about.

How do you make homemade chalked paint for furniture?

You can use baking soda, Plaster of Paris or calcium carbonate mixed with latex paint in order to make DIY chalk paint. Baking soda chalk paint is probably the cheapest but seems to be the most difficult to work with. Plaster of Paris chalk paint is a great alternative to buying your own, but can still have a little more grit than desired. People have a lot of success with Calcium carbonate chalk paint, however, calcium carbonate can be more expensive and/or hard to find.

How do I make DIY chalk-like paint?

Simply mix your chalk element (baking soda, plaster of Paris, unsanded grout, or calcium carbonate with a little water). Make sure you have mixed these elements well together and add latex paint (without primer). Mix thoroughly, some DIYers even recommend using an old electronic mixer like a bullet to get a great consistency.

Plaster of paris, latex paint, paint tray, measuring cup and paint brush

Most common DIY chalked paint recipe for furniture

Plaster of Paris Chalked Paint

1 cup latex paint (without primer built in)

3 TBSP cool water

2-3 TBSP Plaster of Paris

  1. Mix the Plaster of Paris throughly with water to get a pancake consistency. You do not want any lumps.
  2. Slowly mix in latex paint of your choice. We actually love using paint samples to make our chalk paint as an inexpensive alternative
  3. Begin painting.

Why should you use Plaster of Paris in your DIY chalky paint recipe?

For one, it is honestly the cheapest and easiest chalk paint recipe. You can easily purchase Plaster of Paris everywhere. And it is easy due to the fact that you just mix it with latex paint. We have seen where you could even use an old blender or Bullet mixer to try to make it smoother.

What type of paint should you mix with Plaster of Paris?

You need to only use latex paint. Do not use a paint that has a primer mixed in. It will make it difficult to paint. When you are mixing the Plaster of Paris with the water it should be the consistency of pancake batter.  You do not want lumps. (See above Bullet mixer if you don’t want to mix by hand).

One thing that we have found when making our chalk paint with Plaster of Paris is that you should expect the paint color to be a slightly lighter version. If you have a small project feel free to use old paint or even paint samples are a great way to test this out.

What are the cons to DIY paint with chalky finish using Plaster of Paris?

The biggest con to Plaster of Paris chalk paint is that it sometimes can have a gritty consistency compared to the store-bought versions. I have used this recipe on several different pieces and have always been happy. However, depending on how it mixes you may have a little more grit than you like. After you add a clear coat, it tends to be better as well.

Another con about Plaster of Paris chalk paint is that you have to use it right then. There is really not a great way to store it and reuse it. 

Fun chalk painting ideas using Plaster of Paris Paint

One of the best parts about chalk paint is that you can easily add fun colors to your home decor.  We love having more neutral home decor and adding pops of colors in accessories and furniture pieces. 

DIY Furniture makeover becoming a Children's Wardrobe for dress-up clothes

Repurpose furniture with DIY chalked paint

We have even redone an old television cabinet into fun dress-up storage for our daughter pictured below. If I didn’t know how to make DIY chalk paint, there is no way I would have bought pink paint. However, repurposed furniture projects are a great time to experiment! 

Children's dress-up wardrobe

Create this ombre dresser with DIY chalk finish paint

We have used the Plaster of Paris chalk paint recipe to create this DIY ombré dresser for our baby nursery. Before mixing the chalk paint, go to the paint store and find a sample that you like. Make sure there are 5 different colors on the paint swatch. Then buy a paint sample for each of those colors. You can then use the paint samples to mix individual paints with Plaster of Paris to create colors. You will end with a fun cohesive ombre look. 

DIY gray ombre chalk painted dresser in nursery

You could still do the same thing and use white paint and one color. However, you would have to eyeball if the color jumps are consistent between the different tones of paints.

How to make DIY chalk-like paint without Plaster of Paris?

You can mix latex paint with baking soda, calcium carbonate, or unsanded grout to make your own DIY chalk paint recipe. Here are the other recipes to consider if you do not want to use plaster of Paris in your DIY chalk paint.

Baking Soda Chalked Paint Recipe

1/2 cup baking soda

1 cup latex paint

3 TBS. cold water

  1. Mix baking soda with latex paint.
  2. Add 3 TBSP water to get the consistency you desire.

Cons of Baking Soda Chalked Paint

We read a lot of DIY blogs and have DIY friends and rarely have we seen anyone recommend this DIY chalk paint recipe. I would be very cautious using this recipe on a big & important piece of furniture. 

Unsanded Grout Chalky Paint

1 cup latex paint

1 TBSP cool water

2 TBSP unsanded grout

Pros of Unsanded Grout Chalk Paint Recipe: Can easily distress with every just rubbing and mixes easily.

Cons of Unsanded Grout Chalk Paint: Can still have a gritty feel.

Calcium Carbonate Chalky Paint

1 cup latex paint

1/2 cup calcium carbonate

1 TBSP talc powder

What can I use instead of chalk paint?

You can use milk paints, latex paint, mineral paints or latex enamel paint. For the latex paints, we always recommend priming first though and highly recommend using a high-quality latex enamel paint for trim, doors and cabinets. 

What are some of the best store-bought paints with chalk finish?

Annie Solan was the first to come up with commercial chalk paint. She has gained a lot of popularity and almost a cult(like) following. However, in recent years you can find chalk paint in the big box stores and many small boutique type places. In the chalk paint projects in this list, you will see the variety of options that DIYers are using to redo furniture and more.

Chalk Paints To Buy

If you are looking to compare prices on chalk paints here are some we recommend researching and adding to your list.

Other chalk paint brands to consider

Chalk Style Paint by Magnolia Home

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

General Finishes Chalk Paint (you may also be interested in their Milk Paints)

Dixie Belle Paints

Cece Caldwell

Do you have to sand before applying chalk paint?

The reason people like chalk paint so much is because of the limited prep. If you were just using latex paint, then you would for sure have to prime and even use a smelly stain-blocking primer.  

However, you can sand a piece of furniture if need be. Obviously, if there is a large dent or uneven surface you will want to fix that before applying chalk paint.

And even with chalk paint, we always wipe down the piece with a deglosser before starting. This not only helps prep the surface but also ensures the piece is clean before painting. 

How can you distress painted furniture?

Before putting the topcoat on, we will use just extra-fine sandpaper on the edges to create that shabby chic distressed look. Some people will go to town removing a  lot more sanding paper. 

Close-up view of distress blue dresser painted with chalk paint

With the baking soda chalk paint, you may even be able to just rub it over with a rag. Just be careful you don’t take too much off.

Do you always have distress chalk paint?

Absolutely not. Chalk paint can look great without any distressing. You could even consider adding a glazed element to your chalk paint project. 

Side Angle of midcentury dresser furniture makeover using gel stain and gray chalk paint

This dresser was done with gel stain and DIY plaster of Paris chalk paint outside.

How to seal chalk paint or DIY chalked paint?

We might be in the minority, but we love a simple wipe-on poly to seal chalk-painted furniture. Make sure that you use polyacrylic and not polyurethane as it will yellow over time.  If in a high traffic area, you will want to put 2-3 coats of polyacrylic on our project using a great brush (like this Purdy brush) or a foam brush. You can try rolling with a small roller, but we have never had great success doing that. Allow each coat to dry and then you can use extra-fine sandpaper in between levels. 

In some furniture painting forums, people have sworn by Dead Flat Varnish by Modern Masters for a great matte finish. 

Will you see brushstrokes with chalk paint?

If you see brush strokes with your chalk paint, then you will still see them with the topcoat. Instead of trying to get a completely smooth surface, we sometimes just embrace the texture. You could consider going crisscross with brush strokes or long smooth feather-like strokes to even hide blemishes in your piece of furniture and add extra dimension.

We know that some DIY furniture painters prefer a special chalk painting brush, while others will use a small roller with their chalk paint. You may have to add water to thin the chalk paint (store-bought or DIY recipe) if using a roller. Regardless of what tool you are applying the chalk paint with the key to get a smoother finish is to paint thin layers.

People swear by this expensive topcoat, especially if you are painting furniture white. The last thing that you would want to do is spend all this time updating a piece of furniture to be white and a year later it is an ugly yellow!

You can also use wax on your chalk-painted furniture. Here is a Woodcraft article about different types of wax that you can use and the different looks you can achieve. 

Add fun hardware pulls and knobs to chalk painted dressers

Another way I love to add more to my furniture makeovers is by changing the hardware. You would be amazed at how the look of a piece of furniture can change by adding new hardware.

World Market is by far one of my most favorite places to buy hardware that is different and not expensive. Even some of the hardware in these pictures is from there.

Feel free to click the images to see some of the hardware that is on my wishlist and that I have bought in the past.

Blue Dresser with globe, small model planes and train artwork

If you need DIY project inspiration using chalk paint then check out our chalk paint project list from some of our favorite friends. 

What if I decide to repaint chalk paint? Can I redo it?

Honestly, if after you decide that you just need a change from chalk paint then you may want to check out this article from the Lived In Look. She shows you how to paint over chalk paint for a more modern look. We for sure love a mix of easy chalk paint and the use of other latex enamel paints (like our bathroom cabinets) in our home. 

Follow us on Pinterest or Facebook for more DIY inspiration!

We just love DIY chalked paint and hope you love upcycling your home decor.

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Sara

Sunday 7th of June 2020

I realize this was a year ago, but when you say 1/3 parts, is that 1/3 cup?

Erin

Sunday 7th of June 2020

I also show you a cool cup technique (way to measure using a plastic cup) in my dress-up closet makeover.

Erin

Sunday 7th of June 2020

Hi Sara. Yes, you could say 1/3 cup if you were only making 1 cup of total chalk paint. I wrote it this way as is depends on what you are making as to how much you would want. I hope that helps and good luck with your DIY chalk paint project!

Anne

Wednesday 19th of June 2019

Love this Perfect for the beginners and experts thank you for sharing

Erin

Wednesday 19th of June 2019

Thank Anne! I love when a DIY home project that can work for all types of people. I feel that this DIY chalk paint recipe really works for all levels and abilities.

Elease

Monday 29th of April 2019

I love a good chalk paint project-- especially with worn edges!

Paula Campbell

Thursday 4th of April 2019

Great ideas!

Tatiana B

Thursday 4th of April 2019

I never knew all of these variations of chalk paint, it looks so great. Thank you for all of these suggestions

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