How to use Chalk Based Paints without Stressing Out!

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Do you have a table that would look stunning painted?  But an overwhelming fear of making a total mess keeps the table bare and unloved.  What type of paint to use, what type of brush to use, or can I pour the paint over-the-top and be done with it.

Before you give up, read these tips and your table will have a beautiful new color to wear.

How to use chalk-based paints

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What is painting with chalk – what is it used for?

What is chalk based paint?

Chalk-based paint is a flat latex paint with calcium carbonate {chalk} added. This gives the paint an aged chalky appearance. The term chalk paint is now a trademark of Annie Sloan. This is why other companies use chalk-based, chalky, or chalk type.

What do you use chalk based paint for?

Chalk-based paint can be used to paint most objects even glass. The biggest tip for adherence of chalk-based paint is to let the paint cure for 30 days. That said if you scrap a nail across the surface…you may have paint under your nail. Waxing does protect the surface, but still, have a nail file handy…in case.

Painting Tips

How to paint with chalk based paint? Is chalk-based paint hard to paint?

It paints like any other paint except it does dry fast. So fast, that my tip is to add a small amount to a plastic container and keep the paint can close.

The paint will leave brush marks. The marks when using higher quality chalk-based paints usually disappear after waxing. I don’t like this feature. Personally, I like the hand painted look on furniture and new items I’ve made.

Chalk type paints may need more than 2 coats. Especially if painting a lighter color over dark. I’ve heard of DIYers using up to 4 coats! Yikes!  If the piece has water stains or dark bleeding type of wood, you may need to apply a stain blocker primer first.

Chalky paints do age and will smell when too old.

Do you have to sand before using chalk-based paint?

This is a personal choice. I do believe sanding is important if a piece is old and has layers of muck and oils. If not for the adherence but for starting out with a clean surface. I’ve never painted a laminate piece, but I would sand first.

What type of brush?

Most any type of used for water-based paints will work for chalk-based paint.  Even inexpensive chip brushes.  Chip brushes do tend to lose bristles.  My tip to combat that is to wash the brush before use.  The tends to remove loose bristles down your sink instead of in your paint.  My personal favorite brushes are Purdy.  And I brush that I adore is this little Wooster brush.

Paint Sprayers

First, you can find chalk based paint in spray cans.  I’ve used the Rustoleum brand and like it.  Why don’t I love it??  Only due to the fact, I’m not a spray paint kind of gal.  It’s my love of the hand-painted look.

You can use a paint sprayer for chalk-based paint.  You may need to add water get the right consistency.   Paint from a sprayer needs to be thin to spray correctly.  I’ve used a paint spray that uses an air compressor during my days of selling wholesale furniture.  Even then, I would fill the sprayer with a basic white paint.  Line up my weeks worth of builds and spray everything all at once.  I would spray a good even coat, then finish with hand painting in other soft white colors.  Shabby Chic was popular!!

This is the type of sprayer I used.  Along with this type of air compressor.

I’ve never used this type of sprayer…yet.

Wax for chalk type paints

When talking to DIYers, I get the feeling it’s the idea of the wax that freaks them out. The wax is the fun part!

Clear Wax
I apply the wax in circular motions. Let the wax dry, then go over the piece with a light buff using a soft rag. Old t-shirts and too stained tea towels work great.

You will find waxes that are liquid that you apply like paint.  Personally, I don’t like them.  I haven’t found any that I didn’t sand off the start over again.  Ugh!
White & dark aging wax
There is white and dark brown or black wax for chalk-based paints. Personally, I use them only for adding age. If you use them all over a piece they can leave the item looking dirty.

Here’s my homemade chalk based paint wax!

And I made a white wax two!  Or liming wax.

Types of wax brushes

I use this round wax brush from Amazon.  I did have to glue the handle after a few months of use, but otherwise, it’s great.  Because I apply wax in circles, I tend to hold the silver part instead of the handle.  When I order another this is my next wax brush.  To clean the wax brush, I make circles on an old rag, going one way then another.  Maybe why my handle broke!! 😕  When the brush needs a good cleaning, I use mineral spirits.  {found in any hardware store}

Pump-organ-makeover-inside-desk | Country Design Style |

This old pump organ was turned into a desk and painted using chalk-based paint.  Then I used white and dark wax applied with an artist brush into grooves.

Distressing the paint finish

What about sanding after?

For distressing a piece this is where chalk-based paint shines. You can “sand” the paint using a damp paper towel! I sanded the organ desk in the middle of our dining room on our hardwood floors. No mess. I sanded the then applied wax.

I understand if you wax and then distress, you will need sandpaper.

Chalk Based Paint Recipe

How do you make homemade chalk based paint?

This is my favorite recipe for homemade.
8 Tablespoons of calcium carbonate mixed with 4 Tablespoons of water. Then add to one quart of flat latex paint. Stir well.

Chalkboard Paint

Is chalk based paint chalkboard paint?

No. But chalk-based paints can make chalkboards. And chalkboard paint adheres like chalk-based paint. The difference is chalkboard paint has elements in the mix to withstand writing and erasing. Over and over again. Chalk-based paint will need to be reapplied often. Chalkboard paint does come in oil based too.


What is the difference between brands of chalk-based paints?

Personal preference. ←That’s a period.  I’ve used brands at $1.09 an ounce that I didn’t like as much as some at 65¢ an ounce.

If cost is an issue

I have a secret…Flat latex paint and soft wax!  It took me time to jump on the chalk-based paint wagon.  And to be honest, one leg is still dragging and kicking up dust!  My paint cabinet is 3/4 full of regular run of the mill latex paint.  I do however love the soft waxes!  So far my favorite is Annie Sloan…the most expensive.  I will update you if and when I stumble on a better cheaper wax.  Again if cost is an issue try my homemade wax.

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Next Monday I will cover paintbrush tips.

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Let me know in comments if you have tried chalk-based paint.  What your thoughts are on the paint.  Or if I’ve convinced you to give it a try.  While I clean the coffee I just spilled over-the-top of my desk.

Wonder if coffee will be the next paint craze??


Check the cornerstone post on how to distress wood.


Here are more ideas on painting furniture.

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    1. I admit I’ve never tried metallic paint on kitchen cabinets. My suggestion is to find a couple of cabinet doors to practice using metallic spray paint. Or you could try some of the metallic rubs available. They are like a wax for paint in metallic colors. Those are easy to use. It could become expensive to cover all the cabinets. You might get the look of metal simply by rubbing the metallic rub in corners and along highlight areas. Hope this info helps. Let me know.

  1. When making the chalk paint can you use the cheap little bottles of paint they have for crafting by chance? Also is the Waverly brand a good brand to use as well?. This post helped me out a lot. Made me understand how to stress wood. Now I can do my blanket ladder and my sons headborad. Thanks you so much.

    1. Hi, Joleen, happy I could take a bit of stress outta your life! Lol. You can use those little bottles of craft paint to make chalk-based paint. I do like the Waverly brand of chalk-based paint. In fact, most brands do fine. Some are more watery than others and some seem to get old faster. When they get old they get smelly. It’s just our little secret, but I used an old smelly chalk paint on a bench. Other than the smell while painting it still worked fine. No smell when the paint dried. ;D

  2. Cornelia L Short says:

    Thank you for sharing your homemade chalk paint recipe! I’ve used your homemade stain using coffee grounds, steel wool and it worked great.
    Do you still use your paint sprayer? I’ve been looking for one and nothing looked or reviewed very well but I’m really considering purchasing the one you have. 🙂

    1. Hey, Cornelia! The aging wood technique is the best ever! I don’t use a paint sprayer anymore. When we had rock work done on our home, I gave the air compressor to the worker. I hadn’t used it in years. When I did use a sprayer it was one like this…
      I’ve heard wagner and HomeRight makes a nice sprayer that uses electricity. NO air compressor. But I personally haven’t used theirs. Currently, since I share DIY projects here I don’t need a sprayer. When I used a sprayer I was selling lots of painted furniture. I get asked about paint sprayer often, maybe I need to try a couple again. Thank you so much for reading. Jeanette

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