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Favorite Things: Why I Use Chalk Paint

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About a year ago, I decided to get some nightstands. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, but I wasn’t able to find it anywhere. It was the right style but the wrong color, the wrong style but the right color, or the right style and the right color but the wrong price. So, with no painting experience, I decided that I was going to find something cheap on Craigslist and paint it.

I had no idea where to start. But, a friend of mine had just finished his first painting project, and he told me about this thing called chalk paint. It was easy to use, didn’t require sanding or priming, had great coverage, and dried quickly. Given that I didn’t have much in terms of experience, skill, or space to work, chalk paint sounded great. It wasn’t long before I finished my first project, a set of nightstands, which are still in our bedroom looking awesome. I’ve since completed several chalk paint projects on my quest to buy things on the cheap and make thmem look better (see dresser, dining room, bar stools, desk accessory, and chair). It turns out that chalk paint is an excellent way to give a major face lift to old or secondhand furniture. And, despite being the trend of the moment, it’s also incredibly practical.

So, if you’d like to hear about why I use chalk paint, read on.

why i use chalk paint

1. It’s great for small, confined spaces. Because we live in an apartment, I don’t have a dedicated room for projects. When I do a painting project, I throw down a big drop cloth and dominate our living area for a few days. However, because chalk paint is pretty much fume-free and dries so quickly, it’s really not that much of a disturbance. I can usually knock out  small- or medium-sized project in 1 – 2 days. And when you’re dealing with these two nuggets in your work space, you have to be quick:

americana decor chalky finish

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2. It’s incredibly versatile. There’s a widespread misconception that chalk paint can only be used for creating the time-worn, distressed look that has been really popular for a few years now (see here for an example). If you want the distressed look, chalk paint is perfect! But I’m not a big fan of the distressed look. I prefer a solid piece with a clean, egg-shell finish—not too glossy, not too matte. And that’s what’s great about chalk paint. You can distress it and finish it with a waxy, matte finish; or, you can opt out of distressing and finish it with any number of different finishes. See my recent postcard desk project for an example of chalk paint used with Minwax Satin Polycrylic Protective Finish. One of my latest projects shows how effective chalk paint can be at covering up a distressed finish with no sanding or priming:

why i use chalk paint

3. It doesn’t require a lot of prep, but it still looks good. Chalk paint fans tout the fact that it doesn’t require sanding or priming, thus saving you a lot of work. And that is so true. Chalk paint adheres to almost any surface, including leather, with no prep. The only time you might have an issue is if you’re painting an unfinished wood surface or if you’re painting over a really tough stain. Some chalk paint brands sell “stain blockers,” but I’ve found that a general, all-purpose primer does the trick to prevent wood or stain bleeding. That said, the only projects I’ve used a primer on are my desk and desk chair. All other projects, including a few I haven’t posted, did not require any priming.

why i use chalk paint

So now you’re ready to tackle your first chalk paint project, but where do you start? If you’re just starting out and want to keep it simple, I recommend the Americana Decor Chalky Finish line (see their complete color listing here). It’s affordable, easy to find, and easy to use.

Where can I find it? You can find all colors in 8oz and 16oz jars at, but only some colors are available in stores. Some colors are also available in Michaels stores. All colors are available on Amazon.

What brush should I use? I use a plain-old chip brush for most projects. If I’m using the Minwax Polycrylic Finish, I use this brush.

What finish should I use? You can jump right in using wax, but I don’t use it and hear buffing the wax is a very steep learning curve. Plus, waxing isn’t permanent…you have to do it again in a year. No thanks…instead, Americana Decor has three great finishes that you can brush on with no buffing. From their website:

When looking for a permanent, still-soft finish, use Soft-Touch Varnish. It delivers a luxuriously soft, yet durable, polyurethane finish. The Light Satin offers just a hint of sheen, and the Ultra Matte delivers a zero-sheen, no-glare finish. These varnishes can be used in place of Americana Decor Crème Waxes for pieces that will be used outdoors or for a simple protective finish that will not need to be reapplied regularly.

Again, I recommend Americana Decor, but there are tons of other brands you can get your hands on if you aren’t keen on Americana. Annie Sloan (pricey but excellent), FolkArt Decor, and Martha Stewart Vintage Decor, just to name a few good ones.

And with that…good luck on your first project!

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Kate MacKinnon

Monday 20th of February 2017

To paint a dresser or IKEA rast sized dresser, what size of deco-art chalk paint would I need?

Brittany Goldwyn

Monday 20th of February 2017

I painted an Ikea Rast using one can. It gave me two coats! It's here:


Wednesday 11th of February 2015

I just read about making your own chalk paint using regular latex paint (your choice of color), a few teaspoons of water and either calcium carbonate or non-sanded grout. You can get the measurements on line. Much cheaper and the reviews said it worked just like the expensive stuff.

Brittany Merth

Friday 13th of February 2015

I would love to experiment with making my own. Sometimes the lack of color diversity can be frustrating, so making it myself could be a good way around that. Thanks for the tip!

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