What Is Chalk Paint? Here's Your Guide to This Trending Matte Paint

Bed with chalk painted nightstand.

House 9 Interiors

That artfully distressed furniture you love on Pinterest? That chic, rustic farmhouse décor you see in your dreams? Those soft muted tones and ultra-matte finishes you fantasize about are all thanks to chalk paint. It’s a dream product for DIYers of all skill levels—easy to apply, easy to clean, and totally transformative.

If you’re looking to give your furniture a fresh new look or try your hand at upcycling, here’s what you need to know.

What Is Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint is a decorative paint known for it's matte, chalky appearance. It is perfect for giving pieces a shabby-chic aesthetic, as it dries down to have a distressed look.

The History and Uses of Chalk Paint

First off, it’s important to note that chalk paint is not the same as chalkboard paint, which is used to turn any surface into—you guessed it—a chalkboard. Chalk paint is not meant to write on: its name comes from the fact it has a chalky finish and texture.

Designer and entrepreneur Annie Sloan invented and coined chalk paint in 1990. Though Sloan’s company owns the registered trademark to the name "chalk paint," many paint companies have developed their own proprietary versions, selling it under their own brand names that signify a chalk finish.

Painted dresser.

Ashley Montgomery Design

Though it can be used on walls, chalk paint was designed to be used on furniture, and the reason it’s become stratospherically popular is that unlike most other paints, chalk paint doesn’t require the furniture to be stripped or sanded first—you heard that right.

Traditionally, refinishing furniture is a massive undertaking, requiring lots of hard work, plenty of room and adequate ventilation, an exact eye for detail, and lots of cleanup—the sort of production that’s best left to the experts and hardcore hobbyist. But, with chalk paint, anyone can give old furniture a brand new look: no large spaces, specialized tools, or artistic talent required. 

How to Use Chalk Paint to Revamp Furniture

For those who want to give their furniture a quick, no-fuss makeover, all they’ll need is a can of chalk paint, a brush, a damp cloth, and newspapers or a drop cloth to protect the surrounding area.

  1. To prepare the furniture, give it a good rubdown with the damp cloth to remove any dust or dirt.
  2. Next, apply a thin layer of chalk paint, and allow to dry completely.
  3. To speed this up, open all nearby windows to enhance air flow.
  4. The paint has a thick texture and is densely opaque, making it easy to apply without missing any spots. A single coat of chalk paint could be enough to achieve the desired look, especially if you’re hoping for a rustic, distressed finish.
  5. If you want more solid, matte results, give the furniture a second coat. 
Farmhouse hutch in dining room.

Ashley Webb Interiors

Tips for Using Chalk Paint

Chalk paint finishes are durable as long as they’re sealed properly, and like the painting process, it’s easy to do and doesn’t require special tools, chemical varnishes, or noxious fumes.

All you need is a can of furniture or butcher’s wax, which can be applied with a soft brush or cloth. The wax will settle into all the cracks and pores of the paint, making it spill-proof, easy to clean, and resistant to chipping or scratching. See why it’s so easy to fall in love with chalk paint? 

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