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Best Chalk Paints

Updated December 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 19 Models Considered
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  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 173 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best chalk paints

    Last Updated December 2018

    If you’ve ever browsed a do-it-yourself craft blog, chances are you’ve at least heard of chalk paint. Chalk paint is the miracle worker of the furniture refinishing world, and it has led to an explosion of creativity among DIYers.

    Chalk paint can be used indoors or out on furniture, walls, ceilings, and floors and comes in a variety of colors from bright and bold to dark and demure. The best part is that it eliminates several steps when refinishing furniture. Annie Sloan, a paint manufacturer, was the first to bring chalk paint to the market, but its popularity has led to an explosion of options that might leave you scratching your head when trying to make a decision.

    Take a break from your latest DIY endeavor and read through our shopping guide to find the perfect chalk paint for your next project.

    Chalk paint and chalkboard paint are two different things. Chalkboard paint is used to create a chalkboard surface that can then be written on with chalk. Chalk paint is thick paint that doesn’t require a primer. It’s designed for furniture and other household surfaces, indoor and out. It isn’t meant to be written on with chalk.

    What is chalk paint?

    Stripping, sanding, filling – refinishing furniture can be a time-consuming process. Chalk paint eliminates several steps so projects get done sooner. This thick paint goes on smooth or rough, depending on the brush you use. Many times (but not all), it can be used with little or no prep work. Once the paint dries, the refinish or paint job is done unless you’re adding a layer or two of paint.

    Chalk paint leaves a matte finish and can easily be distressed with sandpaper or a sanding sponge. Chalk paint manufacturers also produce waxes that can be rubbed over the paint to seal it. The wax offers an extra layer of protection and adds a rustic appeal.

    However, if the surface you’ll be painting is dirty or greasy, you might need to clean and sand the area for proper coverage. Certain lacquers and stains can also cause problems with coverage.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Dark wax can change the color of the paint, so be sure to apply a coat of clear wax before the layer of dark wax.

    Chalk paint features to consider

    Manufacturer/brand

    Every manufacturer has its own formula, and it might take some trial and error to find one that you like. Thickness, color, and texture vary between brands. Some brands specialize in historically accurate colors, while others focus on bold, modern hues. You might find that one brand works better for walls and another for furniture. A paint that’s too thick offers more options than one that’s too thin. You can add water to the paint until you get the consistency you want. However, if it’s too thin, there’s not much you can do but add more coats.

    Coverage

    One of the best features of chalk paint is the fact that it can cover almost anything because of its impressive adhesive properties. A high-quality chalk paint should be able to cover most surfaces in one coat. However, there are some times when multiple coats aren’t unusual.

    Chalk paint covers beautifully most of the time, but not always. For example, when you’re painting a dark surface with a light color, you might need several coats. Stains or water damage can also cause coverage problems and require several coats. Lacquered surfaces can be challenging, too, but it depends on the lacquer and the furniture. Sometimes the lacquer mixes with the paint and causes discoloration. If you have a piece with mixed surfaces (lacquered and unlacquered, for example) you might need to strip, shellac, or sand the lacquered surface before painting it with chalk paint.

    Finish

    Almost all chalk paint dries to a matte finish, which has an antiqued or worn appearance. If that’s not the look you want, a few coats of wax can add sheen. If you want a glossy look from the start, there are thinner formulas of chalk paint that leave a sheen with one coat. It might be a matter of testing a few samples to get exactly the finish you need.

    Durability

    It takes a serious amount of work to refinish furniture or paint a wall, so you want your efforts to last. Thicker paint formulas cover better and last longer. If you open the paint and it’s thin and runny, durability could be an issue later on. Your prep work also affects durability. A clean surface that’s free of dirt, grease, and stains offers the best results.

    Unwaxed chalk paint absorbs dirt and fingerprints. Look for a wax or sealant that’s recommended for outdoor furniture to protect pieces that will be outside.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Chalk paint prices

    While a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean better coverage, cheaper paints do tend to be thinner. The thinner the paint, the more coats you’ll need for full coverage. The price of chalk paint varies a great deal from manufacturer to manufacturer, and prices can be deceiving because the paint is sold in quantities that range from four ounces to one gallon.

    Four- to eight ounces: Depending on the brand, a four- to eight-ounce can of chalk paint costs anywhere from $8 to $25. Not all brands offer paint in these low quantities, but depending on the project, it might be all you need.

    One quart: Quart cans are far more common and fall in the $17 to $40 range. There are a lot more manufacturers who offer chalk paint in this quantity. Some of the lower-priced paints have a reputation for being runny, which can affect coverage and end up costing more if you have to apply several coats.

    One gallon: A gallon of chalk paint costs from $20 to $100. In this quantity, you’ll have plenty of options, including water-based and nontoxic formulas.

    EXPERT TIP

    You’ll know your wax has been completely wiped off your furniture when there are no tacky spots. Keep wiping until you achieve an even, smooth surface.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    • Do the right prep work. Clean the furniture or wall you want to paint, removing dirt, grime, and grease. If you will be painting wood, check for any scratches, dings, or damaged areas and fill them with a wood filler before touching it with paint.

    • You might need to spot clean, sand, or shellac an area to get good coverage. Some furniture cleaners leave a thin film that resists paint. If you’re having trouble painting a piece, clean, sand, or shellac the area. However, sometimes you won’t find your problem area until you’ve already started painting. Chalk paint is fairly forgiving, so it can be sanded off if you need to start again.

    • Thin the paint to suit the desired finish. Thicker paint shows more brushstrokes. If you want a smooth finish, thin the paint with a little water. Add the water slowly so you don’t end up with a thin, runny mess.

    • Go easy on the wax. It doesn’t take much wax to seal chalk paint. Place a scoop of wax on a paper plate so you don’t have to dip your brush directly in the wax and potentially contaminate it with paint or bristles. Paint on a thin layer of wax and immediately use a clean cloth to wipe off the excess. Keep wiping until the surface is free of any tacky spots.

    • You can paint over wax if necessary. If a few months down the road you change your mind about the color you chose, don’t worry. You can paint directly over a layer of wax.
    While manufacturers boast about chalk paint’s ability to cover in one coat, there are times where you might need more. However, the thicker the paint, the fewer coats you’ll need. Color makes a difference, too. Dark colors cover better than light.

    FAQ

    Q. Are wax layers permanent?

    A. Wax can wear off, especially on furniture that’s heavily used. If you don’t like the idea of re-waxing your furniture every few months, you can use other kinds of sealants or furniture protectants over the paint.

    Q. How many wax layers do I need?

    A. That depends on how often you will use the piece of furniture. A kitchen table or cabinets might need three layers of wax to be fully protected, while an infrequently used hutch might be fine with one layer. The more layers, the longer it will take the wax to wear off.

    Q. How easy is it to distress chalk paint?

    A. It’s easy to give furniture a distressed look with chalk paint. After it has dried, use sandpaper or a sanding sponge to rub the corners and other areas where it would naturally get worn, then apply the wax. There are hundreds if not thousands of “how to’s” on Pinterest and elsewhere that show you how to distress furniture. You can also try different brushes and techniques to leave everything from a two-toned to an ombre finish. You can also mix colors or even paints from different manufacturers to change the appearance of your finished project. Chalk paint is fairly forgiving, so be creative and have fun.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Michael
      Michael
      Writer
    • Stacey
      Stacey
      Writer

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