Chalk Paint: A Short Intro
When it comes to restoring furniture more and more people are turning to chalk paint. It gives a rich finish and can be layered and distressed to produce a range of different looks and effects.
There are a number of different chalk paint options on the market, each with its own features. Some are better suited to particular types of projects than others. Below we’ll help uncover the right pick for you. Color selection is also key – and each paint company has its own character and range of hues to match.
The Best Chalk Paint in 2021
1. Rust-Oleum Ultra Matte Interior Chalked Paint
⤍ Great choice of curated colors
⤍ Touch dry in 30mins
⤍ Reasonably priced at $0.66/oz
⤍ Smooth matte finish
Hugely popular with buyers, Rust-Oleum’s Ultra Matte Interior Chalked Paint is without a doubt one of the best chalk paint options, leaving a beautiful finish. This is a low odor latex formula, which makes it very easy to clean up with just soap and water.
Touch dry in just 30 minutes and ready for another coat or a top coat in 2-4 hours, this produces a lovely soft matte finish when dry which makes it ideal for giving the furniture an antique overhaul. This paint provides a fairly dense coverage with minimal brush strokes, so you can often get away with just a single coat which makes life much quicker.
There is a beautiful array of colors available to create a look to fit anyone’s taste. Our personal favorite is Aged Gray, but with so many great options to choose from it’s hard to commit! From a cost perspective, this paint is also very reasonable, at $0.66/oz it sits in the bottom half of the paints in this review.
Best Premium Paint
2. Shabby Chic Chalk Furniture Paint
⤍ Premium Chalk Paint formulated in the UK
⤍ Beautiful selection of tonal colors
⤍ Ready for repaint in 2 hours
⤍ Durable smooth finish
⤍ Use layers for a distressed look
Formulated in the UK and imported, Shabby Chic is a without a doubt a more premium chalk paint option. At $1.175/oz it’s one of the most expensive paints in this review, but according to reviews it still has a hugely loyal following. Let’s dig into the details!
With premium paints of all types, what you are often purchasing is the color palette. Although color differences seem trivial, those subtle tone alterations can make all the difference to the final result. With Shabby Chic that is certainly the case – and their carefully curated selection of tones is right on the money.
From a technical perspective, this paint performs very similarly to other chalk paints in this review. It’s a water-based acrylic paint that can be applied to almost all the common hard surfaces – including treated woods. It provides a smooth and genteel finish which is ready to repaint in 2 hours and fully hardened in 24.
If you’re looking to restore a piece of furniture and make it a central feature in a room, we highly recommend looking to a more premium paint. Although it’s a bit more expensive, in an overall sense it’s not a huge amount more and the results will speak for themselves.
Best Value Paint
3. FolkArt Home Decor Chalk Furniture & Craft Paint
⤍ Wide range of color options
⤍ Various different pot sizes available
⤍ Very cost effective at $0.59/oz
⤍ Thick and durable finish
Another wildly popular chalk paint option, FolkArt’s Home Decor Chalk Furniture & Craft Paint is great to paint with. This latex formula works on a wide variety of surfaces – from metal to ceramic and wood. You can layer it really effectively, and due to enhanced adhesion, often get away without needing a coat primer first.
Drying times are in line with other similar latex-based paints – so you can expect to be able to apply another coat in 2-4 hours, and you can expect it to be fully dry in 24. This is a thick paint, so you could well get away with a single coat and can make some interesting distressed effects with the brush. From a cost perspective, this is a very cost-effective option, being among the cheapest paints in this review at $0.59/oz.
There is a huge array of color options on offer, as well as a huge array of different container sizes. That makes it a great choice if you’re looking to do several projects or pieces of furniture with different colors.
All in all, you can’t go far wrong with this paint – it’s an excellent cost-effective option and has over a thousand happy buyers to back it up!
4. Retique It By Renaissance Chalk Finish Furniture Paint
⤍ Wide range of colors
⤍ Middle price point at $0.93/oz
⤍ Smooth final finish
Retique It is specifically formulated for furniture, making it a great choice if you’re looking to give an old piece a fresh lease of life. It produces a silky smooth chalky finish which is very durable, as well as being easy to handle and apply.
This paint is also formulated with a much more environmental perspective, being manufactured free of VOCs. It’s also non-toxic which makes it great for projects with the kids, and hypoallergenic as well.
There’s a huge range of colors available, and a few different sizes of the container too. At just $0.93/oz, it’s a middle-priced paint which makes it great value, given the additional environmental benefits. If you’re looking for a kid-friendly range with a great variety of colors – you can’t go far wrong with the Retique.
5. The Spruce Best Home By KILZ Chalky Finish Paint
⤍ Bold selection of bright hues
⤍ Acrylic based chalk paint
⤍ Low odor
⤍ Low VOCs
⤍ Works well with The Spruce’s sealing wax
As a home design magazine, we were surprised to find The Spruce had launched a range of paints, but found ourselves no less impressed with the outcome. A middle-priced paint at $0.63/oz, The Spruce’s collection of chalk paints certainly stands out from the crowd with its color palette.
If you’re looking for great blues, greens and turquoises, this could be your ticket. The range incorporates a bold selection of statement colors which would be an excellent accent in a marine or nautical home, along with some deep terracotta’s and yellows as well. This isn’t your muted selection – this is full statement mode!
Like all the paints in this review this is a water based acrylic paint, with low odors and low VOCs (although not completely VOC free). It’s worth noting that The Spruce also sell a sealing wax designed to work with this paint to provide additional protection.
All in all, this is great option if you’re looking to the bolder colors for your project. At such an appealing price point you can’t go far wrong.
6. Rust-Oleum Chalked Spray Paint
⤍ Easy spray application
⤍ Oil based paint – good in damp environments
⤍ Suited to bathroom mirrors and furniture
⤍ Limited color range
⤍ More expensive than acrylic paints
Next up we have quite a different option from the Rust-Oleum range, in the form of their spray paint variation chalk paint. Although this still produces a chalk paint type of look, this is an oil-based paint which offers quite different performance to regular acrylic paints.
The main advantage of oil-based paint is that it provides additional water durability after it has properly dried. This makes it a great choice for bathrooms and bathroom furniture, like mirrors. With the constant application of hot steam an acrylic paint surface will eventually degrade, where an oil-based one will last longer.
Some buyers will also find the spray method of application more attractive for their project. Spray paint will give you a nice even finish and can work well on large curved surfaces. It’s worth considering your project though and thinking about whether there are areas which might be hard to paint evenly with sprays – such as small corners or cervices. You should not mix oil and water-based paints.
Although not available in a wide range of colors, for certain projects in “wet” environments this spray paint will be a great choice. Just remember to think about whether you’ll be able to achieve consistent coverage around your project.
7. FinishAll-In-One Paint
⤍ Great selection of sophisticated colors
⤍ No sealant required
⤍ High quality finish
⤍ Longer dry time
Finish All-in-One Paint is another product that falls toward the premium end of this review, although it includes some interesting features which will likely be hugely appealing to anyone who is working on a project in a rush.
This paint is formulated as a combination paint: that is to say it includes both elements of a primer and the wax finishing which are typically sold separately. This means it’s designed to be a one-and-done solution, where other more traditional paints might require additional treatment with a finishing wax for a more durable surface.
Although widely praised by consumers, one of the downsides of this approach is that although it’s ok to touch after 24 hours, it won’t completely harden for up to 30 days. That can be a drag, but to get a hard, smooth and high performing surface some will say it’s a fine price to pay.
All in all this is beautiful high performance paint with a very sophisticated color range. It’s likely to appeal to those who demand a high-end finish with more neutral tones.
8. Dixie Belle Paint Company Chalk Finish Furniture Paint
⤍ Acrylic chalk paint
⤍ Great selection of hues
⤍ 3 container sizes available
⤍ Reasonable price point
⤍ Premium finish
Dixie Belle Paint Company is very much run as a small business by its enthusiastic owner Suzanne Fulford. A relatively new entrant into the market, when compared with Rust-Oleum and other established brands, Dixie Belle are quickly assembling a loyal following of buyers online.
Clearly formulated with environmental considerations, this paint is VOC free and low odor to make for easy handling. Suzanne formulated the paint to have a rich finish that required minimal painting and sanding, having spent many years struggling with paints from other brands. A distressed finish can easily be added after the first coat, giving you a wide range of finish options.
Available in a variety of container sizes and colors, this is a great options for all your craft and project needs, and will produce a beautiful final finish.
9. Chalky Chicks Furniture Paint
⤍ Exceptional range of colors
⤍ Two container sizes
⤍ Mid-low price point
⤍ Ultra low VOC levels
⤍ Low odor & kid friendly
Chalky Chicks are a newer entrant into this market and have opened up shop with a great array of hues in several container sizes. This is a very attractive paint and sells at a very reasonable $0.94/oz.
From a color perspective, Chalky Chicks have a great variety, spanning softer traditional tones all the way through to very modern bright colors. The finish is even and smooth and produces a beautiful vintage look on a wide range of treated and untreated surfaces.
This paint is another great choice for projects with kids and features ultra-low VOC levels and easy cleanup. It will always depend on the color you are working with and your desired finish, but minimal prep time is required to get a great result.
Summing up, this is another great paint choice for projects with kids and has a very broad range of colors to suit everyone’s taste. You’ll also be able to easily find a container size to suit your project, which should help to keep overall costs down.
Choosing the best chalk paint – key considerations
So, you’ve decided you want to upcycle a piece of furniture or give an old favorite a new lease of life. But just what should you be looking for in chalk paint? In this section, we’ll go through the main features and what you should think about before you buy.
Coverage and container size are without a doubt two of the areas we get the most questions about. Truth is, it’ll be a little bit different for everyone. This is because it depends on the paint you use and the surface you’re working with.
At a high level though, if you’re painting something like a small bathroom vanity, you should probably use 8-10oz. For larger furniture pieces like a dresser, we estimate you’ll need more like 16oz for 70ft of coverage. Going larger again, for kitchen cabinets and large dressers, 30oz+ would be more suitable.
You should also prepare to make multiple coats in certain situations. If you’re drastically changing the color of something – eg dark to white, then you will likely need two coats of paint to achieve complete coverage. The same goes in reverse too – if you’re going light to dark. If you’re going for a subtle shift though, and if you’re happy with a more textured finish, then one coat might suffice.
Types of chalk paint
Most chalk paints are acrylic-based paints and have similar characteristics. There are however some outliers, and also some differences between the acrylic-based options.
One thing to look out for with acrylic options is VOC levels and kid-friendly options. If you’re working on a project with the kids it’s nice to know products are kid-friendly, given you never know where the paint might end up! You’ll find several in this review that is rated as kid-friendly.
Secondly, if you are working in damp or otherwise hard-wearing areas, you might want to consider the oil-based spray chalk paint. It is formulated differently and provides a harder finish surface than traditional chalk paint. This makes it a great choice for things like bathrooms mirrors and vanities. Here the build-up of shower steam can cause traditional paint to flake and degrade. Smaller bathrooms are especially susceptible to damp from showers.
For most applications, you’ll be looking at either brushing or rolling on your paint. But what are the differences?
Brushing on paint generally leaves a more even surface if it’s done carefully and the paint is properly mixed. For a professional look on wood, brush in the direction of the grain. Also, keep brush strokes in the same direction. You should be careful not to use too much paint because it will run and cause marks in your final finish.
Rolling is also possible but tends to produce a more textured effect than brushing. It works well on kitchen cabinets but can look undesirable on other types of furniture. This is particularly true where contours or draws and fittings on the furniture won’t allow you to roll it properly. This will then lead to an inconsistent finish.
Spraying is also an option for some types of chalk paint and can produce an excellent finish. However, if you don’t use paint in a spray can, you will need specialist equipment like an air compressor. If you are considering spraying, also ensure you can achieve even coverage. Sometimes this can be hard if the project has a number of awkward shapes and crevices.
Finally, colors are a huge part of your paint selection. Some brands in this review specialize in muted traditional vintage tones, whereas others go with brighter modern colors.
One of the funny things you’ll notice with paints is that more expensive ones often offer better color shades. It’s very hard to put your finger on exactly why, but that additional consideration that goes into defining the palette can make a huge difference as to how your final look turns out.
Chalk paint buyers guide questions
What is the best chalk paint to use?
The best chalk paint to use will depend on several factors. Including your color choice, what you are painting, and of course your budget. We’ll quickly break it down into some suggestions for you.
For bright colors or a wide selection – The Spruce’s selection or Chalky Chicks provide lots of bright color options. For muted and traditional vintage colors, Rust-oleum and Renaissance Retique are a great place to start.
If you’re painting furniture for a bathroom or similarly damp space, we recommend looking at an oil-based paint. Good oil-based paint is Rust-Oleum’s Spray Chalk Paint. This produces a more durable finish that is more resistant to shower steam in environments like bathrooms.
Finally, budget is a consideration for everyone. We’ve calculated the $/oz cost of the paints in this review, so we encourage you to take a look and compare the relative costs.
What is so great about chalk paint?
Chalk paint has become incredibly popular as a way to upcycle, restore, or generally alter the character of furniture and décor. It’s particularly effective at producing a vintage look and gives very traditional chalk washed surface and tone which appeals to many. The paint is also very adaptable and responds well to layering and distressing to further enhance the vintage finish.
What is the best brush to use with chalk paint?
Your brush choice will depend on the finish you’re looking to achieve. For a farmhouse or distressed vintage look, a course cheap brush will give you a finish that incorporates the brush strokes.
If you’re looking for a smoother more contemporary finish, you’ll need to use a softer more modern brush or an airbrush. When used carefully in the direction of the wood grain it will give you a very smooth and even finish. This is considered less traditional.
One final note on the brush issue: use the correct size to get quality coverage. For large projects, you’ll want a large brush for even coverage, but also a small brush to cover areas the large one can’t reach. For smaller projects, you might be able to get away with just a small brush.
How well does spray chalk paint work?
Chalk spray paint works well, but we only really recommend it for furniture that is in bathrooms or other damp and hard-wearing environments. This is because it’s harder to clean (you’ll need a solvent and a pressure wash rather than just water), and potentially toxic to children if inhaled. That said, you will achieve a harder wearing finish which offers better long term protection for steam.
Do you need to seal chalk paint?
This really depends on the finish you are looking for. Some people like the unsealed look, which gives a more distressed vintage feel. If you want a harder wearing or more modern finish, then yes, you should seal the paint with a recommended sealant.