Testing 1… 2… 3… Versions of Chalk Paint

Jessica from Décor Adventures who was my roomie at the Haven blog conference left me a comment on my last post where I showed you how to make and paint a piece of furniture with chalk paint.  Her comment:

Hi Diane, Looks great! I have a question though. Is this how to make chalk paint or chalk board paint? Can you write on that with chalk? I mean before you put the wax and glaze on. I’ve seen the same recipe for both and wanted to clear it up!

In My Own Style and Decorating Adventures

Her comment got me thinking. I didn’t know the answer, so I set out to find out what the difference is.  I also want to answer all the questions I have received to clear up many readers’ confusion about why you would use chalk paint in the first place, but first – the experiment.

I got a sample jar of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint at the Haven blog conference this summer in the color Provence.  This is my first time to use the brand.  I wanted to see what it smelled like, its consistency, how it felt to the touch when dry.

When I opened it– it smelled like chalk and is a bit more watery than paint, but it had a nice smooth consistency.   I am going to to compare it with two of the most common DIY versions of chalk paint – Non-Sanded Grout or Plaster of Paris.

Update:  Read this to find out more about more chalk paint brands and another DIY version using Calcium Carbonate Powder. 

 

Read this post to find the best DIY chalk paint mixture for durability and outdoor use.

My studioffice became my lab.  If science projects were this much fun in high school, I probably would have gotten all A’s and enjoyed the class instead of dreading it.

Chalk-Paint-Test

I bought two sample jars of paint in a satin finish as close to the Annie Sloan color as I could find so when the paint was dry, they would look similar making it easier to compare.   I taped off a piece of scrap molding into 3 sections and marked them.

There are many different chalk paint recipes on the internet. Most use either the grout or Plaster of Paris. Some say chalkboard and others say chalk paint.   All use different amounts of plaster, grout or Calcium Carbonate Powder and water.  Some use hot water, 2 in one primer paints, flat, and Ooops paint.  For this experiment, I used the recipe I have been using with the grout and a version using Plaster of Paris that I found on Pinterest.

Note:  If using the non-sanded grout recipe, do not use Valspar Signature paint or any Primer and Paint in One formula of paint. It will harden right away because of the primer.

****  Read more in my update post **** before choosing what DIY recipe you want to use.

DIY-CHALK-PAINT-RECIPES

When adding the water to the DIY versions, I tried to get the same consistency as the Annie Sloan paint which was thin like pancake batter.  I added more than each recipe called for.

To get it mixed well – add the water and the powder first to help dissolve it and then use an old electric beater to blend the paint in.  Or you can just stir very well until mixed.   I painted two coats of paint on each section of the molding and let it dry between coats. Once it was thoroughly dry, I felt the surface of each. The Annie Sloan brand was smoother to the touch. Both the grout and Plaster of Paris were a teeny-tiny bit rougher.   Once the wax was applied they all felt the same.

To answer Jessica’s question, I tested the surface on each to see if chalk would write on the paint.  It did on all 3.  All versions produced an ultra hard finish.  So I think there is no difference between DIY chalkboard and chalk paint recipes.

Annie-Sloan-Chalk-Paint

Next I wanted to see how each paint mixture would stack up to the distressing test.  I used medium grit sandpaper to distress the beveled edge on the molding. They all passed beautifully – exactly the same – nice and smooth.   I added the clear paste wax to the right side of each sample and buffed it until the cloth slid easily over the surface.

Johnsons  paste Wax

Here you can see the results.  Note the Annie Sloan is a lighter shade of blue than the other two. I tried to find a color that matched as closely as possible. The left side has no wax and I wrote Hi using white chalk. The right side has one coat of buffed wax on it.  The wax makes the surface smooth to the touch.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Provence

Annie-Sloan-Chalk-Paint

Valspar Latex paint in the color Flood Tide mixed with non-sanded grout and water.

Non-Sanded-Grout Chalk Paint

Latex paint mixed with Plaster of Paris and water.

Plaster-of-Paris Chalk Paint

In this photo you can see how the sheen of a thin buffed coat of clear wax looks against the un-waxed side.

DIY Chalk Paint Comparison test with the Annie Sloan brand

Two more photos to see the wax sheen.

Chalk Paint sheen test

 

sheen-Test-flat

My conclusion  – there is not much difference between Annie Sloan and the DIY versions.   If I was forced to make a comparison I would say the Annie Sloan brand felt smoother, but that is probably because it was mixed and blended well in a factory, not by hand at home.

  • When making your own – use water and mix it very well into the powder first, making sure the powder dissolves and you get a smooth consistency before adding it to the paint.  Since there are many recipes out on the internet  I think all of them will work just fine.  Each brand of paint you add to the grout, plaster of Paris, or Calcium Carbonate Powder has a slightly different consistency – you will have to tweak the recipe every time you make it.  You don’t have to measure exactly.   It is more about getting a smooth consistency – like pancake batter with no lumps of powder.  Use an old electric beater to mix it – it works perfectly.
  • Many readers, myself included, have had problems at times with Valpsar paint.  It contains a primer. Any paint with a primer or acrylic in it my bind the paint.   If buying paint to use to make chalk paint, don’t use this brand or a paint/primer in one product.
  • All of my pieces have been painted with Glidden Premium paint in a satin finish.  Make sure the label does not say Paint+ Primer in One Formula.
  • I painted three pieces of furniture so far with DIY Chalk paint, two using non-sanded grout and another with Plaster of Paris.  Each mixture’s consistency came out a bit differently, but went on well and each has held up beautifully.  I used white over dark wood on my first piece and was a bit skeptical about not priming it first.  It is as white as the day I painted it – so it is true  – no sanding or primer needed.  I do however sand my pieces with a hand sanding block and 100 grit sandpaper. It only takes 10 minutes and will only help with adhesion in the long run.
  • On my most recent piece – the green corner cabinet –I made a lot of the P of Plaster mixture and had extra. I stored it in a covered coffee can and I checked this morning – it is still smooth and viscous after 3 weeks.  The sample paints I made for this experiment both dried out quickly and I had to add more water. I found out why – they had a primer in them.
  • The weather, type of paint, and mixing method may vary and change the outcome.  If you give 5 different people the same food recipe – the outcome would be that each came out a bit differently due to the age of ingredients, weather, oven temperature, etc. I have found it is the same with Chalk Paint recipes.
  • Plaster of Paris is cheaper than a bag of white non-sanded grout so if cost is a factor, the least expensive version would be the Plaster of Paris. It is sold in the paint area by wood fillers at Lowes and Home Depot. It was $6.00. The bag of non-sanded grout is sold where tile is sold. It runs around $11.00 a bag. No matter which one you choose – one bag or container will be plenty to paint quite a lot of furniture.  UPDATE:  Check out this updated review post for more recipes of DIY chalk paint to try – using Calcium Carbonate Powder  before choosing which one to use. After painting many pieces of furniture and trying all the DIY recipes, I prefer and would recommend using Calcium Carbonate Powder. It is sold in the health food store.  $6 for a one pound jar. You can also get it on Amazon.
  • This outcome got me thinking – would chalkboard paint sold at home improvement and craft stores be the same?  I had some craft store acrylic black chalkboard paint in my stash and I tried it on the piece of molding.  When it was dry, it was a bit more shiny. When I distressed the edges with sandpaper – it didn’t distress as nicely as the others and it was not an ultra hard finish.  I could chip it off with my fingernail.  Not sure about the cans they sell at home improvement stores as the Lowes near me was out of it.

 

Chalk Paint FAQ #1:   Why would I use it instead of regular paint? 

  • Chalk paint is perfect for transforming furniture.   You could use is  for walls, floors, door, trim, or counter tops, but remember you have to wax it.  Waxing takes time, not sure I would want to do it on anything but furniture.   I would not use it in a kitchen because of the heat on cabinets near the stove or oven may melt the wax. I would use  polyurethane over the paint, but I read somewhere that Annie Sloan is coming out with a book on how to paint kitchen cabinets with it.  If you want to paint a kitchen table with it – add a few layers of wax. You  may  need place mats and a new coating of wax every so often.
  • You can wax and glaze over regular latex paint the same way you do with chalk paint, but it doesn’t distress as nicely and may not sink into the paint.  When sanded, straight latex paint rolls up and shreds a bit. With chalk paint, it turns into powder that wipes away leaving a smooth aged looking finish.   The main selling feature of chalk paint is that whatever you paint does not need to be sanded and primed first.  This is a huge time saver and makes the process of transforming a piece of furniture much easier.

Chalk Paint FAQ #2:   Why do you need to add wax? 

  • When topped with wax, chalk paint produces a beautiful finish that adds depth and character to a piece of furniture unlike regular paint. It also adds a little bit of protection to the painted surface.  Chalk paint dries to a very flat finish that has a chalky feel. You can write with chalk on it.   The wax brings out the color and adds patina.   If you add colored wax or glaze over it, you even further enhance.  It gives it depth and a tiny bit of shine.  More buffing – more shine.    The wax should be applied very sparingly – just a very thin coat is all that is needed.  When you buff  – the magic happens  – it transforms furniture into so much more than just a painted piece of furniture.

Chalk Paint FAQ #3:  Why not just buy the Annie Sloan brand?

  • The main reason is that it only comes in limited colors.  They are coming out with new colors, but being able to make your own custom colors will make your piece truly unique.   I would not have been able to paint the corner cabinet for my daughter in the lime color if I didn’t make my own.  The other reason for wanting to make your own – a quart of Annie Sloan is $35.   DIY versions cost less.

I have experimented with different brands of Chalk paint even more. You can read an update to this post at:  Update To DIY Chalk Paint Post

I hope this answers all the questions I have received. If not – just leave one here.  If anyone has used any of these versions of chalk paint or has another please share it  -I would love to hear about your experience with it.

 

Comments

  1. Joanne Norquay says

    I would like to paint my unfinished wooden deck chairs with chalk paint. What finish should I use? Can I wax or will the wax melt off? I am so excited to get started.

    • says

      Hi Joanne – You can use any finish/sheen of paint since when you add the Calcium Carbonate Powder or Plaster of Paris it will turn to a flat finish. I have used flat and satin with great results. Wax will melt off in the sun. If you like a rustic aged look, you can just let the paint wear, if not I would use a water-based poly over the paint. Minwax Polycrylic or Zinseer Ultimate poly are two good brands to use.

  2. Charlene says

    Hi, I am very interested in learning about chalk paint. Thank you for all your information. If I were to paint a piece of furniture that was pressed board with laminate overlay, would you sand, and prime first? Is priming necessary do you think? Thank you again

    • says

      Hi Charlene – I always sand first. It only takes 10 minutes or less to go over the surface with a hand sanding block with 100 grit sandpaper. All you need to do is rough up the surface a little bit. You do not have to prime.

  3. Charlene says

    I was wondering if I was to use chalk paint on laminate wood, like book shelves, would you tell me I should sand those first? Also, should I prime or do you feel that step could be skipped? Thank you, Charlene

    • says

      Hi Charlene – you do not need to sand, but I would sand first. You don’t have to go crazy, just a 5 – 10 minute going over with 100 grit sandpaper on a hand sanding block will be enough to rough up the surface and help with adhesion.

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