How to make chalk paint was a question I answered in a post I wrote a few months ago I entitled, Testing 1…2…3… Versions of Chalk Paint. It was about my test and review of the different recipes to use to make DIY chalk paint to see how they stood up to the Annie Sloan brand of chalk paint. It has been and still is one of my most popular posts. Since then, I have had the opportunity to try 2 more chalk paint brands and another DIY homemade chalk paint recipe. Here are my findings for the best homemade chalk paint recipes.
Websters Chalk Paint Powder, CeCe Caldwell’s Chalk and Clay Paint, along with a DIY version using Calcium Carbonate Powder.
I would like to share the new findings in this post along with answering some of the most frequently asked questions I receive about making your own chalk paint.
Let me first say that every recipe and brand of chalk paint that I have used works well. I am totally smitten with the finish and have achieved it with every recipe. Since I have all the ingredients needed to make any version, I now get to play eenie meenie miney mo when I begin a new project – Non-sanded Grout, Plaster of Paris, Calcium Carbonate Powder -which shall it be?
I have to thank Robert at Vintage Finds for sending a sample of Ce Ce Caldwell’s Chalk and Clay paint my way as well as some of their dark wax. I tested it out with Websters Chalk Paint Powder and the DIY recipe that uses Calcium Carbonate. You can see on the board above how I tested each to see how they stacked up.
I looked for these factors:
1. How easily the paint went on.
2. How the paint looked without distressing/sanding.
3. How well it distressed when sanded.
4. Adhesion and coverage
5. How the wax absorbed and the patina produced when buffed?
6. I wrote the word Hi to see just how chalky each surface was. Note: After the wax coat is added you cannot write with chalk on the finish.
I will start with the Ce Ce Caldwell Chalk and Clay paint (cost $32.95). This comes in quart size cans. Open the lid, stir well, and you are ready to paint. It is nice and creamy and went on beautifully. It is a bit thicker than the Annie Sloan sample I had used in my previous test. When dried, this paint has the chalkiest or clay-like feel of all the brands and DIY recipes I have tried. It distressed beautifully. Since it produced the most matte finish, the wax absorbed right into the paint,and it needed three coats of wax to produce the shine factor I liked. I don’t think I would use this paint if I didn’t want a distressed or aged look. My personal preference is for a glossier, shinier surface.
Next up is Websters Chalk Paint Powder. This comes in a brown bag with instructions on the bag on how to mix with water and latex paint to make chalk paint. It runs around $14 a bag. One bag will make a quart of chalk paint. It’s a brand name with a little DIY involved– since you have to mix it up yourself. I am not sure what the powder actually is – would need the guys at CSI to tell me that, but it does state that it is all-natural. It was easy to mix and unlike the non-sanded grout and Plaster of Paris recipes that can sometimes harden after an hour, this did not. I liked the way it took the wax and distressed. It looks nice with wax with no aging or distressing on the edges.
Now for the DIY recipe version for this test. I went to my health food store and bought a 1lb jar of Calcium Carbonate Powder, not the pills, but the powder. It was $5.00. Normally $6.00, but it was on sale the day I bought it. This is an all-natural product, which you mix with water and drink to make your bones strong. The entire contents of the jar would make 3 quarts of Chalk paint. It is a fine powder and mixes nicely into the paint. Plus an added benefit the mixture does not harden after a few hours. I like the finish it provided with wax. It distressed nicely. It has become my favorite way to make my own chalk paint.
Here are the differences that I have found among the DIY recipes. You can find the recipes using Non-Sanded Grout and Plaster of Paris in this post.
I don’t use this recipe anymore because I think the Plaster of Paris and Calcium Carbonate recipes produce a nicer consistency without any graininess.
Plus: $16 for a bag. Gives nice coverage – no bleed-through of wood tannins.
Negative: Can harden after mixing. Needs the most mixing as it is not a super fine powder. Make it in small batches only. Do not use Valspar paint with it or any Paint and Primer in One paint. It will harden right away. Use another mixture if you plan to use a dark color paint. Any unmixed clumps of white grout may show up in your distressed surface and may the color look spotted with white.
Plaster of Paris:
Plus: Costwise this is the cheapest way to go. A half gallon container is $12. It will make a dozen or so quarts of paint. It is a finer powder than the non-sanded grout, so mixing it is easier. No bleed-through of wood tannins.
Negative: My best mixture to date was made with Plaster of Paris. I made a mixture back in August using latex Glidden (blue label) paint in a satin finish. I had leftover and stored the mixture in my basement. Six months later, I opened it up and it was still creamy and easy to stir. I used it to transform this desk organizer for my sister. So it may or may not harden, but I like the coverage it gives for the price, so I would use it again. Maybe the satin finish or brand of paint I used has something to do with it.
Calcium Carbonate Powder:
Plus: Very fine powder that mixes well with water and then into paint. Less lumps than when using non-sanded grout or Plaster of Paris. Does not harden after mixing. All natural. This produces the smoothest mix. It has become my favorite recipe to use.
Negative: The only negative I found using the Calcium Carbonate is that there was the tiniest bit of bleed-through of the wood tannins. I applied this to the back of the file cabinet in my studioffice and the color changed. Not so on the front where I used the non-sanded grout recipe.
Robert from Vintage Finds is a wealth of knowledge on all things chalk paint and told me to try using Lime (the kind you use on a lawn and garden) to make my own chalk paint where the mixture won’t harden. I looked high and low for a powered form, but could only find granular types. So if you know where to find fine powered Lime, let me know as I would like to try it.
Update on using Lime:
Garden Lime is really just calcium carbonate and is not caustic – “quicklime” (calcium oxide) and “hydrated lime” (calcium hydroxide) are caustic. “Lime” is a just term for any calcium containing inorganic materials.
Other ingredients I have heard of using: Baking soda and Diatomaceous Earth. I have not tired either of these, but plan to experiment with them soon.
If you don’t like to mix and measure than you can’t go wrong with Annie Sloan or Ce Ce Caldwell Chalk Paints. They each run about $32 – $35 a quart. The only downside of either of these is that they are a bit pricy and only have limited colors. The colors they do carry are beautiful.
If cost is a factor, but you are not on a super tight budget and want to make your own color– try Websters – a $13.95 bag will make one quart of chalk paint. Costwise you do need to buy a quart of paint so that will add to your total cost. The big benefit of mixing it yourself – you can mix only the amount needed. No leftovers to waste or dry out in a can.
If you want budget DIY – try the Calcium Carbonate, Non Sanded Grout, or Plaster of Paris. As I stated above – I have had success with all of them. I first started out using the non-sanded grout. If I had not known about the other recipes, I would be happy just to use that as the pieces I have painted with it came out beautifully.
Which is the best? They each have their merits. I like the Calcium Carbonate Powder the best, then the Plaster of Paris. I think I would use non-sanded grout on old beat up pieces that you don’t want to sand or do any priming to beforehand. The other versions – even the brand names, can all have wood tannins seep through the paint. Very old furniture usually has a lot of wood tannins in it.
The Plaster of Paris is smoother than the grout and provides better coverage on older wood or shiny finishes than the Calcium Carbonate Powder. Maybe I will try a mix the Plaster of Paris with the Calcium Carbonate Powder the next time I make a batch to see if it covers well and produces a super hard finish. I see more experimenting with DIY chalk paint recipes in my future.
DIY Chalk Paint FAQ’s
I want to try making my own chalk paint, but I am afraid it won’t come out right.
Painting is easy. It is the mixing and waxing that seems to scare most people away from trying DIY chalk paint. Mix the water and powder together first, then add to the paint and mix it very well. You can use an electric beater to mix it well. I make mine in plastic coffee cans with lids so I can store the leftover mixture for future use. The consistency should be smooth – not too watery or you will lose the effectiveness.
I want to paint a large piece of furniture. Can I double or triple the recipe?
Yes – you can double, triple or even quadruple the recipes. Mix a bit of the powder/water mixture into the paint a little bit at a time so you don’t get a big clump to break apart. Add a little bit of water until it is smooth enough to paint with. Mix it well. Some of my mixtures have been thicker than others, but when you use a good bristle brush (anything Purdy) it will help you spread it evenly.
I have small children –I need a durable finish. Will it hold up to lots of wear and tear?
After the paint and wax have cured (a few weeks), I have found the finish more durable than latex. If you see a spot that looks like it could use more protection – just add another layer of wax over it and buff when dry.
No priming or sanding needed ? I know you have read that Chalk Paint can be painted over anything with no priming or sanding needed. This is not always the case. Very shiny surfaces or old wood that has a stain on it will sometimes need to be primed with a clear shellac. To get the best results, it is best to clean the piece well first to remove the dirt and grime. Let it dry before painting it.
I think every piece, no matter what the previous finish is, will benefit from a little going over with sandpaper. It will only help with adhesion and doesn’t take long. A simple sanding block with fine to medium grit sandpaper will do the job. Make sure to clean all the sanding dust off with a tack cloth before you start painting. To get a nice smooth finish – run the sanding block or fine steel wool over a dried coat before applying the next. Go over with a tack cloth again and then apply the next coat.
Why do you wax? Can I use polyurethane?
Yes, you can use polyurethane, but I think it takes away the patina of the piece when you do. I highly suggest using the wax – clear or dark whatever your preference. The only place I would use poly maybe, is on a kitchen table that gets lots of wear. Even here – wax has its benefits as you won’t get water rings from glasses on the wax like you can on a polyurethane finish. With the soft paste wax, the rings evaporate or can be easily removed with a simple buffing. If you want to use poly –make sure it is a non-yellowing one. Polycrylic is a good brand. Ce Ce Caldwell’s and Annie Sloan both sell one.
What is so great about using chalk paint over regular paint? If you are mixing it into latex anyway– why bother? Isn’t it still just latex paint?
It is latex paint, but one with a porous bonding agent added. I would never use chalk paint to paint walls, trim, and the doors in my home. But I will always consider using it on furniture from now on. It gives painted pieces a more professional factory look. Smooth and glossy – not rubbery feeling like a latex finish provides. The wax and the way it absorbs into the paint – looks beautiful and adds a rich patina even to modern pieces that are not distressed. The Plaster of Paris, Calcium Carbonate, or non-sanded grout, act as a bonding agent, but also give the latex paint a more porous feel when dry that accepts the wax. You can wax over regular latex paint, but it will not look or have the same smoothness that chalk paint will when waxed.
Do you use a cloth or brush to wax?
I use old well worn t-shirts or flannel shirts to apply and buff the wax. Don’t use new unwashed t-shirts or you may end up with lots of lint on your piece. Recently I painted a piece with lots of nooks and crannies. I used a small paint brush to get into and remove wax in those areas. I would like to try a waxing brush, but to be honest – the t-shirts work fine for me.
What is the difference between clear and dark wax?
Clear or light wax adds protection and shine. Dark wax adds protection and shine, but also darkens and changes the color of the paint. If you are new to painting with chalk paint, experiment first on a few pieces of scrap wood or small items from the thrift shop. Once the paint is dry on your sample boards or piece – try using different waxes – clear, dark, colored, or even glaze on different parts of the piece.
When applying wax – thin coats are better. Let the wax dry, then buff with a soft cloth. When using dark or colored wax – you need to apply it over a just applied coat of clear wax. This allows you to have more control over where the dark wax goes. I have tried this technique with a sample of Ce Ce Caldwell’s dark wax that I was given to try out from Vintage Finds. You need to experiment to find what look you like best for your painted pieces. Keep experimenting until you like what you see. Experimenting will allow you to get the process down so that when you want to do a larger or a prominent piece in your home, you know exactly what to do to achieve the look you desire.
Note: You can add artist’s oil paints that they sell in crafts stores to the wax to make your own colored wax. The wax has to be warmed up to mix well. Place it in a warm room so it softens a bit and then add the color. DO NOT mix it over an open flame or stove as it can catch fire!
What wax should I use?
I have only used 3 brands of wax so far. Minwax, SC Johnson, and Fiddes & Sons. I would not recommend Minwax ($10.00). only because it had an orange cast to it. It did change the color of white paint on the piece I painted. If I could find it in clear – I would use it again. I have used Johnson (clear) the most and am quite content using it. I love the finish and patina it provides. On the plus side – it is the least expensive – $7.00. On the negative side– it smells. I use an old t-shirt to apply it. After I do, I place it outside so it doesn’t stink up the house. I go out to get it if I need to apply more wax and then back outside it goes. I buy it at Lowes in the cleaning product aisle, not in the paint department.
Fiddes & Sons (Light) runs about $18.95. It still smells, but not nearly as much. There are other brands to consider, Briwax is one I would like to try. Annie Sloan and Ce Ce Caldwell’s each sell their own brand of wax. They run about $25.00 -$27. 00 a can. They have both clear and dark wax.
I only use clear wax and don’t use the dark wax. This just my preference, as I like my pieces lighter in color. When I do want to tone down the finished color, I use Valspar Antiquing Glaze, that I buy at Lowes, over the paint before adding any wax to the piece. I feel I have more control over where the color is going to go. If I don’t like it, I can simply wipe the glaze away with a damp rag and start again. Once I like the darkened color, I apply my clear wax finish.
Click to see the first post: I did where I tested Annie Sloan Chalk paint with homemade chalk paint recipes using non sanded grout and Plaster of Paris —-> Annie Sloan Chalk Paint with the DIY versions using Non-Sanded Grout and Plaster of Paris.
***Update: I have experimented even more with ingredients. Check out this post on mixing Plaster of Paris and Calcium Carbonate Powder together in one mix.