Chalk paint guide: how to use chalk paint around your home
What is chalk paint? And how do I use it? Take a look at these expert tips in our ultimate chalk paint guide!
Chalk painting has become one of the fastest growing trends in the decorating world, and if you're an interiors enthusiast, it's likely that you've heard of it by now.
From transforming old furniture into shabby-chic gems to breathing a new life into walls, matte-finish chalk paint has become a must-have for professional decorators and amateur upcyclers alike, but if you’re new to it, it can be difficult to know where to start.
To help out, we've compiled an expert guide which breaks down everything you need to know about chalk paint, including the different chalk paints available in the UK, how to use them, and expert advice from the queen of chalk paint herself, Annie Sloan.
On a practical note, if you need to update your painting kit, we've tried-and-tested a range of brush sets to find the best paint brushes and put together a buyer's guide of the best painting tools - you're welcome.
Read on to discover our chalk paint guide, plus our favourite chalk paint project ideas:
What is chalk paint?
Chalk paint is a type of decorative paint that was originally created by Annie Sloan in the 1990s. Although chalk paint is most commonly used on furniture, the matte finish paint can be used on a number of different indoor and outdoor surfaces, including walls, flooring, wood, metal, melamine, tiles and glass.
What makes chalk paint different from standard paints is that it rarely requires any preparation, meaning you don’t have to sand or prime a surface before you paint it. It also tends to be fast drying and hardwearing, making it perfect for any upcycling projects or quick makeovers, and you can also use it to paint radiators.
How to use chalk paint
The great thing about using chalk paint is that the lack of prep lets you get started right away. Chalk paint will stick to almost any surface - even varnished and laminate surfaces – so you don’t need to prime or sand the surface you’ll be painting. Just quickly wipe away any dirt or dust with a damp cloth, and if the paint is particularly thick, you can add a dash of water to the formulation.
For a speedy upcycle, there’s nothing like a lick of chalk paint! Here's how to transform a plain piece of furniture with painted pearlescent detailing.
To apply chalk paint, use a bulky brush and work quickly. Don’t worry if there are lots of visible brush strokes after the first coat – these should even out after you’ve applied the second.
When you’re satisfied with the amount of coats you’ve applied and let them dry thoroughly, you can then decide whether you want to add wax to your project. If you’ve used chalk paint on walls, it's usually best to leave them unwaxed for a soft finish, but most other chalk paint projects will benefit from a coat of wax - it will prevent marks and properly seal the paint.
You can get specialist brushes to apply wax quickly and easily, but they aren’t essential. If you don’t have one to hand, you can easily use an old paintbrush or a clean cloth. Apply plenty of wax as it’ll absorb into the paint quickly, and then wipe off any excess with a lint free rag.
Chalk spray paint
You’ll find chalk spray paint at most typical DIY stores, with brands such as Rustoleum and Plastikote stocking matte finish furniture sprays in a huge range of colours. These sprays often require a primer to be applied to the furniture before application, followed by a coat of furniture finishing wax or furniture lacquer for protection.
Chalk spray paint usually takes around 4-6 hours to dry and will coat furniture with a smooth touch, shine free layer of paint. Although the average can of chalk spray paint is cheaper than a typical can of chalk paint, it’s worth bearing in mind that you usually need to apply a few coats, and therefore will often need multiple bottles, as well as additional primer and sealant sprays.
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Annie Sloan’s top tips for using chalk paint
We caught up with the creator of original chalk paint, Annie Sloan, to find out her top chalk paint tips.
1. Be creative with application
Although chalk paint can be used straight out of the tin exactly as it is, there are many of ways you can alter the texture and appearance of the paint to create different finishes. You can add small amounts of water to the mixture, finish your project with decorative glaze to give it an antiqued effect, mix colours to create a bespoke shade or even switch up the tools you use to apply the paint.
'Chalk Paint is one paint that can be used in so many different ways' Annie explains. 'You can create washes of colour, thick and textured paint, layered colours, or a smooth modern finish. There are so many different looks and techniques – you can really achieve anything you like' she adds.
2. Don’t overthink
Although it's helpful to have a rough idea of what you want your finished project to look like, don't worry too much - you can always paint over it if you don't like it! 'My best tip is to consider what you’re going to do before you start painting; but without overthinking to the point of inertia' says Annie.
'Decide what style you want before you start and make sure that it suits your home and your personality. Trying to do too much on one piece is an easy mistake to make, planning your upcycling beforehand limits this.'
3. Create hidden colour pops
If you're not sure about adding bold colour to your home, Annie suggests painting a bright colour on the inside of furniture - drawers, cabinets and cupboards - rather than the outside, to add a bit of interest to your home without overwhelming it.
'One of my favourite tips is to paint something neutral on the outside and then add a flash of vibrant colour on the inside' says Annie. 'It’ll make you smile every time you open a drawer or a wardrobe. Colour brings joy so be bold with it!'
Here is a more detailed guide on how to paint furniture
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Chalk paint brands available in the UK
Annie Sloan chalk paint
Annie Sloan chalk paint is the original multi-purpose chalk paint, and has been on the market for over 30 years. The paint comes in over 45 colours and can be used on most types of surfaces, including outdoor surfaces, flooring and metal, without the need for priming or sanding.
‘People think it’s called Chalk Paint because there’s chalk in it; but there’s actually chalk in most paint so it’s not really something to brag about,’ Annie tells YourHomeStyle.
‘I actually named it Chalk Paint because what is unusual about my paint – and rather hard to achieve – is that velvety matte finish which Chalk Paint gives you. It’s a very luxurious patina that adds to the depth of the colours beautifully’ she adds.
Annie Sloan chalk paint can be finished with wax for a velvety effect, thinned with water or thickened by leaving the lid off, or even made into a wash by adding even more water. You can use it with a flat brush to achieve a smooth, modern finish, or with a chalk brush to create a textured, aged look. Finish with an optional layer of wax or lacquer to protect it.
Rustoleum chalk paint
Rustoleum’s ‘Chalky Finish’ range is a collection of matte finish, water-based paints that can be applied to a variety of different surfaces. The paint has been specially designed to create a ‘shabby chic’ effect, and the range boasts 110 different shades, from cotton white to charcoal and bright key lime to raspberry. One litre of paint covers around 14m².
As with most chalk paints, Rustoleum chalk paint can be applied directly onto most surfaces with a brush or roller. It should be left to dry for an hour. The brand stocks chalk-finish wall paints, garden paints and floor paints, as well as ‘chalkwash’ paint, which aims to give walls a lime-washed appearance. If desired, follow with chalky finish lacquer spray to give chalk paint projects a hard-wearing protective layer.
Wilko chalk paint
At £10 per 750 ml, Wilko’s quick-dry chalky furniture paint is one of the cheaper chalk paint options on the market. This particular chalk paint has been designed to give a matte finish to interior melamine, wood and MDF, but unlike other chalk paints, can’t be used on kitchen worktops, flooring or formica.
Thanks to its formulation, this particular chalk paint is great for budget-friendly speedy upcycles, and can be touch dry within one hour of application. The contents of one tin will cover around 9m², which is the rough equivalent to one coat on five standard doors, and the range also includes a quick drying protective lacquer.
Frenchic chalk paint
After launching in December 2014, Frenchic paints took the upcycling world by storm. Eco-friendly, non-toxic and available in over 60 colours, the chalk paint can be used for everything from sprucing up kitchen cabinets to transforming your UPVC door on a budget.
Standard tins of Frenchic paint are 750ml, and will therefore cover around 12.5 square metres per coat. Users have suggested that Frenchic paint doesn't chip or peel, because it’s latex and acrylic free. Find out how to use Frenchic paint with our handy guide, or take a look inside Hayley's amazing home to get some more upcycling inspiration.
Best chalk paint colours
Not sure which paint to go for? Check out our team’s pick of the best chalk paint colours on the market right now.
White chalk paint
Rustoleum's chalk white is the colour for you if you're a fan of fresh, light and airy interiors.
Grey chalk paint
Wilko's Quick Dry Chalky Furniture Slate Grey Paint is the perfect shade of mid grey, and ideal for sleek, modern interiors.
Black chalk paint
If you're after the perfect black chalk paint, Annie Sloan's Athenian Black is a deep black colour designed to mirror the opaque silhouetted shapes painted on Ancient Greek ceramics.
Pink chalk paint
This blush chalk paint is perfect for creating a soothing pink bedroom scheme.
Blue chalk paint
Annie Sloan's Napoleonic Blue combines ultramarine and cobalt blue pigments to create a striking, electric blue shade, perfect for bathrooms and bedrooms.
Chalk paint ideas
Need some chalk paint project inspiration? Check out our favourite chalk paint ideas below!
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Thea Jeffreys is the Digital Writer on YourHomeStyle.uk, and is passionate about all things home décor. When she’s not scouring the internet for budget-friendly homeware finds, you’ll find her writing about the latest interior trends and handy upcycling tricks.