The Complete Guide to Chalk Paint

A person's hand panting different colors of chalk paint on a wall

Chalk paint is an easy way to add a pop of color to any space. Whether you go for a rustic feel for your coffee table or a contemporary finish for your kitchen cabinets, chalk paint makes it as easy as pie. This complete guide will explain what it is and how best to use it.

Typical Project Requirements*
DIY skill levelLow
Approximate timeDepends on size
DIY cost of painting equipment$22 to $30 
DIY cost of prep equipment (usually not needed)$18 or more
DIY cost of sealing equipment$23 to $42
Total estimated cost$45 to $90

* The above estimates may be higher depending on the size of your project.

What is Chalk Paint

Chalk paint has a smooth, chalky finish. It’s popular because it needs little to no prep work and can be easily distressed for a vintage or shabby chic look. It also dries quickly and can be used on a variety of surfaces. It’s especially great for furniture, kitchen cabinets, and other home decor projects. It’s usually water-based rather than oil-based.

Take note that chalk paint will come off with water. However, you can apply a special sealant to protect it from water damage. Well-sealed chalk paint can also withstand high traffic.

Chalk paint may be more costly than other options out there. However, the end result may very well be worth it. An 8-ounce tub of chalk paint may cost around $8. You can also get packs of multiple paints more cheaply. 


  • Needs minimal prep
  • Easy application
  • Versatile, matte finish
  • Dries quickly
  • Blends easily
  • Distresses easily
  • Easily thinned and used for spray painting
  • Matte, smooth finish
  • Covers up blemishes more than glossy paint


  • May cost more than other paint
  • May be hard to find
  • Needs a sealant
  • Wax sealing takes a lot of time and effort
  • Stains bleed through more easily than with other paint
  • Brush marks may be visible (this may be desirable at times)
  • Limited paint color options
  • Not the most durable

When to Use Chalk Paint

Chalk paint dresser project
Photo Credit: nolamissesyou / Canva Pro / License

Chalk paint is a popular way to enrich furniture with a rustic, matte look. However, chalk-style paint can also look great on walls, cabinets, coffee tables, or decorative items. You might decide to cover the entire furniture piece. Or, you might just paint a part of it. For example, you might want to cover your entire table or just the table top.

Chalk paint is often used in shabby chic or farmhouse-style designs to add character and a touch of nostalgia. It may be more suitable than acrylic or latex paint because it doesn’t usually need priming. 

Chalk paint can be applied to both new and old furniture, making it a versatile option for transforming any piece of furniture.

What You Need

various paint brushes of different sizes
Photo Credit: Joaquín Corbalán / Canva Pro / License

Chalk painting is a relatively simple process, but you still need a few tools to make it work. Here’s what you’ll need:

Painting EquipmentEstimated Cost
Chalk paintAround $8 for 8 ounces
At least 1 paint brush$14 for a set of 3 different sizes
Paint roller (optional)$8 for a small paint roller
Total$22 to $30

A paint brush is a necessity for most furniture painting projects. You can check our guide for choosing the right paint brush to save yourself unnecessary hassle. But depending on what you’re painting, you might need a paint roller, too. If you need to learn more about using a paint roller, check out our How to Use a Paint Roller Like a Pro article.

You’ll also want to have a tray on hand for easier application. 

Most of the time, you won’t need to prepare your surface for chalk paint. But if you do, you can buy sandpaper for about $6 for 24 pieces. Make sure you get the right grit; normally, 100-220 grit sandpaper is used for wood. You may also need a drop cloth or a tarp (or multiple) to protect your surroundings from paint. One tarp costs around $12. 

Finally, you’ll need to seal your chalk paint. The most common sealant is wax. Here’s what you need to seal your chalk paint with wax:

Wax Sealing EquipmentEstimated Cost
Wax sealantAround $11 for 8 ounces
Wax brush or a fluffy old brush (optional)$19 for 4 wax brushes
Lint-free cloths$6 for 8 pieces
Sandpaper$6 for 24 pieces
Total$23 to $42

That means the total cost of your project is likely to be between $45 and $90. However, the costs may vary depending on how much paint you need, what you’re painting, whether or not you need to prepare your surface, and which sealant you use.

Prep Work for Chalk Paint

One of the great things about chalk paint is the minimum prep work it needs. No matter which surface you apply the paint to, you can often get away with just cleaning the surface before applying the paint. That’s a big difference from other types of paint, which normally need sanding and other prep work.

One of the exceptions is when the surface is shiny or has a glossy finish. In these cases, it’s recommended to lightly sand the surface to create better adhesion for the chalk paint. 

You might also want to place a tarp or a drop cloth below your project to protect your surroundings from splatters and spills.

Applying Chalk Paint

Using chalk paint is as easy as it gets. But you still need to learn some basic steps to apply it like a pro.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to apply chalk paint:

  1. Pour paint: Pour paint onto a painting tray to avoid contaminating your paint tub.
  2. Get painting: A little paint goes a long way. Dip your brush and take a little paint. Apply big brush strokes to cover the surface with the first coat of chalk paint. It’s important to work quickly and efficiently to prevent the paint from drying unevenly. If you’re painting a wall or another large surface, you can use a paint roller, too.
  3. Clean up as you go along: It’s easier to clean any drips before they dry. However, if you don’t manage to get all of them as you paint, you can always sandpaper any mishaps later. Here’s a paint spill clean-up guide to help you further. Plus, you can also learn how to use a paint roller without splattering.
  4. Fill in the small gaps: Use a small brush to carefully fill in any small gaps or corners that your larger brush may have missed. 
  5. Let dry and apply the second coat of paint: Once your paint dries, use the same technique to apply your second coat of paint.

Here’s a video tutorial that will help you get the right idea:

Sealing Chalk Paint

Although chalk paint doesn’t need a primer, it does need an effective sealant. Sealing chalk paint helps protect the finish and make it more durable. There are various options for sealants, such as clear wax or polyurethane, depending on the desired look and level of protection.

Wax is the most commonly used sealant for chalk paint. It provides a soft, matte finish and enhances the vintage or rustic look that chalk paint is known for. However, it does take time and effort to apply it.

If you’re using wax as your chalk paint sealer of choice, remember to reapply it every 3 years.

Here’s how:

  1. Apply wax to a tray: Separate the amount of wax you need from the tub to make the job easier.
  2. Apply the wax to a small section: Use a wax brush, a fluffy old brush, or a lint-free cloth to apply your wax to the first section.
  3. Remove excess: Use a clean lint-free cloth to remove excess wax and create a thin coat.
  4. Repeat on each section: Repeat this same process until you’ve covered all your surfaces.
  5. Sandpaper: If you painted a piece of furniture or cabinets, you can use sandpaper to sand down any uneven layers of paint. If you like, you can also use it to add a distressed pattern. That will make your piece of furniture or cabinets look rustic.

When you’ve finished your masterpiece, don’t forget to clean your brushes to preserve them for as long as possible. Check out our How to Clean Paint Brushes Correctly article.


How long does chalk paint last?

Your chalk paint should last 1 to 5 years in your tub.

How to achieve a distressed chalk paint look?

A distressed look can be achieved by sanding the edges and corners of your painted piece, or by using a wet cloth to gently rub away some of the paint in certain areas. This will give it a worn and rustic appearance.

Is using chalk paint easy?

Yes, using chalk paint is relatively easy for beginners and experienced DIYers alike.

How to dilute chalk paint?

Unlike oil paint which needs a special substance like a mineral spirit for dilution, chalk paint can do with just water.

Is chalk paint free of harmful fumes?

Although chalk paint isn’t completely VOC-free, it contains minimum volatile organic compounds. It’s therefore less toxic than alternatives.

Paint Jobs by Pros

At the end of the day, using chalk paint is a smart way to do a furniture makeover. It may require some extra time and effort, but the results are worth it. Not only can it brighten up your space, but it can also be a fun DIY project.

However, you don’t need to handle your paint project on your own; get in touch with a pro in your area.

Main Photo Credit: Carrie Holmquist / Canva Pro / License

Judith Gallova

Judith Gallova is a freelance writer living in Slovakia. She found her passion for writing when she created her first blog at the age of 10. Later on, she started working in marketing, and eventually combined her writing and marketing skills to become a freelance writer. In her free time, she often studies the Bible, goes to the gym, spends time with loved ones, and enjoys all things art and design.