When I first started painting furniture, I started off with chalk paint. It was a new product that promised to make painting easy and I think it made trying a new project less intimidating. With chalk paint you don’t have to sand or prime your furniture and it dries quickly and washes off with water for easy distressing (or for cleaning it off things you didn’t mean to paint). With all these claims, it’s hard to imagine why I don’t use chalk paint anymore.
I still think if you’re new to painting, chalk paint is a great place to start. But there are a few reasons I’ve graduated from chalk paint to latex paint and other professional paint products – I’ve used affiliates links to link to my favorite products.
3 reasons why I don’t use chalk paint
1. Chalk painting companies make promises that are too good to be true.
Chalk paint promises that you’ll never need to sand or prime your projects, but sometimes that’s simply not true. Sure you can keep layering paint colors until you can’t see the stains that leak through. But if you’re going for a smooth, clean finish, the right prepping method is helpful. The more complicated conventional process of sanding, priming, painting is tried and true and it works. It helps smooth out any rough spots in the wood and guards against bleeding through of old stains. You may not notice these things at first, but if you paint a lot of furniture, you’ll eventually run into these problems. You’ll need a good oil-based primer to completely block stains. This is the kind of primer I use.
2. Conventional products are more durable.
This is probably the biggest reason I don’t use chalk paint. Did you know you need to reapply the wax every few years? You need to reapply it even sooner for furniture in high traffic areas like chairs and tables. And it requires an entire month to fully cure. I’m willing to bet that most furniture that’s sold using chalk paint isn’t sitting around for an entire month before it’s moved to sell.
And I was never able to get the wax to completely cure. It would scrape off fairly easily even months later. I’m sure that was a user error, but I’m probably not the only one who has issues with that. I did, however, keep using chalk paint for quite some time because I had accumulated so much of it. Using a polycrylic top coat to make my furniture more durable seemed to work much better. I prefer polycrylic over polyurethane because polyurethane is known to yellow over time. I know that some brands of chalk paint make more durable finishes, but the price is still much higher than other products on the market. Which brings me to my next point.
3. The price
It’s much more reasonable for me to buy a $15 quart of latex paint or acrylic paint in multiple colors than to drop $40 per quart to build up my stash of chalk paint. And that’s just for the paint. I do invest in more expensive products now that I paint furniture for clients and have more experience – like this top coat. But you can still do a quality paint job with less expensive products.
My go to furniture painting products
Now when I’m painting a piece of furniture, I grab these 3 things and am good to go.
These 3 products are super durable and create a quality finish that lasts. The primer and top coat last for many many projects and are worth the investment, and the paint is a self leveling mineral based paint, not a true milk paint.
I never would have gotten into this business if I hadn’t discovered chalk paint brands like Annie Sloan and CeCe Caldwell’s. These are just some reasons why I don’t use it anymore for most of my furniture painting projects.
I do think chalk paint is a great place to start for beginner painters. There are many gorgeous colors available and tons of classes to teach you how to use the products, which is awesome. And I totally get it if you’re into the all natural alternatives to conventional products. I personally try to use water-based products as much as possible in well ventilated areas. I also use a respirator when using oil-based products so hopefully these precautions will keep me healthy!
If you’re using chalk paint, this is the best paint brush.
I use these brushes for SO MANY painting projects. They’re perfect to have on hand at all times whether you’re using chalk paint, acrylic paint or latex.
If you have questions about chalk paint, I’m still willing to answer them to the best of my abilities based on my experiences with the product. But if you have questions about the other products I’ve started using, I’d be happy to answer those too!
Have you tried chalk paint? Do you like it better than conventional painting products?
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I think you make a great point about the durability!
Jacquie Mertins says
I love using satin latex paint and I find that a lot of the big box stores have the small sample size jars which are perfect for a small job. Also, never leave a store that sells paint and check the oops area and become friends with your paint store person ( they will text you when they have a lot of oops – usually on a Monday). I have gotten a gallon of high quality tinted paint that someone didn’t like the color for 75% off the price. This is the best way to buy paint. Do you realize the cost savings!! I have walked out with enough paint to not buy for three months.
Rosemary Miskulin says
I use only Clark & Kennsington satin latex paint from ACE. I get the sample size cans for less than $7 and the paint goes a LONG way for furniture painting. For furniture that will take heavy use, I coat it with Polycrylic.
I wondered if there would be issues that would come up with this and I’m glad you are sharing! All I have ever painted with chalk paint is the wooden edge of chalkboard sign. I need you to teach me to paint with all the other kinds of affordable paints :)
jennifer prod says
i think chalk paint is marketed so well that it’s hard to resist, but there’s no going back once you make the switch to sanding, latex, stains and glazes <3 oh, when am i gonna see some bump pictures?!
great article! Out of all paints I would say chalk paint is the least durable for sure!
Sheila Lester says
Thank you for your remarks about chalk paint … something that I heard about recently. You and others have given me some very good reasons not to try it. I appreciate your sharing.
Now… I recently repainted a buffet purchased from Goodwill. As far as I can tell it’s a genuine wood veneer and was a reasonably good quality piece. I started with a liquid sander and didn’t like that so I graduated to old school palm sander and several different grits of paper. I painted with Valspar semi-gloss latex enamel. I did not prime but did two coats and sanded between. I’m disappointed with the ‘hardness’ of the finish. I feel that it would be easy to scratch the paint. Any suggestions or is some patience required for aging…. and I’m saying it was finished about three weeks ago.
I hope you can find time to respond as you seem quite knowledgeable. Thank you for your time.
Sheila Lester Peoria, AZ
Paint takes a full month to cure, so keep that in mind! Also you could try a clear coat like polycrylic to make it more durable. Hope that helps!
Or you could paint it with Annie Sloan and use her soft wax. VERY durable and so much easier to use. I’m not sure why someone would want to sand, prime and strip when they just don’t have to.
In my experience, the soft wax scrapes right off very easily. Plus it takes 30 days to cure, and that’s if you’ve applied it correctly. However, all paint products actually take 30 days to fully cure, so there’s that. But by all means, do what works for you, this is just my experience!
Maria Aguirre says
I’m sorry but that is wrong. It is the other way around.
Yo can put oil over water, but not water over oil. The oil always rises and takes longer to dry, so if you put it under the water base or acrylic it will crack it because it needs to rise.
(Just like a glass of water plus oil, this last one will be always on top).
Oil based PRIMER is what needs to be used to completely block stains. Water based PAINTS can then go over the OIL BASED PRIMER.
YES. THIS. Water based primer absolutely will not block stains.
Can u tell me what paint brand do you recommend please. I’m painting a dresser. Thank you
I love General Finishes Milk Paint for furniture. It’s confusing because it’s not actually a milk paint, it’s acrylic based and super durable!
Rhonda Fairfield says
Absolutely yes – ASCP and wax has a very pleasing feel, light sheen, and durability. Everything has to cure so why not use the best!? I have a desk our computer sits on and is used daily – done almost 6 years ago with no need to rewax. Where did that idea come from? If you have to reapply wax you are not applying it correctly the first time
I use Annie Sloan all the time and have never had an issue
Painted and waxed my kitchen island a year ago. It is definitely high traffic and heavily used and absol No issues
Over 3 years ago painted and waxed a counter and used everyday and no issues
If you are using chalk paint where it will get wet definitely use a laquer ie my grandchildren table and chairs I used laquer to seal not wax
Yvonne Lee says
It is never a good idea to skip steps when painting. Even when using a paint that has paint and primer in one upon reading the directions it tells you to prime first. Paint with primers included are formulated to reduce the number of coats needed for coverage. They do not and are not intended to replace primers. The job of primersis to prepare the surface for painting and you still need to sand before priming to prepare the surface so that the primer can properly bond to the surface in order to prepare it for the paint. So even chalk paint would be durable if the surface was prepared properly first. Chalk paint has become like the new weight loss pill (TM by Y. Lee 10/20/18). There is no substitution for hardwork. It needed to be done right or it will eventually fail!
Pinto pony says
Did you try valspar cabinet paint? I used this on a rental kitchen cabinets plus semi gloss polyurethane top coats has lasted 5 years and going. I did another rental kitchen with homemade chalk paint and the matt top coat and after 3 years it doesn’t look so good and the tenants had no kids. I sanded both and primed both.
I’m a chalk paint waffler. I like it, I don’t love it. In my early years of furniture painting, I had no clue what I was doing, got whatever cheap paint they had at the hardware store and went to town. I still have those pieces and the paint holds up really well. In other words, you don’t always need fancy paint.
And sanding? Well, if you have to sand chalk paint after you paint and wax, you’re not really skipping on the that extra step, are you. To be fair, sanding isn’t necessary (though it gives an awesome smooth, smooth finish when done right).
I will say that if I’m looking for a distressed finish, chalk paint is great. For example, I painted an outdoor bench a couple of years ago and leave it out all year long. The paint is chipping off in really nice ways (and not in those flaky ways that latex does).
Does it stick to anything and everything? NO, it does not. I had high gloss wood in my house, and some trim painted with oil paint. I tested chalk paint in several places–chalk paint still came off with a little rub of a fingernail. That’s only ok if distressed is your goal. And chalk is NOT better than oil primer (like my special love, Zinsser Bin). Funnily enough, I visited a stockist today. In a discreet area of a couple of pieces that I knew to have a glossy finish underneath the chalk paint, I did the tiniest of tiny scrapes with my nail and the paint did come off (these pieces were meant to look distressed, I promise).
So I’d say, yes chalk paint IS over hyped. It’s still nice product for certain projects.
I agree with all of that! I have also scratch tested pieces in boutiques just to see if maybe they cured better than mine due to a used error on my end, but they failed too. I definitely think there are times it works and times it doesn’t! :)
I’m a Decorative Artist and I have taken many painting classes over the years. One thing they alway said you cannot use acrylic (water base paints) over an oil base paint. You can use oil base paints over acrylic paints. And I have been doing that for years without a problem.
So I do know I got turned around on which one goes over which at some point – whoops! But after someone pointed it out, I did some more research and today’s products can be layered pretty interchangeably. I know I’ve done both ways – especially using oil based primer to block stains followed by water based paint – with absolutely no problems.
I want to paint a wood cupboard and am now in a quandry. Do I use normal paint , but I want a Matt finish not distressed.
how will I achieve this. Am in uk so some of the paints mentioned I have not heard of. Any advice will be appreciated.
You can buy latex paint in a flat or even sometimes matte finish to achieve the same look as chalk paint. Then top coat it with a layer of polycrylic and you’re good to go. I’m not sure what products are available in the UK but there should be some sort of equivalent to these products.
I just started using chalk paint a year ago… I do see how it isn’t durable and will knick with a carpet of the fingernail but as of now, I’m sticking with it! I’m going to begin a table and chairs project for my own home but would love to finish it with something that’ll last for years… Can I put the polycrylic too coat over chalk paint?
I just started using chalk paint a year ago… I do see how it isn’t durable and will knick with a carpet of the fingernail but as of now, I’m sticking with it! I’m going to begin a table and chairs project for my own home but would love to finish it with something that’ll last for years… Can I put the polycrylic too coat over chalk paint??
Yes! I recommend it over chalk paint! It will help with the durability a lot!
Jennifer Borrego says
I totally agree with your remarks about waxing & prep! However, was surprised to hear your opinions on chalk paints. It may be the brands listed. Many chalk paint brands are actually latex based. Latex was never meant for furniture, it is meant for walls, more specifically for drywall & it will eventually peel. I use a non toxic chalk acrylic & the top coat is a hardworking brushes in product that does not require re doing. I knew I loved the product & the durability was proven when Greyhound dropped and broke a piece that was headed cross country. A leg broke off & there were some dings where the paint was in tact even though the wood underneath dented in. I’d love to send you a sample if you ever want to try a truly professional non toxic acrylic based furniture product. Kristi Kuehl Pure Home Paints is simply amazing!
Hello, I found your article while scrolling through Pinterest tonight and thought, hmmm…interesting.last summer I went to Lowes looking for call paint and was for an old dresser I was repurposing. The gentleman in the paint department advised the same thing you do in this article. I hesitated at first but the lower price won out and I’m very glad I needed it. One thing I made sure to do was sand between the many layers of polycrlyic. It left a beautiful smooth finish.
Remember to advise folks to prime first when using latex. Even with a good poly topcoat, latex will eventually peel without primer to adhere to.
I think most people like chalk paint for it’s versatility – I like the smooth finish of wet sanding, the feel vs latex, the ability to layer colours,and the depth glaze provides., to name a few.
Annie Sloan products are ridiculously overpriced. I prefer to make my own chalk paint with plaster of Paris, always using a quality painbrush.. The temporary protection of wax is why I never bought into it (always poly) and dark wax just makes a piece look dirty.
The title is a bit misleading, as you say you still use chalk when creating a shabby chic finish… which is the same reason most people use chalk paint. I think what you meant to say is chalk paint is not better or worse than latex, it’s simply different. I 100% agree!
Great points! I’ll edit my article – I truly do not use it anymore at all. When I wrote this I was afraid of stepping on toes plus I still had a ton left so I was using it on my own pieces. I would never use it on a client’s. I’ve never tried the homemade plaster of paris kind, but aren’t you mixing it with latex paint? So it’s still a latex paint base. Thanks for the thoughtful comment! :)
Maria Edler says
I totally agree with all these! I have been painting lots of furniture with chalk paint that I make with plaster of Paris, never waxed just top coated with polycrylic. Love the way chalk paint goes easy on furniture without getting all sticky and ruining my high priced brushes (which these are just so easy to wash and dry with a paper towel and get right back to painting). My pieces have lasted a long time without any paint coming off, peeling, or scratching.
Sounds like you’ve got your system down! Polycrlyic makes a huge difference!
I tend to get white specks when sanding my own chalk paint I’ve made. Just lightly sanding it with fine sandpaper blocks. Any ideas? Thanks☺️
Have you tried Fusion Mjneral paint? It is 100% acrylic, water based and has a built in top coat. Works the same as chalk paint but better. Come in a range of colours and you can mix them to create more colours. Love this stuff!
I haven’t, but do like acrylic based paints for furniture!
I have been upcycling furniture for myself for quite a few years now but only just started using chalk paint. I like the way chalk paint goes on but I find myself trying to make it look like matt emulsion (latex), so I wonder if it is worth it (I make my own chalk paint with emulsion and baby powder). I have always had good results with good old matt emulsion paint and tester pots are very cheap to buy for small items. For high traffic areas, I use a polyurethane top coat and it has never failed me yet,
I’m with ya! I think it’s kind of trendy of the tried and true products win out. Thanks for sharing your experience!
I’m planning on using chalk paint on a dresser and chest of drawers (circa 1947) and using polycrylic on the top surfaces. My question; is it possible to stain, or paint furniture after using chalk paint? Just in case I either don’t like the finish of chalk pain, or get tired of the look and want to stain.
Thanks in advance.
Chalk paint sands off really easily. My current dresser set was previously painted with chalk paint and sealed with wax (I don’t recommend) and I was able to sand it down quicker than you’d ever be able to sand latex paint and start over. However if you use wax, painting on top of wax is not recommended. If you use poly as a top coat you can definitely paint over it.
Pam Inch says
I’m using chalk paint on some bedroom furniture, made in Mexico its pine, and clear waxing then using antiquing wax. Going for a southwest look, trying to mimic a buffet in my dining room. I’m nervous after reading this. I hope this turns out ok. I’ve always used latex too.
Just be sure to use a poly top coat. It should be fine. Worst case scenario, chalk paint sands off really easily :)
sue pennington says
I am in love with the colors of this dresser. Could you tell me the paint and stain colors please. Thank you.
I’m not sure on the stain – it was a minwax poly shades but I can’t remember the color :( But the paint is Sherwin Williams naval :)
Jan Fusco says
Why do you use oil based primer?
To block stains. Zinsser Shellac would also work and it is also oil based. But stains will bleed through water based primer!
Véronique Belliol says
Hi! I am about to start a livingroom table project. I just discovered chalk paint. I fell in love with the shine and the fealing i get when i touch the wax finish but after reading your article i am not sure i am doing the good choice anymore. Can we reach the same effect with latex and polyurethan ? I followed a formation with Annie Sloan products, i don’t know any other chalk paint. Some people says her wax is the better one. I AM A BEGINNER any of your comments can help me.
It won’t be exactly the same, but a flat latex/acrylic paint gives about the same sheen. Then you’d want to do the flattest poly you can find, like a matte. I love the feel of chalk paint too, but for me durability is more important. But play around with them all and figure out what works best for YOU!
Adrienn Bartolich says
I use my own mixture of chalkpaint, I mix 2 parts high quality water based latex paint (Benjamin Moore) with 1 part of calcium carbonate powder. Benjamin Moore has a huge selection of colours, you can even buy samples if you don’t need a big amount. This proved to be quite economical for me. In case of furniture which would likely bleed, I use stain killer first (also from BM). As a protective topcoat, I use furniture wax, the one which is a mixture of beeswax and carnauba wax, because this can cure very hard. Without any exception I use 2 or 3 coats of wax, applying them with a 24 hours interval between the coats. Haven’t had any complains from customers so far… And I myself have not had any problems with the pieces I use. Although for pieces which would see really heavy use and/or in humid areas like kitchen or bathroom cabinets I definitely would use a poly finish.
It makes sense to me that these products all work for you because they are all versions of traditional products. Even your chalk paint is latex based, not chalk or clay based. Your methods sound like they’re working, so keep up the good work!
Dawson Burgman says
Wonderful tips and great job!!
I want to do some chairs that have a lot of engraving on them.im very antsy on how to do them. It seems I intimidating to sand them all so what do you suggest?
I just sand thoroughly with a sanding sponge by hand. Like spend 10-20 minutes on it and get it as good as you can and wouldn’t worry so much about the engraving while you’re sanding. You don’t need to get to bare wood, you just need to rough up the surface a bit. Hope that helps!
I was thinking to paint laminate. What would you suggest to use; Do you think latex paint would work on laminate? I was thinking chalk paint but i am not so sure after reading your post. Thanks you.
I would use a sanding sponge to lightly rough up the surface, then use a primer and then a latex paint. A chalk paint would actually be ok too, just be sure to use a polycrlyic top coat if you go that route!
Such a helpful article!
I wish I had read it before my first chalk paint project.
So, I found an old round pedestal table for my kitchen and decided to use homemade chalk paint.
I mixed water based latex paint with calcium carbonate and applied 4 coats of colour and 2 coats of “over chalk paint waxer”.
Soooo, it hasn’t been a month yet, but it seems it still needs time for the wax to completely dry. It has a satin finish which is too “glossy” for me.
Should I buy a dead flat wax or would it be better to apply a polycrylic top coat?
Thank you in advance!
I would try the flat wax. Also you won’t want to put a polycrylic on top of the wax you already applied. If you like the chalk paint look, you’ll like the flat wax I think!
I enjoyed this article so much. I’ve come to the same conclusion early on regarding chalk paint. I love a smooth texture, I think it looks more professional. I can get with chalk paint, but it takes a lot of work… it’s like working with mud. I do like one particular brand of chalk paint, but it’s really expensive. The piece you work on is only as good as the finish, and like you said, you can’t get around the fact it’s all about the prep.
Nina Stanley says
Anyone use general finishes top coat for sealer over chalk paint ???
It should be fine! It’s a high quality sealer!
Works great. For table tops I use 3 or more light coats rather than thick ones. Does a beautiful job
While I agree there are times latex and traditional paints work, chalk paint is a title maligned in your post. Rarely does a stain bleed through chalk paint unless you are painting over raw wood. As to durability, I’ve had no problems with Annie Sloan chalk paint and proper waxing. I even use an electric car polisher with hand polishing in hard to reach spots. The natural look of chalk paint and wax is far superior to the fake painted look created by latex in my opinion. Poly made by Varathane is crystal clear and guaranteed not to yellow when poly is called for. Just to address the pros and cons of both types of paint. Where raw wood is painted, there are certain techniques to prevent bleed through of the tannins in the wood.
Vicki Hulsey says
I painted my Kitchen cabinets previously. I did the standard way. Sanded, primed with Zinsser Cover. Lightly sanded, lightly primed again. (these were dark cherry wood cabinets). I then painted with BM paint Advanced in a Weathered White Color. Let them cure completely while I moved on. When dry, lightly scuffed and needed another coat BM ADV.
The problem is the BM would never cure completely. I waited for over 2 months or even longer for the interior to load. I finally topcoated with General finished poly acrylic and they got less gooey. NOW i need to paint cabinets in a new old home. I painted a very large piece in a previous home with Belle Craie. It has been taken apart 2 times, Stored,moved long distance,crown and all and NO nicks. It is still beautiful. Used the entire Belle Craie system. Problem? too many cabinets for the cost and I want a specific color. Was going to mix my own chalk paint. Still sand,prime,paint 2 coats,polyacrylic or use Belle Craie top coat which is flat and beautiful. NOW I am confused. The drying time and the gooey feel is my hold up to the BM Advance or Cabinet Coat.HELP!!! Suggestions needed.
I used General Finishes Milk Paint on my cabinets and haven’t had any problems. It’s actually an acrylic based paint. What was the weather like when you painted them? Was it really cold or really humid? There are so many factors that go into how a paint cures it’s hard to tell what happened. It does sound like you waited the appropriate amount of time between coats. I recommend waiting 24 hours. If the weather is cold or humid where you live I recommend finding a way to paint everything indoors. That would be my best guest as to what went wrong. Good luck!
Hi! Came in via Pinterest.
I agree with you on many fronts. -Urathane or oil based products yellowing is my biggest dislike.
I have always been iffy on chalk paint, although I do love the feel of it. It has helped me develop some techniques I now use in latex/acrylic painting, though, I’d never have thought of.
Like using inexpensive paint base as a 100% matte, invisible clear topcoat, which lets the chalky feel remain.
Using clear, satin polyacrylic as the base paint under crackle finishes to let the wood actually show through the crackles.
Putting a hefty squirt of white glue into homemade chalk paint for even better adhesion.
Stuff like that.
You just can’t beat paint samples made into chalk paint for the price. That said, +glue, +polyacrylic top coat or kiss it goodbye! :)
I’ve never understood the insanity of waxed finishes in the kitchen. One of the cheaper ways of removing wax (not more expensive wax overtop!) is Windex. Or anything ammonia based. Not everyone thinks vinegar is the cure-all, and some of us still use the tried-and trues. No, my father isn’t Greek, and no, I’m not having a big fat wedding. Anyway, one overspray of a Windex squirt removes wax, so there goes your finish!
I could go on, but I get’cha. I guess I feel I’ve moved past entry level painting. I invest the time for a good substrate for a strong, durable finish. Someday I’ll tell ‘ya about my paint stripping tricks that make it fun. But that’s another day!
I love everything you’ve learned from chalk painting. I agree with everything you’ve said here – Great takeaways! And I definitely want to know about any strategy that claims to make stripping furniture “fun” haha!
So, wait, white glue added to homemade latex = a better adhesion, or longer lasting and then finished off with polyacrylic? I want to redo a midcentury cabinet with glass doors with wood munions. The finish looks original. I definitely don’t want to get ammonia on it when cleaning the glass. After reading all these differing methods I want to be clear about which is best. What is the glue ratio? Thanks for any responses.
Thanks for this article. I am planning to paint an old furniture for the purpose of selling it. However this would be my first experience of painting a furniture. What would you recommend as I want to deliver a quality product. Please suggest. Thank you so much.
Diego Nieves says
Awesome tips. thanks a lot for sharing