Homemade Chalk Paint Recipes
If you are a DIY junkie and love to paint furniture, then most likely you have at one time or another made, or thought about making, your own chalk paint. If so then you know that there are several DIY homemade chalk paint recipes out there, and unless you have tried them all it can be difficult to know which one is the best. Perhaps you are just now hearing about chalk paint for the first time and wondering what it’s all about.
Either way you have come to the right place.
We have received this question on numerous occasions from various readers, and until now we were unable to fully comment on which chalk paint recipe is the best – if there is one at all.
As many of you know we already have an awesome guide on how to make chalk paint that was one of the first posts we ever put on the site. However, our guide is for the Plaster of Paris recipe, and it works wonderfully, but we had not tried any of the other recipes out there.
So, Angie and I finally decided to get back to testing and take an in-depth look at the 3 main DIY recipes for chalk paint. We understand there are other ways of making chalk paint besides just these 3, but we didn’t want to get too out of focus. So we decided to lock in on the main 3, as these are the ones we get asked about the most.
- Plaster of Paris
- Unsanded Grout
- Baking Soda
In each section we will give you the recipe that we used to mix the paint. Please note, however, that there are many recipes out there for all three versions. Some will say use more or less of the main ingredient, or more paint, or hot water, etc. so do not take our recipes as DIY law. The Plaster of Paris recipe below is the one we give in our how to make chalk paint tutorial and what we use on every piece of furniture on our site. We use it because it fits our purposes the best.
The other two recipes we kind of came up with on our own by trying to duplicate the consistency of the plaster recipe so that it would be a fair test between the three recipes.
So if you use a different recipe or come up with a different mixture on your own that works for you then perfect. The purpose of this post is merely to examine all three side-by-side using similar mixtures.
For paint we picked up a gallon of Wal-Mart Oops paint for $5.88 – Nice!
Let’s take a look at what we found out.
**NOTE: These recipes yield 1 cup of paint each. If you need more paint for your project adjust the recipe(s) accordingly
Plaster of Paris
How To Make It
First you mix the plaster and water together until you get a smooth consistency with no lumps.
Next mix the plaster and water mixture into the paint and stir well until all of the mixture is dissolved with no lumps; make sure the paint is as smooth as before.
Then we painted our test piece and set it out to dry. One coat did the trick and we were ready to go.
The picture to the right is the test piece after it dried. As you can see there are some dark splotches in the test piece of wood that bled through the paint. This is due to the very light paint color we used for the test. If we were painting a real piece of furniture we would have needed one more coat to cover these completely.
- Less than $7.00 for the large box of plaster at Lowes
If you have been reading our blog long you know what we think of the Plaster of Paris chalk paint recipe. It is an extremely solid recipe. We use it a lot. It goes on smooth, covers well and exhibits all of the characteristics that chalk paint is known for such as no priming or sanding, sticks to most any surface and so on.
For this test the plaster recipe performed as expected. It dried fast and left us with an excellent chalky patina on our test piece. Perfect for distressing.
The Plaster recipe is perfect for any distressed furniture or furniture painting project where chalk paint is applicable. It is versatile and easy to use.
No matter your project you can not go wrong with the plaster chalk paint. It works well on just about anything and has never let us down.
However, we’re not stopping there. Up next………….unsanded grout!
How To Make It
First mix the grout and water together to form a paste. The powder is very fine but has a semi-rough consistency. This will not appear or feel as smooth as the plaster of paris but make sure all of the grout is mixed thoroughly.
Next, stir the mixture into your pre-measured latex paint and mix well. Be sure all of the mixture is dissolved into the paint.
We found that the grout seemed to turn the paint into a jelly-like consistency. It had an even jiggly movement to it. We tried to get a picture of it, but none of them really showed what we mean.
The picture to the right is our test piece painted with the unsanded grout chalk paint.
- Less than $5 for a small tub. A large bag will run you about $12.
The final grout chalk paint had a medium-thin consistency and a gritty feel to it as it went onto the test piece that we painted with it. This was quite different from the smooth plaster recipe, but it still worked very well.
It seemed as if the grout chalk paint did not paint onto the piece smoothly like regular paint, likely due to the consistency we mentioned above. However, after working it onto the piece a little bit it really began to spread and cover the piece well.
The paint dried quickly, perhaps a little quicker than the plaster but not by much, and would go on pretty much any surface with no prep work.
The final result was a very nice textured-feeling patina. The grittiness of the paint gave the test piece a very chalky finish with a rough texture. More of a chalky finish than the plaster recipe.
All in all we were happy with the grout recipe. This is a very good recipe for Shabby Chic and distressed furniture projects. It will distress easily. This recipe would be perfect for anything where you want a textured and rough look and feel, or are looking for a faded, chalky patina.
And now, last but not least, it’s Baking Soda time!
How To Make It
Mix the water and baking soda together until it forms a paste. If you’ve made it this far in the post you already know to make sure the baking soda dissolves completely.
Next, take your mixture and mix it thoroughly into your pre-measured paint. Make sure all of the baking soda paste dissolves completely into the paint.
Things Get Tricky
Now, here is where things got interesting with this recipe. In researching the baking soda recipe I found most others who use it tended to mention that the baking soda chalk paint was quite thick. This was not what we found at all!
As a matter of fact the second the baking soda paste hit the paint it thinned the paint so much that it could hardly be called chalk paint. It was really more of a wash. VERY RUNNY and not what we were expecting.
Again, we thought perhaps it was weather related so we made sure the paint and baking soda sat in room temperature for a few days before trying again. The second attempt yielded the same result.
Please watch this short video where I show you the consistency that we got using this baking soda recipe to get more of an idea of what we ended up with.
Baking Soda Consistency Video
We painted the test piece and it went on, as expected very thin. It was really more like a wash treatment than painting, but it still stuck to the test piece quite well. It still exhibited the usual chalk paint characteristics and covered with no sanding or priming.
This is very interesting since, as we said before, other people do not tend to have this same result.
SO WHAT’S TO BE DONE?
Well, we were testing these different recipes so we had to go with what we had. We painted the test piece and it went on, as expected very thin. It was really more like a wash treatment than painting, but it still adhered to the test piece quite well. It still exhibited the usual chalk paint characteristics, and covered with no sanding or priming.
However, since we knew many others did not get this result when we began working on our book we decided it was time to take up the baking soda recipe once more and see if we got a different result.
If you have read our blog or asked us questions on some of our posts you have probably heard us say “It’s Best to Test”. We say this often because it is so true and this baking soda recipe is such a great example of how it pays off to test if you get an odd or undesired result.
So, for the re-test we chose a completely different paint from a different manufacturer, different color and mixed at a different store. The result was the complete opposite of the result in the first test.
The paint was chalky, thick and was easy to work with. The paint went on exceptionally well and covered the entire piece in just one coat. The consistency was a little thicker and chalkier than the plaster recipe. This was more in line with what we had read on other blogs and websites where the baking soda recipe was used.
So, what was the problem? Well, in general it was the paint we used. Specifically, it is a little harder to tell why it thinned out, but we have a theory. The paint we used was found in the ‘oops’ section of a local paint supplier, but the can did not say why it was an ‘oops’ paint. While most ‘oops’ paints are mis-tints it is entirely possible that the paint chemicals themselves were mixed incorrectly. If so, it is reasonable to think that the improper mix of chemicals in the paint caused a strange reaction when the baking soda hit it.
We will never know exactly what happened, but it raises the opportunity to stress the importance of testing when unusual things happen as you paint and distress furniture. Trying different paints, different paint makers and even different stores can yield different results so keep that in mind as you work on your projects.
- 0.50 cents for some baking soda. Can’t beat that!
You can see in the picture to the right how thin the paint went on. If we had wanted to get a more thorough covering we would have needed to apply several coats.
The baking soda recipe is still a very good option for many different projects. Anything needing a thin coat, where you want to see the wood grain in a piece, this recipe may be a good choice.
Keep in mind, however that we tested with a very light green colored paint. If you are using a darker color you may get very different results, especially when it comes to being able to see the wood grain underneath. As always, test your paint mixture before applying it on your project piece.
If you are looking for a way to thin your paint into a wash, this seems to do the trick quite well, and will still give you that chalk paint patina. If you are looking to do a white wash project this could be a very good option for you.
As always test different things and feel free to report back here with what you discover, and how your projects turn out.
It would be difficult to say that any one of these chalk paint recipes is ‘better’ than the others. Each recipe has its own consistency, feel, application, look and purpose. You would be absolutely safe using any one of the three in any project where chalk paint would be used.
Still, you would need to think about your particular project and decide what kind of patina you are looking for before deciding which to use. I think that the plaster of paris recipe is probably the most standard, basic and universal type of homemade chalk paint of the three. If I were going to use only one of these recipes on every piece I painted, I would use the plaster. In fact, we have been using it on so many different pieces for so long and it works on everything.
In order to keep a good spectrum of tools in my arsenal I would definitely keep the grout and baking soda recipes handy and bring them out when the project demands it.
I recommend the grout recipe whenever a more textured look or feel is desired. Also if you want a very chalky finish the grout recipe is the way to go. The baking soda recipe would go well when a thin coating or wash look was needed, or in a project where you want to see some of the wood grain, though this effect could vary depending on the type and color of paint you are using as noted above.
Well! I think that about covers it (no pun intended) for now. We’ve gone over a lot of info, but we hope this has given you a lot of great information to help you as you decide which chalk paint recipe may be the best for you and your next furniture painting project.
Before you go remember that we are VERY interested to answer your questions, and especially to hear how your projects and testing of these recipes in the past or future turn out.
So leave a comment below and if you like this post share it on social media with the buttons below. Thanks for joining us! We hope this has been helpful.
Angie and Chris
Don’t forget to check out Cozy and Worn.com to shop for beautiful, elegant, distressed furniture by the craftsman at Aidan Gray, Zentique and more!