The Definitive Guide To Homemade Chalk Paint Recipes

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.

3 chalk paint recipes

The Opponents Square Off!

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.

We tested:

  1. Plaster of Paris
  2. Unsanded Grout
  3. 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 

Plaster of Paris chalk paint recipe

 

chalk paint plaster of paris

 

How To Make It

First you mix the plaster and water together until you get a smooth consistency with no lumps.

plaster of paris mixture

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.

chalk paint recipes

Plaster of Paris Chalk Paint Recipe

 

 

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.

 

 

Cost

  • Less than $7.00 for the large box of plaster at Lowes

 

 

Our Take

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!

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Unsanded Grout 

unsanded grout chalk paint recipe

 unsanded grout chalk paint recipe

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.

unsanded grout chalk paint recipe

 

Unsanded Grout Chalk Paint

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.

 

Cost

  • Less than $5 for a small tub.  A large bag will run you about $12.

 

Our Take

 

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!

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Baking Soda

baking soda chalk paint recipe

baking soda chalk paint recipe

 

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.

Baking Soda Mixture

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

 

Baking Soda Finished

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.

****UPDATE: 07/05/2013****

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.

Cost

  • 0.50 cents for some baking soda.  Can’t beat that!

 

Our Take

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.

 

Conclusion

3 chalk paint recipes final

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

 

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35 comments

  1. I have heard of another way to make chalk paint and was wondering if you have ever tried it. I forgot the name of the product but u get it at health food stores. It is very fine powder and is used to mix with water and it is some kind of powder for calcium. It is calcium carbonate or something like that.

    • Hi Mary. Yes! It is calcium carbonate. As I understand it, it is the chemical they use to actually make chalk. We have not tried this version yet, but would be a good addition in the future when we update this post. Thanks for the suggestion!

      • Mary Catlett /

        re: Calcium carbonate
        Could an amount of crushed eggshells suffice? That’s what I’m looking for (I always have to make things hard.)

        GREAT WEBSITE

        • Hi Mary, we haven’t done anything with calcium carbonate although we probably will in the future. Regarding the eggshells we’ll have to let you try that one out and report back on your results ;) Thanks!

  2. I haven’t tried the grout or baking soda recipes but love the plaster of Paris recipe! My sister and I use it all the time for our painting projects! Thank you for the recipe!

  3. Luc Perry /

    I have another “recipe” for you to consider. I didn’t have unsanded grout in my paint closet but I did have leftover pre-mixed grout from a bathroom renovation. So I gave it a go and low and behold it worked. Unfortunately I was not very “scientific” so I couldn’t tell you what proportions I used in my sample. But I would describe the finished texture the same as you have in your guide with grout in powder form. The texture was a bit rough, but covered and distressed nicely.

    • Chris /

      Thanks Luc. Our readers will appreciate the tip!

  4. Elisabeth /

    I tried chalk paint for the first time today. Recipe was 1/2 c plaster of paris, 1/2 water, 1 1/2 c paint. I used valspar satin paint. I mixed the plaster and water first and then added the paint. With in a few minutes it had turned into a solid paste. unpaintable with a paint brush. I tried this recipe again, only a smaller batch with some flat paint. It turned out perfect and did not firm up. I can not find where ppl are having issues like I did…are you aware of perhaps the satin paint doing this or does anyone just use whatever paint? I would appreciate your opinion. Thank you
    Elisabeth

    • Chris /

      Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure if it has to do with the satin finish or not. We have had the same experience when testing some outdoor paint that we mixed with plaster. It turned to a paste like you are describing. With different manufacturers, climates, temperatures you can get all sorts of strange results when mixing chemicals. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what the issue is.

      As always it’s best to test and sometimes just using a different paint can yield a different result. This is helpful info, so thanks for sharing.

    • Burlap n Boots Junkin' on the Mossy /

      Just a quick drop in to say love how you all did the comparison and posted it. I shared it on my page for all to see. Also, I had the same reaction with the white raisin Sherwin Williams brand flat pain but haven’t experienced it with other brands such as Valspar or Glidden. I added more plain latex paint to it to then it out and it worked great. Also, just a little house keeping safety tip…be careful when dry sanding with unsanded grout or plaster of paris due to the silica….can cause health issues. good to use a mask when dry sanding.

  5. Hi thanks so much for the recipes, I have tried the plaster one today, first time using chalk paint… i reallylike the fact i didnt have to spend time sanding and getting covererd in dust! Ive only donr 1 coat so far so cant say about the distressing… but so far so good..
    thanks
    fiona

  6. Frankie Laney /

    Thanks for sharing these mixtures. Plus I like that you have been using the plaster mix for a while and that translates to experience with a product. I’ll give it try, especially since I have not uses chalk paint.

  7. Sherry /

    Hi Chris and Angie – Just wanted to say I love your very informative website! Thanks for sharing your recipes, experience and experiments! I’m off to the store to get some Plaster of Paris!

    • Chris /

      Thanks Sherry! You are going to have so much fun. People like you are the reason we do this. Thank you for being a part of our community.

  8. Ainsley /

    I just tried the baking soda chalk paint recipe. I used Behr Ultra Flat in a white called Divine Pleasure(the sample size is very conveniently one cup!). I found that I needed a bit more than a tablespoon of water- probably about a tablespoon and a teaspoon. Mine didn’t go all runny like your example. It was actually the perfect consistency. Maybe it has something to do with the brand of paint or even the color?

    I’ve never used any other chalk paint (premade or otherwise), but I was very happy with this recipe!

    • Hi Ainsley,
      Thanks for reporting on your results. I’m sure our readers will find this very helpful if they want to try the baking soda recipe and get a thicker consistency than we did.

  9. Hey there,
    I have used both the unsanded grout and baking soda. I found that with unsanded grout that if you didn’t get mix it and the water well enough you’d get clumps, and when you’d go to sand you’d find little white spots, especially noticeable on dark pieces which was unmixed grout.
    I switched to using baking soda. When i mix baking soda and water, I put just enough water in with the baking soda to make a paste. I don’t know the measurements, just going by my eye.
    Still haven’t tried POP, though. Will have to give that a go.
    Thanks for all the info!

    • Thanks for reporting on this Sue. This will be very helpful to everyone.

  10. Beverly /

    I’ve tried 2 different plaster recipes first the one Elisabeth posted above that I found on another site (before I found yours) and then the one you recommend. Both recipes yeilded thick grainy pasty results. I’m using sherwin Williams latex matte paint. The temps where I live are in the low 90′s today. I’ve added additional water (repeatedly) but I’m only able to paint for about 10 minutes before its to the consistency that it has to be thrown away. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

    • Hi Beverly, You know it’s difficult to say. The more we paint with different brands and types of paint the more we see that sometimes you can get unusual results. If that is the only brand you have used I would start by trying a different brand altogether. If you have tried multiple brands with the same result, but have used the same canister of plaster on those attempts, I would try to get some new plaster and see if that helps. If none of that works then it is likely temperature/humidity/climate related. Try storing the plaster and the paint in a different place for 24 hours or so and try again.

      Just trying different things is all you can do sometimes. There was one can of paint we had that turned to brick almost when the plaster hit it. Can’t say for sure why, it was just the reaction to some chemical in that paint I suppose. Hope this helps. Good luck!

  11. Clark /

    Hey guys. Hope yall are well. Do you thing d e powder or diatomatious earth will generate the same results as plaster of paris for tbe chalk paint? Just found your web site and havent had a chance to test it.

    • Hi Clark,
      We haven’t had any experience with that yet. If you get a chance to try it out let us know and report back here for everyone to see. Thanks!

  12. Thanks for posting all this on chalk paint and I have this linked to my DIY chalk paint post too today!

    • Thanks Heather! We appreciate you including us on your chalk paint post. Love your site, by the way. Keep in touch.

  13. Ronda /

    Good afternoon, I am wanting to refinish a table that I badly messed up when ironing on a towel. :)
    So I have sanded the table and thought of using chalk paint, but wondering if the wax finish is enough protection for hot dishes. This is our kitchen table.

    • Hi Ronda. On a kitchen table or other surface that is going to get a lot of traffic (or hot dishes!) it’s best to go with a polyurethane or similar finish. It’s much more durable. The wax probably will not be sufficient for that.

  14. Dianne /

    Great information! Thanks. What brand(s) of paint have been effective for you?

    • HI Dianne,
      To be honest there’s no one brand that we have had the best results from. We typically look for ‘oops’ paint and whatever brand that happens to be we get it if we like the color. Having said that Valspar makes some amazing paint and if we had to choose one it would probably be that one. However, in painting furniture we have had excellent results with cheap brands from Wal-Mart as well.

  15. Paula /

    I think I might have found the issue. I had some Valspar high definition paint with primer. It’s a pretty deep color.

    A while back I had some black in the same satin finish. I remember that I returned the black because it went on more like a glaze than a paint and primer. I even went to the extent of writing Valspar to see if they had changed their formula. It was terrible.

    I’ve used this red can a couple of times. I’ve had to apply 3-4 coats — not very cost effective for paint that’s supposed to have primer already in the formula.

    I decided that since I didn’t like this paint, I’d mix it up into chalk paint. I came to your site for the “recipe,” and read the comments about your baking soda paint being very watery.

    Guess what? My red high definition Valspar paint did the same thing. I even added an extra 1 1/2 TB of POP. Still watery and thin. So, I think I’m going to HD to buy some replacement red satin finish paint tomorrow.

    I’m NEVER going to buy Valspar high def paint again!!

    • Chris /

      Hi Paula. Thanks for sharing your experience. We just updated the post with more information regarding the baking soda recipe as we have now tested it again. Check it out. This info will be helpful for everyone.

  16. jacie /

    Love the info! Just found y’all after I just finished my first chalk piece, a small table. I also used the plaster but in different measurements. I had a tester of behr in melted butter that I mixed in a mason jar with 1/3c(ish) plaster and 1/4c(ish) hot h2o.I dissolved the plaster in the h20 before mixing with paint of course. I am very very pleased with the results!! Very chalky texture. Making it saved me $35 which makes it completely worth it. I have enough paint left after to do a small stool even, all for a $3 test jar :-) thank you for the research and post you did.

  17. Kimberly /

    I painted a hutch I inherited using the baking soda and Glidden semigloss in Beautiful Beige(which was a pre-mixed,on the shelf gallon at the store) It came out the right consistency. only thing is that its hard to wipe clean and I still need to do a furniture wax on top. I also tried another brand of paint from the ready mixed section of a discount store and it yielded the runny results, so I didnt go any further with that one.

  18. susan /

    I have had excellent results with Behr flat latex and POP for my chalk painting projects. I just tried using Benjamin Moore flat latex with POP for a project and what a mess. The mixture lumped up and became grainy and not usable. I really think its the paint. I’m sticking to Behr.

  19. I have read on other sites that paint with a primer (particularly vaslpar) does not do well with mixing for chalk paint and will quickly harden. I haven’t tried that but I have tried the calcium carbonate with good results. I’ve used varied proportions.