Something that’s been in fashion for a few years now, and shows no signs of slowing down, is the love of the vintage look. It’s everywhere! Most often you might see the look in clothing, with more and more people looking to charity shops for more sustainable fashion, but also to find older and less common pieces that stand out. The key element to the vintage or distressed look is the appearance of use, and to an extent looking ‘worn out’. It appeals to nostalgic sensibilities, but with a modern twist. Essentially, it’s to make new stuff look old, or make old stuff look deliberately old but with modern products and finishes.
While it is absolutely possible, as with every paint style, to overdo it, the vintage and distressed look extends to paint and decoration. One of the easiest and most popular ways to achieve this through paint is to use a chalky finish. Chalk paint has a smooth finish that brings to mind the near-matt style of a classroom blackboard, but in various colours that communicate modernity through their brightness and clean finish.
Chalky paint can be a finicky thing to use, and you need the right product to make sure that the finish you picture in your head is what you end up physically making. A favourite choice of people for upcycling old furniture, this very distinct look is great when done right. That’s why we’ve taken a good look at what’s out there and condensed it into a list of the very best chalky paints out there today, for you to achieve your vintage aesthetic with furniture.
|Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish||14 m2 /l||1 hours||££|
|Rustins Chalky Finish||13 m2 /l||2 hours||£££|
|Hemway Chalk Paint||15 m2 /l||2 hours||£££|
|Rayher Chalky Finish||22 m2 /l||2 hours||£££££|
|Johnstone’s Revive Chalky Paint||12 m2 /l||0.5 hours||££|
With their attempt at a chalky finish furniture paint, Rust-Oleum truly knock it out of the park. While the quality of this paint could speak for itself, it’s nonetheless worth putting across just why it’s such a good choice to achieve that distressed, shabby chic aesthetic. Off the bat, one of the most inviting features is the sheer number of colour options available. With such a colour-driven paint style, Rust-Oleum offer just shy of 30 different hues pretty much across the entire rainbow. These all come in the distinctive matt finish that is the hallmark of chalky paint.
On a more functional level, the Rust-Oleum dries very quickly and has minimal odour after application, thanks to being a water-based paint. To prolong its life, it’s recommended to finish this with a wax or oil, but even then the whole process is not likely to take long as this can provide full coverage with just one coat, and no sanding or priming is needed prior to painting. It’s also pretty good value on top of the rest.
- Colour options
- Great finish
- No prep needed
- Low odour and quick drying
- Needs wax/oil top coat
For a quick and easy revival to your interior furniture, Rustins’ Chalky Finish paint may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. Rustins offer this particular variety of paint in 6 different colour options, giving you a good range to choose from from common pastel hues. As with most chalk paints, it’s water based for a quick drying time of just half an hour – while most chalk paints are good for a single coat, as this is, should you want to paint on a second coat it will need a couple of hours.
The water base also makes it very low odour and easy to work with. On top of that, it quite unusually has wax mixed into the formula to create a compound that is already fairly well-sealed after application, saving you the time and expense of buying a dedicated sealant. With this in mind, it’s pretty reasonable value, with the velvet-like matt finish being more or less finished once its dried.
- Contains wax
- Decent colour selection
- Quick to dry
- Weaker colours
Hemway have met the trend of chalky paints very well, creating a range of chalky finish paints that are versatile enough to be used on a wide range of surfaces and things around the home. With 24 different colours to pick from you’ll be very spoilt for choice with some beautiful shades that cover the whole spectrum. The paint naturally dries to a gorgeous matt finish, doing so in around 2 hours before further coats can be applied.
As a water-based paint, it’s very low-odour as well as being quick to dry, something that makes it very easy to use. The versatility also extends to being suitable for a number of surfaces, including walls, furniture, wood, masonry, stone, plaster, plastic and metal. It can be painted onto all of these surfaces with no sanding or priming needed. This is also great if you have multiple different surfaces you’d like to paint with one tub as a cost saver.
- Easy to use
- Good colour selection
- Quick drying
- Prone to scuffs until sealed
Rayher is better known as a DIY brand more closely associated with hobbycraft, producing things like this chalky finish paint for much smaller-scale projects. As such, this chalky finish paint is very high quality, though it does come at a higher relative price point to a lot of other options out there. One major indicator of its quality is the high opacity, thanks to a high ratio of chalk pigment, which results in a much bolder colour.
This bold finish can be bought in 25 different colours to match your vision for a project down to a T. As a specialist hobbycraft paint, it’s versatile enough for a wide range of surface applications including wood, metal, glass, terracotta, ceramics, paper, plastics, canvas and fabric. The paint is also very low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and as such has almost zero odour, which is incredibly easy to work with.
- Intense colours
- Range of colours
- Low odour
- Only available in small volumes
This chalky finish paint from Johnstone’s popular Revive range is a great choice to better channel the vintage, shabby chic look. Johnstone’s have made the paint available in 4 different muted yet distinctive pastel shades, which once paired with a finishing wax will stay vivid for years to come. While the paint is fairly scratch resistant by itself, a wax would also add an extra layer of protection.
The quick-drying formula makes it touch-dry in a staggering 30 minutes. A couple of hours will be needed, however, if you intend to paint a second coat to be sanded away for an extra distressed vibe. It also has a low odour which pairs with the quick drying time to make it very easy to use. The paint itself is easy to apply (with a splash of water mixed in beforehand) and represents good value for money with a good volume for a good price.
- Durable finish
- Low odour
- Quick drying
- Thin consistency
Which Chalk Paint To Go For?
Chalky paint, when applied right, can look fantastic. It has a dull sheen, usually with bold pastel colours, to create something that looks artfully weathered whilst not actually being old. So, whether you’re upcycling something to give it a new lease of life, or mixing up the look of your existing home aesthetic, we’ve summarised the overall best pick for chalky paint as well as the best choice on a budget.
Best Chalk Paint – The Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish stands apart as the best choice for a chalky finish paint. Very simply, it’s a high-quality paint with several rainbows’ worth of colour options, ranging from the vivid to the understated. It has all the hallmarks of good paint, with a quick-drying finish and low odour levels, and is pretty good value to boot as well.
Best Value – When it’s value you’re after, Johnstone’s Revive Chalky Paint is the go-to. Johnstone’s has a reputation for making good paints that come in at very affordable price points, and this is no exception. It does everything a good chalky paint ought to do without breaking the bank. The Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish comes close for value, but Johnstone’s wins out.
Chalk Paint FAQ
What is chalk paint?
Chalky paint is, as the name suggests, a paint with a chalky finish. That is to say, it has the matt look of the sort of chalk you might be most familiar with in terms of the coloured chalk from old-school blackboards. It’s a common choice for particular looks than evoke rustic feelings, and is frequently associated with the idea of shabby chic.
How to use chalk paint
Chalk paint is typically very user friendly, and surfaces to be painted with chalk don’t always need a great deal of preparation. You can use a brush or a roller depending on your preference and the size of the project, but fundamentally it’s just a paint-and-go situation. Chalk paint can also be used to achieve a distressed finish by choosing two differently coloured paints, layering them on top of each other and then sanding away the top coat in various places to maximise the ‘shabby’ look.
How to get a smooth finish with chalk paint
While you don’t always need to overly prepare the surface you paint onto, to get the smoothest possible finish (on wood) it will need a light sanding down with fairly high grit sandpaper to make sure that the surface itself is smooth before painting. Then, as with many paints, use even, broad strokes and work methodically without excessively going over already-painted areas.
How to seal chalk paint
Chalk paint can be a little more prone to wear and tear, as well as chips and scuffs, compared to other paints given the nature of its finish. To add an extra layer of protection, chalk paint can be sealed with a variety of materials. Most wood paint specific waxes or oils will give a good layer of protection, but will also affect the colour of the paint once dry. There are also chalk paint sealants, which again work well but may affect the finished colour.
How to remove chalk paint
Chalk paint, especially when sealed, can pose some problems if you decide to remove it. However, it’s not impossible. The simplest solution is to use a combination of paint stripper and denatured alcohol. Liberally apply the paint stripper to the surface, which will eat away at the sealant and the paint; when it begins to bubble it should be soft enough to be scraped off. When the surface is mostly clean, use a small brush (like a toothbrush, for instance) with the denatured alcohol to clean off any paint and stripper residue.
Why use chalk paint vs regular paint?
Much of the appeal of chalk paint comes from the visuals. As such, it would be incorrect to state that one is better than the other, it’s all about preference. By and large chalk paint behaves the same as other paints, but with a thicker finish does not usually require a layer of primer or undercoat.
What is chalk paint made of?
Chalk paint is mostly water-based, and is formulated in a fairly simple way. It’s made mostly of water as a carrying liquid, or ‘filler’, and the resin containing the chalky pigment. Therefore, chalk paint is almost completely solvent free and avoids most harmful additives (check manufacturer guidelines for each paint if you’re not sure).