white chalk painted dresser next to wooden chair against white backdrop
Courtesy of the White House on the Square

Kori Martin of The Farmhouse Life has a soft spot for furniture with patina, but the price tag of an authentic antique piece? Not so much. So to get the charming, weathered bathroom vanity she dreamed of without breaking the bank, the DIY blogger learned how to make chalk paint. As she explains it, the benefits were twofold: “It can make something look like it has been around for a long time, and it saved us thousands of dollars from having to rip out and replace the cabinet and redo the tile work.” Plus while we love a store-bought chalk paint (these are our five favorites), a homemade version allows you to completely customize the color. (Martin chose Behr’s Little Black Dress.)

When you’re ready to give your furniture a vintage-inspired makeover, follow Martin’s recipe—she showed us how to make her chalk paint so the mixture is effective and long-lasting.

Mistakes to Avoid When Making Chalk Paint

Mixing All the Ingredients at Once

Take your time to avoid unusable, lumpy chalk paint. Martin advises waiting a couple of minutes in between adding each ingredient to the container to ensure everything is fully incorporated.


advertisement

Using Cold Water

In Martin’s experience—she has made this recipe multiple times—room-temperature water helps to dissolve the plaster of Paris a little bit easier.

Using Oil-Based Paint or One With a Shiny, Glossy Finish

This is a matter of preference, but Martin has had the most success with water-based latex paints like Sherwin-Williams’s flat or eggshell offerings. “Oil-based paints come out completely different. The fumes are stronger, the texture is off, and it almost has a tint when it’s dried,” she says. To ensure you get that aged appearance, avoid paints with shiny, semigloss, or gloss finishes as well.

Choosing a Paint Shade That’s Too Light

When shopping for paint, keep in mind that adding plaster of Paris will lighten the original color. To account for this change, consider going a couple of shades darker than your desired hue.

How to Make Chalk Paint

close up of white chalk painted dresser with stacked books and plant
Courtesy of the White House on the Square

The Supplies

Step 1: Cover Your Work Surface

In a well-ventilated area, put a drop cloth down on the floor to safeguard against paint splatters.


advertisement

Step 2: Stir Water Into Plaster of Paris

To prevent lumps from forming, Martin recommends pouring the plaster of Paris into the container first, then adding water to dissolve it. Use your spoon to stir the two substances together until the texture is completely smooth. 

Step 3: Mix in the Paint

Using your utensil, slowly combine the paint and plaster of Paris mixture. This will reduce any lumps that have popped up. When it’s even and creamy, you’re in business—your chalk paint is officially ready for use.  (For a full quart of paint, multiply the ingredients by 4.)

Step 4: But Wait—Don’t Forget to “Seal” the Chalk Paint

To avoid having to whip up a separate batch of chalk paint for every new project, cover the container you made it in with a tight-fitting lid as soon as you’re done. Similarly, close up any leftovers immediately after you have finished painting. Martin even secures her paint pan with Saran Wrap (including her brush) to keep the paint from drying out. “Once, I left it out for too long, and then it just kind of caked on when I tried to paint that second coat,” she recalls.

Step 5: Put Chalk Paint to Furniture

The most important step is to thoroughly clean the furniture. Any part that’s covered in dirt will be prone to the chalk paint peeling and eventually falling off, leaving cracks in the finish that can be difficult to repair. 


advertisement

To achieve that vintage-y look (and help the chalk paint stick), Martin says sanding and priming aren’t necessary. She does, however, suggest applying a thin top coat and waiting 24 hours between layers (with no more than four total). After the paint dries, use a polycrylic protective finish to get a matte look, or apply Martin’s favorite, wax, which can help the finish last for years. (She doesn’t recommend polyurethane options due to their tendency to yellow over time.)

Use a round brush to apply the wax. Then buff it out with a rag or your dried brush. Give the paint 24 hours to dry—although Martin says it could take up to 30 days for the finish to fully cure, so carefully handle the furniture in the meantime. After a couple of years, she suggests adding another wax coating to ensure the piece maintains its distressed (but not too distressed) look. And there it is: Your new-to-vintage shortcut.